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The Rage Room :Speculative Fiction by Lisa de Nikolits ➱ Release Tour with Giveaway
Lisa de Nikolits
if you had a chance to fix the worst mistake of your life…but only
made things worse? The Rage Room dives into dystopia with an
extraordinary tale about choices and second chances. Sharps
Barkley jumps back in time and finds that changing the future
isn’t as easy as he thought.
in 2055, our plastic world is run by robots, fueled by
consumerism, twisted religion and virtual data. Satellites
control the weather, food is grown in laboratories. Arts and
culture are distant memories. Beneath the sunny skies and behind the
garbage-free suburban McMansions live deeply disturbed,
materialistic families. Prescribed visits to rage rooms lance
desperate anger, boredom and discontent but the band-aid fix
hides disturbing governmental motives.
intense and provocative exploration of societal coded messages, The
Rage Room is an action-packed story of unravelling and alternate
realities, of disturbing and searching re-runs. Can the army of
feminist hackers restore Mother Nature?
Can love triumph over
fear? And, ultimately, can the children be saved?
fun, weird, imaginative, The Rage Room is a dystopic
ride perfect for the anxieties and conditions of the present day. The
paranoia of Sharps Barkley seeps into you, propelling this thriller
that will keep you guessing to the very end.
Albertyn, author of Undercard.
it to the wild imagination of Lisa de Nikolits to bring us the
dystopian future of The Rage Room, an
extraordinarily inventive speculative fiction thriller with a
decidedly feminist bent. Fast-paced, funny, bold, and completely
engrossing, The Rage Room is an allegory, a
cautionary tale, and a rollicking good read that will stay with you
long after the last page has been turned.
– Amy Jones, author
of We’re All in This Together and Every
Little Piece of Me.
turns unsettling and very funny, The Rage Room is a
berserk science-fiction satire of toxic masculinity, narrated by your
guide, Sharps, the neurotic, rage-filled Jason Bateman of the future.
There are lines and descriptions that will stop you dead in your
tracks and make you take notes.
– Evan Munday, The
Dead Kid Detective Agency series
her latest captivating book, de Nikolits proffers not only a roller
coaster of entertainment, but also, sharp political commentary in
complicated times. The Rage Room is an intricately
woven dystopian world, rich in strong female characters who easily
whisk readers to a world of futuristic follies. Move over George
Orwell – de Nikolits shows us how the future can be scary,
exciting, and above all, female.
– Kelly S. Thompson, National
Bestseller author of Girls Need Not Apply: Field Notes from
I couldn’t live like this. And I couldn’t let my children live like this either. There was only one
solution. I had to go back and kill them. I’d never been so certain of anything in my life.
I held my wrist out. The gates opened and through I went.
But when I opened my eyes, I wasn’t in my house. I was in the rage room. I smelled of asphalt
and diesel. I held a hammer and I was poised, mid swing.
This was all wrong. I was supposed to be back in my house, back in the clean world where I’d
be in control. What was going on?
And then it all came back to me.
BOOK ONE: TO THE MELTDOWN
1. The Rage Room
I don’t know what year it is. We aren’t allowed to know and really, I couldn’t care less. I’m in my safe
place, the rage room, focussed on doing what I do best, breaking things.
Thwack. I bring the baseball bat down on what’s left of a kiddies wagon. The room is full of
wagons, broken toys, junk furniture and discarded office equipment, garbage, all of it.
The auto voice made her usual announcement as I entered the room: Screen-based materials
are forbidden in the rage room. Glass cannot be utilized or destroyed in the rage room. We always
consider your safety first! Because we care about you! All in accordance with Docket102.V, Health
and Safety Code 0009: By Order of The Sacred Board, Gloria In Excelsis Deo.
Yeah man, I know all the rules. And here’s what I think of your rules.
I attack the wagon again and the cheerful pink plastic replies with a slight ‘ugh’ as if asking me
if that was the best I could do but it doesn’t give. I come down harder and score a crack that mocks my
feeble efforts. Story of my life.
My soundtrack is on maxed. O Fortuna, Carmina Burana on repeat, volume pumped.
Sometimes it’s War, by The Cult or You Lied by Tool or, incongruously, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with
a disco twist and added bass for power. Rage Against The Machine is a good one too. Thud, thud, thud,yeah. I choose my soundtrack and I like vintage, none of that auto-robo music for me.
Thinking about music choices makes me think about life choices or the lack thereof, and my
wife’s beauty badge, previously known as her profile pic, flashes unbidden across my crystal path.
Celeste. She looks angelic, like Farrah Fawcett in the days of Charlie’s Angels, only hundred pounds
heavier, with two chipmunk teeth perching on the lower lip of her overbite. Celeste had ordered those
teeth, paid premium to get her primaries longer than anyone else’s. She thought it made her sexy.
I raise the bat higher and split the wretched wagon in two. Sweetie, honey, baby, sugar.
Thwack. Was it possible for the woman to utter anything without coating it with saccharine, glucose
and fructose and then deep-frying it like an Oreo at fun fair? Celeste had fried my brain alright. So why
did I marry her? Thwack. Because she offered me everything I wanted, the sum of which boiled down
to one thing. I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be The King of Normal. And Celeste’s marrying me
was the act of a desperate addict trying to set her life straight, topped up with a deep-seated desire to
please her father, Daddy.
I thrash at an impervious lime green keyboard, finally picking it up and slamming it against a
workbench. I’m grunting as if I’m up against heavyweight champion of the world and my thin white
protective plastic suit rips off like old wallpaper. But it’s not all my fault, the suit was torn when I got
into it. That’s the government for you, step into this used piece of shit, so what if it’s slick with the
sweat of some other angry dude who came before you, the rules say you have to wear it, Docket809.V,Health and Safety Code 0009.12: By Order of The Sacred Board, Gloria In Excelsis Deo.
The rules should say you each get a fresh new suit but that would cost too much money.
We look like giant Easter bunnies, hopping insanely behind one-way mirrors, covered from
head to toe in white disposable Tyvek coverall suits with elastic wrists, booties and hoodie. All we
need are big floppy ears and little bobbing white pompom tails. Hop, hop, hop in a plastic room and
break plastic shit to make yourself feel better for a tiny piece of your stupid, meaningless life.
I’m a clean freak and I like my life to be scrubbed and tidy which makes the rage rooms an
anomaly to be my safe place but I’m an anger addict, giving into chaos at the drop of a hammer. And
the hammer drops a lot in my life which I’ve come to accept but what I can’t accept is that the white
suits still disgust me. They’re damp when you pull them on and it’s like trying to wriggle into someone
else’s just-discarded swimsuit. I also hate the smeared and greasy goggles with scratches like some kid
used them for skateboarding, which is still a thing.
I’ve offered more than once to buy my own equipment but it’s against regulations.
It’s also against the rules to self-harm in a rage room but more than one person has tried to
commit suicide. I imagined them rushing in, falling to their knees and hacking their veins open,
wanting to die in a thick red sea of gushing blood while their fave hate song drums out the dying pulse
of their lives. Trust me, I’ve thought about trying too. It’d be a fitting place for me to meet my end but
the person behind the window watches just enough to not let that happen.
Sometimes I yell profanities at the blacked-out glass window but I’m sure whoever’s watching
is so used to witnessing the pointless destruction that they don’t even bother to look or listen most of
I smash on, chasing release and finding none. Then the music stops, just like that and a cop-car
siren sounds. Whoop, whoop, whoop! Red lights flash across the room. Green lights signal go, red for
when your time is up.
I’m out of time but release was denied. Shit. I pulled my face gear off, hearing only my
frustrated breath. My face is dented from the goggles and I run my fingers along the ridges and bumps.
A guy opened the door and dragged in a trash can. He ignored me and I just stood there. I
wasn’t ready to leave but my time was up. The siren sounded again, whoop, whoop, whoop, and still, Istood there, goggles in hand, looking the useless crap I had broken.
Another guy came, in a big fella. “Buddy,” he said, “you know the rules. You gotta go. Come
I turned to him and I couldn’t help myself, tears spilled down my face and I heard myself
sobbing and he said “oh crapola, we got ourselves a wet one,” and he left. The guy behind me carried
on cleaning. I had nowhere to go so I just stood there, crying.
The big guy came back and handed me a roll of paper towel. I tore off three sheets, blew my
nose and handed the roll back to him.
“A bunch of us are going for a drink,” he said. “You wanna come? You need a drink. Come
I thought about Celeste, waiting at home and I thought about my baby boy, Baxter. I thought
about the carpet that needed vacuuming because the robovacs never got into the corners and how Bax
wasn’t eating properly and how Celeste wouldn’t listen to me when I panicked about his nutrients. I
needed my boy to eat properly and no one cared but me.
“But honey,” Celeste smiled, “we’ve got science, you know that. Science takes care of us.
Minnie’s got everything under control. It’s not like the old days. We don’t have to worry anymore.”
She was right. It wasn’t like back in the early 21st century when the news was filled with
illness, devastation, human loss and natural disaster. It was, however, thanks to the pervasive fears of
that time, of illness, aging and dying, that politicians had secretly funnelled billions from the
taxpayer’s pockets into the science labs, and the results, once uncovered, were astounding. The
powers-that-be knew they were killing the world by denying the existence of global warming and
they’d collectively and secretly developed labs to create food and fuel, motivated not by altruism but
because none of them wanted starve or die in a flood or drought or fire or get taken out by the newest
raging disease, caused by alpacas or bearded dragons or, in the most deadly of cases, the family cat.
Scientists had developed surgeries and scientific solutions for any manner of ailment or disease and
Minnie, the Supreme World Leader, and her Sacred Board of Directors, shared this wealth of
knowledge with the world.
So Celeste was right. Bax would be fine.
I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was lie down on the floor and carry on crying. Yes, the
carpet at home needed cleaning and yes, I was worried about Bax not getting enough protein but,
weighing on me more heavily than anything, was the fact that my paternity leave was over.
