Consumed by Kyle M Scott – Review and Mini-Interview

Strong language follows:

As Kyle and I are Alumni of Bellshill Academy, Lanarkshire. (We don’t use that term, Alumni. Anyone who attended said school in the 90s would perhaps be more comfortable with the label ‘fellow survivor’. Alumni suggests that something constructive took place. It did not.)

As a fellow survivor who has also found himself writing in middle-age, I wanted to introduce you to Kyle Scott, Bellshill man, demented horror writer and political activist.

The only problem is that Kyle’s a wee shite. As eager as I am to tell you how good his first offering as a writer is (and it is good, very good), I can’t get past the fact that he’s a total wank.
In all honesty, I’m gutted at how good Consumed, his debut collection is. I’d much rather he kept his writing to himself and his stupid pointy-nosed gimp face off my newsfeed, but he’s got me hanging around like a crack-whore waiting on my next fucking hit.

With that in mind, here’s a short interview followed by my review of Consumed:

1)
Who the fuck do you think you are? You’re supposed to be a Scottish writer; where’s the clichéd drunks, wife beaters, drug addicts, dole scroungers and other Begbie-derived lunatics. There’s not even any fucking football thugs. Writing a genuinely intelligent, caustic social commentary in the guise of a horror anthology, you cheeky bastard. Whadafuck?

Thanks for having me, dick-stick.

Well, I figured seeing’ as all you other Scottish authors are sucking Satan’s cock and being as clichéd and half-hearted in your literature as the world expects you to be, I’d break the trend and actually write something good. I know this may come as a shock to you talentless no-names, but there’s a whole world out there that isn’t soaked in Buckfast or smack. I’m thinking maybe if you pull your heads out your asses, you may be able to write something halfway decent. I mean, most of you can string a sentence together, sort of. Did you know, Mark, that there are oceans out there? And birds? Trees and mountains and shit? Varying cultures with their own rich heritage?
I shit you not!
They’re all pish compared to Scotland, but still…

2)
Everyone from your school days remembers you as a long-fringed, spaced out, hippy fuck with a carpet-coat and pish-stains on your baggy Benzini jeans, plodding along with rainbows spreading out from your footprints. What happened to the chilled out, pishy-pants of old. How’d he end up being a horror writer?

While the rest of you losers were roaming the halls with your Armani jeans and your Jazzie B records, your superior, (me), was busy using a variety of chemical enhancements on myself – much like a superhero or some sort of awesome fucking wizard – to reach a spiritual realm the likes of which you scabby little shitheels could only dream, were you not all too busy wanking off into jam-jars, or studying for your ‘education’.
Even then, I knew you cretins would fuel my inner rage. It was either write horror or take you all to the fucking cleaners!

2)
In Consumed, the violence is described in a wonderfully graphic manner but your sex scenes are awesome. I cracked a forty-percenter several times. As you’re celibate, did you get a friend to help research the act of love?

I had sex once! Don’t you dare say I didn’t, because I did! Also, there’s only one sex scene, so why don’t you admit that you read it repeatedly while shaking yer sausage, like you were looking in my window – circa 1990. I only became celibate because I’d rather stick my dick in an operating blender than squander my sexual prowess on you lowlifes.

3)
I know you’re terrified of hard work, you lazy little piss-flap. How’d you get your shit together long enough to put Consumed together, let alone recently complete your first full-length novel, Devil’s Day?

My shit wasn’t together, and no one can say it was! I was on a heady concoction of Blue Meth, LSD and Fairy Liquid, while writing Consumed. The process went on for twenty years, and while I can’t remember writing any of it, or even know what the fuck it’s about, I’m positive it’s the best book ever written by anyone in the history of ever!
Except for my new book, Devil’s Day, which is better than life!

Thanks for the interview, Dickbag.

Fuck you and your interview. I’m off to find my dealer…..

Cover Image for Consumed

Cover Image for Consumed

Review of Consumed by Kyle M Scott, Avalable now at Amazon, US and Amazon, UK

Some people bring out the absolute worst in a person. You know the type, right?
The hipster in his post-ironic, Wall Street braces and bow tie standing statue-still, thoughtfully playing with his post-ironic beard or his faux-NHS specs at the front of your favourite band’s gig. Dancing never occurring to the bastard.

The dickhead who puts spikes out to deprive the homeless of a good-night’s sleep, defending a 6 foot by three foot slab of rock he calls his.
NO?
How about the asshole correspondent on regional BBC news who gets you pebble-dashing your TV screen with your morning cereal as he’s telling you that a hundred people marched in your city centre protesting Israel’s war on Palestine when you witnessed 10,000 with your own eyes.

If not those, then the best friend who talks you into one more drink/bar/gamble/lap dance
and takes a step to the side to photograph your inevitable meltdown. That guy, yeah, him.

Kyle Scott is such a creature. With his debut work he effortlessly takes you to places you don’t wish to go or acknowledge that you have tucked away in the darkest, most twisted corridors of your mind. All that shit that you ignore or hide, to blend in with the other fucks all around you all doing the same damn thing. This heartless fucker spares nothing in stripping bare the very best and the very worst of humanity in both everyday and supremely horrific acts.

Kyle knows which buttons to push, the sick bastard has pushed most of those buttons in his own damaged wee psyche, so he knows how to fuck you in the head. He knows which threads to pull at and he knows how to make you invest yourself in a story or a character, how to force you to recoil in horror, sneer in derision and smile or laugh sadistically when you know you shouldn’t.

Always graphic, his narrative slowly picks away at the scabby veneer of each of his cast to reveal their true depravity or heroism or weakness. He strips the poor souls of their illusions and drops the veil of society, presenting them with a moment to rise, fall or be devoured-sometimes literally. He’s a sick fuck, this guy, but his real strength, if you can call sadism a strength, is in conveying- in revealing- the true monsters lurking behind society.

Kyle explores consumerism at its most base and engages the reader’s brain without ever descending into preachy rhetoric. This subtle tugging at the reader’s sensibilities and values, coupled with the effective characterisation and incredibly descriptive acts of brutality, propels and plummets the reader through this collection at breakneck speed and makes him/her squirm in recognition of their own flaws. In Scott’s second short, ‘Shopping’ he uses this skill to great effect, presenting us with his most tragic, simple, heroically honest character in the form of a hideously misshapen cannibal named Roland on a shopping trip.

He’s a manipulative little bastard, Kyle Scott. You’ve been warned.

Free Kindle copy of The Man Who Sold His Son

The Man Who Sold His Son is Free on kindle from 30th June – 4th July, 2014. You can find Mark and his books (including the Lanarkshire Strays series) at Amazon UK and Amazon US

The following excerpt is from The Man Who Sold His Son by Mark Wilson. Copyright, 2014 Paddy’s Daddy Publishing Ltd

Garth felt an impulse rack his little body, sending another spasm of intense pain through his neurones. He felt the pain travel along his chest and down his spine. Unable to respond to it, the ten-year old merely observed as it travelled to his toes and left as quickly as it had come. He felt a pang of regret as it left him. He experienced so little of anything physically these days; these spikes of intense pain were becoming old and welcome friends. They reminded him he still existed. The only other things that tied him to the world were the voices he heard. People moving around his bed, talking, discussing him. Wondering aloud if he could hear them. He certainly couldn’t respond.

Doctors, nurses, his father; they discussed his future, or lack of it. They argued over treatment, whether to continue or if the time had come to turn off the motors and pumps that kept his lings inflating and his blood circulating. Part of him wished they would. Part of him was ready to go somewhere else. Not yet, though. He had his voice to cling to. His father’s voice.

 

I think it’s time to consider the removal of the viral particles from his spinal fluid.”

“That’s a very risky option at this stage. He’s unlikely to live through the procedure.”

