Jur-E

Jur-E

Jur-E

Jur-E

Grounded SF from
The Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 2

Grounded SF from
The Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 2

AUTHOR

Joost Devriesere

PITCH

In a glass cage, an anonymous celebrity with a considerable online following awaits the judge’s verdict. A global audience, consisting of millions, votes guilty or not guilty through an app similar to Facebook. Peering at a screen settled just outside his cage, the celebrity tracks the vote’s developments. The verdict is decided by majority rule. Will his popularity be enough to win over the people? And what crime has he committed?

Grounded SF

Grounded SF

Translated by: Paul Evans

The prison guard studies me from behind the glass. He looks pale and sad. Not like he’s seen a ghost, but like he’s locked in a room filled with the spirits of all the loved ones that have been taken from him over the years. I notice his upper lip is quivering and I ask him if there’s anything the matter.

The prison guard studies me from behind the glass. He looks pale and sad. Not like he’s seen a ghost, but like he’s locked in a room filled with the spirits of all the loved ones that have been taken from him over the years. I notice his upper lip is quivering and I ask him if there’s anything the matter.

The prison guard studies me from behind the glass. He looks pale and sad. Not like he’s seen a ghost, but like he’s locked in a room filled with the spirits of all the loved ones that have been taken from him over the years. I notice his upper lip is quivering and I ask him if there’s anything the matter.

The prison guard studies me from behind the glass. He looks pale and sad. Not like he’s seen a ghost, but like he’s locked in a room filled with the spirits of all the loved ones that have been taken from him over the years. I notice his upper lip is quivering and I ask him if there’s anything the matter.

The prison guard studies me from behind the glass. He looks pale and sad. Not like he’s seen a ghost, but like he’s locked in a room filled with the spirits of all the loved ones that have been taken from him over the years. I notice his upper lip is quivering and I ask him if there’s anything the matter.

Or has he got a problem with me?

And then, softly, because it seems this second question has disconcerted him even more: is there anything that I can do for him.

He hesitates, first casts a furtive, almost embarrassed glance at his female colleague, and then nods in my direction. He takes something black from his back pocket. It’s a notebook. A Moleskine. For passing fancies. Where against their better judgment, losers keep jotting down the dreams they’ve already given up on. A bearer of illusions and delusions. And good ideas too, sometimes, even if my guard doesn’t seem like the sort of man who in what I’d guess are the forty-five years he has behind him has had one brilliant idea, one moment of enlightenment that could give his life a new twist. His whole bearing suggests hate towards a life that feels just like a dead-end job, in which he can’t settle down, and with no chance of promotion. There are stars and there are worms, and he’s a worm.

A lowlife.

The star, that’s me, without a single doubt. And definitely today.

---------------

The jailer edges closer, and despairingly scratches his red goatee, straightens his guard’s uniform, and slips the notebook, together with a black felt-tip, cautiously through the hatch in the glass. In his watery eyes, you can see respect. Not for the suspect in the white overalls but for the entertainer. For the man who coaxes a laugh from him, probably every time that he has to stay home on a dead Saturday night with a kid who bears his name but isn’t his. And while the woman, who according to City Hall is his spouse, does unimaginable things with friends and strangers on rancid sofas in poorly lit locations, often with a camera pointed at her naked body.

If he could have an autograph, for his little daughter, he whispers through the intercom. He looks at me in a way that only a fan can.

A follower.

A serf.

I ask the worm what her name is, the fruit of another man’s loins. Dolores, he says, and by the way he spits out her name, he reveals why he gave her that name and not another. I recognize a man who would rather have remained childless when I see one. A father against his will.

How old is she, I want to know, as I open the leather cover of the notebook and take in the address for honest finders that is written on the first page. Then I leaf through it until I come to a blank page and scribble my name in big strokes on the thick paper.

Six, he answers. I say she might be too young to be exposed to a foulmouthed comic like me.

He lowers his head, caught out as he is, and a blush appears on his ashen skin that gives his face a sickly purple sheen. I grin and slide the notebook through the glass towards him. I say I hope he’ll enjoy it. As he examines his booty, he stammers a thank you.

I ask the other guard if she wants an autograph too. That I’d love to give her one. No trouble. That I’m here now anyway, even if not for long. The woman, who’s twice as wide as her colleague with her black curls pulled back in a bun, snorts her indignation, brusquely shakes her head, no, and gestures to the graphs projected onto the glass. That it’s over and out, she smirks, the woman who, since escorting me from the cell to the Glass Room this morning, hasn’t missed one chance to show how much she despises me. She hisses how people today can get away with so much but not with taking a human life. He was a father of four, she says, the man who’d died by my hand. And by my feet, and my knees, and the telephoto lens of his own camera, and the stake I tugged out of the pavement to smash his fake face in with, I continue in my thoughts.

I put my glasses on and study the numbers on the screen that are streaming in real time. Three million five hundred and eighty-seven E-jurors for conviction, a little under a million against. No further word passes the lips of the jailer, but in her expression I see satisfaction and the certainty that the world will condemn me to a life behind bars.