I was due back at work the next day, the thought of which ripped through my gut like a
tumbling drum of sharp nails and broken glass, all sloshing around in an icy pit of poisoned, oily
So I mopped up my face and figured it would be best to follow this guy to a bar and pull myself
together before I went home. I couldn’t let Celeste see me like this. She thought I was Mr. Strong and
Steadfast, solid as a rock and I couldn’t let her know any different.
But I realized I needed help, so I flashed a comm to my best friend, Jazza. Need to see ya,
buddy. Follow my cp. I wondered if Jazza would even respond, given that I’d sorely neglected him
since I ran out the building into the waiting arms of my pat leave.
My cp. My Crystal Path. By logging in, Jazza could access my bio-hard drive, the neural
implant microchip embedded in my brain. We all had them. Every interaction from my, and everyone
else’s Crystal Path, moved across The Crystal Lattice which was like a large invisible digital spider’s
web around the Earth, connecting all the satellites and all of us. Even the weather was satellitecontrolled
and every strand of the information was part of the Crystal Lattice.
We were studded with implants shortly after Minnie came into power. Of course, she said it
was optional but after she assumed control of the Internet, how else were we to communicate? She
dominated the service providers and instated regulations that didn’t let anyone else provide access. So
really, what choice did we have? In my opinion, Bax was far too young for implants, he was only a
year old which didn’t stop some parents hooking their newborns up, to monitor them in their cribs,
watch them at childcare, at preschool and in the playgrounds. It was important to keep an eye on the
nannies, don’t you know, and make sure that the robo-carers and humans were doing a good job and
not subjecting their beloved offspring to any horrifying abuse or disturbing discipline. More expensive
software developments allowed parents to access the kiddies bio-stats to make sure heart rates, blood
sugars and serotonin levels where all where they should be. The Crystal Path wasn’t exactly pure, it
had its own form of the Dark Web just like the old days and, despite my body being riddled with every
manner of software that I could get my hands on, I wasn’t sure I wanted Bax to have access to any of
it. And yet, the creation of those implants were the very thing that gave me, and thousands of others,
The Crystal Path was like a map of screens that could viewed at any time, all jam-packed with
data and information that we could switch on or off, supposedly curated by ourselves, we were
supposedly the editors of our own content. What a joke that was. We were pawns while big business
moved the pieces of our lives around the playing field.
When I went on pat leave, I shut Jazza out of my cp. You could do that, control who had access
to what. Previously, Jazza had permissions to my path that Celeste didn’t even know existed. I just
hoped Jazza would head my cry for help. God knew the guy owed me nothing considering how I’d
dumped him when Bax was born.
I nodded at the rage room attendant.
“Yeah. I’ll come for a drink.” I ripped my suit off, a petty act of childish fury that felt so good
at the time but later, felt shameful. That was me to a T – equal parts fear, guilt, shame and anger.
The guy didn’t say anything as I followed him. He had a man bun. Talk about retro. Why was I
even following a guy with hair like that? But I went out to the parking lot and got behind the wheel of
my solar-powered station bubble, an Integratron company car, courtesy of Celeste’s father. The inside
was full of yielding soft curves and cushions that molded to my body. The round rolling ball of the
car’s exterior looked like just glass but it was it was plastic, shatterproof polymethyl methacrylate to be
exact, with a sunshiny yellow interior. Our car interiors came in a variety of colours – sky blue, fire
engine red or bubblegum Juicy Fruit pink. Pink was the most popular. The cars were cheerful, happy
creatures, with scads more room than one might think, and they rolled along like soap-bubble spheres.
My cp connected me to the car’s displays and controls and I could choose to drive the car or not. I
always chose to drive. The cars were utterly silent and they were soundproof and it felt odd, rolling
along a busy suburban street or highway, and seeing other bubbles filled with reclining people who
looked like they were talking to themselves, leaning back in their colourful chairs and controlling the
cars with their thoughts. There were no steering wheels or dashboards, just the flashview that
connected the driver to the car via their cps.
I sniffed my pits. I was annoyed with myself for skipping the post-session cleansing shower
booth and my clothes had a rank, sweaty plastic smell. I’d have to do a washdown with wipes so Bax
wouldn’t smell me like this. I couldn’t let my little guy smell the fear on me. I had to get a grip.
2. In The Dive Bar with Jazza
I followed Man Bun to a dive bar. He’d introduced himself as Norman. My heart did an arrhythmia
dance in my chest as I drove and I called my vitals up on my flashview. Heart-rate, blood pressure, all
good. When I pulled up in the parking lot, I looked around. Where was Jazza? I’d thought I see him
waiting for me. Jazza. He had been my best friend. He interned with me during initiation and we’d
been together through thick and thin, all the highs and lows of our careers. I guess that when I left for
pat leave, I’d misguidedly hoped it was a case of so long and see you never when it came to the
corporate world because I shot out of Jazza’s life like a bat out of hell. And now, here I was, needing
him more than ever.
I followed Norman into the bar and studied the drinks menu that flashed like a ticker tape in a
fast blur but I was really thinking about how Jazza and I had met.
I graduated from the Global International University with a Ph.D., in Optimal Communications
and Life Branding, a master’s in Flexibility Optics and Mass Persuasion and a bunch of other related
psych and media relation majors. Yeah, right? What the hell did any of that even mean?
University graduates got to audition at the three top branding companies, and I’d rated pretty
poorly on the first two outings. Then, on the third, we were given partners to speed up the process and
thank god for that.
I realized, the second he opened his mouth, that Jazza was a genius. His brain was filled with
ideas the likes of which I’d never even get close to, glimpses that I was only permitted to spot by using
the Drive-thru in Jazza’s brain, the lane he opened to me and only me. Brought together by
happenstance, we stuck to one another, bonded by the desperate need to survive. We got hired by
Integratron, my last kick at the can but admittedly, the biggest prize. Integatron was a giant corporation
linked to other global giants, tied to mass manufacturers around the world. Our job was to come up
with innovative products, launches, dances and clothing, basically any and every manner of tiny, stupid
fascinating things that obsessed people and gave their dreary, hopeless lives meaning.
Jazza and I made a great team. While I didn’t have a much confidence in myself or my ideas,
Jazza was an chronic Asperger boy with shameful secrets which meant he could never leave me. But
he didn’t want to leave me because I was the cool guy in his eyes and, more importantly, I was the
sales guy. I was the guy who could sell sand to an Arab, water to a drowning man, a pork chop to a
vegetarian, haha you get it. When I was in pusher mode, I was unstoppable.
Norman shook me from the shadows of memory lane and asked me what I wanted to drink.
“Raspberry hops, protein infusion, no alcohol,” I said and Norman groaned. I called up my
flashview and messaged Jazza again, where are u? Would he even reply? I could see he’d accepted
and read my message and I waited for the tiny speech bubble to appear to show me that he was typing
a reply. There was nothing. Shit. But then, close, came the reply. I could breathe again.
“Hi, I’m Knox,” Norman’s friend introduced himself. He was an over-friendly, in your face
type of guy, vintage hipster to the bone, skinny, with a beach-ball beer belly and toothpick legs in tight
For some reason, I wanted to punch the shit out of him. But hey, that was just me. The whole
world annoyed the shit out of me to the point where my mother had banned me from even using the
word ‘annoyed’ or any variation thereof. Which didn’t stop me from breaking shit and thinking about
how annoying pretty much all of life was.
“Kiddie fruity smoothie for my buddy here,” Knox called out the to bartender, breaking my
thoughts, and I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror and felt marginally cheered.
Thank God I had this handy mask to hide behind. People saw a handsome, reassuring man,
with a cleft in my chin and a strong jaw that belied the reality. A thick head of hair, model good looks
and deep dimples that made it look like I was smiling even when I wasn’t. A trustworthy face. The
face of a strong man. What a joke. Inside I was like Jello, afraid all the time, afraid of everything and
yet also, so damn angry with it.
Celeste loved my dimples. And the cleft in my chin. “So manly,” she crooned, stroking my face
like I was one of her FluffSqueaks. Since when did dents on one’s face make you manly? But I smiled
back at her and said encouragingly reciprocal things because that’s was love was, right?
Knox and Norman were talking about hockey. I perked up. Sports were bigger than ever, we
loved watching the steroid gladiators getting out there and pushing their bodies to insane limits. They
were everything we’d never be. I tried to join the conversation but Knox was like a shadow boxer,
dancing to keep me out.
I was saved by the arrival of Jazza. I knew he had arrived because the mood in the bar changed.
A hush fell and there was a sense of freak show wonder in the air. Jazza was a man unto himself. A
six-foot-seven giant with a craggy face of folds and ridges that only a mother could love. Except that
Jazza’s mother didn’t love him, she had vanished to live among the Blowflies and she left him to make
his way through the various levels of state-funded care.
The Blowflies were the less fortunate economic sector who had been shuttled into the highrise
condos built in the boom of the early 21st century. The rental wars had reached the point where no one
could afford to save up for a mortgage, kids never left home and the condos stood largely empty, save
for overseas investors. And when those investors left, driven out by economic and viral disasters, the
governments figured why not shunt the lesser-fortunate into the vacant skyscrapers because, among
other things, it would make them easier to manage. Affordable housing solutions at last! cried the
politicians, and thus, the inner cities of BlowflyLand were globally born and that caste kept to
themselves in their tall glass castles. Admittedly the world population had dropped like a stone, thanks
to all the diseases that flared up and wiped out millions. Way back in 2020, the world population was
nearly eight billion. Eight billion, with daily births doubling those of deaths. Too many people! After
the dust settled and we’d returned to a sensible and manageable two billion, the question was asked
whether the rabid diseases had been biological warfare let loose to rein things back under control,
orchestrated by Minnie’s predecessors but nothing was every proven.
If you asked me, the Blowflies had it good. Food trucks kept them stocked with solid if
unexciting fare, they had Welfare Streaming Channels twenty-four-seven, drugs kept them blissful and
tame, and they even had schools for their kids. They were guarded by Welfare Ambassadors, aka
security guards and it didn’t make sense to put the Blowflies to work since robots did a much better job
than they did. They’d been dubbed the Blowflies by some low-grade journalist and the name stuck.