“He’s not living now. This isn’t life. He hasn’t breathed alone in months. There are no detectable traces of brain activity. It’s over; it’s time to switch these machines off… With a sample of the virus, directly from his spinal fluid, we could make huge progress in understanding this virus. Maybe prevent what’s happened to Garth from happening to anyone else.”

“I still think that if we can give him more time, we should.”

“He’s been this way for eighteen months. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but Garth’s condition is unlikely to change. This is a totally unique, totally new virus we’re dealing with. It has properties we’ve never seen before in a pathogen of this type.”

“I know. I just wish there’s more we could do, other than keep him comfortable.”

“This young man’s contribution will change the lives of millions, maybe billions. This is the right thing.”

 

Garth Listened to them, smiling to himself. It’ll be over soon. At least I’ll get to help other kids. Other people. He took his mind elsewhere, to happier times, years before, when Mum was still alive. Before her illness, before dad lost himself in his work and put Garth into a boarding school. Garth watched images of his mother and father flashing across his mind’s-eye. Happy smiles, hot chocolate, racing through long grass in meadows filled with summer flowers and love. His family.

Would mum be waiting for him? Would his dad be alright alone, or would his son’s passing make him even more detached, more fixated on his business. He couldn’t know.

 

He was being moved along a corridor. The lights overhead flashed through his eyelids. Suddenly the gurney stopped and the metallic sounds of surgery began. A mask was pressed to his mouth. He tasted rubber and unfamiliar gasses. Garth focused on the voices again.

 

“How long until he goes under?”

“Seconds. He’s probably under already. If you’ve anything to say, do it now. He won’t hear you, but if you don’t, you’ll regret saying nothing to him before he’s totally gone.”

 

Garth felt a warm fluid flow over him. All pain was gone. He could move again, he could think again. He was free of the dulling effect of the morphine. He was free, period. As he moved into his mother’s arms he heard his father’s voice whispering into the ear of what used to be his body.

 

“You’re going to make me a lot of money. Goodbye, Son.”

 

————————–

 

 

“I’m terribly sorry, Mr Ennis. He’s gone.”

“Right. Get me that sample, Doctor. I’ve got work to do.”

 

The veteran surgeon pushed back his dislike for the man beside him and made the incision into Garth Ennis’ spine. Ten minutes later he watched, sickened, as the businessman’s eyes brightened when he handed him the small vial of spinal fluid.

“He could’ve had another few months, you know.”

Ennis held the vial of his son’s fluid up to the light and stared into it.

“My son’s contributed more to medicine with this sample than you have in your entire little career, Doctor. This…” Ennis held the vial up for him. “This, will change the world.”

The surgeon bored holes into Ennis with his eyes. He’d made allowances for Ennis, these last few months. He’d ignored the man’s clinical manner, his coldness towards the comatose boy. At times it had felt like he’d been protecting the boy from his own father. Since succumbing to the virus, this new virus, and slipping into his vegetative state, Garth had lain in the same bed, in the same room, in his care. Garth’s father visited every day, but said nothing to the boy. He didn’t kiss or hold him. He barely looked at the boy’s face. Gavin Ennis would just sit there for hours, tapping away at his handheld computer; working. Making plans for the genome of the virus that was killing his son.

The surgeon made excuses for Ennis’ demeanour. He knew the family history well. Ennis’ wife had died from meningitis three years back. His small business was in trouble. Having created synthetic gametes that nobody wanted, Ennis Company looked to be going into liquidation. Simply, no-one wanted to have children conceived using synthetic sperm. Ennis had expected single, career women who’d left it too late or couldn’t find a partner to jump at the chance. Or married gay couples, but there just wasn’t the interest. People had chosen to use the DNA of a stranger or relative rather than Ennis’, lab creations.

The man was on his knees. Dead wife so young, his son dying so very young. The surgeon had found plenty of reasons to excuse Ennis’ behaviour, until now. The callousness of Ennis’ actions today clawed at the surgeon’s conscience. He felt a fool for having made allowances for this man, who had effectively used his dead son for profit.

Injecting all the venom he could muster into his voice, the surgeon spat out,

“You sold out your son to get it. I hope it was worth it.”

Ennis had already turned and begun to walk towards the exit.

The surgeon headed in the opposite direction, his next task, the disposal of little Garth Ennis’ remains.

 

End of Excerpt

The Man Who Sold His Son is Free on kindle from 30th June – 4th July, 2014. You can find Mark and his books (including the Lanarkshire Strays series) at Amazon UK and Amazon US

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The Man Who Sold His Son – Foreword by Ryan Bracha

My fifth novel, The Man Who Sold His Son is part of the Lanarkshire Strays series and will be available on June 30th, 2014. With the upcoming release in mind I figured that I’d make a pest of myself by asking my favourite Indie-author for his input in the form of a foreword. Enjoy

FOREWORD:

I love reading. I love reading Mark Wilson’s books. I hate Mark Wilson. I’ll tell you why.

He struts confidently around various genres that I just wouldn’t ever pick up, he casts his dirty little spell over them, and he leaves me wondering how the hell he managed to make me enjoy them. But enjoy them I do, and I hate him for it. dEaDINBURGH, for example, a Young Adult tale of the undead terrorising a city. He builds his outlandish and bizarre world that- for me -will never be a likely reality, but by simply creating sturdy and believable relationships, and without pandering to convention, he turns it into something completely different. Or Naebody’s Hero, a superhero story, that focuses not on the talents and powers that his protagonist has, but on how it hinders his ability to form and keep meaningful relationships. And this, The Man Who Sold His Son, an intricate and educated piece of speculative fiction set forty years from now, about how a virus has all but killed off male fertility. About how synthetic sperm is the chosen method of fertilising women’s eggs. About how people not borne of this method are cast out of conventional society simply for being free thinkers. And about how, after a chance encounter, a man must become the sole guinea pig for a global corporation run by a man who, indeed, sold his son, so that he can save his own.
But guess what? It’s all just another extremely well thought out back drop for Mark Wilson to create another series of incredibly powerful relationships, and emotional set pieces, and it works a treat.

​Wilson’s standout strength in all of his books is his capacity for painting the raw and true emotion that runs between two people who love each other. Whether it’s between two naïve and young people first branching out into the world of dating, or if it’s the love between two best friends who, no matter how bad things get, will always be there for one another. He does it faultlessly. What he does best of all, however, is the paternal bond between male relatives, and The Man Who Sold His Son gives him the ideal foil to do just that, in abundance.

​From the intimate and tender moments between Alex and his son Tommy as their connection grows in the midst of Alex’ wife’s addiction to mind bending substances, to Tommy’s natural love of his great grandfather, Tom, the protagonist from Wilson’s debut novel Bobby’s Boy. Not only does he create, and maintain these relationships, but he takes it up another level when he masterfully sets these against the cold and heartless character, Gavin Ennis, who in the very first few pages chooses to switch off his son’s life support machine in the pursuit of his fortune.

​So again, I’ll tell you. I hate Mark Wilson. I hate his stupid face, and I hate his stupid bald head. But most of all, I hate that he manages to turn round my opinions of the genres he chooses to write with fantastic aplomb every single time. ​
​- Ryan Bracha, June 2014

You can find Ryan and his books at Amazon, US and UK

The Man Who Sold His Son is due for publication by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing on June 30th, 2014
You can find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon, US and UK

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Sexy Babies?

Not a nice thought, is it? The sexualisation of small children. Unfortunately since Friday I’ve been trapped in a repeating loop thinking about just that. I’ve been replaying an incident, unable to leave it alone for more than a few minutes. Like picking at a scab that’s almost ready, I’ve been revisiting the moments.
The man, his face, his whistle… I can’t take my mind away from a fleeting encounter on Queensferry Street, Edinburgh with a kind-looking smartly-dressed young man who seemed, for a split-second to be expressing an attraction to my eighteen month old daughter’s legs.