Her triumphalism is premature. You mustn’t underestimate the advantages of a well-oiled promotional machine that exists only to maintain your image, a battery farm for unceasing, youthful admirers who for a pittance are faithful to you until death. Just after my lawyer had finished his Jur-E video plea this morning – “My client has rid the world of the sort of person that is rotten to the core, the sort of vulture that was responsible twenty-five years ago for the death of Diana, the People’s Princess” – they feverishly began recruiting. As it happens, Team Leader already had a strategy in mind before the police had cuffed me at home, three weeks ago, with the blood of the paparazzostill clinging to my hands. I didn’t need to worry, said Team Leader. I’d be able to resume my normal activities in no time. That the show would go on.

Today, the team members are focused on one objective: my acquittal. They aren’t aiming for the sixty percent of the votes that is required for an acquittal, but higher. Much higher. They wouldn’t be able to placate Team Leader with less than eighty percent of the Jur-E votes, and they could forget about their bonuses. At the moment, they’re drumming up everyone, wherever they are in the world, who finds comfort, pleasure, something to cling to in my venomous jokes and entertaining misanthropy. To illustrate my talent and my value to society, they are pumping into every social media channel the craziest film clips, cabaret performances, stand-ups, and sound bites from my ten-year career. “Trigger positive memories and you’ll win even the biggest doubter over to your side,” swore Team Leader – the gray man who’d been there for the early days of the Internet – just before they shoved me into the police car and slammed the door behind me. And so, today, for a whole hour, the Internet has been transformed into a best of myself, from a career that hasn’t only given me success and a fortune, but hopefully also enough sympathy to escape my sentence.

The hay manger of potential sympathizers is well filled at least.

Voice Your Opinion: fifteen million followers every day who, according to Team Leader, hang on to my every word, or at least to my copywriters’.

Pixy: eighty-six million plus a few more admirers, to whom I toss a photo every day and grant a glimpse into the private life of the greatest comic on earth.

ScreenTime and some twenty or so other video channels where I feature prominently: in total, forty million addicts.
Everyone that has streamed a hologram of me for an evening with friends or family, or bought one of my books online, or at least one of the books with my name on the cover. Even my jokes are no longer written by me. I’m a mouthpiece, a vehicle for another man’s nonsense. A mouthpiece. A middleman who reads everything off a teleprompter and so earns a fortune.

Or has he got a problem with me?

And then, softly, because it seems this second question has disconcerted him even more: is there anything that I can do for him.

He hesitates, first casts a furtive, almost embarrassed glance at his female colleague, and then nods in my direction. He takes something black from his back pocket. It’s a notebook. A Moleskine. For passing fancies. Where against their better judgment, losers keep jotting down the dreams they’ve already given up on. A bearer of illusions and delusions. And good ideas too, sometimes, even if my guard doesn’t seem like the sort of man who in what I’d guess are the forty-five years he has behind him has had one brilliant idea, one moment of enlightenment that could give his life a new twist. His whole bearing suggests hate towards a life that feels just like a dead-end job, in which he can’t settle down, and with no chance of promotion. There are stars and there are worms, and he’s a worm.

A lowlife.

The star, that’s me, without a single doubt. And definitely today.

---------------

The jailer edges closer, and despairingly scratches his red goatee, straightens his guard’s uniform, and slips the notebook, together with a black felt-tip, cautiously through the hatch in the glass. In his watery eyes, you can see respect. Not for the suspect in the white overalls but for the entertainer. For the man who coaxes a laugh from him, probably every time that he has to stay home on a dead Saturday night with a kid who bears his name but isn’t his. And while the woman, who according to City Hall is his spouse, does unimaginable things with friends and strangers on rancid sofas in poorly lit locations, often with a camera pointed at her naked body.

If he could have an autograph, for his little daughter, he whispers through the intercom. He looks at me in a way that only a fan can.

A follower.

A serf.

I ask the worm what her name is, the fruit of another man’s loins. Dolores, he says, and by the way he spits out her name, he reveals why he gave her that name and not another. I recognize a man who would rather have remained childless when I see one. A father against his will.

How old is she, I want to know, as I open the leather cover of the notebook and take in the address for honest finders that is written on the first page. Then I leaf through it until I come to a blank page and scribble my name in big strokes on the thick paper.

Six, he answers. I say she might be too young to be exposed to a foulmouthed comic like me.

He lowers his head, caught out as he is, and a blush appears on his ashen skin that gives his face a sickly purple sheen. I grin and slide the notebook through the glass towards him. I say I hope he’ll enjoy it. As he examines his booty, he stammers a thank you.

I ask the other guard if she wants an autograph too. That I’d love to give her one. No trouble. That I’m here now anyway, even if not for long. The woman, who’s twice as wide as her colleague with her black curls pulled back in a bun, snorts her indignation, brusquely shakes her head, no, and gestures to the graphs projected onto the glass. That it’s over and out, she smirks, the woman who, since escorting me from the cell to the Glass Room this morning, hasn’t missed one chance to show how much she despises me. She hisses how people today can get away with so much but not with taking a human life. He was a father of four, she says, the man who’d died by my hand. And by my feet, and my knees, and the telephoto lens of his own camera, and the stake I tugged out of the pavement to smash his fake face in with, I continue in my thoughts.

