This is only the first few paragraphs of it, as a sort of a teaser I've been busy researching this for nearly a month now, collecting quotes, descriptions of places etc and doing character sketches. Writing books is hard work!!! So tell me what you guys think. Note that this is a very rough first draft of the text you're seeing, and it probably needs a lot more work and reorganization (had to use that word, organization, in order to keep this thread entirely on-topic). Enjoy!
NOBODY REALIZES WHO RUSSELL TRULY IS until they've spent a night in his company. He'll tell you all sorts of crazy stories, its like watching someone quote Philip K. Dick verbatim, until you wake up and you realize that you've been dreaming the whole time and Russell was never anywhere near you, because Russell is dead. Dead for nearly a week now, in fact, even though no one has ever found his body. "Evidence is for weenies," he would've said, the way he always says things, smarming up his insults and turning them into backhanded compliments. Like the way he found me, with the outer folds of my brain simmering gently in alcohol and other less legal substances on that road in May 6, 2012. My drunken ass was parked outside the Miller building downtown, where I'd landed up after a group of young thugs saw me for the easy prey I was, and liberated me of various personal possessions. All I heard was Russell saying, "Here is a perfect example of corporate flotsam, a cog rejected by it's engine," and then Russell is herding me down the street to a shelter, where we spend the night, him talking with me all the way through it like Jesus or something. Only I never washed his feet. He must've seen the Future Synthetics logo on my shirt, and was probably all wired-up on the news for that day.
You can never be sure, with Russell. You are not his Apostle Peter.
You tell yourself, look, the man's dead, six feet under. Well, figuratively speaking, because for all we know his corpse could be in Low Earth Orbit, with Russell getting a stupendous last laugh twirling past the Chinese space station every few hours and interrupting people who are trying to shower with his amazing flash-frozen exploded eyeballs. Even the Apostle Peter would probably have laughed at the thought of that.
Not that they have windows in their showers, or anywhere else on the Chinese station. Portholes, maybe.
All space stations are advanced cans with humans in them, with a porthole here and there. In space the ultraviolet light will fry you, giving you instant sunburn, so you want very few windows, with a special, extremely expensive filter coating on them, a filter that gradually wears down in the corrosive confines of our solar system. In the old days when we were slightly more primitive they would coat those windows in a very fine layer of gold.
This is your face, seen through gold. Up there, a flake of paint can kill you.
That poor Russian sod who thought he'd landed himself a sweet job painting the secondary Soyuz booster stage at the Russian Space Center back in the 1970s, bet he never thought he would kill somebody with an errant brushstroke. You wonder what it must be like, to be surrounded by so much nothing that you can see your whole entire world and cup it in the palm of your hand like a woman's breast.
Russell would say, space is a place for people pretending to be something they really aren't yet, people pretending to be hi-tech, when really we're only cavemen sitting on top of big roman candles, wearing little mini-Earths around our whole bodies, just tourists. Space shouldn't let us primitive humans in, it should take us as an affront to it's dignity, he would always say, space belongs to the little green guys in their saucers, now they've got style.
After we spent the night at the shelter, my eyes sometimes popping far enough out of their sockets to rival those of the space-faring Russell, he says, "We should visit some friends of mine in Seattle," and I say, Russell, we're in upstate New York, how the hell are we going to get to Seattle? I don't have a job or a home anymore, Russell, all I own now are these shirts covered with Future Synthetics logos, you dig? "Why don't you have a house?" Russell says, "every model citizen of our brave new future at least rents a house!" and I say, it was a part of my contract with Future Synthetics, they provided my lodgings, crummy as they were, in return for my frontal lobe, for at least 8 hours a day, with one day a week off. "We'll walk," says Russell. "Maybe I'll get all tight with a bus driver," is what he says when he strides out the door. Words like "beanpole" are completely inadequate to describe the once and future Russell, but in my immediate past he is a very tall person, six foot five going on Gulliver. Russell could cast a shadow on anyone on a sunny day.
"You see a lot of dandruff from my vantage point," he once told me, back in our salad months.
Maybe I'll go and live with my folks for a while, in Kansas, I shout, as he walks down the road, looking for bus drivers in need of short-term relationships, no strings attached. "There's nothing I like more than a man with a huge, hard hollow lump of tin with wheels on it," he says, leering like an eighty year old man at a cabaret show, standing there at the bus stop. After a few minutes of waiting, his travelling lover fails to arrive, so Russell says "Plan B," and we begin to walk down the steaming highway that leads to Seattle, on the other side of North America. Minutes ago it was raining here, on the day and place of my rejection from the bittersweet embrace of capitalism.
Saying Russell is crazy would be an insult, in the same way as telling Chopin that he could hold a pretty good tune, but he just wouldn't cut it for American Idol, no sir, we want someone young and fresh, with that mysterious X factor, and you, sir, are over one hundred and fifty years old. Plus, your hairstyle sucks.
The public loves that X factor, even though no one quite knows what it is. It's like a kaleidoscope, everyone sees something different.