I only knew about Jazza’s mother’s defection to the Blowflies by careful sleuthing. Jazza never
talked about her and I reached a dead end without learning too much at all. I wondered if Jazza had
ever tried to find her but if he had, he kept it a secret.
Genius Jazza was full of secrets. For one, he liked wearing women’s underwear. Big sheer
granny panties, 1950’s style, sheer and gauzy, with ruffled chiffon edging. And he had bras to match.
I’d seen his stash, along with peach-coloured feather boas, cashmere sweaters and fluffy angora
scarves with soft fringes.
I often saw the line of a bra strap under his shirt and I once saw the top of his frilly panties
riding above his jeans. I didn’t say anything then because I didn’t want him to know I knew but
seriously, I couldn’t let him near my Bax, are you kidding me? And I knew it hurt his feelings but the
man was an aberration even if he was my best friend. Separate the issues, work was work, he was my
friend, but my kid was untouchable. Which was why I ditched him. That and the fact that I really had
thought I was escaping the workplace forever and that I’d never have to go back to Integratron.
“Sharps?” Jazza showed up at my side, parting the sea of people at the bar. He sounded
understandably confused at being summoned and he also didn’t exactly sound warm and friendly. I
guess he thought I could have visited him during my year off but there wasn’t only the feather boa
women’s underwear thing, there were his animals.
Jazza was a fiend for illegal real live fur babies. Genetically-modified squirrels, sheep-like
woolly cats, multi-coloured guinea pigs and even, a weasel. His apartment was filled with creatures, all
of them scampering around and shitting everywhere. The place was a germophobe’s nightmare, a fecal
shit-fest of gargantuan proportions and Jazza himself was a walking cloud of bacteria and fungi. I
literally Lysoled myself when I got home from his apartment after my first visit. After that, I insisted
we hang out at my apartment and, once I got married, we hardly saw each other at outside of work.
So yeah, I acknowledged that Jazza’s feelings had been hurt when I excluded him from my
perfect family life, but what else could I have done?
And now, a year later, he looked much the same, but he wasn’t exactly enthused to see me. I
thought about opening with an apology for neglecting him but the whole thing was a can of rotting
worms better left untouched.
“Yeah man, thanks for coming!” I leapt off my bar stool and hugged him, startling him by my
spontaneous affection. My head rested on his big barrel chest and he patted my head awkwardly.
“So good to see you!” I grinned. Knox and Norman were chatting up the bartender, a blonde
girl, oblivious to me.
“You want a drink?” I asked Jazza and he shook his head. “I’ll get some food,” he said.
“Starved. I’ll get us a bunch of stuff. Go sit over there.”
He pointed at a booth in the corner and I obdiently did what he said. How was I going to
explain my panicked flash comm? My out-of-character summoning?
He settled himself into the booth and leaned back, arms folded across his chest. “They’ll bring
food. So buddy, you worried about coming back tomorrow?”
“Yes!” I practically shouted at him and he looked startled. Thank you, Jazza, for giving me an
out. Because it was that but it wasn’t, it was everything. I was drowning. My life was suffocating me
and it was all of that and more.
“Everything all look the same?” I asked and he nodded.
Integratron, our hallowed place of toil and grind was a sci-fi Legoland, a sprawling estate
housing hundreds of primary-coloured, dome-shaped bungalows made of interlocking durable plastic
shiny blocks. The domes, or Sheds, spiralled out from the base of a two-hundred-story, four acre, pink
and blue skyscraper, Sky The Tower. And it was all plastic, which was par for the course. We had
polybutylene terephthalate for cars, polyethelene terephthalate for clothing, good old Teflon
polytetrafluoroethylene for pots, pans and cookware, soft polyurethane for foams and sponges, strongbodied
polycarbonates for appliances while acrylonitrile styrene acrylate bricks replaced cinder blocks,
and we even polylactide for medical implants. Fluffy, furry, velvety or glasslike, there was a plastic for
everything. Jazza and I had, out of curiousity, done the intel.
Lower eschelons worked in the Sheds, while movers and shakers took up space in Sky The
Tower. The Tower was cylindrical with an open centre at the core, allowing light to flow into the
offices and each pair of worker bees had their own cell in the hive. No more open plan, no more shared
space. It had been proven that people, like bears, needed private caves in which to think, hibernate and
The dome-shaped Sheds, the ornamental Art Deco entrance façade to Sky The Tower and the
giant animal statues dotting the fake green lawns were intended to infuse the workers with a sense of
childlike joy but they failed miserably. The inmates were fearful desk sloggers who did the minimum
and escaped like scurrying mice as soon as the schoolbell rang.
“There are more Sheds,” Jazza said. “And there’s a waterfall and atrium in the main foyer. Lots
of Monarch butterflies. I find them creepy.” The butterflies weren’t real, of course, neither were any
plants in the atrium.
“Ah.” I said and we were at a loss for a moment, silent.
“I guess we’ll have to come up with a new campaign,” I finally said. “Unless you came up with
something amazing while I was gone.”
But I knew he hadn’t because our boss and my father-in-law, Mr. Williamson, known to me as
Daddy, would have told me.
He shook his head. Jazza wasn’t being exactly welcoming and I needed to bring him on side.
And what better than a little self-flaggelation, the revisiting of Jazza’s successes and a spotlight on my
“Best I don’t screw up again like I did with the MdoggHotBody campaign,” I said mournfully
and I saw Jazza’s craggy face soften. He unfolded his arms and leaned forward.
“You gotta stop beating yourself up with that, buddy. Old news.” He waved his hands around
just as the waitress arrived and he nearly knocked the food off the tray. Enough food to feed the bar.
And it nearly landed on the floor.
“Sheee-it!” Jazza dived and saved the tray, coming up grinning. “Sorry!”
The waitress tried to avert her gaze from Jazza’s misshapen face and rushed off. I felt badly for
the way Jazza was treated in public but he didn’t seem to register the waitress’s disgust and he attacked
his food with glee. He’d suffered from acromegaly as a child, his welfare family not having taken care
of him as they should have and the lingering giantism was evident in his features.
“Seriously, buddy,” he said, his mouth full of onion rings and cheeseburger, “MdoggHotBody
was a mistake, so what?”
So what? I had failed us. I had failed me. I failed Jazza. I failed my unborn son and Mother and
Daddy. I’d brought the subject up to give us a bond but in truth, it was never far from my mind.
“Easy for you to say, genius boy,” I commented. “You scored 123BlikiWin which was
He had the grace to nod modestly. “Yeah, well, by the time we got to present our shit, my brain
had been working on a bunch of ideas for a while.”
“Man, were we ever hot shit, then!” I said. “Home run, first time out to bat. The Board loved
“Yeah, well you sold it. They wouldn’t have listened to a word from me. I don’t have the visual
asthetics to be a front man. Whereas you, everybody loves you!” He chewed, staring off into space and
I knew we were both thinking back to our early days, fifteen years prior.
3. Glory Days
A pay-to-play lottery. Our first project. Targetted Shoppers, or TC’s, had to rack up WinCreds by
joining a points program which would score them a golden ticket to try out for the next golden ticket.
If they won the round, they were promoted to a higher grade. There was a thirteen-level maze of lottery
wins and points acquisitions and TC’s had to shop their way through all of them. Finally, with the odds
at one in three million, they got to be one of a dozen Contestants on 123BlikiWin, the hottest reality
TV program out there. Jazz and I created it. Correction, Jazz did. He invented the whole thing and it
“We were a great team. We are a great team,” I insisted. “And even more genius was us sitting
on for years, milking it. Did you score more vintage games while I was gone?”
He shook his head. “Nah. Minnie’s cracked down even harder.”
Great. Going back to work wasn’t only going to be super stressful, we didn’t even have games
to pass the time.
“Hey,” I said, “maybe we can do a rerun of ClothesKissezThugs?”
ClothesKissezThugs was Jazza’s follow-up idea to the Lottery 123BlikiWin. He said it was
inspired by the religious baptismal trucks that rolled out after Minnie the Great’s Supreme World
Leader inauguration but instead mimicking her Come-to-Jesus marathon, we marketed Come-to-Style.
We paced our pitches, riding the 123BlikiWin as long as we could before offering up the couture
trucks of ClothesKissezThugs.
I loved Jazza’s way of thinking and at first we had fun, hanging out at work, gaming and eating
crap and feeling like we owned the world but then Mother kicked me out. She said I had to get my own
apartment. She said it was time for her to do something meaningful for her life and that she was cutting
the umbilical cord. I asked her what that meaningful thing was because perhaps I could do it with her
but she just looked cagey and said I wouldn’t understand.
And I got tired of cleaning up Jazza’s mess at work. It was like the guy couldn’t be in a room
for ten seconds without making it look like Hoarders met The Trashman from Outer Space. About two
days into our partnership, he looked over at me.
“Clean the shit up,” he said. “If you need to. But don’t expect me to do any of it and don’t
expect me to change.”
Relieved that he understood me, I bagged his crap, wiped his sticky fingerprints off the surfaces
and Lysoled the world endlessly. Cleaning brought me peace. Jazza said I was OCD and that there was
a pill for that and I said who cared, there was Windex and bleach, I didn’t need pills or his
psychoanalysis, thank you very much.
But, after career success, what was next? I began to feel empty. Bored. Lonely. I hit the rage
rooms even harder.
The rage rooms were Minnie’s idea. Three years after her ascent, an outbreak of violence
spread throughout the world and people smashed up cities, rampaging with baseball bats, hammers and
wrenches. Minnie had outlawed firearms so at least no one got shot but the damage was nonetheless
widespread and extensive. Rioters tore down parks and buildings, smashed cars and looted malls.
Minnie called in an alarmingly large secret AI army. She teargased the unruly and got things back
under control. Who knew she had an army? We fell in line pronto. We thought Minnie would be
furious and punitive in the aftermath but instead, she was sorrowful.
“I get it,” she said with that chocolately voice, direct to our flashviews via our cps. “Life is
tough. Even when it’s good, it’s tough. Everyone has anger issues. You just need a place to express
your true emotions. I didn’t realize, when I banned the Internet, that it was a drug you were hooked to.