I put my glasses on and study the numbers on the screen that are streaming in real time. Three million five hundred and eighty-seven E-jurors for conviction, a little under a million against. No further word passes the lips of the jailer, but in her expression I see satisfaction and the certainty that the world will condemn me to a life behind bars.

Her triumphalism is premature. You mustn’t underestimate the advantages of a well-oiled promotional machine that exists only to maintain your image, a battery farm for unceasing, youthful admirers who for a pittance are faithful to you until death. Just after my lawyer had finished his Jur-E video plea this morning – “My client has rid the world of the sort of person that is rotten to the core, the sort of vulture that was responsible twenty-five years ago for the death of Diana, the People’s Princess” – they feverishly began recruiting. As it happens, Team Leader already had a strategy in mind before the police had cuffed me at home, three weeks ago, with the blood of the paparazzostill clinging to my hands. I didn’t need to worry, said Team Leader. I’d be able to resume my normal activities in no time. That the show would go on.

Today, the team members are focused on one objective: my acquittal. They aren’t aiming for the sixty percent of the votes that is required for an acquittal, but higher. Much higher. They wouldn’t be able to placate Team Leader with less than eighty percent of the Jur-E votes, and they could forget about their bonuses. At the moment, they’re drumming up everyone, wherever they are in the world, who finds comfort, pleasure, something to cling to in my venomous jokes and entertaining misanthropy. To illustrate my talent and my value to society, they are pumping into every social media channel the craziest film clips, cabaret performances, stand-ups, and sound bites from my ten-year career. “Trigger positive memories and you’ll win even the biggest doubter over to your side,” swore Team Leader – the gray man who’d been there for the early days of the Internet – just before they shoved me into the police car and slammed the door behind me. And so, today, for a whole hour, the Internet has been transformed into a best of myself, from a career that hasn’t only given me success and a fortune, but hopefully also enough sympathy to escape my sentence.

The hay manger of potential sympathizers is well filled at least.

Voice Your Opinion: fifteen million followers every day who, according to Team Leader, hang on to my every word, or at least to my copywriters’.

Pixy: eighty-six million plus a few more admirers, to whom I toss a photo every day and grant a glimpse into the private life of the greatest comic on earth.

ScreenTime and some twenty or so other video channels where I feature prominently: in total, forty million addicts.
Everyone that has streamed a hologram of me for an evening with friends or family, or bought one of my books online, or at least one of the books with my name on the cover. Even my jokes are no longer written by me. I’m a mouthpiece, a vehicle for another man’s nonsense. A mouthpiece. A middleman who reads everything off a teleprompter and so earns a fortune.

Or has he got a problem with me?

And then, softly, because it seems this second question has disconcerted him even more: is there anything that I can do for him.

He hesitates, first casts a furtive, almost embarrassed glance at his female colleague, and then nods in my direction. He takes something black from his back pocket. It’s a notebook. A Moleskine. For passing fancies. Where against their better judgment, losers keep jotting down the dreams they’ve already given up on. A bearer of illusions and delusions. And good ideas too, sometimes, even if my guard doesn’t seem like the sort of man who in what I’d guess are the forty-five years he has behind him has had one brilliant idea, one moment of enlightenment that could give his life a new twist. His whole bearing suggests hate towards a life that feels just like a dead-end job, in which he can’t settle down, and with no chance of promotion. There are stars and there are worms, and he’s a worm.

A lowlife.

The star, that’s me, without a single doubt. And definitely today.

---------------

The jailer edges closer, and despairingly scratches his red goatee, straightens his guard’s uniform, and slips the notebook, together with a black felt-tip, cautiously through the hatch in the glass. In his watery eyes, you can see respect. Not for the suspect in the white overalls but for the entertainer. For the man who coaxes a laugh from him, probably every time that he has to stay home on a dead Saturday night with a kid who bears his name but isn’t his. And while the woman, who according to City Hall is his spouse, does unimaginable things with friends and strangers on rancid sofas in poorly lit locations, often with a camera pointed at her naked body.

If he could have an autograph, for his little daughter, he whispers through the intercom. He looks at me in a way that only a fan can.

A follower.

A serf.

I ask the worm what her name is, the fruit of another man’s loins. Dolores, he says, and by the way he spits out her name, he reveals why he gave her that name and not another. I recognize a man who would rather have remained childless when I see one. A father against his will.

How old is she, I want to know, as I open the leather cover of the notebook and take in the address for honest finders that is written on the first page. Then I leaf through it until I come to a blank page and scribble my name in big strokes on the thick paper.

Six, he answers. I say she might be too young to be exposed to a foulmouthed comic like me.

He lowers his head, caught out as he is, and a blush appears on his ashen skin that gives his face a sickly purple sheen. I grin and slide the notebook through the glass towards him. I say I hope he’ll enjoy it. As he examines his booty, he stammers a thank you.

