This piece was written for the March 2021 Blog Battle prompt of ‘remnant’.
From the depths of despair following his umpteenth electronic rejection slip for his thirteenth novel plumbing the depths of universal wisdom, Fraser began to map out his plan to make J. K. Rowling, Agatha Christie and Harold Robins and the like look like minor figures in publishing. He wasn’t so egotistical as to imagine out-selling the Bible or the Koran, although in his more florid moments the thought did briefly cross his mind.
He decided that to succeed his plan must include the key elements of greed, competition and the kudos of finding some sort of Holy Grail that had eluded the human race for centuries. He dismissed the idea of some sort of ‘Where’s Wally?’ hidden treasure map. Too obvious and insubstantial, as well as locking out the less well-heeled from the hunt. And then, in a Eureka moment, he hit on the idea of the Secret to Eternal Life Formula (or SELF).
The first step was to self-publish his first novel, ‘Forbidden Love’ (a 666-page saga about a romance between a platypus and a dingo, published under the pseudonym of Cogito Ergo Sum), and list it with Amazon. The second step was to initiate himself into the mysteries of the Dark Web and infiltrate its networks of encrypted conspiracy theorists, fantasists and paranoiacs (while managing to skirt the more unsavoury elements of sexual deviance and drug dealing; he did have some principles left).
Taking a leaf from the Q-anon playbook, he began to drop breadcrumbs that alluded to rumours that an obscure author had discovered the SELF and was in the process of disclosing the Formula, piece by piece, in a series of thirteen novels that were about to be released, one at a time. The first person to piece together the cryptic clues would be able to copyright the formula, thus generating the wealth required to support an eternal life. Rumour (created by Fraser) had it that the secret Council of the One World Government (financed by the Gnomes of Zurich) would stop at nothing to prevent this secret being revealed.
And, lo and behold, it worked. Sales of ‘Forbidden Love’ (which could only be purchased with Bitcoin, making following the money near impossible) skyrocketed and hundreds of chatrooms emerged debating where the first clue was hidden in the 666 pages (the length of all of his novels) and the significance of the various nominees for the relevant passage identified as the ‘obvious’ clue.
Fraser waited until the down-curve on sales to launch ‘I Am Trump’s Illegitimate Son’, a heart-rending account of a Jamaican street urchin who becomes the King of Reggae and is invited to the White House, where he confronts his father. Amazon thought it had prepared but it’s site went down within 30 seconds of publication and took days to restore.
And so the trajectory soared, until Frasers’s readership eclipsed Shakespeare and his private wealth exceeded that of California, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates combined. The frenzy of competing theories as to what the remnant clues were and their meaning within the bigger picture generated a level of hysteria and speculation not seen since the cover of Abbey Road.
At judiciously random moments, Fraser’s novels were released to a slavering public.
‘How chewing gum led to World War II’
‘All bees are communists’
‘Bob Dylan’s life as a CIA agent’
‘Spike Milligan: My part in his downfall’
‘Yoga for the constipated’
‘1001 recipes for wilted vegetables’
‘God save Freddie Mercury’
‘How much is that doggie in the window?’
‘The secret life of chickens’
And the penultimate ‘The myth of orgasm’
By now, the competing theories of the SELF had developed fanatical followings. War broke out on social media platforms and spilled into the streets. The Pope and the UN weighed in, arguing for peace and understanding, to no avail. Governments were paralysed by fear of seeming to support one theory over another. Families were being split asunder and the various religious faiths were divided between dismissiveness and jumping on to the bandwagon. Meanwhile, teachers and parents were dancing in the streets at the sight of their offspring reading and engaging in actual conversation.
Fraser had decided this all had to end. His alter ego was now the most recognised name on the planet and his riches were incalculable. It was time to deliver on the promise and, at the same time, come clean on the greatest fraud since democracy.
So, on the first of April, 2024, he released his thirteenth missive, entitled ‘Know thy SELF’ which instead of 666 pages consisted of just 666 characters. And this is what he wrote.
‘Dear readers. You have followed me on this 7,992 page journey believing that, at the end, for the intuitive and the gnostic, the reward would be the secret to eternal life. Why you would seek such an unknowable state is for you to work out when next you stare at the night sky. At the end, know this. You have participated in the miracle of reading and sharing the imagination of someone whom you’ve never met and are unlikely to ever meet. You have engaged in conversations beyond your wildest dreams. You have been duped by false gurus and those that seek to divide rather than unite. And it has cost you nothing but your time. (I will be refunding your purchases, minus costs and a modest emolument to live on as I approach my final years.) But what you have gained is the knowledge that you have your own SELF.’