It was a place you could vent your opinions and feel like you had been heard.” She didn’t say that we
were all idiots, addicted to expressing idiotic opinions but it was clear enough from her tone
“But,” she said, and her voice turned stern. “You misused the tools. I mean, my goodness,
exchanging pictures of your genitals and having sexual relations willy nilly! Encrypting messages so
child pornography could thrive? You lost your way. And, by God and through God, it is my Divine
Destiny to help guide you back to the path of Light. God handpicked me for this job, me, with Mama
at my side and we will help you!
“I thusly decree that rage rooms shall be constructed, places where you can express your most
basic hatred and fears. Because I realize now that much of life is fueled by hatred, rage and fear. That’s
is just the way man is. You are fundamentally flawed. But, flawed though you are, you were created in
God’s image, and it is my Divine Task to help you shed the wages of sin and find your way back to
that image, back to the perfect human beings that you were before you ate the apple and were lured by
And, by Minnie’s side, her mother, Mama, leaned in and whispered something into Minnie’s
ear and Minnie nodded.
“Before the Advent of Minnie, the world was depressed, obese and morbid. You spent your
lives staring at screens and arguing with strangers with your ignorant opinions or pretending to love
each other with likes or haha or sad faces. Emoticons! Banning emoticons was one of my greatest
triumphs. Learn to talk to each other, don’t gesticulate like uneducated children flashing reader cards
with a stupid face.”
A wild look had come into Minnie’s eyes and Mama laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
Mama whispered something else and Minnie nodded again.
“But all is not lost. Every step is a step forward. So we are going to give you fun! We are going
to make you happy! I thought sunshine every day would make you happy but no! I gave you solid
Vitamin D, not a cloud in the sky! Then you complained, why are there no clouds you asked? You
people are so hard to please! Why are you so hard to please? So I got you clouds.”
She shut her eyes and Mama patted her again. “Right. There shall be rage rooms where you can
express yourselves to your heart’s content.”
In addition to the rage rooms, Minnie poured money into streaming new shows. Robots
invented new dances and we became preoccupied, adult and child alike, trying to learn new moves and
share clips of ourselves thus engaged. Once again, we found ourselves staring at screens, our viewing
monitored by Minnie the Belle.
Minnie also gave us comfort centres. I tried them out but I’ve got restless leg syndrome and
can’t lie still for any amount of time without feeling like I’m going to go nuts, the ants under my skin
want to eat me alive.
“Nope, we ran ClothesKissezThugs dry.” Jazza grinned, bringing me back into the moment.
“Ha but we did good with CrystalMeBooty. Knocked it out the park, yeah? Think about the good
times, buddy. That was you as much as me.”
I laughed. Despite the circumstances, it was good to be talking to Jazza again, reliving our
The follow-up to ClothesKissezThugs was CrystalMeBooty. Towering crystal-sided transport
trucks rolled out with strobe lights and disco mirror balls and the music became urgent, angry and
hateful which only increased its appeal. Not everyone could place a purchase, TC’s had to earn points
to be a Big Spender, accruing a certain level of debt before being given access to the arenas of superior
consumerism. And oh, the shame if you weren’t that level. For some reason, the Big Spender and
CrystalMeBooty made even more money than 123BlikiWin. Pretty soon, the whole world was in hock,
just to be on the so-called right playing field.
Meanwhile, my life became increasingly, utterly meaningless. I don’t know what I would have
done if Celeste hadn’t come along. She and Bax changed everything. I finally knew my purpose.
Family. My family was the only thing that mattered, the only thing that gave any kind of meaning to
this sham plastic world. All I wanted was to be a stand-up guy. I wanted my boy to be able to say
that’s my Dad! with a mixture of choked-up pride and overwhelming love. I wanted Celeste to look
over at me, there’s my man, he’s the guy, don’t you know!
But the minute I had Bax, my worries increased a thousandfold. How would I keep up in this
fiercely competitive world? And, increasingly, I couldn’t afford Celeste. Of course, Celeste was a great
fan of CrystalMeBooty and Daddy’s money was, as he himself often reminded me, limited when it
came to keeping Celeste in the style to which the world had told her she needed to remain accustomed.
And what about when Bax grew up? How could I make sure he had what he needed, to be part
of the respected world of The Haves? How could I make sure he didn’t get into drugs? There were
rumours of strange sex clubs popping up like fungi in a forest, which was a bit rich coming from me,
given my predilictions but I didn’t want Bax to end up an anxiety-ridden, anger-driven worrier like me.
4. The Truth Inside.
Jazza snapped his fingers in front of my face. “Earth to Sharps! What’s going on inside your alleged
brain? Still wallowing about MdoggHotBody?”
I shook my head. How could I tell him about the fear I felt for just about everything? How I
couldn’t sleep at night, and when I finally managed to doze, I was beset by terrifying dreams of being
publically humiliated at work, arriving for a meeting unprepared and having to flub my way through. I
dreamt that massive white fire trucks, steel ghosts the size of buildings, tried to mow me down while I
rolled out from in between their wheels with my colleagues laughing at me, their mouths wide and
How could I tell Jazza that even when I looked calm, icy sweat was pudding in my pits and
snaking down my sides into the waistband of my trousers? That my unflinching, sincere gaze was a
mask and all I wanted to do was fall to my knees and sob uncontrollably. I had no idea why I felt so
terrified all the time, terrified of everything, I’d always been afraid but ever since I’d had Bax, the
terror had become rampant. It was as if the world’s dangers were magnified and I saw were monsters
and demons around every corner.
“You’ve got Daddy,” Jazza said, mopping up mustard with onions rings. “You’re safe as
houses, and you know it. Teflon Boy, that’s you.”
He pointed at me with a french fry and I nodded.
“True. But there’s Ava.” I shuddered as I uttered her name.
Jazza laughed. “She’s not so bad,” he said and I looked at him in horror.
“Not so bad? She’s a scorpion! What happened?” I leaned forward. “Since when did Ava
become “not so bad”?” I air quoted him.
He shrugged and I swore I saw him blush. “Jazza?” I pushed him harder.
“She writes poetry,” he said, sheepishly.
“And? So what? I wrote poetry too before I realized it was a lost cause.”
“You did? When?”
“Ancient history. So how come you know aboout this poetry and what’s it about?”
“It’s experimental poetry, about men and what shits we are, basically. Her book’s called And
She Shall Rule the Day and it’s about what cretins men are, good for nothing except for being big hot
swinging dicks when a woman felt like a booty call or having a baby the old-fashioned way.”
“You read it?”
“She read it to me.”
“And you understood her? I can never hear what she’s saying. I swear it’s a power thing, how
softly she talks. Fucking whispers everything.”
“I understand her just fine.”
He was right, he did. Even in meetings, he’d scribble down what she said when he knew I had
no idea what was going on.
“It’s brutal but good. I hate to say it but she nailed our Neanderthalism to the a T. It’s a clever
title. She Shall Rule the Day but it also means He Shall Rue the Day! And, mark my words, we will,
I stared at him. “Jazza, you’re really scaring me. I thought you were in my camp. I thought we
were both batting for the same team, team you and me.”
He pushed his food away, his second burger half uneaten.
“Ava likes me,” Jazza said. “Okay well, maybe not so much like. She likes my dick, I’ll tell
you that much.”
“What?” I was speechless. “You fucked Ava? When? How did your dick not turn green and fall
“Actually, she’s pretty hot in bed. And besides hookers, who’d have me, Sharps? It’s not like
you’ve even invited me to your home.” Ah. He finally cut to the chase. “I’m just the brain you ride. I
don’t have anybody Sharps. You ever think of that? All you think about is being Mr. Perfect, Mr. IHave-
Everything, perfect little baby boy, a perfect little wifey. What do you care?”
I wanted to tell him the truth. “But it’s harder than you think,” was all I could manage and I
looked away. When I looked back at him, I saw the scepticism on his face and I realized I’d have to be
more forthcoming. I had to sell him on Team Jazza/Sharps which annoyed me. If I wanted to lean him
for support, I was going to have to work for it. I sighed inwardly and leaned forward, my sincerity
mask in place.
“Jazza,” I started and he laughed.
“You’re shitting me, Sharps, I can see it. You think I don’t know you? You called me here
because you somehow knew about me and Ava and you wanted to find out how it would affect you.”
“I had no idea about you and Ava,” I said and Jazza could hear I was telling the truth. “I asked
you to come here because Celeste…”
But I couldn’t carry on. I couldn’t admit that things weren’t great. And what if I told Jazza and
he told Ava who told Daddy?
“Celeste what? You see, Sharps, that’s you, you never tell me anything.” Jazza got up to leave
but I grabbed his arm.
“Please Jazza,” I said and my eyes filled with tears and Jazz immediately sank back down.
“I just…” And then I was crying. Crying in a bar. Jazza slid into the booth next to me and put
his giant arm around his shoulder.
“I just try so hard,” I sobbed, and it was such a relief to get it out. “I’m worry so much Jazz.
I’m sorry I don’t invite you home. There are things I can’t tell you, things I have to deal with.”
I felt Jazza’s big body melt against his side and a surge of relief filled my chest. I couldn’t
afford to lose him.
I wound down, blowing my nose loudly into the napkin that Jazza handed me. He patted me on
the shoulder until I had cleaned up and then he went back and sat across from me.
“There are meds for that,” he observed and I shook my head. “No. I don’t want to go there. I’m
just stressed. About going back to work, yeah, and then hearing that you’ve been banging The
Whispering Queen. Kind took the wind out of my sails. You really did the nasty with her?”
He nodded. “Where did you guys hook up?” I couldn’t imagine precise, starched, pleated and
ironed Ava in Jazza’s apartment but of course I was wrong.
“My place, and hers. She loved my fur babies! And her place is really cool. It’s like an
underground honeycomb cave and the walls are made of stone quartz and they change colour. And it
smells good. There’s no décor, just a mattress and a big screen that covers one wall with mountains or
waterfalls, whatever you feel like. I said it was very monastic and she said she didn’t think in such
gender-restrictive terms, she just liked the simplicity and purity. She also loves old Kung Fu movies.