I ask the other guard if she wants an autograph too. That I’d love to give her one. No trouble. That I’m here now anyway, even if not for long. The woman, who’s twice as wide as her colleague with her black curls pulled back in a bun, snorts her indignation, brusquely shakes her head, no, and gestures to the graphs projected onto the glass. That it’s over and out, she smirks, the woman who, since escorting me from the cell to the Glass Room this morning, hasn’t missed one chance to show how much she despises me. She hisses how people today can get away with so much but not with taking a human life. He was a father of four, she says, the man who’d died by my hand. And by my feet, and my knees, and the telephoto lens of his own camera, and the stake I tugged out of the pavement to smash his fake face in with, I continue in my thoughts.

I put my glasses on and study the numbers on the screen that are streaming in real time. Three million five hundred and eighty-seven E-jurors for conviction, a little under a million against. No further word passes the lips of the jailer, but in her expression I see satisfaction and the certainty that the world will condemn me to a life behind bars.

Her triumphalism is premature. You mustn’t underestimate the advantages of a well-oiled promotional machine that exists only to maintain your image, a battery farm for unceasing, youthful admirers who for a pittance are faithful to you until death. Just after my lawyer had finished his Jur-E video plea this morning – “My client has rid the world of the sort of person that is rotten to the core, the sort of vulture that was responsible twenty-five years ago for the death of Diana, the People’s Princess” – they feverishly began recruiting. As it happens, Team Leader already had a strategy in mind before the police had cuffed me at home, three weeks ago, with the blood of the paparazzostill clinging to my hands. I didn’t need to worry, said Team Leader. I’d be able to resume my normal activities in no time. That the show would go on.

Today, the team members are focused on one objective: my acquittal. They aren’t aiming for the sixty percent of the votes that is required for an acquittal, but higher. Much higher. They wouldn’t be able to placate Team Leader with less than eighty percent of the Jur-E votes, and they could forget about their bonuses. At the moment, they’re drumming up everyone, wherever they are in the world, who finds comfort, pleasure, something to cling to in my venomous jokes and entertaining misanthropy. To illustrate my talent and my value to society, they are pumping into every social media channel the craziest film clips, cabaret performances, stand-ups, and sound bites from my ten-year career. “Trigger positive memories and you’ll win even the biggest doubter over to your side,” swore Team Leader – the gray man who’d been there for the early days of the Internet – just before they shoved me into the police car and slammed the door behind me. And so, today, for a whole hour, the Internet has been transformed into a best of myself, from a career that hasn’t only given me success and a fortune, but hopefully also enough sympathy to escape my sentence.

The hay manger of potential sympathizers is well filled at least.

Voice Your Opinion: fifteen million followers every day who, according to Team Leader, hang on to my every word, or at least to my copywriters’.

Pixy: eighty-six million plus a few more admirers, to whom I toss a photo every day and grant a glimpse into the private life of the greatest comic on earth.

ScreenTime and some twenty or so other video channels where I feature prominently: in total, forty million addicts.

Everyone that has streamed a hologram of me for an evening with friends or family, or bought one of my books online, or at least one of the books with my name on the cover. Even my jokes are no longer written by me. I’m a mouthpiece, a vehicle for another man’s nonsense. A mouthpiece. A middleman who reads everything off a teleprompter and so earns a fortune.

Or has he got a problem with me?

And then, softly, because it seems this second question has disconcerted him even more: is there anything that I can do for him.

He hesitates, first casts a furtive, almost embarrassed glance at his female colleague, and then nods in my direction. He takes something black from his back pocket. It’s a notebook. A Moleskine. For passing fancies. Where against their better judgment, losers keep jotting down the dreams they’ve already given up on. A bearer of illusions and delusions. And good ideas too, sometimes, even if my guard doesn’t seem like the sort of man who in what I’d guess are the forty-five years he has behind him has had one brilliant idea, one moment of enlightenment that could give his life a new twist. His whole bearing suggests hate towards a life that feels just like a dead-end job, in which he can’t settle down, and with no chance of promotion. There are stars and there are worms, and he’s a worm.

A lowlife.

The star, that’s me, without a single doubt. And definitely today.

---------------

The jailer edges closer, and despairingly scratches his red goatee, straightens his guard’s uniform, and slips the notebook, together with a black felt-tip, cautiously through the hatch in the glass. In his watery eyes, you can see respect. Not for the suspect in the white overalls but for the entertainer. For the man who coaxes a laugh from him, probably every time that he has to stay home on a dead Saturday night with a kid who bears his name but isn’t his. And while the woman, who according to City Hall is his spouse, does unimaginable things with friends and strangers on rancid sofas in poorly lit locations, often with a camera pointed at her naked body.

If he could have an autograph, for his little daughter, he whispers through the intercom. He looks at me in a way that only a fan can.

A follower.

A serf.

I ask the worm what her name is, the fruit of another man’s loins. Dolores, he says, and by the way he spits out her name, he reveals why he gave her that name and not another. I recognize a man who would rather have remained childless when I see one. A father against his will.

How old is she, I want to know, as I open the leather cover of the notebook and take in the address for honest finders that is written on the first page. Then I leaf through it until I come to a blank page and scribble my name in big strokes on the thick paper.

Six, he answers. I say she might be too young to be exposed to a foulmouthed comic like me.

He lowers his head, caught out as he is, and a blush appears on his ashen skin that gives his face a sickly purple sheen. I grin and slide the notebook through the glass towards him. I say I hope he’ll enjoy it. As he examines his booty, he stammers a thank you.

