Extracts torn from forgotten books
by David Bussell
“The numbers are out of control,” she told him, speaking of the recent spate of suicides. “We’re witnessing an acceleration in fatality rates the likes of which we’ve never seen, and something needs to be done about it.”
Quite why he’d been summoned to a Government office to watch a Powerpoint presentation on suicide control he was unsure of at this point. Though certainly he sympathised with the issue, what did it have to do with him, a middle aged Compliance Advice Manager for a high street bank?
“The trouble,” the lady said, advancing to the next slide, “is that the dead have all the best people: the Cobains, the Joplins, the Hendrixes. The living, on the other hand, get Chris Martin, Donald Trump and Simon bloody Cowell. Pardon my language,” she warned him, “but the dead are kicking our arses.”
She stepped away from the projector and took a seat opposite him. “Thankfully,” she said, “we’ve arrived at a strategy to combat the problem.”
It was obvious from his face that he didn’t have the slightest idea where she was headed.
“What we need to do,” she clarified, “is to rob suicide of its cool. To make it unfashionable. And that’s where you come in.”
No, he definitely hadn’t seen that coming.
“We set out to find the least fashionable person in the UK,” she went on. “Someone so uncommonly insipid that the mere mention of their name would strike tedium into the hearts of men. Someone so mind-numbingly prosaic that any association they shared with a trend would result in its immediate societal rejection.”
Could she really be talking about him? Because if she were, she’d soon be reading a very lengthy and uninspiring complaint on the matter.
“You first came to our attention through your blog,” she went on, “the one detailing your average-sized collection of pylon postcards. It was from there that we discovered the rest of your imitable lack of qualities. Your unwillingness to try new things. Your steadfast lack of opinion. Your fondness of bookmarks.”
It was true, he did like bookmarks, though not overwhelmingly so.
“You, sir, are a mundane, humourless dud of a man. A long phone call to tech support. A visit to a clothes peg museum. A car park given human form. You are exactly what we need to buck the suicide trend, and all we need from you is one thing. We need you to kill yourself.”
He might have taken that last part for a joke if jokes were the sort of thing he understood. She wasn’t joking though; in fact she was perfectly serious and prepared to reward him handsomely for his cooperation. He wavered briefly on the decision to take his own life, then realised that the money she was offering would make for a very sensible investment in a low risk ISA.
The next day he wrote a suicide note that read simply ‘Bye,’ then made his way to Hornsey Lane Bridge (the top Bing hit for suicide bridges). There he stepped over its edge and into oncoming traffic with a resounding lack of flair.
Unfortunately he landed on the roof of a car being driven by journalist and television host, Piers Morgan. The resulting impact killed them both and earned him untold posthumous accolades, including the number one spot of Time magazine’s Most Influential People list, inclusion to that year’s Who’s Who and a standing ovation on both sides of the Atlantic.
The strategy had backfired spectacularly. Suicide was to become more popular than ever. The new selfie. The ultimate ice bucket challenge.
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