A muggy day in the capital, I’d dressed my daughter comfortably in a loose-fitting, summer dress, tights and light shoes. As I was making ready to leave, my son Patrick-5 and a half years old, the half is very important- in tow, I decided that it was too hot to cover up my baby’s legs in fairly thick tights and performed a quick change into socks instead. She’d had a bad bout of nappy rash recently and a bit of air around her undercarriage would be a good thing. So we left the house, Cara in a lovely dress, nappy, frilly pants, socks and shoes, Paddy in a loose-fitting football strip and me in whichever clothes I’d picked up from the floor and deemed least milk-food-snot-stained and suitable for my work’s night out.
The plan was to meet my wife in a little burger place on Queensferry Street that my kids love. I’d get to spend a little while with the whole family together- a rare treat for working parents in demanding jobs- then I’d be able to continue on my planned night out with my colleagues, another rare treat.

As I strode along in the sunshine with Patrick jumping the cracks between paving stone, urging me to do the same, and Cara practicing new words in her buggy, a very drunk man approached us.
three

In his early forties, he was staggering around, shouting friendly comments at people who passed him. It’s unusual to see this on the particular street we were on, but a former resident of Lanarkshire- if nothing else-knows how to deal with a drunkard. Paddy spotted him and gave him a wide berth. Cara saw him too, and shouted Ee-I-Ee-I-O, in his direction. His wee drunk face lit up at this and he came straight to the buggy, almost falling in as he approached her to say hello. I swerved the buggy side-on and let him give her hand a wee shake. She blew him a raspberry and he staggered off blowing raspberries to himself as he went. My son came to me, “Was that man alright, dad? I was a little scared of him.” We had a brief chat about people drinking too much, he shook his head and began concerning himself with the perils of standing on the cracks of a paving stone. On we went.
As we reached the main thoroughfare, I pulled Paddy in a little closer. We always do this when it’s busy. He holds the buggy and we navigate, zig-zagging our way through the business-people, shop workers and football fans. Paddy’s still skipping over slabs, one eye on his path, but mostly letting the buggy pull him along. Cara has her legs wide open, pulling at her shoes, which have set a new record for staying on her feet. She’s still jabbering away.

As we pass a young, clean-looking man in a suit, he catches my eye. In addition to being a writer, I’m also teacher and often bump into former-pupils I don’t recognise as they’ve changed so much since leaving school. I wonder if he knows me, mainly because he has this look on his face, like he’s sharing a joke with me. He gives a quick nod to my daughter’s chubby wee legs- which are wide open showing her frilly pants to the world- and lets out a long, loud wolf-whistle.

Everything slows down for me. I claw at the brake of the buggy, engaging it and step towards the young man, I’ll call him James, cos he looked like a James. As I step towards James his face drops. I can see that he realises what he’s done. I can see the horror etched on his face. His eyes are screaming at me, blazing an apology. His hands are up in a submissive gesture, I can see his capitulation all over him, but my fist is still headed straight to his face.
As I lean forward, I bump my leg into Paddy, who is still hanging onto the buggy.
“Watch it Dad.”
It’s enough to snap me out of my action and I pull the fist back before it connects. I don’t want my son to see me hit this young man. So I march them the hundred yards or so to the burger place. Behind me, James is apologising.
“I never meant it the way it sounded, mate.” He’s saying. “She was just cute…That’s all.”
I hear him, I really do, and part of me understands what happened, but hearing him isn’t the same as listening to him. I’m boiling inside, but I hold it together. Hoping with every cell in my body that my wife is in the burger place. I plan on handing her the kids and following after James. I’m not a violent man, but something vital shifted inside me when this handsome young, hard-working-looking man whistled at my baby’s legs. I’m plotting a lot of actions I’m not proud of. I want to hurt James, I want that very much.

My wife isn’t there. Paddy bangs me on the leg, his Krav Maga classes have given him a vicious punch,
“We’re hungry, Daddy.” He looks up at me accusingly. Cara gives her agreement, “Ee-I-Ee-I-O.”
The red veil lifts and normal colour falls back over the world. We take a seat and I force myself to forget about the encounter…for the time being… and enjoy my kids’ nonsense and a little bit of time with my wife before heading out for the evening. The next day, I couldn’t stop thinking about James.

James isn’t a paedophile, not even close. He didn’t want to hurt my kids, he didn’t want to molest them. He wasn’t the least bit attracted to my infant daughter. This was a normal, smiley-faced young man, a kid really, going about his business. Perhaps on his way home for a beer and to watch the Spain-Holland match. I’ve known a lot of bad people- men and women- and James wasn’t one.

He was a dopey kid, who was walking along in the sunshine, smiling at the world who happened to notice a wee, bald middle-aged man with his two kids bouncing along. My kids are funny. They smile at mostly everyone who passes them and have been encouraged to follow their natural instinct to engage with people. They shout Hiya! At people who smile at them. They make strangers laugh. James saw my baby daughter, so pretty, smiling up at him playing with her feet and it made him happy. He thought to himself cute kid, she’s lovely and expressed his admiration for a female- young or not- the only way he knew how; the way the media has taught his generation to. With a sexual remark.

Men aren’t alone in their casual sexism. Women can be equally culpable. Many times when out with my kids without my wife, I overhear remarks like, Look at that one, doing his wee turn. Or Fucking weekend dad. That’s a common one. Sometimes when I kiss my kids I’m aware of someone smiling at the gesture. Other times, I get scowled at for kissing my own kids. One woman even said loudly, That’s no’ right, that… When my son kissed me for buying him a lolly. People see sexual intent everywhere when there is none. I know men who worry about changing their own daughter’s nappy.

The over-sexualisation of women in modern day Britain is a genuine concern, more so for the father of a daughter. It seems at times that women are only allowed to value those traits that make them desirable to men. Being confident or competitive or ambitious or forthright, none of these characteristics are seen as virtues in our girls, the same way they are in our boys.

Young women are being taught to express themselves in a submissive, pretty way, when they should be being taught to behave in a subversive, focused way. That’s what’s valued in boys and what drives them- able or not- into the top positions in our companies and boardrooms and government over more able girls, despite those same girls out-doing their male counterparts at every stage between primary school and entering the workforce.
Until we enable our daughters and sisters, wives and mothers to express themselves equally, true equality is a bloody farce. Until we value our girls for more than their appearance or sexual availability, and begin to reward them for displaying characteristics that are real virtues and lauded in boys every day, our girls will continue to stunt themselves and live down to the expectations and limitations we’re so casually placing on them.
I don’t blame James for his expression of appreciation. It was a sexual gesture to a baby, my baby. It was lewd and made me lose my temper for a few moments, but he doesn’t know any better. In this 21st Century free and tolerant Britain, women have become sexual objects, it’s not a real surprise that in showing his appreciation for a pretty little girl James chose this gesture. To James’- in his head- it probably seemed like a genuine compliment.

To our young men, faced with the media onslaught and our casual misogyny, it must be a genuine puzzle, how to express admiration to a female. He’s just doing what he’s been taught to do.

Apologies for the non-book related post

Interludes and Pace

Here’s the second interlude from The Man Who Sold His Son.

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In this case I wanted to relay the story of a character who has a massive effect on the beginning and the outcome of the story, but wanted to keep his presence light throughout the main narrative, so as to not affect the flow or pace of the story.

The following excerpt is from Mark Wilson’s upcoming fifth novel, The Man Who Sold His Son. Due for release Late July from Paddy’s Daddy Publishing. It is part of the Lanarkshire Strays Series available on Amazon now:

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Interlude

 

“I’m talking to you, James. Don’t walk away from me.” Fiona screamed.

He kept right on walking through to the kitchen.