I ask the other guard if she wants an autograph too. That I’d love to give her one. No trouble. That I’m here now anyway, even if not for long. The woman, who’s twice as wide as her colleague with her black curls pulled back in a bun, snorts her indignation, brusquely shakes her head, no, and gestures to the graphs projected onto the glass. That it’s over and out, she smirks, the woman who, since escorting me from the cell to the Glass Room this morning, hasn’t missed one chance to show how much she despises me. She hisses how people today can get away with so much but not with taking a human life. He was a father of four, she says, the man who’d died by my hand. And by my feet, and my knees, and the telephoto lens of his own camera, and the stake I tugged out of the pavement to smash his fake face in with, I continue in my thoughts.

I put my glasses on and study the numbers on the screen that are streaming in real time. Three million five hundred and eighty-seven E-jurors for conviction, a little under a million against. No further word passes the lips of the jailer, but in her expression I see satisfaction and the certainty that the world will condemn me to a life behind bars.

Her triumphalism is premature. You mustn’t underestimate the advantages of a well-oiled promotional machine that exists only to maintain your image, a battery farm for unceasing, youthful admirers who for a pittance are faithful to you until death. Just after my lawyer had finished his Jur-E video plea this morning – “My client has rid the world of the sort of person that is rotten to the core, the sort of vulture that was responsible twenty-five years ago for the death of Diana, the People’s Princess” – they feverishly began recruiting. As it happens, Team Leader already had a strategy in mind before the police had cuffed me at home, three weeks ago, with the blood of the paparazzostill clinging to my hands. I didn’t need to worry, said Team Leader. I’d be able to resume my normal activities in no time. That the show would go on.

Today, the team members are focused on one objective: my acquittal. They aren’t aiming for the sixty percent of the votes that is required for an acquittal, but higher. Much higher. They wouldn’t be able to placate Team Leader with less than eighty percent of the Jur-E votes, and they could forget about their bonuses. At the moment, they’re drumming up everyone, wherever they are in the world, who finds comfort, pleasure, something to cling to in my venomous jokes and entertaining misanthropy. To illustrate my talent and my value to society, they are pumping into every social media channel the craziest film clips, cabaret performances, stand-ups, and sound bites from my ten-year career. “Trigger positive memories and you’ll win even the biggest doubter over to your side,” swore Team Leader – the gray man who’d been there for the early days of the Internet – just before they shoved me into the police car and slammed the door behind me. And so, today, for a whole hour, the Internet has been transformed into a best of myself, from a career that hasn’t only given me success and a fortune, but hopefully also enough sympathy to escape my sentence.

The hay manger of potential sympathizers is well filled at least.

Voice Your Opinion: fifteen million followers every day who, according to Team Leader, hang on to my every word, or at least to my copywriters’.

Pixy: eighty-six million plus a few more admirers, to whom I toss a photo every day and grant a glimpse into the private life of the greatest comic on earth.

ScreenTime and some twenty or so other video channels where I feature prominently: in total, forty million addicts.

Everyone that has streamed a hologram of me for an evening with friends or family, or bought one of my books online, or at least one of the books with my name on the cover. Even my jokes are no longer written by me. I’m a mouthpiece, a vehicle for another man’s nonsense. A mouthpiece. A middleman who reads everything off a teleprompter and so earns a fortune.

Or has he got a problem with me?

And then, softly, because it seems this second question has disconcerted him even more: is there anything that I can do for him.

He hesitates, first casts a furtive, almost embarrassed glance at his female colleague, and then nods in my direction. He takes something black from his back pocket. It’s a notebook. A Moleskine. For passing fancies. Where against their better judgment, losers keep jotting down the dreams they’ve already given up on. A bearer of illusions and delusions. And good ideas too, sometimes, even if my guard doesn’t seem like the sort of man who in what I’d guess are the forty-five years he has behind him has had one brilliant idea, one moment of enlightenment that could give his life a new twist. His whole bearing suggests hate towards a life that feels just like a dead-end job, in which he can’t settle down, and with no chance of promotion. There are stars and there are worms, and he’s a worm.

A lowlife.

The star, that’s me, without a single doubt. And definitely today.

---------------

The jailer edges closer, and despairingly scratches his red goatee, straightens his guard’s uniform, and slips the notebook, together with a black felt-tip, cautiously through the hatch in the glass. In his watery eyes, you can see respect. Not for the suspect in the white overalls but for the entertainer. For the man who coaxes a laugh from him, probably every time that he has to stay home on a dead Saturday night with a kid who bears his name but isn’t his. And while the woman, who according to City Hall is his spouse, does unimaginable things with friends and strangers on rancid sofas in poorly lit locations, often with a camera pointed at her naked body.

If he could have an autograph, for his little daughter, he whispers through the intercom. He looks at me in a way that only a fan can.

A follower.

A serf.

I ask the worm what her name is, the fruit of another man’s loins. Dolores, he says, and by the way he spits out her name, he reveals why he gave her that name and not another. I recognize a man who would rather have remained childless when I see one. A father against his will.

