From our guest blogger Juliette
Well, I concede defeat. In the space of a mere 75 pages, my hatred for the mind-blowingly cold, humourless, conceited and unlikeable Dagny Taggart has grown to truly alarming levels. In fact, it's actually come to exceed the contempt I have for for Polly Toynbee. And if you're a regular reader, you'll know that's really, really saying something.
In fact, the only way I'm ever going to get any pleasure out of this book is if she meets an untimely end at the hands of a particularly twisted serial killer.
As this seems somewhat unlikely - after all, she's supposed to be the god damn heroine - I've put the book aside in disgust. Well, at least it might come in handy for squashing spiders.
However, a girl can dream. So here's a brief outline of how I'd like the book to go from this point onwards...
THE SILENCE OF THE RANDS
'Who is John Galt?'
The words took Clarice Starling by surprise as she stepped into Crawford's office. The distinguished looking grey haired man was sitting behind his desk, apparently deep in thought, and had spoken almost offhandedly. She struggled to retain her composure and think on her feet. His good opinion meant a lot to her. Perhaps more than it should. And of course, she already knew the answer to his question. As did every trainee at the FBI.
'John Galt - it's the name we're giving to the new serial killer, sir. The one who's killed eight people in the last six months. Four men, four women. He cuts off their skin - that's his trademark. And we're still no closer to finding him.'
Crawford smiled slightly, as if impressed by her speed and alertness of mind.
'And what do the victims have in common?'
'They're all obnoxious, sir.' Clarice spoke with more confidence now, sure of her subject. 'He's targeting arrogant humourless rich assholes who think they're God because they've made a few quid ripping off gullible idiots. Already, he's claimed the lives of Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan, Mark Thatcher and Jeffrey Archer. And although we haven't found a body, Craig David was reported missing last week.'
'Very good,' Crawford said warmly. Something darkened in his eyes as he spoke again. 'Clarice - I have an assignment for you. I must warn you, it's dangerous and it's difficult. But it could help us catch this man. Have you heard of Hannibal Lecter?'
Something cold ran up the back of Clarice's neck.
'Hannibal the cannibal,' she said quietly.
Crawford nodded slightly.
'He's a psychopath. but he's a brilliant mind. And with our investigation having reached a dead end, this man is our only hope. Go to him, Clarice. For my sake. Ask him about John Galt.'
In The Sunnyvale Home for Homicidal Maniacs, a long echoing corridor extended before Clarice. An expressionless turnkey opened a heavily barred door to let her through.
'Don't get too close to any of the cells,' he warned her tersely. 'Stay in the middle.'
She nodded numbly. Then she began walking down the corridor, tiny and alone. Insane, twisted faces appeared at the bars on either side of her, as she passed the psychopaths' cells. Snatches of sentences drifted to reach her, hissed and gibbered from the lunatics' twisted mouths.
'Actually, I'm going to vote for Gordon Brown at the next election -'
'I think Katie Price came across really well in that ITV interview -'
'Well I think Noirin was really sweet, it's not her fault those weirdos all fancied her on Big Brother -'
A chill ran up her back, and she quickened her pace. The words implied a depth of insanity that made the ground open up before her feet. She desperately wanted to turn back, but forced herself to walk on, approaching the cell at the end. A man was standing in the middle of the cell with his back to her. He made no move of recognition, and she could not tell whether he had heard her footsteps approaching. She forced herself to speak confidently, and not to let her voice falter.
He turned slowly at the sound of her voice. His eyes were dark red and oddly reptilian.
'Who is John Galt?'
Clarice took a step back, unable to help herself.
'How did you know I was going to ask you that?'
'Crawford sent you, didn't he? Because you're still no closer to catching Mr John Galt. I gather that Craig David may be his newest victim. What a bad boy he is.'
'Doctor Lecter - help me,' Clarice burst out impulsively. 'Even as we speak, another rich obnoxious entitled asshole may be facing certain death. You understand John Galt, don't you? Who is he? Who is he, and why is he doing this?'