Man, we had fun!”
I wanted to ask how Ava felt about his granny panties but didn’t feel I could go there.
“How many times did you hook up?”
He looked away. “I dunno. Lost count.”
So that’s what Jazza had been doing while I was hanging out with Bax, changing diapers and
studying my kid’s fecal matter for irregularities. “Lost count? Were you ever going to tell me?”
He got hunched his shoulders and I told myself to back down. “Like you cared. Anyway, like I
said, I’m just a dick to her. Literally.” He paused. “Sharps, I don’t have any real data on this but I think
Ava was or still is, a Blowfly!”
“What? No shit! That’s impossible! They can’t infiltrate the outer perimeters. What makes you
“Clues in her book.”
I cued my cp for And She Shall Rule the Day but there was nothing.
“I can’t access it,” I said and he shook his head.
“It’s print. Hard copy. And you’re probably spelling it literally. It’s S(h*)E shALL R.U.L.E the
day*” He wrote it on a napkin for me and I studied it.
“Pretentious and incomprehensible. Just like her. Never makes sense. But wait. What? Nothing
is in print! You saw a copy? Do you have one?”
“Nope. She wouldn’t give me one. I only got to look at it when when she went to the
washroom. It was published by The Eden Collective on behalf of The World Wide Warriors.”
“Who? Are they Blowflies? It doesn’t make any sense.”
I wondered if this had anything to do with Jazz’s mother but I had the good sense not to ask.
He shrugged again. “I don’t know for sure but there were clues in the poems. It’s also about
how colonialism and patriarchy fucked up the world and how about revolution is essential to
recalibrate the world. Pretty intense. ”
“Why didn’t you screengrab it while she was gone?”
He looked away.
“You did! You have got it!”
“Yeah. But I won’t give it to you.” He looked petulant and frightened. “And you can’t make
me, Sharps. This is mine.”
I’d seen that expression before with Bax. His favourite toy. I knew better than to trigger a black
hole tantrum. I held up my hands in surrender. “I will never mention it again.” Maybe I could hack into
“And don’t think you can hack me,” he said, reading my face. “I’ve got firewalls that will burn
you backwards in time.”
“Firewalls!” I laughed. “Talk about nostalgia.” A red exclamation mark popped up in the
corner of my eye. Incoming flash comm from Celeste. Where are you? I swiped it away leaving it
“I gotta go,” I said to Jazza but I made no move. “Listen buddy, I know I’ve failed you as a
BFF. But we’re a team, right? I’ve got Daddy, you’ve got Ava and we’ll rule the world, right?”
I needed Jazza like never before. I had wanted to stay home with Bax and somehow have
Daddy support us, that had been my ridiculous fantasy but Daddy said I had to go back to work. He
said that the Board said Jazza and I needed to come up with something shiny and new.
But what if Jazza and I couldn’t come up with anything? Daddy had also said I had to be his
eyes and ears at the company because he’d heard that Ava gunning for top position and he wanted to
nail her. As if that was breaking news and besides, I didn’t care about any of that. I wanted Bax and me
to be together forever, alone. Me and my boy. But Daddy told me I had to be there, on the ground to
tell him everything I heard so I had no choice.
Jazz nodded when I said that about us being a team but his body language lacked conviction.
Great. One more thing for me to have to worry about.
“Wait,” he said as I got up and I sat back down. “I think Ava’s gunning for Minnie.”
“What the fuck? Minnie? The God Appointed Supreme World Leader? That Minnie?”
This I had to hear.
5. Ava’s Plan For World Domination
I flashed a comm to Celeste. Sorry hun, still at team mtg with Jazza. Get an InstaNanny if u need help. Sorry babes.
“Back up,” I said. “Minnie? I’m going to get us another round of drinks. “Attacking Minnie is
like attacking God, only harder.”
“I think Ava’s going to start by trying to bring back nature.”
I burst out laughing. “How, exactly?” Talk about living in lala-land. Ava didn’t have a hope in
hell. Global warming had killed nature and there was no bringing it back. Minnie had taken the food
labs from the early 21st century a step further, and declared farming dead. It was time for humans to
take control and stop being at the mercy of Mother Nature. Farmlands were transformed into football
field labs and the world was studded with giant condom-shaped pustules birthing perfect shiny red
tomatoes, fire-orange flawless carrots and every kind of fruit and vegetable, plus new combinations
offering optimal nutrition and edible perfection. Here, have a bananacot, an ingenious blend of banana
and apricot, with added protein. The result, a chubby orange fist-shaped fruit was one of the more
Meat was grown in labs using original cells collected from animals and grown in bioreactors.
Minnie said we neeed to discard the idea of the animal being the producer of food and she worked with
cellular scientists to make it happen. Meat proved easier to produce than eggs which we soon forgot
about altogether. Milk was replaced with an allergy-free formula that promoted growth, increased
brain mass and aided the fatty neurons that fired our intelligence.
As if we needed all that added intelligence. We weren’t exactly doing anything with it except
sitting around streaming shows on our cps or shopping. The civilized world saw their lands divided
into two: shiny plastic cities on the one hand, and plastic bubble farms on the other. The farms were
auto run by robots, with two human foremen per, just in case. In case of what? It was inconceivable
that anything might go awry.
“We can’t go back to real nature,” I told Jazza. “That would mean hijacking the satellites. We
killed nature. There’s nothing left. We’d all starve to death.”
“It would be a struggle, at first,” Jazza admitted. “But Ava said she’d make sure there were
food reserves until the earth got back on its feet.”
“Imagine having real weather,” I mused. “I wonder what would happen?”
It was something I’d thought about before. Major cities had been declared snow-free zones
because studies had proven that the most people didn’t like snow and besides, sidewalk ice was a
health and safety hazard. It was too dangerous for children to toboggan down hills or skate on outdoor
ponds, a law I’d thought ridiculous until I had Bax and then I changed my mind. Avid skiers were
initially enraged by the loss of snow but they soon adapted to skiing on virtual slopes, agreeing it was
way better than the real thing.
And, for our further health, safety and convenience, it only rained at night because people voted
that the rain was ‘too wet.’
“Crazy,” I said. “Ava doesn’t have a hope in hell of getting to Minnie’s satellites. Remember
Minnie’s armies after the riots?”
“Minnie’s not infallible,” Jazza said. “AI armies can be hacked and anyway, remember the
water catastrophe? Epic fail for Minnie.”
I nodded, running my tongue over my teeth as if to reaffirm they were still there.
Due to a miscalculation during the Sacred Board’s first stab at creating ionized, enhanced,
immune-building, disease-lessening water, we lost our teeth and ended up with implants, steel rods
capped with white titanium. Orthodontic perfection, built last for a thousand lifetimes. It was weird
how we all had the same smile, except for people like Celeste who spent big bucks on a deluxe
“I always found it weird that Minnie never lost her teeth,” I said. “She stuck with her crazy
junk-yard smile. I always wanted to ask, hey Minnie, how come your teeth didn’t fall out and why
don’t you want these shiny new ones?”
“Ava said the same thing,” Jazz said. “But she said she’s known too many people who asked
questions and disappeared.”
“Which is why going up against Minnie makes no sense! Minnie controls the world!”
“She understands the pervasive power of consumer capitalism versus that of free-market
capitalism,” Jazza said and I raised an eyebrow and he turned the colour of a ripe bruise.
“Okay, so Ava said that, not me. But it makes perfect sense. The religion of the dollar.”
“And yet, Minnie professes to be on a mission from God.”
“Her God. If you ask me, it’s not Minnie we need to get rid of, it’s her mother.”
I nodded. “Good old Mama.”
All this talking had made me hungry and I waved the waitress over. I sensed Jazza had a lot
more up his sleeve and I wasn’t leaving until I had the full scoop.
“I’d kill Mama first,” Jazza said, returning me to the topic. “I frickin’ hate that woman. Leader
of the Righteous Reform, my ass. What kind of woman would invent the Sanctified Priesthood? Lose
my balls just to get a job for life? No thank you! I’d start by strangling her with her sapphire and ruby
rosary. You know heavy that thing must be? Still, it was the Holy Water of God’s Light trucks that
gave me the idea for our campaign so thanks Mama, for that.”
Men who wished to join the Sanctified Priesthood could do so with one small condition, they
had to have gonadectomies, in other words, have their balls chopped off. No desire, ergo, no sin. And
since unemployment was at an all-time high, record numbers of men signed up to join The Renewed
Catechism of the Righteous, cutely called the NewCats. You got employment, a roof over your head
and benefits for life.
“Even the Pope called Mama the salt of the Earth, a miracle sent by Jesus Himself,” I said.
“But you have to look at the positives. No suicide bombers. No racism. No more nuclear programs.
And Celeste’s a NewCat. I love going to church.”
“You just like to sing. There’s karaoke for that, buddy.”
“You know where her power comes from?” I asked. “Minnie’s? From her voice. You know the
way sound vibrations make patterns in sand and can even change the shape of plastic? She does that to
our brains. She hypnotizes us. I mean she’s an ugly little shit! Let’s call a spade a spade!”
“Yeppers. But hey, I’m not exactly an oil painting.”
I felt shamed. How could I comment on looks when I was born so blessed while Jazza had been
birthed on the opposite spectrum? I had reached a new level of low.
“Well,” I said, my voice an apology, “I still don’t get how Ava plans to infiltrate all of this.
Minnie is not only the Supreme World Leader, she is the Honoured President and Commander-in-
Chief of the Sacred Board of Global Nations. She controls everything.”
“Power comes and power goes,” Jazza said.
“Can I see the screengrabs of Ava’s poems?”
“Aw come on! I’m your pal!”
Jazza laughed. “When you want to be. Anyway, Ava trusts me. I won’t betray that.”
Three red dots flashed in the corner of my eye. A level-two urgent message. I waved it away.
Celeste. She was getting annoyed with me for taking so long. I ignored her and turned back to Jazza.
“You won’t win,” I repeated. “And if you don’t know by now you’ll never find out what’s
Ava’s up to. She sounds beyond your level of code.