How old is she, I want to know, as I open the leather cover of the notebook and take in the address for honest finders that is written on the first page. Then I leaf through it until I come to a blank page and scribble my name in big strokes on the thick paper.

Six, he answers. I say she might be too young to be exposed to a foulmouthed comic like me.

He lowers his head, caught out as he is, and a blush appears on his ashen skin that gives his face a sickly purple sheen. I grin and slide the notebook through the glass towards him. I say I hope he’ll enjoy it. As he examines his booty, he stammers a thank you.

I ask the other guard if she wants an autograph too. That I’d love to give her one. No trouble. That I’m here now anyway, even if not for long. The woman, who’s twice as wide as her colleague with her black curls pulled back in a bun, snorts her indignation, brusquely shakes her head, no, and gestures to the graphs projected onto the glass. That it’s over and out, she smirks, the woman who, since escorting me from the cell to the Glass Room this morning, hasn’t missed one chance to show how much she despises me. She hisses how people today can get away with so much but not with taking a human life. He was a father of four, she says, the man who’d died by my hand. And by my feet, and my knees, and the telephoto lens of his own camera, and the stake I tugged out of the pavement to smash his fake face in with, I continue in my thoughts.

I put my glasses on and study the numbers on the screen that are streaming in real time. Three million five hundred and eighty-seven E-jurors for conviction, a little under a million against. No further word passes the lips of the jailer, but in her expression I see satisfaction and the certainty that the world will condemn me to a life behind bars.

Her triumphalism is premature. You mustn’t underestimate the advantages of a well-oiled promotional machine that exists only to maintain your image, a battery farm for unceasing, youthful admirers who for a pittance are faithful to you until death. Just after my lawyer had finished his Jur-E video plea this morning – “My client has rid the world of the sort of person that is rotten to the core, the sort of vulture that was responsible twenty-five years ago for the death of Diana, the People’s Princess” – they feverishly began recruiting. As it happens, Team Leader already had a strategy in mind before the police had cuffed me at home, three weeks ago, with the blood of the paparazzostill clinging to my hands. I didn’t need to worry, said Team Leader. I’d be able to resume my normal activities in no time. That the show would go on.

Today, the team members are focused on one objective: my acquittal. They aren’t aiming for the sixty percent of the votes that is required for an acquittal, but higher. Much higher. They wouldn’t be able to placate Team Leader with less than eighty percent of the Jur-E votes, and they could forget about their bonuses. At the moment, they’re drumming up everyone, wherever they are in the world, who finds comfort, pleasure, something to cling to in my venomous jokes and entertaining misanthropy. To illustrate my talent and my value to society, they are pumping into every social media channel the craziest film clips, cabaret performances, stand-ups, and sound bites from my ten-year career. “Trigger positive memories and you’ll win even the biggest doubter over to your side,” swore Team Leader – the gray man who’d been there for the early days of the Internet – just before they shoved me into the police car and slammed the door behind me. And so, today, for a whole hour, the Internet has been transformed into a best of myself, from a career that hasn’t only given me success and a fortune, but hopefully also enough sympathy to escape my sentence.

The hay manger of potential sympathizers is well filled at least.

Voice Your Opinion: fifteen million followers every day who, according to Team Leader, hang on to my every word, or at least to my copywriters’.

Pixy: eighty-six million plus a few more admirers, to whom I toss a photo every day and grant a glimpse into the private life of the greatest comic on earth.

ScreenTime and some twenty or so other video channels where I feature prominently: in total, forty million addicts.

Everyone that has streamed a hologram of me for an evening with friends or family, or bought one of my books online, or at least one of the books with my name on the cover. Even my jokes are no longer written by me. I’m a mouthpiece, a vehicle for another man’s nonsense. A mouthpiece. A middleman who reads everything off a teleprompter and so earns a fortune.

Even my jokes are no longer written by me. I’m a mouthpiece, a vehicle for another man’s nonsense. A mouthpiece. A middleman who reads everything off a teleprompter and so earns a fortune.

Even my jokes are no longer written by me. I’m a mouthpiece, a vehicle for another man’s nonsense. A mouthpiece. A middleman who reads everything off a teleprompter and so earns a fortune.

Even my jokes are no longer written by me. I’m a mouthpiece, a vehicle for another man’s nonsense. A mouthpiece. A middleman who reads everything off a teleprompter and so earns a fortune.

Even my jokes are no longer written by me. I’m a mouthpiece, a vehicle for another man’s nonsense. A mouthpiece. A middleman who reads everything off a teleprompter and so earns a fortune.

Even my jokes are no longer written by me. I’m a mouthpiece, a vehicle for another man’s nonsense. A mouthpiece. A middleman who reads everything off a teleprompter and so earns a fortune.

Half an hour before the Jur-E session closes, I break out in a cold sweat. For the first time in ages, I feel uncertain, out of balance, as though I’ve lost all control. My fate is in the hands of others, of Team Leader, and most of all those fickle masses. Worms with an opinion, who’ve forgotten forgiveness and are out for revenge against anyone who sticks their head above the parapet. My whole body trembles, to the obvious pleasure of the female jailer. With a vicious grin, she observes how my cool and carefree mask crumbles and falls to pieces on the ground. I turn my eyes away so as not to catch hers and fix them on the graphs again. The numbers on the screen feed my unease. The pro-sentencing voters still have a big majority. In a flash, I see what’s waiting for me. A cell with two beds, one of which is occupied by a four-time killer. Three fellers with bodies like boulders who jump me in the shower. And then to get stabbed some twenty times by a man who asks me to make up a new joke on the spot and gets pissed off when I’m not able to. Rasping as I slip away in a pool of dark blood.