“I’m very nearly done with this shite, James.” She grunted with effort and a vase sailed past his head, missing by centimetres. James Sinclair barely noticed it. He might not have noticed the missile at all but for the wind generated by its passing. Numbly, he bent over and retrieved the larger pieces it had broken into. Fetching a small brush and pan, he began sweeping up the smaller debris. “Watch yer feet,” he muttered.

Oh, do fuck off,” Fiona spat at him and left the room.

Feeling a pang of regret, he turned to follow after her tell her that he was sorry. He hadn’t slept more than three hours a night in six months, maybe more, not since…

James Sinclair pushed those memories away, somewhere dark and dusty that he never explored, along with childhood beatings at the hands of school bullies and his father’s hands. He swallowed the excuses and the stillborn-apology and threw the shattered fragments of the vase into the bin, continuing to the freezer.

Fuck. It lay there, the vial. He shouldn’t have it, nobody knew of its existence. At the time, he couldn’t not take it, not after the way that bastard had treated him, treated his own son. The contents of the vial were not dangerous-they may in fact be very important one day- not even if they thawed, but frozen they must remain. So there they were, taunting him, reminding him of his cowardice each time he reached into his freezer, which was often. Reached in, his hand hovering over the vial for a few very long seconds. If he only had the courage.

Sinclair sighed and picked up the bottle of Beluga vodka and gave a sardonic grin. If you’re determined to be an alcoholic, James, might as well do it in style.

As he poured himself four fingers of the luxury drink, Sinclair gave a resigned shrug as he heard the front door slam.

End of Excerpt

The Man Who Sold His Son and the Omnibus of the Lanarkshire Strays series will be available, late July, 2014.

That Difficult Fifth Novel

Having just passed the 30k mark on my work in progress, I thought I’d post an update and an excerpt. The Man Who Sold His Son is by far the most difficult book I’ve written so far. normally I sit down at my PC and just type about the movie I’m watching in my head. Aside from a little research and some plotting before hand, there’s hasn’t been a lot more to the writing process for me than that instinctive and spontaneous approach.

This book, though. It’s my difficult fifth child. The plot is more complicated and precarious than any I’ve written before, and I’m finding that for long periods I sit and take notes and make maps of plot points and events to join together and work through. getting t all straight is hard work. the actual writing comes as easily as ever, but the process of getting to the point where I’m ready to go is more complex. I’m unsure if that’s making the book a more rounded read, or just a bastard to write. time will tell.

The following excerpt comes from my upcoming fifth novel, The Man Who Sold His Son, a new addition to the Lanarkshire Strays series Due for publication by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing, Summer 2014:

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Interlude 

Some years ago…

 

Garth felt an impulse rack his little body, sending another spasm of intense pain through his neurones. He felt the pain travel along his chest and down his spine. Unable to respond to it, the ten-year old merely observed as it travelled to his toes and left as quickly as it had come. He felt a pang of regret as it left him. He experienced so little of anything physically these days; these spikes of intense pain were becoming old and welcome friends. They reminded him he still existed. The only other things that tied him to the world were the voices he heard. People moving around his bed, talking, discussing him. Wondering aloud if he could hear them. He certainly couldn’t respond.

Doctors, nurses, his father; they discussed his future, or lack of it. They argued over treatment, whether to continue or if the time had come to turn off the motors and pumps that kept his lings inflating and his blood circulating. Part of him wished they would. Part of him was ready to go somewhere else. Not yet, though. He had his voice to cling to. His father’s voice.

 

I think it’s time to consider the removal of the viral particles from his spinal fluid.”

“That’s a very risky option at this stage. He’s unlikely to live through the procedure.”

“He’s not living now. This isn’t life. He hasn’t breathed alone in months. There are no detectable traces of brain activity. It’s over; it’s time to switch these machines off… With a sample of the virus, directly from his spinal fluid, we could make huge progress in understanding this virus. Maybe prevent what’s happened to Garth from happening to anyone else.”

“I still think that if we can give him more time, we should.”

“He’s been this way for eighteen months. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but Garth’s condition is unlikely to change. This is a totally unique, totally new virus we’re dealing with. It has properties we’ve never seen before in a pathogen of this type.”

“I know. I just wish there’s more we could do, other than keep him comfortable.”

“This young man’s contribution will change the lives of millions, maybe billions. This is the right thing.”

 

Garth Listened to them, smiling to himself. It’ll be over soon. At least I’ll get to help other kids. Other people. He took his mind elsewhere, to happier times, years before, when Mum was still alive. Before her illness, before dad lost himself in his work and put Garth into a boarding school. Garth watched images of his mother and father flashing across his mind’s-eye. Happy smiles, hot chocolate, racing through long grass in meadows filled with summer flowers and love. His family.

Would mum be waiting for him? Would his dad be alright alone, or would his son’s passing make him even more detached, more fixated on his business. He couldn’t know.

 

He was being moved along a corridor. The lights overhead flashed through his eyelids. Suddenly the gurney stopped and the metallic sounds of surgery began. A mask was pressed to his mouth. He tasted rubber and unfamiliar gasses. Garth focused on the voices again.

 

“How long until he goes under?”

“Seconds. He’s probably under already. If you’ve anything to say, do it now. He won’t hear you, but if you don’t, you’ll regret saying nothing to him before he’s totally gone.”

 

Garth felt a warm fluid flow over him. All pain was gone. He could move again, he could think again. He was free of the dulling effect of the morphine. He was free, period. As he moved into his mother’s arms he heard his father’s voice whispering into the ear of what used to be his body.

 

“You’re going to make me a lot of money. Goodbye, Son.”

 

————————–

 

 

“I’m terribly sorry, Mr Ennis. He’s gone.”

“Right. Get me that sample, Doctor. I’ve got work to do.”

 

The veteran surgeon pushed back his dislike for the man beside him and made the incision into Garth Ennis’ spine. Ten minutes later he watched, sickened, as the businessman’s eyes brightened when he handed him the small vial of spinal fluid.

“He could’ve had another few months, you know.”

Ennis held the vial of his son’s fluid up to the light and stared into it.

“My son’s contributed more to medicine with this sample than you have in your entire little career, Doctor. This…” Ennis held the vial up for him. “This, will change the world.”

The surgeon bored holes into Ennis with his eyes. He’d made allowances for Ennis, these last few months. He’d ignored the man’s clinical manner, his coldness towards the comatose boy. At times it had felt like he’d been protecting the boy from his own father. Since succumbing to the virus, this new virus, and slipping into his vegetative state, Garth had lain in the same bed, in the same room, in his care. Garth’s father visited every day, but said nothing to the boy. He didn’t kiss or hold him. He barely looked at the boy’s face. Gavin Ennis would just sit there for hours, tapping away at his handheld computer; working. Making plans for the genome of the virus that was killing his son.

The surgeon made excuses for Ennis’ demeanour. He knew the family history well. Ennis’ wife had died from meningitis three years back. His small business was in trouble. Having created synthetic gametes that nobody wanted, Ennis Company looked to be going into liquidation. Simply, no-one wanted to have children conceived using synthetic sperm. Ennis had expected single, career women who’d left it too late or couldn’t find a partner to jump at the chance. Or married gay couples, but there just wasn’t the interest. People had chosen to use the DNA of a stranger or relative rather than Ennis’, lab creations.

The man was on his knees. Dead wife so young, his son dying so very young. The surgeon had found plenty of reasons to excuse Ennis’ behaviour, until now. The callousness of Ennis’ actions today clawed at the surgeon’s conscience. He felt a fool for having made allowances for this man, who had effectively used his dead son for profit.

Injecting all the venom he could muster into his voice, the surgeon spat out,

“You sold out your son to get it. I hope it was worth it.”

Ennis had already turned and begun to walk towards the exit.

