A Clockwork Orange and RuPaul's Drag Race meet Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in this fabulous dystopian fable about fashion, family and feckless billionaires.
Simone is one of the Glitterati, the elite living lives of luxury and leisure. Slave to the ever-changing tides – and brutal judgements - of fashion, he is immaculate. To be anything else is to be unfashionable, and no one wants to be unfashionable, or even worse, ugly…
When Simone accidentally starts a new fashion with a nosebleed at a party, another Glitterati takes the credit. Soon their rivalry threatens to raze their opulent utopia to the ground, as no one knows how to be vicious like the beautiful ones.
Enter a world of the most fantastic costumes, grand palaces in the sky, the grandest parties known to mankind and the unbreakable rules of how to eat ice cream. A fabulous dystopian fable about fashion, family and the feckless billionaire class.
Release date: May 17, 2022
Publisher: Titan Books
Print pages: 288
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Oliver K. Langmead
Wednesday. Or was it Tuesday?
“What is it, dear Simone?”
“Is it Wednesday, or Tuesday?”
“It’s Tuesday today.”
“Did we not have a Tuesday yesterday?”
Georgie paused, to consider. Then, she said, “No, dearest. We had a Monday yesterday. I recall it being Monday quite clearly, in fact, because Gabriel was wearing a beaded Savinchay dress, and as you well know, it would be outrageous to wear beads on any other day of the week.”
That settled it, then.
Simone unpeeled his face from the pink leather chaise-longue. Last night had been a rainbow of cocktails, resulting in the headache now threatening to impinge on his usually immaculate poise. He went across to the gold-plated Manchodroi dresser, which he only ever used on Tuesdays, and was astonished to find that his usual dose of painkillers was gone.
“Georgie!” he cried.
“What is it, Simone?”
“My medicine is missing!”
“Have you checked the Manchodroi dresser?”
“I have opened the very drawer in which my Tuesday dose is stored, and that drawer is quite empty. Might you have accidentally taken them?”
“And you’re absolutely sure today is Tuesday?”
“I’m positive, dearest Simone. I was just reminiscing about Galvin’s outfit at the gala last night – he wore that beaded Crostay gown of his, and it quite took my breath away. I am absolutely, one hundred per cent certain today is Tuesday. Could it be you’ve misplaced your medication?”
“Well,” said Simone, uncertainly. “It could be. I remember very little of last night.”
“Use the supply we set aside in the upper left cupboard of the wardrobe in the guest bedroom. And do get ready. You have work in two hours, and it would be simply awful were you to arrive too late.”
This was true. It being a Tuesday, it would be the talk of the office were Simone to arrive at work anything more than twenty minutes late. Simone quickly rushed through to the guest bedroom and rooted around in the wardrobe, locating the spare painkillers. He went into the guest bathroom and spread the white powder across the shining surface beside the mirrored sink, which was inlaid with diamonds, and then proceeded to snort it all up in one go. The drugs fizzed in his brain, and his headache began to recede.
“Superb,” he said to his ruffled reflection. “Most delightful.”
Tuesday, then, which meant wearing white to work. Simone returned to his own bedroom and searched through his walk-in wardrobes for his white suits: the first, a close-fitting number from Messr Messr; the second, a looser but tastefully trimmed alternative from Karrat; and lastly, his brand-new white suit, made with a freshly invented meta-material infused with light-emitting micro-LEDs from Karpa Fishh, which was at the very forefront of fashion technology. Still not feeling quite himself, Simone settled on the understated Messr Messr suit, and laid it out while he got to work on his face.
Tuesday was a pale day, so he decided to use his collection of Flaystay cosmetics, which were designed to really bring out one’s bone structure. He began with a three-point washing formula followed by some moisturiser, and cleared it away with some body-temperature water. Then, he moved on to his foundation, applied with his silky-soft Karrat brush set, and finished up with a layer of ivory-white powder. The powdering done, he blended some of his grey blushers together and began to highlight the shape of his skull, applying liberal shadows to the space beneath his cheekbones. Then, once his face was perfectly skull-like, he began to draw out his eyes with his eyeliners and eye shadows, until they were quite the centrepiece of his face. Running his fingers along his collection of Dramaskil false eyelashes, he selected a white pair speckled with a dusting of black powder, and proceeded to affix them to his eyelids. These, he finished off with a little mascara, just to really bring them out. Finally, he settled on a light grey lipstick, applying it carefully to avoid staining his vividly white teeth.