Jazza looked annoyed. “No one is beyond my level of code,” he said and his craggy brow
furrowed. “I just have to find a way in.”
And I have to find a way to survive all of this. How? All I wanted to do was crawl under the
table and sleep for the rest of my life.
Sweetie!! Celeste finally used the emergency data pin to get me in a way I couldn’t ignore.
Come home! We’ve got great news! Come on, honey! Come home!
Great. I sighed. “I’ve got to get going. See you tomorrow, Jazza.”
He stood up, dwarfing me, and I could see the outline of a lacy bra peeking out under the sleeve
of his t-shirt. Peach. “Sharps,” he said, “look. We’ve been together since the start. I know I didn’t tell
you about Ava but I was going to, I swear. I mean, I had no idea she wanted to have sex with me. After
the first time, I felt embarrassed, like I’d been so stupid and I thought you’d laugh at me if I told you.
And you would have but then she came back and it was so great. It is so great.”
“Are you in love with her?” I asked and his face went the colour of a spoiled strawberry. “You
are? Oh, shit.”
“I know it’s pointless,” he said and he hung his head. “Wouldn’t you be in love with her?”
“Ava? Shit, no way! She’s like a bubble scorpion.” Bubble scorpions were vicious furry
bumblebees with balloon bubble limbs in a game Jazza and I played. “I can just see her big yellow
stinger waiting to zap me. She hates me!”
“She isn’t fond of the way Mr. Williamson supports you,” Jazza was tactful.
“No, she hates me. And even if she didn’t, I wouldn’t fall in love with her. My dick would fall
off like an icicle if it even tried to enter the artic cave of her vagina. Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m
discussing Ava’s vag with you! Ugh!”
Jazza had a dreamy look in his eye and I snapped my fingers at him.
“Jazza! Just let me know if she’s going to stab me in the back, okay? At least give me
“Yeah,” he said mournfully and he looked like a basset hound and I wanted to slap him into
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“She’s too good for me. She’s way out of my league. You’re right Sharps, she must have
wanted something from me. And I just have this feeling… like I’ve just lost something I should have
taken better care of.” He rubbed his head. “My head hurts too. I wish I hadn’t told you any of this.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t mean to cut you off but I’ve got to go. I’ve been summoned by Celeste.
Great news awaits at home, apparently.”
“I think I’ll just sit here for a while,” Jazza said and I left him to it, messaging Celeste that I
was on my way home and getting into my car. But then I just sat there. I just couldn’t put the car into
drive. Too many memories flooded my mind. I needed a moment to myself. I set the seat to recline and
tried to figure out how my life had become such a mess.
6. Finding My Glitter Ball and Chain.
I was forty-four when I met Celeste. Over the hill. It was hard to believe but Jazza and I had been a
team for fifteen years. I’d taken my time getting to university, having suffered long bouts of depression
in my teenage years, episodes that saw me bedridden, only gtting up to smash the living daylights out
of whatever was at hand and getting back into bed.
Years of nurturing by Mother, along with therapy, pills and even electric shock therapy finally
whipped me into good enough shape to get me through school and into university. I was quite content
to remain a professional student for the rest of my life, eking out grants for as long as I could but the
government cracked down and booted a bunch of us out.
It wasn’t even fair, who got kicked out. It worked via a lottery system and I later wondered if
that was where Jazz got the idea for the 123BlikiWin because he got kicked out too. He was a math
and science guy. He had his Ph.D. by the time he was nineteen which is when we met. I was twentynine.
I’d always harboured a secret fantasy. I wanted to be seated at the head of the dinner table, with
my family quietly eating their food, my wife dressed like a fifties movie star. She’d be smiling at me,
supportively and kindly, like she got how hard it was and she loved and admired me for my ability to
navigate the daily grind of life. I think it came from me never having had that myself as a kid. All I had
wanted was a normal safe suburban life, no shocks, just cruising along with everything nearly in order.
“Here’s to you, mister,” my wife would say, lifting her glass of soda water with a twist of lime.
“Thank you for keeping us safe today in a world filled with peril. How was your day?”
And I got my wife and I got my kid but I could never tell them how my day really was and the
furtherest thing I felt was safe.
There was so much I hadn’t known about Celeste when I married her. That she’d spend
hundreds of dollars on trending toys, like those god-awful fake budgies. The IridescentFlyShiny craze
ended thank god, no more birds. I didn’t know that she was so messy. Or that she’d be a bad mother.
And a drunk. She was a frequent flyer on the AllGoodGetWell rehab program which was five-star all
the way. She’d never worked a day in her life, she’d lied about that.
I met Celeste at a party at work. I hated parties but I had to go. The irony was that Ava had told
me to go and she never showed up herself. Since she wasn’t what you’d call a people person, it was
probably for the best.
The venue was typical of the time, a ballroom of mirrors with pale blue satin painted panels and
carved curlicued sconces. Chandeliers dripped crystal and chrome and everybody stood around fake
smiling and wondering when they could get drunk or leave. I fell into the latter category.
I was leaning against the wall talking to a woman who had her coat buttoned to the collar and
her backpack neatly in place, straps neatly parallel. I guessed she wasn’t planning on staying long
either but at least I tried to look like I was participating, beer in hand, casual smile, flashing my
dimples and talking about a serial killer series on the HumerusNumerous channel which was all the
rage. Jazza preferred the ParityParallelUniverse channel or EchoSerialFree but they were too gory for
I was calculated, watched trending series so I’d fit in and have something to talk about. That,
plus sports and I was okay. And, at that moment, talking to the woman who was clearly less socially at
ease than I was, I felt as comfortable as a prime time talk show host and I wished Ava was there to see
me. I hated her but I also felt a weird desire to please her which made me hate her even more.
And it was then, at that very moment, just when I felt like I could fit in, that I saw Celeste. How
could I miss her? She was a battleship of cleavage and glitter and she flipped her blonde hair back and
laughed, just like the fifties pinup I’d always dreamed about. A Marilyn Monroe smile, big white teeth
and high cheekbones, so shiny and wholesome. I found out later that her avatar name was
ShinyFangGlitterBaby which really should have told me all I needed to know.
“Mr. Williamson’s baby girl,” Backpack woman said. I knew the ill-at-ease woman was in
pixel development or something, a part-timer in the Sheds and I could never remember her name. I had
a real job in the Tower, reporting to Ava who reported to Mr. Williamson but I never knew he had a
“Oh god, here she comes,” Backpack woman said and she ducked around me and scuttled out
the door. I looked around and saw the glitter battleship heading towards me. Me! Buoyed by
confidence with my encounter with Shed woman, I straightened my shoulders and sucked in my gut
although I worked out a lot so really there was no worry there. But then the beauty queen, a bit past her
prime if one was honest, sailed right by me and I was left standing and grinning like an idiot, my hand
held high, a fool for all the world to see.
And they did see. My mirrored reflection told me that everyone had seen but were mostly just
happy it hadn’t happened to them. There was the tiniest pause, like the screen froze but then it went
back to noise and chatter and fake tinkle this and fake tinkle that.
I’d had enough. I put my glass down and reached for my coat.
“Sharps!” It was Mr. Williamson. The very guy we were there for. “Have you met my
The glitter battleship was back, flipping her hair and smiling. I wondered if she was on Feel,
the latest drug to keep you comfortably numb forever.
“Delighted,” I said and I held out my hand. Celeste took it absently but then her eyes focussed
and she leaned in closer. “Great dimples,” she said and her gaze actually held mine for two long
“He’s my boy!” Mr. Williamson bellowed. He’d been a big fan since I was an intern, making
scads of money off Jazza’s and my work. “Been with us forever,” he told his daughter. “Will be with
us forever if I have any say in it.”
“Great to hear that, Sir!” I beamed back at him.
“Say,” he whispered, “how’s Ava these days?”
A bitch as usual, I wanted to reply but I held my tongue. “Fine” I forced a smile.
“Good man. Listen, look after Celeste here for me, will you, got to do the rounds, make a
speech blah blah. Don’t know why they even had this thing, forty-five years is a drop in the ocean, I’m
not going anywhere for the next forty-five harhar! But drinks are good for morale and they’re tax-free,
so there you go!”
He left me with Celeste and there was an awkward silence. She played with her bracelets and I
wondered why she didn’t leave and schmooze with the rest of the room. I was sure anybody there was
more interesting than me.
“You look like Jason Bateman,” she said. “He died, in what, 2025? I love his avatar! So
gorgeous! He still models for Armani and Givenchy and Dior.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard the comp before,” I said, trying to think of something fascinating to say. I
was losing her. Her averted gaze had a vacant, a dead-eyed look, the kind I saw in Ava’s eyes
whenever I started speaking.
Why did I even care what the glitter battleship thought? I cared because I was lonely and tired
of being alone. I’d tried to convince myself that I was used to it. Sure I was, I worked out while
streaming or I planned strategies for work or I tried to get Mother to return my flash comms or I talked
to Betsy, my FurryFurlong avatar hedgehog. Yeah, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a hedgehog
man. Betsy’s the cutest thing! Her little tummy! But even with all of that, along with my ever-present,
increasing preoccupation that I would be fired from work and fulfil my inevitable destiny as a Blowfly,
I was lonely. Deep pockets of loneliness cemented my neatly sandwiched packages of time. Which
was how I saw time, boxes in a day, with each box having its allotted content and you either filled the
content neatly or you failed. I graded every box as a success or a fail. Mother said I needed to loosen
up. She said I was getting worse but I told her that the very thought of loosening up increased my
Mother also said that I was too extreme, either cleaning things to high gloss or destroying them
and creating a terrible mess. She added that she was getting unspeakably weary at having the same
conversations with me. She said we both knew I had obsessive compulsive disorder, regardless of
whatever kinder psych label was being bandied about. She urged me to return to therapy but I ignored
her. I told her that I had the rage rooms to which she replied that smashing things wasn’t the same as
addressing them. I retorted that I’d just needed to clean more, which was the tipping point. Her interest
in me started to wane as surely as the tides on my virtual seaside vacacys pulled back and slipped
The Rage Room by Lisa de Nikolits
And, in the very same way, I watched Celeste embark on the great sail of her departure but just
as she was about to turn away, her father reappeared.