The surgeon headed in the opposite direction, his next task, the disposal of little Garth Ennis’ remains.

 

End of Excerpt

You can find Mark and his books (including the Lanarkshire Strays series) at Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Man Who Sold His Son – Preview

The following passage is an excerpt from my upcoming 5th novel, The Man Who Sold His Son. I’d previously placed this on the back-burner after writing the first third of the book, as dEaDINBURGH: Book 1 was itching my head. At present, I’m writing this as my main project whilst working on dEaDINBURGH: Book 2

The Man Who Sold His Son is a welcome return to my native Bellshill. The following excerpt is pre-edit.

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Bellshill, Lanarkshire

 

Scotland

 

2055

 

1

 Alex sped the along Bellshill Main Street on his vintage Kawasaki Ninja enjoying the freedom of being on his bike. It was past midnight and a warm July night so he had the roads to himself. Hardly anyone drove these days, most choosing to use The Tubes, and those who did invariably drove those soulless hydrogen-powered cart monstrosities. Alex couldn’t imagine being without his bike. Riding his Kawasaki was more or less the only freedom he had these days, but that was ok. Life was good in so many ways. Continuing along the long road, he glanced up at the windows of his duplex noting the living room’s light flickering and that the light in Tommy’s room was on. Damn it, Sarah!

At the end of a long shift in the hospital the last thing Alex needed was another argument with his wife. Why couldn’t she just be a little kinder to the boy?

Disappearing down his building’s ramp, he noticed the underground garage doors sliding up in response to his bikes’ approach and gunned it, ducking slightly as he impatiently sped under the ascending metal. Riding the elevator to their duplex apartment on the twentieth floor of the Sir Matt Busby building, Alex removed his helmet and steeled himself for the inevitable confrontation that awaited him two hundred feet above. Forcing himself to breathe deeply, Alex thought of his grand-father.

Tom Kinsella had been a Bellshill resident but had moved to New York in adulthood. Tom had fathered twin girls, Natalie and Patricia. Patricia was Alex’s Mother and currently on vacation in Cornwall. In her fifties the relative warmth suited her and the beautiful scenery aided in her day job. Like her father, Tom, Patricia was a writer and had returned to live in her father’s home country whilst pregnant with Alex.

Alex had been lucky enough to spend his younger years splitting his time between Scotland and his grandfather’s home in New York City. Of course this was when people still travelled to other countries relatively cheaply and freely. These days, only the very rich could afford overseas travel and as a consequence, almost no-one left their country of birth anymore. Alex hadn’t seen his Grandfather in years, although they spoke often over the Holo-Net.

Tom Kinsella was the calmest, most composed man Alex had ever known. Having lost his wife in his twenties, Tom had raised the twin girls in New York and seemed completely incapable of getting angry or flustered. He was a terrific Grandfather and entirely Alex’ hero; which is why he’d named his son for the man. Speaking to, or even thinking of, his Granda Tom always helped Alex to compose himself.

The shudder of the elevator, followed by a ping shook Alex from his reverie and prompted him to step out onto the plush carpet of the twentieth floor. Each floor was identified by a different décor. Every time Alex stepped out onto the blue of the twentieth floor, he gave silent thanks that he didn’t live on the fifteenth, the orange floor.

 

The Sir Matt Busby Busby building was a luxury apartment complex built on the site of a long-demolished leisure centre. The building had been named for a 20th Century football manager, born in Bellshill, and was the new centre of the once-again affluent town. In years gone past Bellshill had been an impoverished, ex-mining, ex-steelworks town but had benefited from a decision to base Synthi-Inc’s global headquarters in the now resurgent town.

On the verge of being granted city status, Bellshill had expanded exponentially to become a global hub and mecca for biological and reproductive research. Research labs provided skills, education and employment for the thousands of locals and hundreds of thousands of new settlers the town had attracted. Several new hospitals had also been built in recent years, including Alex’ employer, the Ally McCoist Clinic for Reproductive Health, again named after a former footballing native. The locals had loved football at one time but with most of the population now composed of Synthi-kids and adults, the desire, passion and drive that made people follow or play for football clubs was absent and the game had died.

 

Alex breathed deeply, expelling any residual anger he’d felt on noticing the lights on in two separate rooms in his home, pressed his thumb to the doors’ scanner and gently pushed open the aluminium door. Striding past the living room on his right, Alex ignored Sarah’s half-hearted Hi and continued to the staircase at the end of the hallway. Ascending the spiral staircase, he reached the upper floor and lightened his step to approach the door to Thomas’s room. Grimacing at the noise as he creaked the door open three inches or so, Alex poked his nose in, checking if his son was asleep. Although there was a light on in the room, Thomas often fell asleep with a light on, a habit left over from infancy.

Alex eyes followed a trail of books along the floor leading towards Tommy’s bed. All titles well in advance of his ten years, the books were creased and well read. Thomas had always refused to use an E-reader or tablet, preferring real books. He took after Tom, his great-grandfather and a man he’d never met in person, in this regard. With his thick blonde hair and green eyes, Tommy looked like Tom as well. Alex smiled as he raised his eyes to see his son sitting up in his bed, back to the wall, knees bent in a makeshift book rest.

“Hey, Dad.”

Smiling broadly, Alex entered the room, closing the door behind him.

“Hey, Son. What you reading?”

Thomas lifted the hardback edition, showing his dad the cover.

“Rot and Ruin? Great book. I read that when I was a kid. Isn’t it a little younger than your usual choice?”

Tommy nodded “Yeah, but the writer’s amazing, Dad.”

Alex nodded in agreement. Propping one buttock on the bed he ruffled his son’s hair. “You been in here long tonight?”

Tommy’s eyes darted back to his book. “Na. Only for half an hour. Just wanted some quiet time, to read.” He said quietly.

Alex could tell he was lying, and Tommy knew it. Alex always saw the lies in his son’s eyes, but neither pushed the issue any further.

Tommy looked up at his father. “It’s alright, Dad. I like to read alone…..Please don’t argue with Mum again.” He pleaded.

Thomas’s eyes had filled a little.

Alex allowed the rising anger to dissipate and smiled warmly at his boy. “Tell me about your day at school.”

Tommy threw his book onto the floor and launched himself into an animated account of his school day. Alex listened carefully as his son described, his various classes, and friends and passed along some jokes from his mates. Thomas ended up with hiccoughs from laughing so much. When Tommy had finished and Alex had caught his breath from laughing, he raised an eyebrow and asked the boy. “Any arguments today?”

Thomas nodded.

“Mr Chase again?” he asked.

“Yeah, but he wouldn’t listen to me, Dad. I had a good point to make.”

Alex nodded. You know how proud I am of you, Don’t you?”

Tommy nodded back at his father.

“I love that you’ve got your own ideas that you think for yourself, but whilst you’re at school, you have to be careful not to be too…” Alex searched for the word, “…spirited.”

They’d had the same conversation dozens of times before. Thomas was such a livewire, so bright, athletic and full of life. It crushed Alex to dampen the boy, but it wasn’t good to shine too brightly in this modern world.”

Thomas’s eyes filled with hurt, the same way they always did when Alex had to reluctantly rein him in. “Alright, Dad. I’ll try harder.”

Alex winced. He hated making his son hide his talents, but what else could he do? Smiling again, he told Thomas. “I love you more than sausages.”

Tommy laughed. “Daaad.” He groaned.

Alex repeated “I love you more than sausages.”

Thomas’s cheeks flushed red. They’d played this game since Tommy had been a toddler. It was just embarrassing now. But still…

“I love you more than chips.” He replied, bringing a toothy smile form Alex.

“I love you more than cheesecake.” Alex grinned, initiating a ping pong of I love you more thans for a few minutes. After a few rounds Tommy yawned, signalling that his patience had run out.