Fifteen minutes before the close of the Jur-E session, while I’m still thinking about what music Team Leader will choose for my funeral, the votes against sentencing begin to stream in. Within three minutes, the blue column of the right-hand graph on the screen is towering high above the red one on the left. The odds have turned shortly before Jur-E case KDL30932 goes offline. Following the prompting of Team Leader and his crew, the sheep have developed a collective mind, combined forces, registered as virtual jury members, voted, and freed their Ever-Smiling Shepherd from his chains. The old bastard has kept his word, as always.

Exactly ten minutes later, after a judicial officer has sanctioned the result and a judge has ratified the verdict, the jailer presses his thumb against a transparent panel in the glass and slides the partition open. Under his arm, he’s carrying the clothes that the police officers had stripped off me a few weeks earlier. Friendly and with a scarcely concealed smile, the man asks me to take off the white overalls and get into my street clothes. I can go, he says, while his colleague is sulking a little way off. I consider blowing her a kiss, but I’m too good a winner for that.

Just before I walk out of the Glass Room, I shoot a last glance at the screen. Nineteen million four hundred and twelve thousand and sixty-seven against conviction, and barely more than six million for. The new justice has been dispensed. The system works. For those that are loved enough to be able to control the people’s fury, at least.

Not for the drunk who puts another barfly into a wheelchair after a bar fight has gotten out of hand.

Or the tired taxi driver who mows down a child on the street in a distracted moment.

Or the woman who gets molested by a colleague every week and is eventually raped, but can’t get a hearing anywhere so takes the law into her own hands.

And certainly not the politician who slashes budgets for health care but is caught siphoning government funds and backhanders bribes to an exotic tax paradise.

Jur-E works for people like me. For people who make others laugh, dance, sing, and feel drunk with pleasure. The new elite no longer resides in banks or in parliament but on the stage and on the web, and seems a little more sympathetic than the old one.

Team Leader doesn’t even look up when I flop on to the back seat of the limo next to him. With his eyes half shut, he’s concentrating on the numbers rolling from left to right across the screen of his tablet. The vehicle has already driven through the prison gates when, without looking at me, he lays his hand on my knee. He says there was never a reason to panic, and as expected the team had produced excellent work. I nod and thank him for the effort. When I tell him that his insights are priceless, he laughs and rattles off his bank account number, after which he looks so pensive that all the wrinkles in his liver-spot -ravaged face are revealed. I’m quite marketable in the US, Europe, and Russia, he sighs, but we’ll have to work on my popularity in the East. He gestures to his tablet and dryly remarks that many E-jurors in Japan and the United Korea would rather have seen me in prison, and that I also don’t seem to be popular in India or Indonesia. Before I can ask how we’ll manage this, he has his answer ready. More hologram appearances, he says, and now and then an acte de présencein the flesh and Pixy photos with local dignitaries and stars. And take more account of cultural sensitivities. . .

I interrupt his summation and ask him how much I can get away with now that Jur-E is here. Where the boundary of acceptability lies. When the E-jurors will definitively give up on me and let me be locked up. For the first time since I’ve been sitting in the limo, Team Leader looks at me. He grins, his cold blue eyes look deep into mine, and he reassures me that, given my popularity, I can go through life more or less with impunity. That at the moment there’s little, maybe even nothing, that I could do that the E-jurors wouldn’t turn a blind eye to. But fame fades as swiftly as an autumn flower, he added, and prison is full of people who incorrectly calculated their sell-by-date. He asks me what my plans are, but I’ve already turned my face away.

Dolores is the only one I’m still thinking about.

Liberty Street 45, according to the worm’s notebook.

Where the boundary lies waiting.

Half an hour before the Jur-E session closes, I break out in a cold sweat. For the first time in ages, I feel uncertain, out of balance, as though I’ve lost all control. My fate is in the hands of others, of Team Leader, and most of all those fickle masses. Worms with an opinion, who’ve forgotten forgiveness and are out for revenge against anyone who sticks their head above the parapet. My whole body trembles, to the obvious pleasure of the female jailer. With a vicious grin, she observes how my cool and carefree mask crumbles and falls to pieces on the ground. I turn my eyes away so as not to catch hers and fix them on the graphs again. The numbers on the screen feed my unease. The pro-sentencing voters still have a big majority. In a flash, I see what’s waiting for me. A cell with two beds, one of which is occupied by a four-time killer. Three fellers with bodies like boulders who jump me in the shower. And then to get stabbed some twenty times by a man who asks me to make up a new joke on the spot and gets pissed off when I’m not able to. Rasping as I slip away in a pool of dark blood.