Pouting to make certain all was in place, Simone sealed his face with some Grantis Granto makeup fixer – spraying it liberally to make certain nothing would slide off during his busy day ahead.
Face affixed, Simone pulled on his Messr Messr suit and tightened his tie.
Two forty-five already? Simone hastened through his home and air-kissed his wife. She was still wearing her pyjamas and sat at her own dresser, gently rubbing moisturiser into her skin; Tuesday was her day off, and she would be spending the majority of it maintaining her complexion. Admiring himself in the hallway mirror, which was framed with bulbs bright enough to reveal every single possible flaw in the beholder, Simone felt satisfied. He left for work.
* * *
Unfortunately, Simone’s route to work took him above the streets of the city suburbs, where the poor unfashionables lived.
The windows of the pristine vibro-rail carriage revealed the depths below, where the houses were made for practicality instead of design. They looked, to Simone, like terrible parodies of the packaging some of his least fabulous items of clothing came in.
The uglies. The unwashed, unmanicured masses. The unfashionables.
It pained him to see them down there, milling around without the first idea of how dreadful they appeared. Their untrained aesthetic senses were so underdeveloped they could barely comprehend their own hideousness. To think that they did actual labour! To think they used things like shovels and wrenches and drills! Simone shuddered, but found himself unable to look away. The horror of it drew him in completely.
It was unfathomable that people existed like that.
The vibro-rail carriage slipped through a tunnel, and suddenly he was there, at the heart of the horror, where beyond the unornamented fences the unfashionables lumbered around. If only Simone’s tear ducts hadn’t been removed – why, he would have wept for them. Feeling his gut squirm around inside him, he watched them go by, bumping into each other, smiling their unpainted smiles, staring open-mouthed and lustily at the vibro-rail train as it swept past: at its contents – the beautiful glitterati.
To think that they were the same species. It boggled the mind.
Simone secretly hoped the unfashionables would all catch a disease and die. Of course, it wasn’t fashionable to think such thoughts. The fashion was that the uglies were to be pitied, and charity in the form of discarded past-season wardrobes was a sign of good character. But Simone only said he sent his old wardrobes down to the unfashionables. In reality, he burned his clothes when he was done with them. The mere thought of his discarded clothes touching the skin of any of those aesthetically impaired creatures made him feel ill.
So caught up in horror was he that Simone barely noticed the vibro-rail gliding to a halt. As he stood, he realised he had been alone in his carriage, and was the only one leaving the train.
The vast and crystalline Tremptor Tower rose ahead, and Simone felt his heart lift. It was like working in heaven – those fluted glass cylinders, which made the whole building look like an enormous celestial organ, always made him smile. He was careful with his smile, of course. It simply wouldn’t do to affect his face before making his entrance.
He checked his watch. Precisely twenty minutes late. Perfect.
There was a queue at the front entrance, and the instant Simone set his eyes upon it he felt his heart stop. Every single man and woman in the queue was wearing purple.
What could it mean? Had he missed an issue of one of the one hundred and sixteen different fashion magazines he was subscribed to? Holding a hand delicately to his chest, Simone felt as if he should flee. But it was too late. He was already caught up in the queue. And those behind him…
Simone risked a glance backwards. Open mouths and wide eyes. Horror.
Maybe it was a joke. Maybe everyone in Tremptor Tower was in on it. Maybe he would make his entrance and everyone would applaud and laugh, and he would laugh with them, and they would all drink champagne and reminisce for years to come about how delightful the jest had been.
The queue moved forwards. Then, it was Simone’s turn.
Throwing his shoulders back, Simone sashayed inside.
Absolute silence. The hands poised mid-clap to receive him were completely still. The long red runway felt endless, but still he sashayed on – eyes on the horizon, lips pursed. Not a single camera flashed. But there, at last, his salvation: the steps leading off the entrance runway and over to the lifts. He would have run the last few metres, but not a single drop of sweat had been shed in Tremptor Tower since its construction, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first to desecrate the hallowed ground.
Inside the lift, Simone pressed the button for the fifty-sixth floor with one shaking finger. Everyone around him was wearing purple. They kept glancing at him, but he kept his eyes down, studying the elevator’s intricately designed carpet.
What could have happened? What had gone wrong? Unless… Simone’s eyes grew wide.
What if it wasn’t Tuesday after all? What if it was actually Wednesday?