Alex waited for him to lie down and then tucked him in. Sitting himself next to his son, he stroked his hair for a while. Tommy, with drooping, sleepy eyes, turned to face him. “Dad, I do love you, and Mum. I just wish that she…liked me a bit more.”

Anger and pain lanced Alex’ heart but he didn’t allow it to show in his eyes. “She does love you, you know that, Tommy. She’s just…got her own way of showing it.”

Alex searched his son’s face. The kid didn’t believe a word of it, but pretended to be comforted, for his Dad’s sake. It broke Alex heart to watch his son protect his feelings in this way. He reached out and tugged Tommy’s right ear.

“G’night, Bacon ears.” He laughed.

Tommy grabbed his Dad’s nose and yanked. “Night, Sausage Nose.”

With that he rolled over and Alex quietly left his room. Anger building once again, he made for the living room and another fight.

 

2

Sarah sat with her back to the door, vape-pod pressed to her mouth, immersed in whatever shitty Holo-Soap she was addicted to that month and sunken deep into the memory-foam sofa. One hand tapped the thin screen of her tablet, scanning the Holo-Net. The light he’d seen from outside the building was, as he’d guessed, the flicker from the Holo-Projector filling the room. Listening to the click-whizz of the vape-pod as she inhaled the last of its contents, he allowed his anger to rise.

Alex sat in an armchair opposite her, an old chair. The sort with springs and tears and history and flaws. It’d come from his Grandfather’s childhood house on Community Road. Covered in coffee-rings, it reeked of cigarettes and was one of his favourite things. Alex Mum had wanted to throw it out when the house was being demolished. He’d practically ripped it from the house in his eagerness to preserve that one, simple tie to Tom.

Sarah tossed the empty vape-pod onto the coffee table, where it bounced once and clattered to a rest against four other empty pods. It was a defiant gesture and she glared at Alex for a reaction as she threw it.

Alex held onto his anger, controlling and supressing the need to roar at her.

“Have a good day?” Sarah sneered at him and began laughing at her own question?”

“Not as good as you.” Alex nodded at the pile of pods on the table.

“Och that’s a shame” she giggled. “You should relax a wee bit, treat yourself to a vape.”

Alex ignored her provocation. “How long has Tommy been in his room while you’ve been sitting in here vaped out your head?”

Sarah laughed again. God, he hated her sometimes. At least he wished he hated her. The truth was that he loved her, God help him. His life would be a damn site easier if he could hate Sarah.

“It’s perfectly legal, Alexander.” She tried to look nonchalant, but the expression came across twisted and dull.

“Aye, it’s legal, but that boy in there thinks you hate him. Why can’t you spend some time with him? Show him you do care. Is this shit so important? More important than your son?” Alex lashed out with his foot, sending the table and the pile of vape-pods flying across the room.

Sarah laughed harder than ever. Rising to her feet she staggered unsteadily over to the table and gave it an exaggerated, slapstick kick, mocking Alex.

Alex felt a deep stab of shame at losing his temper, but was struggling to keep it in check again already due to her nastiness. He composed himself and sat back into his chair, leaving her to dance foolishly, kicking the vape-pods around as she went.

Suddenly Sarah stopped her horrific dance and turned to stare at him. Eyes like stone she said, “You know I never wanted him.”

Smiling once more, she continued, “We agreed if I had him, nothing had to change. I’m a young woman. I just want to enjoy myself.”

She staggered back to her sofa and retrieved another vape-pod from her handbag.

“I’m just having fun. Don’t I deserve some fun?” She’d started crying. There was no talking to her when she’d been vaping and he’d promised Thomas that he wouldn’t fight with her tonight. Alex left her to it and headed to their bedroom.

 

Lying on top of the covers freshly showered and in boxers and a white T, he sighed heavily and reached to his bedside table to pick up their wedding image. Holding the light plastic frame at its corners, Alex looked sadly at the image of him and Sarah smiling on their wedding day. Alex hated these moving Holo-images and much preferred the older, still photographs of his childhood. He hated the way the Holos captured and projected so accurately the emotions of the day. Alex’ smile was beaming from the Holo with pride and happiness. Sarah smiled broadly also, but her smile never reached her eyes. Even then she’d begun to grow colder.

 

Childhood friends, he and Sarah had lived in houses across the road from each other in an older part of Bellshill. At three years old they’d gone to nursery together. At five, primary school. At twelve, high school. Throughout their childhood and adolescence they’d been best friends, each and every life event had been marked by photos and then Holos, featuring both of them. They’d come as a pair their whole lives. Eventually, they exchanged their virginities and conceived Thomas on the first go.

Sarah was almost three months pregnant by the time they’d realised and then accepted that they were one of the rare few. A couple who could produce offspring in the old way. Sarah felt that she’d been cursed and wondered at what she’d done to deserve such a cruel outcome to her first sexual encounter. Alex was shocked, but despite what was becoming fashionable, despite the extra work and responsibilities and perhaps persecution having their child would bring into their lives. For him, the introduction of a child into their lives felt right somehow. He felt like a father from the moment he discovered the unlikely conception.

At eighteen, Sarah had been overly concerned with what her peers and her parents’ friends thought of her pregnancy. People generally made one of two assumptions. Either that she’d planned conception and used the synthi-sperm procedure, or that she was having a random. Most assumed she’d conceived with Synthi-sperm and whilst they frowned at her having made the decision so young, most mothers were in their forties, they simply saw her as a silly wee lassie who’d been a little stupid and headstrong. Sarah was happy enough, for the most part, to let people believe that she’d gotten pregnant deliberately but it galled her to be set apart from her peers who slowly trickled away into the past and stopped calling her.

As well as her social circle depleting, her thoughts were consumed with the delivery of their baby. She was terrified at the thought and frequently had panic attacks in response to Holo-Shows about birth or during visits to the Pre-natal clinic. Alex had tried his best to put her mind at ease, but really, what could he say? He had no more idea than she did about what the delivery suite would hold for her.

Sarah had taken time to adjust, but had eventually become more positive through the course of the pregnancy. Then, along came Thomas.

Thomas’s birth had been every bit as difficult as Sarah had feared. After a very dangerous assisted delivery, she’d been left badly damaged, physically and emotionally. Her body of course, healed over the weeks and months that followed, but her mental health had deteriorated badly and had never recovered.

She seemed to blame their new son for the manner and difficulty of his arrival, and frequently referred to him as it. Alex ignored the remarks and remained positive. Sarah worked very hard at being a mother, but it was obvious that a sense of duty drove her. She took no pleasure in her baby and clearly resented him and the responsibilities he’d brought. Sarah couldn’t bond with the boy. The daily monotony of nappies, bottles, washing, cleaning, crying, screaming. Lather, rinse, repeat. It chipped away at her self-esteem and her ability to remain positive. She couldn’t see the moment for what it was; a moment. A period of hardship that wouldn’t last forever. She couldn’t see an end to the hell she found herself in and cried for her dreams of a different life. She simply wasn’t capable of loving her baby enough to keep moving forward.

Alex juggled work, his studies and spent as much time as possible at home. Eventually, they agreed that Sarah would be happier getting out to work and Alex should drop one of his jobs to stay at home and look after Thomas more often. Alex hoped that Sarah’s escape from the Groundhog Day nature of being a parent to a young, demanding baby would help her lift her spirits and appreciate the now more limited time she spent with the baby. Instead, Alex’ bond with their son grew stronger and hers disappeared altogether.

As the years had passed and their lives moved on, more and more, Sarah had sunk into depressive routines and habits. She stopped working and began vaping two years ago. Recently she’d moved from being indifferent to Thomas to being openly hostile.

