Chapter 17 


On the shelves in the supermarket – and I think it's the same supermarket where I found Joe Progress – I find genetic pills. They're tiny but the packs are large, like those that hold garden seeds, as otherwise there wouldn't be enough space for all the marketing information. Each pack makes its promise of fantastic genetic change for the other-worlder who buys it, an improvement in intelligence, a change in hair colour. The old bleach-in-a-bottle aisle of the supermarket is deserted now, instead there's a shelf of genetic pills for intelligence, a shelf for muscle and athleticism, the top shelf for sexual stamina, another for hair colour, eye colour, even extra height, conveniently placed lower down. Different brands make outrageous claims and warn against the horrors of cheap competitors.  

Not that any of the punters here are in need of gene therapy. All the shoppers I can see look perfect. They have fantastic cheekbones, piercing eyes, hair that grows to a perfect length then stops. I feel very out of place with my straggly beard and hoofs, until finally I see a cow with a human face wandering down the aisle and I realise with relief that I'm dreaming. 

By the time I get to the checkout, every shopper is a cow with a human face, and every checkout is a milking machine. Coins and banknotes flow down the clear plastic pipes and into the cashiers' tanks. All the cashiers, I notice, have goats legs. 

I look in my own basket and find that I've chosen two genetic pill packs, one for growing larger horns, in the blue packaging of the Gene Fairy brand, and one for sexual stamina, in the red packaging of the Mammon brand. There's even a picture of his ugly mug on the front, as some perverse kind of product endorsement. 

Since I learned Buddha's directed dreaming technique my dreams have taken on more significance. Is this one trying to tell me something? 

I doubt that's it's to do with Mammon's pills. I've been back in heaven a few days and Echo has already discovered that my new-found youthfulness isn't superficial. 

All in all, I'm quite happy with my adventure in the other world. I may have lost the ultimate battle of unseating Joe Progress, but I'm a lot wiser, full of energy, and best of all Joe Progress kept to his word and my favourite woodland in heaven is now free of walking fruits and winged pigs. Though I did like Radius. I'm told he flew from the orchard at Foxglove to the New Forest, where he took up with a tribe of wild boar and is mixing genes in the traditional way. The current generation of other-worlders might find the results disturbing. But the generation after, with its perfect teeth and eyes and hair and extended lifespans, will find nothing strange about pigs that can fly.

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