“Say,” he said, sounding slightly out of breath, “you kids want tickets to the hockey?”
We both sprang to attention, beaming. Hockey tickets were hen’s teeth in a barnyard of ducks.
“Pick me up at 6,” Celeste said, flashing her address to my path. “We’ll go early. I love hockey
so much!” She was all smiles, ear to ear, and in that moment, I was my travel avatar self,
SmashingSablink007 carving through a big wave, power surfing in Hawaii. Talk about power! So
much for Ava! I was the man! I was the chosen one! I had a date with Mr. Williamson’s daughter!
7. Getting Hitched.
Our hockey date was a gigantic success. Celeste was an animal, pounding on the glass, drinking beer,
swearing like a sailor. She was a powerhouse and all I had to do was be there.
She annoyed the people around us, blocking their view and spilling drinks on them but I made
her feel loved no matter what. I had, miraculously, got one foot in the door. I had to make this work.
What exactly did I mean by ‘make it work’? Marry her? Yes. Exactly. She could make my
fantasy come true. I wanted to prove to my loser father that I could be the man he’d never been and I’d
show Mother I was a winner. I could already see the family Christmas Flashcard, Celeste and the kids
in white, a silver and blue crystal Christmas tree in the background, me in a pale blue suit, grinning.
Happy Christmas from the Barkley Family! Plus, marrying Celeste would secure me a lifetime office
in Sky The Tower, Jazza or no Jazza. I’d be promoted to the hundred and fiftieth floor at least and I’d
be okay with that, being a middle-man, interviewing the interns that I had once been. I could put my
feet up on my white Lego desk, or no, maybe not actually put my feet up, because I’d leave scuff
marks but I’d metaphorically put my feet up and enjoy the view.
So when Celeste spilled half of her fifth beer on me, I just laughed. No worries! Harhar! I
laughed just like her father did, with my head thrown back. We were having so much fun! Weren’t we
“Oh baby,” she said later, in the bubble limo Daddy had sent for us, “you’re the best! Sweetie,
I’m so glad I met you. I wasn’t even going to come to that awful drinks thing but I’m so glad I did!
Listen, you wanna to church with us on Sunday?”
Church? Celeste was one of Mama and Minnie’s NewCats? I thought they were passé. I must
have looked startled because she grabbed my hand and held it tight. “Yeah sweetie, we go every week.
Mummy, Daddy and me. And then we have brunch after. You’ll come, right? I’ve never asked
anybody before! Well, actually, yeah, no, I did but that was years ago.” A sad look crossed her face
and I brushed the hair out of her eyes. I hadn’t realized she used that much hair spray. I wanted to wipe
my fingers on the car seat but I didn’t want her to notice.
“Yeah, we’re NewCats. Mama’s still around, still fighting for Jesus and we have to too! Jesus
would never give up on us, right? Come on sweetie, and then we have brunch after, Mimosas and hot
chocolate and eggs benny!”
“I’m not super religious,” I said, not wanting to admit the extent of my atheism but trying for
some level of honesty.
“Sweetie, you don’t have to be.” She was earnest. “Just come. Okay? It’s only an hour and then
food to die for! And you’ll meet Mummy!”
“What must I wear?”
She thought this was hilarious but I was serious. What did one wear to church?
“Seriously Cee, what must I wear? I worry about stuff like that.”
“And that’s what makes you the gentleman you are, baby! Okay, specifics, no running shoes,
loafers are good, a linen shirt, two buttons open, not more, no jewellery not that you wear any, a blazer
is good, blue is always in style.”
I sighed with relief. “Thank you. It’s the little things that get to me,” I said and I pulled her
closer. “Keep me up at night. I worry, you know. I try to do things right. I want to do things right but
sometimes the details are so vague.”
“I’ll always be specific with you, honeypie,” she said and she snuggled in. “Like right now, I
want your tongue in my mouth, nice and deep.”
I did what she said and I must have been okay at it because she moaned and groaned and I
swear she had an orgasm in the back of the limo just from me kissing her and rubbing my hand on her
crotch. I was worried she’d want to come home with me but she had the limo drop me off and she blew
kisses as I watched her being driven away.
The next day, she flashed me to say that Mummy and Daddy were so excited I was coming to
church! She added I that could wear a tie but Daddy never did. I spent all Friday watching my bitch
boss Ava, grinning, and knowing I had the ace up my sleeve. I just had to play it right.
It turned out that I loved Church. I’d only seen the buildings from the outside, white-washed
Dutch-style barns with a small gable at each end and a high-pitched red corrugated roof with
ornamental rooster weathervanes.
The NewCat flag was clearly still flying high, with the parking lot spreading for miles and the
service well attended. The Church interior was a shock. The place was a neon carnival with white pews
and white leatherette cushions. The Stages of The Cross flanked the walls while Jesus hung from a
giant white neon cross at the front. He was surrounded by fluttering cherubs and angels while blood
flowed convincingly from his face and side in a fluid neon movement. Jesus was a goodlooking surfer
fellow and I was momentarily taken aback by his likeness to the ever-popular Chris Hemsworth avatar.
Big blonde Australian Thor was the new Jesus? No wonder attendance was so high. No wonder
Celeste was such a fan.
The seats were comfy too. Memoryfoam, I bet. Once you sat your ass down, it was hard to get
Celeste’s mother had been thrilled to see me and she kept showering me with double-wide
smiles. Mummy’s teeth were replacements of course, but they seemed weirdly small which was odd
since the dentures were measured with such precision. Mummy’d had the work. Implants, botox,
facelifts and dyed hair, with extensions filling out her thinning thatch. Mummy was a Swarovski
waterfall of diamonds, clad in Chanel and her Wolverine manicure looked deadly.
But what amazed me was how much I loved Church. It was so organized and clean and white
and shiny with not so much as a dustmote daring to float on a sunbeam. The Williamsons’ were right
to be NewCats. I wished I had joined a Church before. I’d tell Jazza, maybe get him to come but I
quickly stopped myself. No. No Jazza. Ever.
And the songs! Gone the ancient dirgelike-laments, replaced by happy ditties. We sang She’ll
Be Coming ’Round the Mountain and If You’re Happy And You Know It and Jesus Loves Me, This I
Know. I joined in, cautiously at first but with increasing gusto. Daddy and Mummy and Celeste were
amused by my enthusiasm and I soon lost my self-consciousness.
“There’s a side to you I never knew,” Mr. Williamson commented as we were leaving and I
blushed. Had I let myself lose control? I was about to apologize when Celeste grabbed my hand and
shushed her father.
“We’re looking for men to join our choir,” the priest appeared at my side. “I couldn’t help but
hear your wonderful tenor.
I nodded, close to tears with joy. His kindness hit me hard and I just nodded. To be wanted!
The priest said he’d flash me the details and as we walked to the limo, I thought that even if
things ended with Celeste, that I’d be okay. At the very least, I’d got the church choir out of it. I
wished I’d thought of it before.
We arrived at brunch and left the girls, as Mr. Williamson called them, to their first round of
drinkies in the main lounge and we headed for the men’s bar.
“Wanted to chat to you mano a mano,” Daddy said, tapping the side of his nose like an oldfashioned
British spy. “Celly’s is a bit fragile. Likes a tipple a wee bit but it’s because she struggles in
life. Mummy found a place in life with her charities but Celly’s has always been a bit lost. We wanted
an ordinary life for her, as much as one can have one, you know, kiddies and family traditions. Celly’s
an only child and getting on in years and we’d both like grandkiddies, me in particular. I love the little
chaps. I don’t know why I never thought of you and Celly before. There you were, right under my nose
and I never saw it!”
He beamed at me and I was started to wilt under the hot-house stare of his pale general’s eyes. I
was backed up against the bar and the edge cut into my spine. I worked to maintain my grin while I
“Marriage and kiddies would make Celly happy. How old are you, son?”
“44.” I forced the answer through forced teeth. My back couldn’t take much more.
“Perfect. Celly’s 38. And we can get you help if she can’t conceive.”
Conceive? We hadn’t been on a second date! Regardless, everything I’d ever wanted was all
coming my way, albeit it somewhat like a freight train.
“Don’t shoot blanks do you, son?” Daddy lost his good cheer and the edge of the bar bit deeper
into my spine.
“No sir. At least I don’t think so.”
“We’ll have you tested,” he said. “Celly’s fertile, we’ve had to get her out of sticky situations
more than once. Losers she met in rehab and brought home. Those places weren’t cheap either! Not
sure how they let people like that in, they were practically Blowfly level! It took a while but we
learned our lesson and sent her to a private clinics, women only. She still makes friends, that’s just
who she is and she’s getting better every day. Listen son, to segue, be careful of Ava. She’s in line for
my title when I move up the ladder but I’m going to throw your hat in the ring instead of hers. You’ve
been the dark horse all this time and I sense a winner in you. Plus, I don’t like Ava one bit.”
By now, I was bent over backwards and my back was ready to snap in two. I was going down
two vertebrae at least. I was beginning to have my doubts about the whole thing. Take on Ava? Not a
chance in hell. I was struggling as it was. And Celeste sounded like harder work than I cared for.
Rehabs? Sticky situations? Daddy must have seen the fear in my eyes because he gripped my arm and
yanked me close, patting me on the back so hard I nearly choked.
“Don’t worry son,” he said soothingly. “One thing at a time. We’ll get your swimmers checked
out and take it from there. No point in putting the cart before the horse. Let’s go and join the girls for
eggs benny! Finest in town!”
He was right. The eggs benny were delicious. Daddy talked constantly and all I had to do was
smile. And luckily for me, I didn’t shoot blanks. Celeste and I got married in the virtual Bahamas as
soon as we heard the good news. Celeste and I had yet to consummate our carnal selves. I kept Jazza
right out of the picture, only telling him once the contract was lodged in court and assuring him it had
all been spur of the moment.