Sarah rarely left their apartment and was so desperately sad and angry all of the time Alex didn’t recognise her anymore. She’d isolated herself so completely from him and from their son that the gulf between them seemed impossible to cross. Alex had tried desperately to snap her out of the blackness she was in, but caring about her, loving her, had become more and more difficult because of how she’d been treating their son. She obviously and openly blamed him for everything she perceived as absent from or wrong with her life. Alex couldn’t find a trace of his childhood friend in her eyes anymore, but was determined to keep trying to bring her back to her old self and shield Thomas form her illness.

He picked up the Holo of their wedding day and watched his former-self hug and smile the woman he loved. He smiled sadly as he recalled that they’d had a huge row the previous night. I’m only seventeen, Alex. I’m not ready to be a mother. Especially to a kid I didn’t plan. They call them Randoms now, you know.

Alex recalled every exchange from that night. In the early hours they’d argued, screamed at each other. They’d both cried and eventually he’d convinced Sarah that having their baby and getting married was the right thing to do. Not just for the baby, but for both of them also. He had it all planned; Medical school, two jobs to support them whilst he studied. He promised her that they could make it work, that they’d be happy. He’d place his hand over the barely visible bump in her abdomen where their child grew and begged her to trust him. By morning she’d agreed to try.

 

Alex placed the Holo-Frame face-down on his bedside cabinet and turned out the light. He smiled to himself in the darkness. I’ll take them to the beach tomorrow. Yellowcraigs Beach in Gullane. Granda’s beach.


3

 Thomas had found himself a couple of friends and had been playing handball at the edge of the sea. As usual, his peers’ gameplay was a little gentile for his liking and he’d been trying in vain to liven things up. The kids he was playing with didn’t have the same competitive urge and soon lost interest in the game. The group of new friends were sitting burying each other’s feet in the sand. Eventually Thomas got bored and walked off towards the sea to skim some smooth pebbles out across the still, gentle surface of the Firth of Forth. Alex watched his restless, outgoing son and smiled. He didn’t bother turning to share the moment with Sarah, experience had taught him that even if she had been watching, which she wasn’t, she didn’t feel the same swell in her heart as he when watching Tommy at play.

It didn’t matter. It was a beautiful day and Sarah looked peaceful for the first time in months. Whilst he lay on his back, propped up on his elbows, she had rested her head across his lap and was laid face-up, eyes closed soaking up the sun’s rays. Alex played absent-mindedly with her hair and sighed in satisfaction. It was the most intimate they’d been in months and warmed his core more completely then the day’s beautiful sunshine ever could. This trip had been a good idea. Days like today had been what he’d had in mind when he imagined his future as an eighteen year old new father.

 

Suddenly aware that he hadn’t seen Tommy for a minute or two Alex sat lazily, rising from his elbows carefully, so as to not disturb Sarah. Unable to see Tommy straight away, he shaded his eyes with his hand and scanned along the beachfront. In bright blue long shorts, Thomas shouldn’t have been hard to spot but Alex couldn’t see him anywhere around. Sarah groaned and rolled off him as he rose to his feet, the beginnings of panic starting to surge through him. Still more or less calm, he walked quickly to the spot he’d last seen Thomas throwing stones from and began scanning up and down the beach and along the water’s edge once more.

“Thomas!” he yelled up the beach before sprinting along the waters’ edge, splashing and pushing his way along the shore.

Alex made his way east until he reached the furthermost point of the beach, scanning the depth of the beach and fifty feet into the sea as he went before turning around and sprinting Westward. After spending thirty minutes frantically running, searching and calling for his son, Alex made his way to where Sarah still lay. Grabbing her by the arm, he shook and pulled her up onto her feet.

“Have you seen Thomas?”

“Whaaat?” she replied, groggily. She’d been vaping. Whilst he’d been searching for Thomas, she’d been getting high.

“Thomas! Have you seen him?”

Sarah waved him off dismissively and sat back down.

“He’s over there playing.” She slurred pointing to the place where he’d been playing handball an hour before.

“He’s gone, Sarah.” Alex knelt in front of her, calmed himself as much as possible and took her face in his hands forcing her to look at and focus on him.

“Sarah, I can’t find him. We need to call the police.”

Sarah blinked dumbly a few times and lay on her side before replying.

“Och, he’ll be fine.”

Alex swore loudly at her, drawing the attention of a family nearby.

Turning around, he’d decided to search the beach one more time when suddenly he spotted the blue shorts he’d spent the last hour looking for.

 

Thomas was strolling casually towards his father accompanied by a slim, middle-aged man. The man looked familiar and was dressed in a very expensive looking suit, despite the weather and location. He had his right arm around Thomas, guiding him towards his Dad. The pair of them looked relaxed and had clearly just shared a joke. Alex darted over to his son, went down on one knee and pulled him in close.

“Where the hell did you get to, Thomas? We’ve been worried sick.”

Thomas looked over his dad’s shoulder at his mother who was slumped on a beach towel, blissfully unaware of his presence. He raised an eyebrow challenging his Dad.

Alex followed the boy’s eyes and nodded, “Well, I’ve been worried sick. Where have you been?”

Tommy shrugged.

“I just took a walk along the beach. Ran into Mr Ennis and had a chat with him in the ice cream bar. He’s a nice man, Dad. I know what people I shouldn’t talk to, I’m not stupid.”

Alex was less than impressed with Tommy’s nonchalance and his decision to depart for an ice-cream with a total stranger, but he shook off the anger and turned to shake Mr Ennis’ hand.

“Alex Kinsella. Thanks for bringing my son back, Mr Ennis.”

“Gavin, please. And it’s no trouble. He’s a very clever boy, Dr Kinsella. You must be very proud of him.” Gavin still had a hold of Alex hand.

Alex eye twitched involuntarily but he managed to force a smile onto his face.

“Thanks, Gavin. We are.”

Ennis stood smiling at him in silence, until Alex cleared his throat, pulled his hand from Gavin’s and took Tommy by the hand.

“Well, thanks again Gavin. Good to meet you.”

“And you, Dr Kinsella.” He bent to ruffle Tommy’s hair.

“Nice to meet you too, young man.”

Thomas laughed and asked Gavin “See you again sometime? Next time we’re at the beach?”

Alex bristled at the stranger’s easy familiarity and obvious rapport with his son. “Sure.” Gavin replied. “Bye folks.”

With that, Gavin made his way from the beach back up towards the ice-cream bar.

Alex looked down at his son. “Did this guy just come over and ask you to go for an ice-cream?”

Thomas shook his head. No, Dad. I saw him reading a Jonathan Maberry book and went over to talk to him. I told you, I’m not stupid.” Thomas said defensively.

Alex looked his son in the eye. “I’m really angry at you, Thomas. You had me worried.”

Looking at his bare feet, the boy shuffled. “Sorry.”

It was grudged, he clearly felt that he hadn’t done anything wrong and this worried Alex.

“C’mon, son. Let’s go take Mum home.” As they walked towards their spot on the beach where Sarah lay, Thomas asked his father, “Can we go for a burger on the way home, Dad? I’ll pay.” Thomas fished a note from his pocket and waved it as his father.

Alex snatched the unfamiliarly-coloured note from him. Unfolding it he realised his son had a one thousand pound note.

“Did he give you this?” he asked sounding angrier than he’d meant to.

Thomas’s eyes had begun to tear up. “Yes. It was a gift.”

“Right.” Alex said.

Grabbing Thomas by his wrist he marched towards the ice-cream bar, trailing the boy behind him and holding the note out in a fist. Storming into the bar, his eyes tore around the room, searching for Ennis. With no sign of him, Alex approached the vendor, still clutching Tommy’s wrist.

“’Scuse me?” he barked at the vendor. “Have you seen a guy in a suit?”

“Oh, aye. Mr Ennis. He was having a chat with the wee man there a wee while ago.”

“And you didn’t think that was a bit weird?” He asked the man.