The implications were unbearable. Was he to spend the entire day unfashionable? Wearing all white when it was a complete faux pas to be in white on a Wednesday? But what could he do? Possibly, he could phone his wife and get her to bring a spare outfit. But then – what about his face? The Grantis Granto makeup fixer would be solid for at least the next eight hours.
Eventually, the elevator arrived at the fifty-sixth floor.
Simone power-walked the final few steps into his office and shut the door behind himself. Using the glass misters, he crystallised the walls so that they were opaque, and sat down behind his three-tier desk. He would simply have to hide in his office all day. If anybody came knocking, he would claim to be in a meeting. It was the done thing, after all. An actual meeting had not occurred in Tremptor Tower since its creation, but to use being in a meeting as an excuse to not meet people was polite.
He would have to get creative in order to bide his time. Nobody in Tremptor Tower actually did any work, after all. It would have been a dreadful waste of the mind. Work was for the unfashionables, who could afford the brainpower.
Simone took a deep breath. It would be all right. He would simply read magazines all day. Selecting the latest Gentlemen’s Art from his desk, he flicked between the pages and eventually began to relax. It would be fine. Only a few people had seen him, after all. He would laugh it off tomorrow. They would all laugh it off, and drink champagne, and it would be a funny anecdote.
It was good to catch up on the newest fashions, anyway. They tended to move quite quickly, and magazines were the most efficient means of keeping track.
There came a knock at the door. “Simone?” It was Darlington.
“I’m in a meeting!” he cried, hiding behind his magazine.
“But, Simone, you simply must come out. It’s Trevor Tremptor! He’s come to see us.”
How dreadful! Simone had still been operating under the assumption that it was Tuesday, when it was in fact Wednesday, and on Wednesdays Trevor Tremptor, fashion icon and head of the Tremptor Company, liked to mingle with those on the fifty-sixth floor of his tower. Simone was mortified. This could mean embarrassment before the whole company. Worse – this could mean demotion.
Trembling, Simone stepped out into the corridor and stood before his door.
Everyone else was lined up, all dressed in purple. As soon as they set eyes on him, there were gasps. White? On a Wednesday? It was outrageous.
There was Trevor Tremptor now, air-kissing each of his employees in turn, and offering little compliments. Everyone blushed the correct amount, and blinked in deference. Trevor himself was so incredible to look upon that it hurt Simone’s eyes. Had ever a more fashionable being existed? Simone wanted to disappear into the carpet.
At last, Trevor Tremptor arrived before Simone. There was a long silence. Everyone was holding their breath.
“Simone…” said Trevor carefully, but Simone couldn’t meet his gaze. He kept his head down, so ashamed of what he was wearing. “Simone…” said Trevor again, and Simone closed his eyes, waiting for the guillotine to drop. “That… is… fabulous.”
* * *
Simone was invited to luncheon up on the ninety-ninth floor of Tremptor Tower, where the company’s most highly regarded fashionistas worked.
The offices he passed were bursting with poised statues and intricate pieces of useless electronic equipment, and even the stacks of blank paper were of top quality – a creamy white watermarked with this month’s Tremptor logo. Simone kept his chin high, doing his best to pretend he was not in awe of the people he passed.
The luncheon was set up on tiered silver trays with leafy greenery dripping from the edges, making them seem like waterfalls of food. The tiny sandwiches balanced upon the trays were identical triangles, and each slice of cucumber glinted with precisely the correct amount of moisture, so as to suggest a crispness of texture without compromising on juiciness. The slices down on the fifty-sixth floor never looked quite so artfully arranged. Beneath the trays were small white porcelain plates, also marked with this month’s Tremptor logo, and beside them was an array of silver forks so well polished that Simone could see himself reflected in them. For a brief moment, Simone was horrified by his reflection – his pale face looked so bloated – before realising it was the shape of the fork distorting the image.
Of course, nobody was eating anything; there were too many perils involved. Simone imagined finding a crumb on his suit, or a smear of butter on his cheek, or, worst of all, a piece of lettuce stuck between his teeth, and shuddered.
“White on a Wednesday?” said a voice. “It’s simply incredible! Unheard of. It’s so subversive. The irony of it, and the precision of it.”
A woman in purple was posing beside a portrait of Trevor Tremptor. It was a well-chosen spot because she was being complemented by the sunlight currently cascading across the portrait (which was lending Trevor a celestial mystique).
“Thank you, darling,” said Simone, as was customary, and he shared an air-kiss with the woman. He caught a little of her scent during the kiss, and it lit up the corners of his mind.
