A Friesian-cow design covers a desk-chair in front of a messy desk, amongst whose fertile clutter I spot a pink mp3-player hooked up to a pair of good speakers flanking a framed photo of that Adewale guy as Adebisi in Oz, with the mark of a lipsticked kiss on its glass. (How just adorable.) Alaia stands in the middle of the space, I sit on the cow chair facing the middle of the room and Evelyn reclines on the bed.
Now that Alaia knows about my imagination-cloning deal, from Evelyn’s private explanation to her earlier, she disapproves of it on aesthetic grounds and she lets me know it. “Jaymi: the point of Sound & Vision was to enrich the world and remind people of what’s fine and most valuable in themselves, and here you are making a tacky corporate cartoon.”
“Well,” I squirm, “not everything that we put out, as a species, is going to be high art, you know.”
“No, but you know damn well that this corporate cartoon thing’s going to be designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, like some toxic daily newspaper or some horrible piece of shit on TV. Whatever the details of it, its flavour’s going to be exactly like a tabloid, obviously—in other words, idiocy and ugliness. It’ll appeal to the most mediocre impulses in every one of the tens of millions who see it; and by engaging with those impulses, it’ll strengthen and perpetuate them, without question. You know it will. That’s real damage, right there—real damage that Jason’s client company is doing, and I know you can see that. Whenever a powerful company pulls that same old weary poisonous shit, it’s unforgivable, every single time it happens. Are you disgusted? I am! It lets every last one of us down, as a species.” She folds her arms and glares at me.
None of that surprised me at all, but I can tell Evelyn wasn’t expecting it. “Alaia … this sheep thing’ll be pretty dumb, sure,” she says. “But where’s the harm in it?”
Alaia smiles at her, with affection but a hint of sadness somewhere, deciding what to reply. At last she says: “Look, I just find the debased things in our cultural output hideously ugly. I believe they’ve cheapened and saddened and slowed down the achievement and potential of the human race as a whole. And there’s a small but significant part of me that’s remained in a state of permanent, low-level shock, throughout my life, that at least a large minority of people don’t see and feel the same.”
Now it’s Evelyn’s turn to decide what to reply. “I understand,” she says. “But it’s just a stupid cartoon. And if it wasn’t going to be this stupid cartoon, then it would be some other stupid cartoon instead. That’s just how things are, so what’s the big deal?”
“You’re right, that’s how things are—and that’s the problem. For me that’s a very big deal, because I’d like us to evolve from that … and Evelyn, we could evolve.”
I get up from my Friesian chair. “We’re steeped in sin,” I murmur to Alaia as I pass her in the bedroom doorway.
She narrows her eyes and compresses her lips without speaking, and gives me the look.
“By the way,” I tell her, “last night when all of us were across the street from Lucan’s crew, you and Evelyn were busy with idle chit-chat but I was doing something useful: I was hypnotising Angel, in silence, into believing he’s known and loved you and me for half his life.” The look dissolves, in mid-smoulder. “Oh yes. No messing around, I took him right back to that cabaret bar where he first heard you singing through my eyes, as it were—you remember it—where he first became sucked into our magic, knowing it would go down in history. We have a real devoted fan there now.”
“Jaymi, that’s outrageous. You can’t go round doing that to people, it’s not fair!” she says, then joins me in cracking up with laughter again.
“But don’t you just think he’ll make such an adorable fan?” I ask. “Hmm. Anyone else you’d like to see as a fan?”
“Don’t!” she says. “Just don’t.”
For more about "The Imagination Thief" by Rohan Quine, see
For some great reviews of it, see
And to pick it up from whichever retailer you may prefer, the retailers’ links for the paperback are at
and for the ebook at