Fifteen minutes before the close of the Jur-E session, while I’m still thinking about what music Team Leader will choose for my funeral, the votes against sentencing begin to stream in. Within three minutes, the blue column of the right-hand graph on the screen is towering high above the red one on the left. The odds have turned shortly before Jur-E case KDL30932 goes offline. Following the prompting of Team Leader and his crew, the sheep have developed a collective mind, combined forces, registered as virtual jury members, voted, and freed their Ever-Smiling Shepherd from his chains. The old bastard has kept his word, as always.

Exactly ten minutes later, after a judicial officer has sanctioned the result and a judge has ratified the verdict, the jailer presses his thumb against a transparent panel in the glass and slides the partition open. Under his arm, he’s carrying the clothes that the police officers had stripped off me a few weeks earlier. Friendly and with a scarcely concealed smile, the man asks me to take off the white overalls and get into my street clothes. I can go, he says, while his colleague is sulking a little way off. I consider blowing her a kiss, but I’m too good a winner for that.

Just before I walk out of the Glass Room, I shoot a last glance at the screen. Nineteen million four hundred and twelve thousand and sixty-seven against conviction, and barely more than six million for. The new justice has been dispensed. The system works. For those that are loved enough to be able to control the people’s fury, at least.

Not for the drunk who puts another barfly into a wheelchair after a bar fight has gotten out of hand.

Or the tired taxi driver who mows down a child on the street in a distracted moment.

Or the woman who gets molested by a colleague every week and is eventually raped, but can’t get a hearing anywhere so takes the law into her own hands.

And certainly not the politician who slashes budgets for health care but is caught siphoning government funds and backhanders bribes to an exotic tax paradise.

Jur-E works for people like me. For people who make others laugh, dance, sing, and feel drunk with pleasure. The new elite no longer resides in banks or in parliament but on the stage and on the web, and seems a little more sympathetic than the old one.

Team Leader doesn’t even look up when I flop on to the back seat of the limo next to him. With his eyes half shut, he’s concentrating on the numbers rolling from left to right across the screen of his tablet. The vehicle has already driven through the prison gates when, without looking at me, he lays his hand on my knee. He says there was never a reason to panic, and as expected the team had produced excellent work. I nod and thank him for the effort. When I tell him that his insights are priceless, he laughs and rattles off his bank account number, after which he looks so pensive that all the wrinkles in his liver-spot -ravaged face are revealed. I’m quite marketable in the US, Europe, and Russia, he sighs, but we’ll have to work on my popularity in the East. He gestures to his tablet and dryly remarks that many E-jurors in Japan and the United Korea would rather have seen me in prison, and that I also don’t seem to be popular in India or Indonesia. Before I can ask how we’ll manage this, he has his answer ready. More hologram appearances, he says, and now and then an acte de présencein the flesh and Pixy photos with local dignitaries and stars. And take more account of cultural sensitivities. . .

I interrupt his summation and ask him how much I can get away with now that Jur-E is here. Where the boundary of acceptability lies. When the E-jurors will definitively give up on me and let me be locked up. For the first time since I’ve been sitting in the limo, Team Leader looks at me. He grins, his cold blue eyes look deep into mine, and he reassures me that, given my popularity, I can go through life more or less with impunity. That at the moment there’s little, maybe even nothing, that I could do that the E-jurors wouldn’t turn a blind eye to. But fame fades as swiftly as an autumn flower, he added, and prison is full of people who incorrectly calculated their sell-by-date. He asks me what my plans are, but I’ve already turned my face away.

Dolores is the only one I’m still thinking about.

Liberty Street 45, according to the worm’s notebook.

Where the boundary lies waiting.

devriesere-joost

JOOST DEVRIESERE

Joost Devriesere (1972) is a writer, journalist, and copy editor at the Belgian news magazine Knack/Knack Focus. His first novel, Plague, was published in 2017. 

JOOST DEVRIESERE

Joost Devriesere (1972) is a writer, journalist, and copy editor at the Belgian news magazine Knack/Knack Focus. His first novel, Plague, was published in 2017. 

JOOST DEVRIESERE

Joost Devriesere (1972) is a writer, journalist, and copy editor at the Belgian news magazine Knack/Knack Focus. His first novel, Plague, was published in 2017. 



Published twice a year by Lebowski Publishers
© Lebowski Publishers  |  Amsterdam

For international rights please contact:
Oscar van GelderenTracy Fisher, Jill Gillett or Sylvie Rabineau

This literary magazine for Grounded SF
from The Netherlands and Flanders is
published twice a year by Lebowski Publishers.
© Lebowski Publishers  |  Amsterdam

For international rights please contact:
Oscar van GelderenTracy Fisher , Jill Gillet or Sylvie Rabineau

This literary magazine for Grounded SF from The Netherlands and Flanders is published twice a year by Lebowski Publishers.


For international rights please contact: Oscar van GelderenTracy Fisher, Jill Gillet or Sylvie Rabineau

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele, Gina Hay, Joost Devriesere

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart, Paul Evans

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens,
Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens,Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

EDITORS Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson, Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design

EDITORS Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson, Maaike Pleging



DESIGN
 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design

EDITORS 
Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson, 
Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman
uncanny.design

EDITORS 
Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson,
Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design

EDITORS 
Oscar van Gelderen, Jasper Henderson, Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design