'First, tell me something in exchange, Clarice. Quid pro quo.'
She stared at him. The dark red eyes stared back at her. A moment of pure electricity passed between them. She felt herself blushing slightly. For a murderous cannibal nutjob, he was kind of cute.
'What - what do you want to know?'
His voice was soft, implacable. 'What did you dream of last night, Clarice?'
'It - it was - it was a bad dream I sometimes have. A memory from childhood.'
Silence pressed in around them for long seconds. Finally, she spoke again, as if hypnotised or drugged.
'When I was young, we lived on a farm. There was a family who lived next door to us. They were called the Rands. God, they were weirdos. Fanatically right wing Russian fruit-loop neocons, with the most fucked up ideas about life, sex and the universe you ever imagined. They were all butt ugly, and wore more gold jewellery than Mr T, and looked like they'd just stepped off a Nazi propaganda poster. Someone ought to have banned them under the Race Relations act.'
In her mind, Clarice was remembering those strange, hauntingly ugly faces. A family that could have turned Julie Burchill into a raving anti-semite within minutes of meeting them. Cold sweat had broken out on her forehead. Suddenly she was no longer in the Sunnyvale Home for Homicidal Maniacs. She was ten years old and walking alone across dark fields. Hearing the deafening, discordant sound of the unthinkable.
'One night, I was coming home from the barn when I heard voices coming from the Rands' house. They were screaming that their daughter Ayn had just got a fuck off six figure book deal despite being incapable of writing a realistic or sympathetic character if her life depended on it. It was the most terrible sound I ever heard in my life. And that's what I hear at night, Doctor Lecter. I hear thse Rands, screaming, near the barn...'
'Who is John Galt? It's the name police are giving to the serial killer who has been terrorising obnoxious rich assholes across America...'
Dagny Taggart sighed impatiently, turned off the news and put on a CD. She did so with the rare speed and deftness which characterised everything she did. Ever since she had been a small child, Dagny Taggart had had a rare ability to put on CDs. While other children fumbled and dropped the silvery discs, she had always been able to manipulate them with an effortless fluid dexterity that was almost godlike. Really, it was amazing how much better she was than everyone else. The song came on immediately.
'She's an American girl...'
She sang along to the music as she drove on through the night. Dagny Taggart had a rare ability to sing harmoniously, and had done ever since she was a small child. It was little wonder she had so effortlessly ascended the ranks at her father's company, in a series of promotions that had absolutely nothing to do with nepotism and she'd sack anyone who said any different. Dagny Taggart had a rare ability to sack anyone who said any different, and had done ever since she was a small child.
Parking outside her apartment block, she got out of her car. There was nobody in sight except a man on crutches, laboriously attempting to get a cumbersome piece of furniture into the back of a van. Dagny stepped towards him. She owed it to the small irrelevant people around her, to assist them in endeavours that came so hard to them and so effortlessly to her. Dagny Taggart had a rare ability to get cumbersome pieces of furniture into the back of a van, and had done ever since she was a small child.
'Do you need any help, lesser mortal?'
'Thank you. That would be very kind.'
His voice was mumbling and strange. She barely noticed, intent as she was on getting the cumbersome bit of furniture into the back of the van, with the single minded determination which characterised everything she did. As she climbed into the back of the van to pull it in, she noticed the stranger stepping towards her. Dagny Taggart had a rare ability to notice strangers stepping towards her, and had done ever since she was a small child.
'Are you an obnoxious rich asshole?'
She stared at him in confusion, the words only beginning to sink into her mind. Then, as the chloroform soaked pad pressed down over her face, the truth hit her with the power and speed of a sledgehammer.
Oh my God, Dagny Taggart thought starkly. It's John Galt.
Then there was nothing but a featureless field of grey.
(To be continued. Maybe. If anyone gives a fuck. Let's face it, if you've never read Atlas Shrugged AND Silence of the Lambs, this parody will mean cock all to you. So I'm basically speaking to about three people. Hope you're all having a good weekend anyway...)
This was really funny when I read it last night, which is why I have to post it.