“You smell like a garden on fire,” he said.
“Very perceptive,” she said, with a wink that rained purple glitter down her cheek from her dusted lashes. “It’s an exclusive Karpa Fishh blend. He cultivated a floral greenhouse over a period of twenty years, then burned it all in one go and bottled the scent. Beauty and destruction. Only a hundred bottles exist.”
“You must be Simone,” she said, running her purple talons across the collar of her dress. The dress shimmered with the movement, the sequins acting like the scales of a fish, and Simone found himself staring at the colours, absorbed in their aesthetic finery. “The office is simply abuzz about you. I,” she said, gently running those same talons across the back of Simone’s hand, “am Justine.”
“It is splendid to meet you,” said Simone. He was suddenly very aware of the place he was standing – an awkward, unaesthetic place somewhere between the table and the portrait, with one of his shoes in the gush of daylight that illuminated Justine so ethereally. Glancing around, he attempted to quickly locate a better place in which to pose.
The room was full of fashionistas, all of whom seemed to have found perfect places. There was a man holding a plate of uneaten sandwiches, staring wistfully out of the broad windows, his face positioned to cast intricate shadows across his jaw from his extraordinarily sharp cheekbones, and there was a woman perched at the edge of a stool beside the door, her face arranged to make it seem as if she were amused by a private joke, and there was another man at the head of the table, where the overhead lights converged, with the back of his palm against his forehead, as if in an agony of indecision about where to eat his luncheon, and all of them were so brilliantly posed that Simone felt the panic rising inside him. If he did not find somewhere to stand, he would embarrass himself when Trevor Tremptor arrived.
As if sensing his panic, Justine gracefully stepped aside. “Here,” she whispered, her purple lips close to his ear. “You take the light. It will complement your paleness.”
With tremendous relief, Simone stepped into the daylight beside the portrait, feeling its warmth wash over him. Justine was right; the sun made his suit and his skin glow, and Simone instantly felt radiant, as if the light was coming from somewhere inside him. He quickly relaxed into a casual pose, arching his brows and pouting to make himself look thoughtful.
Without hesitation, Justine swept across to one of the potted plants nearby, which was tall and currently flowering pink. The flowers served to complement the purples of her dress, and she arranged herself to make it appear as if she were deeply absorbed in the scent of the plant, but Simone knew she had given up a superior place for him.
Trevor arrived in another gust of aesthetic superiority that made Simone feel unworthy, as if his very bones were arranged in unpleasing, ugly shapes. Trevor went from fashionista to fashionista, this time shaking hands and even smiling a little – an extraordinary expression that did nothing to crack his cosmetics, which said a lot for his skill. Simone only ever allowed himself at most three smiles a day; any more might compromise the integrity of his face. Eventually, Trevor made his way over to Simone and shook his hand, enveloping it in a grip so soft yet firm that Simone felt as if Trevor’s hand might be that of God himself. Then, in a rush of empty words that Simone barely registered, Trevor was gone. Everybody in the room seemed to relax.
“There,” said Justine, gliding across. “I think you pleased him.”
“Do you think?” Simone straightened his collar. Of course, his collar was already straight, but the gesture was considered a polite way of expressing nervousness without risking such dreadful things as wrinkling one’s brow.
“Yes,” she said. “I think you are extraordinary, Simone. Tell me – if I were to invite you to a little soirée this evening, would you say yes? I simply must show you off to my friends. There may even be a few magazines present – searching, as they do, for the latest in fashion news. I dare say your outfit may make some headlines.”
An invite to a party from one of the company’s most prolific fashionistas? “Of course!” he cried, perhaps a little too loud. Recovering himself, he tried again. “Of course, Justine. I would be delighted to attend. May I bring my wife?”
Justine parted her lips in a smile that did not reach her eyes, which was probably wise because it might have affected the eyeshadow darkening them like purple bruises. From between her painted lips, pearly teeth emerged. “Of course. I would be honoured to meet the spouse of such an innovative fashion icon,” she said.
* * *
The interior of the stretch limousine yawned out before Simone. He had tried to put as much distance between himself and its unfashionable driver as possible, but there was no escaping the fact it was still there, sat beyond the darkened partition. It was a wonder that the limousine, its every curve harmonious, its very length ostentatious, did not just open its driver-side door and vomit out its hideous chauffeur like a half-eaten meal. ...
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