By Jeremy Gluck
Key Themes: fiction,
Written under the pen name Jeremy Clarke and originally published in 1988 to critical acclaim and strong sales, “Necrotrivia vs. Skull” is a scathing but playful satire of Western culture and materialism, its addictions and collective mental instability. “Necrotrivia” provides an interesting, fictional contrast to Jeremy’s memoir, “Victim of Dreams”, also available from Chipmunka. Indeed, “Necrotrivia’s main character, an alien who develops a junk food addiction and ends up a copywriter whoring a narcotic breakfast cereal, is in a way a prophetic cipher of the author, whose experiences and bipolar battles he mimics. Now accorded cult status, this new edition of the book features original graphics by Birmingham animator Aston Walker.
About the Author
Jeremy Gluck is an expatriate Canadian who, with a parallel, successful life in the arts as a novelist, poet, musician lyricist, journalist and more, is now working in the voluntary mental health sector. Diagnosed some years ago with bipolar disorder, he has since written two books around mental health, the first a memoir, ”Victim of Dreams”, and the second “A Definitive Guide to Mental Health Recovery”, a personal consideration of routes to recovery that includes contributions from a variety of expert thinkers on the subject. The reappearance after twenty years of his first book, the satirical novel “Necrotrivia vs. Skull”, brings this highly creative artist’s published work full circle.
One o’clock, deep-night-a.m., and no lift since I landed. On a beige highway where the dust is thick enough to hold, my breath is turning to pictograms in the sharp cold. Hands in pockets, my footfalls echo briefly and are then sucked up into the atmosphere.
A car approaches, I feel bright, white-light circles cut me like a cookie. I am a walking multi-dimensional being. You are a sleeping driver. I move into the lane slowly so your headlights illuminate my proto-proletarian everyman face. On the cue of your squealing tyres, I produce a shit-eating grin ear-to-ear. You pull up just parallel and I peer in at you, appreciative. The window rolls down completely.
‘Cruel kidnapper?’ I ask, smiling.
‘Windproof. Rainproof. Lightly-lined.’ You tap the roof and seats, inviting me in.
Why the back seat, you wonder, shifting into drive as I relax.
Trivial conversation lends itself to boredom, then sleep.
Three a.m. Just you in the front and me in the back. Pretending sleep, I unwrap a handgun – you could call it a working model and gently indent the trigger, release the safety. You unwrap a fresh deck of smokes. Don’t mind if I do. . . The nicotine embroiders my brain. I’m pinned to the moon, Eskimo-bone-needle style, squinting pig-eyed into the midnight sun. Am I high? :\Iran, I’m high! Exhale. Smell. Shiver. What could be wrong with a butt on the long ride to town? The drive is becoming an ordeal for you. The highway says: You are sleepy, very sleepy, your eyelids are heavy … I guzzle coffee from your thermos and draw deeply on the smoke: my heart is a stampede my pulse is on manoeuvres. What is this shit??
I open my window and watch filtered smoke evaporate in the wind. An explosion. A bursting roadside sign. The driver snaps back. He looks surprised.
‘Zapped by lightning?’
‘Fertiliser brew has a deadly kick,’ I purr throatily, stroking the hidden gun-barrel. You’re looking in the rear-view mirror at the teetering sign in our wake. I can do anything I put my mind to, but how would you know that? Tell you what, though. I could kill for more of that wild weed and a bucket of caffeine. I may have to. ESP is flying around inside the car, mine unhinged by this rendezvous with density, yours just flashing on mine. Looking as if you’ve caught a brainwave for the first time, you turn to me, insight cleaving your mediocrity cleanly in half.
‘Buttered con slips away from prison?’ Breaking the tension is your first mistake. My barrel presses the small of :’our back. ‘Tragic end to driver’s story?’ you jest, with more hope thar. cOIl\’iction. ‘Talk with God,’ I answer dryly. ‘Double-bubble feature drive-in, next left, OK?’
You swerve into a sharp turn and we drive down a dark tube to the matchbox ticket kiosk. You pay and pull into a sparsely occupied lot. The Three Stooges beckon. Larry, Moe and Curly … ‘Uh-oh,’ our car speaker bellows harshly. ‘Laugh riot!’ you manage to squeeze out with the laboured squawk of an insect about to be dispatched by the bad side of a football cleet. Silencer time, The truth is here and you don’t want it. I have no more time for your witless conversation. You turn to see me, a pleading expression sliding down your face. High beam it is. To the heart. Itching and jumping like a cat on fire, your soul is already out for trash when, shaking like a waxed leaf falling from a book, you slump against the wheel. I poke at the symmetrical wound through your barely soiled shirt. Now I am the main attraction. The door opens a crack. I climb over onto the front seat and you fall lifeless onto cold asphalt. Next to me two teenagers shriek in unison at the compass-point entry hole. Blood from your leaky faucet smears the littered pavement. I pull out my dog-eared Dictionary of American Slang”‘ ‘Eat Lead!’ You eat dust instead, as I power out of the lot. The snack kiosk draws me out of the car. I buy a wallet’s worth of junk food and start my rotation diet then and there.
It’s six a.m. I’m imagining pedestrians with targets on their chests, asking myself how much of this trippy tourism I can handle. Candy and cola is stacked up on the back seat – a 666-pack or what?
A local cop is tailing me. On this piece of Earth you think you’re truly safe but you may be betrayed, officer. We’re just animals. Anything is possible, you foolish man. You’re bloated on beer and potato chips, the willing victim of too many afternoon sportscasts. I’d like to put an extra buttonhole on your shirt, asshole. You’re in such a hurry you miss the passer-by until his snapped arm hits your windshield and cracked fingernails clutch the chrome. Your view blocked, you skid into the hard shoulder. I pull ahead, the wind whistling through my vehicle with a doggy whine.
I hear your accident on the wind, see the man rolling in glass, raking his face. How revolting. I’m low on gas. A Mars bar might help, too…Or make me homesick, ha ha ha…Or just sick. At a gas station the pump jockey is wiping rny windows. Back and forth go his hands, but small streaks of dirt remain. You smile and I mimic your waving hands. You look into my eyes, the second split by your decision. But it’s too late for you to find a new life. One hand jerks signals to me across a void. How can I tell you?
Your time has run all out and don’t look back because tomorrow is here and there is nothing to be afraid of any more.
You’re on the ground. An oily rag draped across a leg is the flag on your grease-monkey coffin. Some kind of service is called for. I hold your hand, hold on to the J ello mould of broken consciousness, the squishy-squishy. All the stores are closing and the lights are being dimmed. You are traveling fast to the white light, flipping out. I watch your death instalment-style, feeling love for humanity kindled in my heart. I prop the body in my arms, watching with stilted sympathy as this human animal catches its final bouquet. You’re quivering under the water of the one real baptism. ‘Isn’t this just how it should be?’ I’m about to say, but then it’s too late.
I go away a little lighter from everyone. I start walking. Standing still bugs me. Coffee has me tanked. Back on the road the sky is above me, plain grey. Love those jelly beans.
One ride later, without death, and I’m feeling really fucking weird. In a small town, rain falling around me, I’m dripping wet in a doorway, watching a puddle for my profile. I kick a magazine that turns to coal slush: ‘The King Is Alive!’ No kidding? I shuffle down a street where the prices are high. Hey, I’m just like you now – I want to be loved, I want to be something, too! This is the great mystery of life: what to do on a Saturday night? Time for some more food.