Chapter 14 


Discovering that I'm merely an item in a collective imagination seriously rattles my clipboard. I can hardly keep this revelation to myself, and inevitably I find myself discussing it with Buddha while we sit in comfort in his living room and watch 100 Great Sporting Accidents. 

He nods, solemnly. "Yes. I'm sorry, I didn't know you were ready for that kind of knowledge, otherwise I'd have told you myself." 

I'd been hoping he would refute the idea, tell me it was flawed and not to be so silly. I'm doubly rocked by the confirmation. 

"But, but, surely, I mean, our whole existence is undermined. What's the point of us if we're merely products of human imagination?" 

"Steady. You're throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The fact is, humans need us. They're much happier with us around. We explain the inexplicable, we offer the possibility that death isn't permanent. It's a much happier other-world with us around. We perform a useful role, so don't worry about that. If we were all suddenly wiped out or forgotten, humans would just dream us up again. It's in their nature. We're needed. Essential."

I'm relieved to hear it. But my over-active imagination has already taken the scenario one step further – perhaps a step too far. 

"But what if the humans themselves are just a product of some other species' imagination? What if they're dreamed up too, in the same way that we are, but by some other beings that we can't see, or can't recognise?" 

Buddha turns his eyes away from a spectacular Formula One crash to face me. "I'm glad you said that, because it's very close to the way I view this other-world. All the physical things we see here, all the beings, are in some ways an apparition, a manifestation of energy, and intertwined in more ways than they think, but not entirely real." 

He looks into my face for a long time, and I think it's an honest face, properly showing my emotions, because after a minute he adds, "I'm not helping, am I?" 


He turns back to the TV. "Forget it. Here's a better idea. Have you noticed how the humans block things out – things they don't want to know about? They do it with abattoirs, hospices, third world sweatshops, food additives. All you have to do is block out this collective consciousness thing the same way. Just go back to how you thought things were before you had the revelation."

"I'm not sure that's going to be so easy."  

"It's not hard. Just imagine you have a really strong faith in one god or one set of gods. To do this you have to block out the fact that all the other gods exist, that billions of other people believe in something entirely different. If you can manage to do that, you're home and dry. The idea of gods as a product of the collective imagination becomes nonsense." 

"I, er, hmmm." 



On the day of my court case, for some reason most of the major players turn up in fancy dress, wearing curly white wigs and long gowns. For a moment I wonder whether I've stumbled across the filming of some historical drama and I'm in the wrong room, but if that's the case then my lawyer is also in the wrong room, and so is Elliot Harmon, the CEO of Foxglove.  

My lawyer advises me that the fancy dress is traditional. I suppose it might be viewed as intimidating by those of us who don't get to wear it. Alternatively, it could be seen as highly comical, and it's no surprise which way my own reaction goes. 

The judge is female, I think. At least her voice is female, and she has no Adam's apple, otherwise she's neuter. 

"Mr Nesmith?" 

"Yes, your honour?" 

"Are you on drugs?" 

"No, your honour." 

"Then will you please stop smirking." 

"Yes, your honour." 

What they need here is little signs on the walls showing a pair of smiling lips with a red line through them and the words, No Smirking. This thought does not help my composure. 

"Mr Nesmith." 

"Yes, your honour." 

"I'm warning you. No smirking." 

I notice she's brought with her a single book, which she places on her desk, slightly to her left, and while the council for the prosecution is shuffling his vast portfolio of papers, I quietly ask my lawyer what the book is.

"Case law, probably," he says. 

"I don't think so," I say. "It looks too slim." 

"Can you read the spine from here?" he says. "My eyesight's not so good." 

I turn my head sideways and struggle to read. "The Trial, Franz Kafka. Is that a good sign?" 

"Not especially." 

We go through most of the early stages at speed. My lawyer accepts the wording of the patent and the fact that it applies to partial goats, and pretty soon we get to the crucial issue of utility, or lack of it – the fact that I'm entirely useless and therefore the Foxglove patent can't apply to me. 

The prosecuting lawyer and Elliot Harmon consult for two minutes. Elliot is the scariest figure here in court. He's tall and slim. His shoulder-length hair is freshly brushed and he's wearing a tie. He does not smirk. If he was placed in front of me in a police line-up – any line-up – I would point to him and say he was the hit-man. 

 "We suggest to the court," says the prosecuting lawyer, when they've finished their huddle, "that the defendant would be useful for the purpose of dietary research. We suggest he offers utility in this area, as he has a weakness for eating flowers, especially orchids and daffodils."

"Does the council for the defence concede that the defendant has a weakness for eating flowers?" asks the judge, and she is definitely smirking. This is not fair. 

I'm desperately clearing my throat and raising my hand and trying to catch my lawyer's eye, but he's having none of it.  

"No, your honour." 

"Thank you. Clerk of the court, I wonder if you could pop out to the florist and buy a nice bunch of daffodils? They would do so much to brighten up the courtroom." 

One of the secrets of the other world that I'm now privy to is that if you want to buy the best flowers, wear a wig and gown when you purchase them. The clerk of the court returns with the most fabulous daffodils I've ever set eyes upon. The stems are literally flawless, and the yellow of the blooms is as pure and powerful as the sun. The smell makes me weak at the knees. I get to inspect them in great detail, as the judge insists they're placed on the witness stand directly in front of me. This will work out fine, as long as she continues to watch closely.

The council for the prosecution waffles on about the oncological mouse and its usefulness to society, and the value of asthmatic guinea pigs, and pretty soon nobody seems to be paying attention to anybody else and the inevitable happens. 

"Mr Nesmith?" 

"Hmmm?" I need a moment before I can speak properly. 

"Mr Nesmith, what happened to the flowers?" 

I raise my hands in a gesture of innocence. 

"Clerk of the court, did you see what happened to the daffodils?" 

"The defendant ate them, your honour." 



"The defendant will now rise to receive the judgement of the court" 

I will say this for the other-world justice system, it's not as slow as people make out. We've been in session for barely two hours, my lawyer has barely said more than ten sentences, and already we have a decision. 

"Mr Nesmith," begins the judge, "Foxglove Laboratories is a rich and powerful company, an essential part of the economy of this nation. You, on the other hand, are merely a troublesome individual with a propensity to smirk. In fact you are not even a proper individual, as you have horns and hoofs and hairy legs. You are in truth a transgenic organism. Under questioning you have failed to identify characters in major soap operas or otherwise prove yourself to be a regular human being. Nor do you have a mortgage or a driving license as any normal person would have at your time of life. You have been described in the newspapers and on the television as a product of Foxglove Laboratories, and you have not refuted this connection, indeed you have played upon it for your own advantage. You have a demonstrable weakness for eating flowers, which could be useful in dietary research. The company has spent more money on this court case than you have, and has better lawyers. All in all, I have no hesitation in upholding the case for the prosecution. From this moment on, you are the property of Foxglove Laboratories. Do you have anything to say?" 

 "Yes, your honour. Although I may have lost my freedom and may spend the rest of my days with electrodes plugged into my head as part of some gross and unnecessary experiment, I feel it was all worth it. Those were the best daffodils I've ever tasted."

The crowd in the public gallery is ecstatic, though I can't figure out why. Surely this is misplaced emotion. 

I am a transgenic organism. That is going to take some getting used to. 

Elliot Harmann moves across the court and gently takes hold of my elbow. What is it with these Foxglove people and elbows? Now he is smirking. 

"Where are you taking him?" demands my lawyer, steadfast to the end. 

"We're taking him to his new home, of course," says Elliot, "to Foxglove Laboratories. He belongs to us now. What business is it of yours?" 

"I need to know where to send his bill."  

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