In a previous lifetime, Russell tells me, he was a professional X factor thief. He hid all of his ill-gotten gains under floorboards in old abandoned houses and then one day when he was shot in the line of duty reincarnated as a fully grown man and went back to the houses to retrieve all his stolen X factor. "X factor tastes like the sweat that pours down Britney's collarbone when she's singing in front of a billion people," Russell would say, when queried about it.
"Where are we, after we leave capitalism behind?" Russell asks me, as we walk and I dejectedly stick out my thumb, hoping against hope that someone will pick us up. Even a hog truck would do, right now. Better pigs than the long road.
Buggered if I know, I say, and Russell says "Surely we couldn't have stopped evolving once we hit democracy," and I say, you're right you know, what happened after that is we started to trespass on the grounds of the Lords and Dukes again. Russell ponders this for a moment, scratching his stubby chin, then he says "Can a flea trespass on a part of the dog that's owned by another flea? More importantly," he deadpans, "does the dog give a shit?"
"One day they'll make a movie about us two, you know," I hear from behind me later that afternoon. Russell's sparse frame stretches ahead of me like a Japanese devil, all shadow and no substance, powered by the falling sun. We've been walking for hours and hours, and my feet are beginning to ache. Suddenly I understand that the most painful thing my feet have ever done is to walk out of that room where I was downsized, this time yesterday.
Gather your personal effects, they said, and please leave the building immediately.
It's a security precaution, you see, so that irate employees don't do naughty things like hosing the entire company network or sending pornographic video clips to all our important partners and other people who were in the right place at the right time. Unlike me. So I stooped and put my little toys and other indications of my obviously recaltricant nature into a pathetic cardboard box, wrapping up my own retrenchment present. Christmas has come early this year for over three hundred people dismissed today, I hear someone whispering on the phone. They're all giving me that look you give your dog when he goes to get put to sleep as I walk past their desks, box tight against my chest while I'm stripping my suddenly useless tie from my chest. Climate controlled air breathes onto my lower neck, calming me down a little, as I go out of the door and head straight into the modern day ritual of absolution, getting drunk.
Russell skips past, screaming "We'll be like Bonnie and Clyde, only without a car and with more man-on-man sex scenes!" at the passing cars. You see all those little car-people driving past in their cocoons of plastic and tin, thinking, that guy is such a weirdo, what a fruitcake, etc. None of them are real.
The budget for lubricants alone will be triple that of Star Wars, I say, laughing. He can make you feel that way, like nothing matters except the stupid joke you just shared with him. That's his gift. You know, we'll need lots of bullets and possibly some bazookas to make it to the cinemas and not just be an art-house movie, I tell him as I catch up to him. Russell looks at me in his own funny way and tells me, "One step at a time, big guy."
It's very important to always remember the lowest common denominator, my grade school teacher once said, in my own personal Triassic Era. She was more right than she could ever know.
SLEEPING UNDER THE STARS isn't all its cracked up to be. Luckily for us virgin vagrants it is the start of summer, normally a happy time in America, but it is also the start of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Russell is not the kind of guy that will ask you questions like, "So, where are you from?"
Russel speaks to everyone in the world when he talks, like television. "All of the world's most important information will never be on cable," he tells me. "This is because the networks will buy it and keep it hidden away forever in their vaults for fear of copyright violations." If you believe what he says, our whole history is being rewritten, one politically correct page at a time. By those people who still remember how to hold a pen and write with it, that is. Try being Chinese for a decade, and painting all your words instead of scratching them down in that disgusting way the Western guys have. When you're Chinese, words have dignity. Chinese people have difficulty designing keyboards and character sets, because sometimes the simpler option is the more efficient one when it comes to the written word.
"Where is your salary sleeping tonight?" he says, eyes shining brightly in the light of the probably illegal fire we have created for ourselves, with matches and sticks.
In an upmarket townhouse complex with walls twice as high as a man and a swimming pool, I tell him, glaring at the fire, thinking about my salary all warm and curled up under a roof.
It's true. People invented ceilings so they wouldn't have to stare at the stars every night before they fell asleep. Maybe that's why our culture places so little emphasis on leaving this doomed cradle of ours. We are babies fighting to remain underneath the whirling, colourful toys adorning our cribs. Even the Shuttles are thirty years old now, and they haven't flown for nearly ten years, because nobody can find the original Intel 8088 chips that control their navigation systems on EBay anymore. Grounded by the amazing backwash of technology, those monstrous wings sit quietly in their hangars now. Towards the end of the American manned space program, they were too afraid to even pull the circuit boards out of the panels in the nose anymore, for fear that they would cause more faults. One day soon they will start taking them apart as the greatest solvent of all, the mighty dollar, begins its acidic moneyfication of our mechanical Icaruses.
"Yesterday was the last day of your life, Jimmy," Russell says. "Think about it for a moment. You have no job, no house, and no possessions. In fact, if it weren't for your debts, you wouldn't exist."
Trust me, I say, debt isn't anything I'd like to live for. "So what do you want to live for, Jimmy? Do you want to live for that Ferrari that you will never have?"
And I say, who knows?