I didn’t tell Jazza that Mummy and Daddy and Celeste and I were collectively panic-stricken
that the bubble of goodwill might burst at any moment. We moved as fast as possible just to keep that
picture-perfect bubble full and swirling and catching the flare of the sun.
To my surprise, Jazz wasn’t angry with me, nor did he feel betrayed. He laughed liked it was
the funniest thing. “Takes the pressure off us for a bit,” he said, chortling. “Yeah baby, life insurance.
Great thinking Sharps buddy! Just one thing. When you move up, you’d better take me or I’ll you kill
you, man! Did you move in with her or her, you? Does she know how obsessed you are with cleaning?
Have you actually done the horizontal rhumba?”
He was full of questions but I brushed them off. “That’s classified,” I told him. “But Daddy’s
buying us a house.”
“Daddy! You call Mr. Williamson The Great, the Fourth and the Righteous-Up-Your-Ass,
Daddy!” That had Jazza laughing the rest of the day. I gave up.
What he also didn’t know and which I’d never tell him, was that the prospect of sex had
freaked me out to the point where I’d been honest with CeeCee. There was no way I’d be able to get it
up so I had to come clean.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself?
I was born in South Africa and when I was fourteen, my parents decided we needed to ‘get back the land’. So they moved us to a smallholding out in the middle of nowhere (a smallholding is a small patch of land, seven acres). We didn’t have running water or electricity and we lived in two rooms with concrete floors and corrugated iron ceilings and a window in each room. It was a wonderful, life-changing experience. My sister and I showered at our convent school in the swimming pool changing rooms and I still remember those cold damp floors – there were always puddles of water on the floor and the changing rooms were always freezing even in the middle of summer! Of course, having lived in Canada for over 20 years now, I’m pretty sure my definition of freezing would be quite different these days and I’d most likely find it quite lovely and warm! Having unconventional parents always gave me the courage to do things others might not and my parents have always been extremely supportive of my writing. My Dad calls himself my biggest fan and he told me from a very young age that I had ‘a good turn of phrase’. Dad was pretty good at assessing one’s talents (or lack thereof!) and so it wasn’t just parental cossetting. But that said, my books aren’t quite what my parents had thought I’d write. I think they figured I’d write cheerful chick-lit and I’ve tried but that’s just not me!
The Rage Room is the first speculative novel I’ve written and there’s a lot of time travel. If I could time travel myself, I’d definitely go back to 1980 when we lived in those rooms!
How did you become an author?
I was born to write! I always knew I was a writer, it was a given. English was the only subject at school that I treated with any respect (I was not a good student, often reprimanded for day dreaming.) I got A’s in English and solid C’s for everything else! I had insomnia since I can remember so my Mom taught me to read when I was super young (I can’t remember the exact age) and I would sit up reading late into the night while the rest of the family slept. Mom said she couldn’t afford to keep me in books and she asked me to try to read more slowly but I just speeded up!
When I was twelve, I spent a lot of time trying to think of a pseudonym (believing Lisa de Nikolits was too complicated a name) and Elizabeth Deane was my favorite. But then somehow, I just stuck with Lisa de Nikolits which has proved problematic!
De Nikolits is a Hungarian name and I love it. It’s very easy to pronounce really – dee nick oh lits – but invariably it gets pretty tangled.
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write. If there’s one thing I wish, it was that we’d had creative writing programs in South Africa. I studied English Literature and I tried to find writing workshops and whenever I did, the comments were positive but I know my writing journey would been easier if I’d attended any of the writing programs on offer today. So that’s a big tip to any aspiring writers out there – try to learn the craft as soon as you can. The Rage Room is the first speculative novel I’ve written and it was a huge adventure. I never thought I’d write a futuristic thriller but I welcome all writing ideas.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
To be honest, there’s very little that isn’t quirky! Not by choice, let me quickly add. Being gold-spangled, sequin-loving, rule breaking, anti-establishment punk rock gothic-inclined sheep in a conservative world hasn’t made things easy! I look to be conservative at a glance but I eat weird food (pancakes covered with salsa sauce and crumbled potato chips with peanut butter on the side), I have no sense of direction (when I came to Canada, I thought Toronto was on the west coast and that New York was an hour’s bus ride away!) and I used my oven to store my manuscripts until my now-husband mentioned that might not be the safest idea!
My novel, The Nearly Girl, is about a girl with a social disorder – she nearly gets things right but she gets them very wrong and I’m a lot like the protagonist Amelia but unlike her, my life isn’t nearly as exciting! My own predilections to get dates wrong and be hopelessly confused about so many tiny things that other people find really normal and easy (like using a microwave or following a recipe) has had advantages because I get a lot of wonderful ideas for my books because my brain sees things a little differently!
One quirky thing about The Rage Room was the enormous fun I had making up the names for all the marketing programs and technology. I went to a convent and thinking about the nuns’ names inspired me to name all cities and countries after saints names.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
Wow. Where to even start! My entire life has been one blessed adventure after another. As an art director, I worked for Vogue magazine which was amazing. I’ve chosen a lot of my adventures like going to the Great Wall of China (and nearly dying of fright taking the one-bar antiquated chair lift across a gorge the size of the Grand Canyon, I kid you not) and indulging my love of abandoned places (which led to the writing of Between The Cracks She Fell). The most interesting writing thing that’s happened to me lately was having The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution longlisted for The Sunburst Award, For Excellence in Canadian Literature of The Fantastic. It was a wonderful and most unexpected surprise. Writing The Rage Room was an extremely interesting experience and a massive challenge. I’d never have picked speculative fiction off the bat but the book came to me and I fully embraced the entire experience.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Impatient people in lineup! I always have my wallet out at the ready and I’m as speedy as I can be but there are always those annoyed-looking people edging forward and frowning as if I’m making them wait for hours! Breathe people, relax! A few minutes isn’t going to change the world. I’m generally friendly by nature and in South Africa, if one was walking down the street, we’d greet one another. But that seems to be a remarkably uniquely South African thing because I’ve been met with odd looks in both Australia and Canada. But I never stop smiling and saying hi to people but it does kind of peeve me when they look at me as if I’ve escaped an asylum!
Where were you born/grew up at?
I grew up in South Africa, in Johannesburg to be exact. I left there when I was 34 and moved to Sydney, Australia. I lived there for two years and decided Australia wasn’t for me and I came to Canada on a whim on a round-the-world ticket and I never made it to the second stop.
My family and I lived in the countryside in South Africa in an area called Honeydew and later we moved further into the interior to Harveston on seven acres of land. My sister and I had a very wonderful upbringing with ponies and a couple of sheep and lots of dogs and cats. It wasn’t luxurious but very down to earth life and I remember begging my sister to feed my horse in the morning as I hated getting out of bed and mixing horse food in the dark! We lived about an hour out of town and my Mom drove us to work and we always had the radio blasting. It was the 70’s and 80’s and we all loved the same music. That was around the time music videos started and we loved watching them together and singing and dancing. But my sister could be mean, she told me I was a very bad dancer and unfortunately she was right!
I really miss the smell of the African dust and the African sky. There’s nothing quite like it. The sky feels so close. I recall remarking (when I came to Canada) that the sky was so far away (an odd thing I know but true!). African sunsets are just amazing and I really hope I can go back one day. I never intended to leave South Africa but I’m a magazine designer by trade and my sister told me there were so many magazines in Australia and she was right. I went to work at Vogue and then I came to Canada and since my family are in Australia, my husband and I visit there and I haven’t been back to South Africa since 2008 (which inspired me to wrote The Witchdoctor’s Bones).
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
I’d be utterly superficial! I’d wake up and eat carrot cake and maple walnut ice cream and whipped cream for breakfast with my whole family then we’d all go shopping at Tiffany’s! My husband and I would probably be in Australia (so my whole family could be together) and then we’d go to Balmoral Beach and swim in the sea under a clear blue sky. I’d phone my Canadian publisher and thank her for all my books. I’d have a long chat with my niece and nephew and tell them to live happy lives and never take drugs (my biggest fear for them). I’d thank my husband for being such wonderful patient guy and then he and I would get into an orange VW camper van and drive off into the Outback sunset.
Who is your hero and why?
Parents are my heroes. I think that being a parent is the hardest job in the world. It’s a twenty-four seven gig. I’ve never had kids (it was never on the cards) but I love children very much. And particularly during this time of Covid-19, I take my hat off to all the parents. And the nurses and front line workers. The real heroes in this world aren’t the big screen Oprah’s of this world but the people who do shift work and keep our world running, doing two jobs to support their families or look after ill family members and sacrifice so much for their loved ones.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
I wouldn’t be like Minnie, that for sure! In The Rage Room, our 2055 world is a very different place and it’s ruled by Minnie, a powerful dictator. Minnie has banned all forms of social media and she controls what people see and eat and where and how they live. She destroyed all natural vegetation and food is made in labs (even meat, a process which is currently under development). The world is controlled by a lattice of satellites in outer space and Minnie gathers all the data about each individual (every communication and action) and keeps everyone tightly monitored.
I’d be the opposite of Minnie and I’d try to respect nature and the environment as much as possible. In The Rage Room there are no bricks or mortar, the entire world is made of plastic. I’d be the opposite of that and try to restrict our use of plastic.
I’d also try to halt all the space litter we’re creating and I’d only encourage lab food for countries with starving children.
I’d try to give every person the chance to make their dreams come true – it’s a big goal I know but every person has their own unique special talents and I’d try to give them an opportunity to shine. Imagine a world in which we all did what we loved and were recognized for it. It would be such a wonderful, positive experience for everyone. And I’d definitely crush the drug trade.
de Nikolits is the internationally award-winning author of ten novels
(all Inanna Publications). No Fury Like That was published in Italian
in 2019 by Edizione Le Assassine as Una furia dell’altro mondo. Her
short fiction and poetry have also been published in various
anthologies and journals internationally. She is a member of the
Mesdames of Mayhem, the Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime,
The Australian Crime Writers, The Short Fiction Mystery Association
and the International Thriller Writers. Originally from South Africa,
Lisa de Nikolits came to Canada in 2000. She lives and writes in