Looking puzzled and a little defensive the guy replied.

“What? A guy and a wee laddie sitting laughing together over an ice-cream? Not really, pal. Besides, Mr Ennis is a lovely man, he’s in here all the time.”

Alex was exasperated. “Where is he?”

The vendor shrugged. “You just missed him. His driver just picked him up two minutes ago.”

“Driver?”

“Aye.” Replied the vendor.

“He’s got one of those big Mayback jobs. None of your hydrogen powered nonsense, a real petrol engine.”

Alex shook off his confusion. “Who is this guy exactly?”

The vendor pointed at a Holo-Ad that was playing on the projector in the corner. The Ad was for Synthi-Sperm’s largest manufacturer, Synthi-Co.

“He owns that company. Lovely man, down to earth. You’d never know he had billions in the bank….Except for the car.”

 

4

Alex closed Thomas’ room door and leaned against it for a second. He’d spoken over and over again to his son about how worried he’d been for him when Thomas had disappeared with Gavin Ennis that afternoon. Tommy said all the right things to assure his dad that it wouldn’t happen again, but Alex could tell from his body language that his son thought that he hadn’t done anything wrong and was just telling his father what he wanted to hear. This meant that Thomas would likely make the same choice gain given a similar situation and this made Alex nervous. There was little point in pushing him further, Tommy had made his mind up and Alex would just have to trust that he’d listen to him.

Continuing along the hallway, Alex gently pushed the door to his and Sarah’s room open and peeked inside. She was sprawled across the entire bed, fully clothed and in a deep vape-induced sleep. One less thing to worry about tonight. Alex thought to himself, before descending the stairs to the kitchen.

After making a coffee, he perched himself on the nearest stool. An infrequent coffee-drinker, the intense hit refreshed his weary mind almost instantly. Alex enjoyed the new clarity for a second before reaching for his Holo-Net tablet. Propping the tablet on the breakfast bar, Alex pressed a soft key on the edge of the device. The tablet resembled a very thin picture frame but with an empty space where the glass and photograph would normally sit. Very light, the frame was designed to fold to credit-card size.

Upon pressing the soft key the frame immediately flashed into life, a vivid High Definition Holo-image of the family filling the empty space of the frame. Alex pressed softly at the corner of the image and it changed to a traditional looking desktop, which is what Alex liked to work from. Selecting the Holo-Net icon, Alex watched a Holo-Keyboard slide out from the bottom of the frame and began searching the Holo-Net for information on Gavin Ennis. Hours later, he’d selected a dozen or so blogs, news articles, opinion pieces and company reports from the hundreds of articles he’d found on Mr Gavin Ennis. Alex was determined to find something to justify the unease he’d felt when Gavin placed his arm around Thomas.

 

Business Insider

 

Gavin Ennis today issued a share option to his five hundred thousand staff. The generous package rewards staff at all levels, from janitorial to boardroom, a quarterly bonus in shares in return for their hard work and contribution to the company. The effectiveness of the employee’s service within the company will determine how many shares each employee is rewarded with.

 

In a statement announcing the scheme, Mr Ennis stated,

 

“We want every lab technician, Scientist, executive, mailroom operative and accountant in our firm to be valued equally and have equal opportunity to receive equal shares issued. With this in mind, these bonuses will be decided by a sliding scale which takes into account the effectiveness, efficiency and loyalty of each individuals’ specific role. Simply put; if our janitor works his ass off and one of our executives under-achieves, our janitor will go home with more shares than the exec.”

 

The scheme is yet another example of why Mr Ennis has been our Business person of the Year three years in a row and Europe’s’ Employer of the Year for the last five years. Mr Ennis’ proactive approach to business management and investment in his staff at all levels is impressive.

 

Alex tapped the corner of the article and brought the next few articles to the front of the Holo-Screen.

 

Time Magazine

 

“Gavin Ennis is our kinda guy!”

 

Daily China Gazette

 

“Ennis continues to forge global links, driving forward his mission to bring low-priced, high quality reproductive health care to citizens of every country.”

 

The Scotsman

 

“Gavin Ennis continues to fly the Saltire.”

 

New Scientist Magazine

 

“Ennis contribution to and continued developments in reproductive health place him in the upper echelons of the scientific elite. That he shares his ideas so freely and his services so cheaply, is to his credit.”

 

 Tiring of reading, Alex brought up a Holo-Tube documentary that nicely summarised Ennis’ contribution to the Synthi-Sperm sector and gestured a command to start the presenter speaking.

 

“In 2025 the World Health Organisation published a report on the diminishing reproductive capabilities of the world’s male population. Sperm quality and quantity in the ‘of breeding age’ demographic had fallen to previously unseen levels. The WHO report presented convincing evidence which suggested that the drastic and irreversible decline in reproductive function was most likely the result of an accumulation of three generations use of hormone-based contraception as well as some other unknown elements. The report suggested that the effects on our physiology and genetics of high levels of progesterone and oestrogen in our drinking water had instigated a permanent change in human physiology.

By 2040 only one in a hundred thousand couples globally could reproduce without medical assistance. Quality sperm had rapidly become the most expensive substance in the history of humankind; until a small lab named Synthi-Co in Wales, founded by Mr Gavin Ennis perfected the technique for producing, healthy artificial sperm.

By 2050, most babies were the result of IVF using the now ubiquitous synthi-sperm. Whilst children conceived by the synthetic method demonstrated a slightly reduced capacity for learning and were significantly more docile than the much rarer, Randoms, the choice of physical characteristics available to the parents when designing the synthi-sperm which would become their child, offset any worries they may have had about their child being a little mild-mannered.

It had become fashionable to use synthi-sperm and a significant portion of the small minority who could conceive ‘naturally’ frequently chose to use synthi-sperm anyway, rather than take a gamble on which characteristics their offspring might inherit. Very few children remained in the population who’d been conceived by ‘traditional means’, and were generally referred to as Randoms; a reference to their relatively random conception and the formation of their physical characteristics.

Whilst a generation of more desirable designer children now existed, ambition, competition and will to succeed seemed mostly absent in the synthi-kids and this new generation was much more content and much less aggressive than any that had come before. The world of 2050 is a much more peaceful place to live in, but discrimination and prejudices do still exist.

The Randoms have become somewhat of an underclass. Parents of Randoms worry about their child’s career prospects and take care to hide their child’s status from their peers. Many have begun to purchase illegal documents to falsely validate their child; to certify them as being of the new breed of children. The parents of synthi-kids take comfort in knowing that they’ve given their offspring the best possible start in life.

Recently there have been rumours of defects in the synthi-kid genome, but most parents have faith that the governments will provide their local geneticists with the new skills and techniques to iron out any flaws. They believe that they are in good hands and trust their Reproductive Health Professionals.

Mr Ennis has been quick to reassure his patients that Synthi-Kids are indeed the healthiest and most advantaged children our society has ever produced. He has also dedicated his vast resources to founding community assistance for the so called Randoms, stating that ‘No British child, no matter how deficient their start in life, should ever be discriminated against.’ His outlook and defence of human rights proved popular with the British public leading to a call for a government position to be created for Mr Ennis. The Scottish government moved quickly, making Mr Ennis a national tsar of sorts for reproductive and mental health in Scotland. The British government is widely expected to match the offer.

 The report went on for another hour but Alex had gotten what he needed. Frowning, he closed all of his active screens. Seems our Mr Ennis, pardon me, Gavin, is a bit of a saint. A super-wealthy saint, but a saint none the less.

END OF EXCERPT

The Man Who Sold His Son is scheduled for publication by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in late Summer 2014

Mark is the author of Bobby’s Boy, Head Boy, Naebody’s Hero and the dEaDINBURGH Series.

You can find Mark and his books at Amazon UK and Amazon US