The Further Adventures of Jerry Cornelius

The Great Counterfeit Memory Sin-Drome/ The Final Jerry Cornelius Story, Ever

Andrew Darlington



 In his head, Cornelius hears Europe screaming. Reflexively he hunches down, crouching on dew-damp grass, moisture infiltrating his tartan-pattern carpet slippers. Crows burn slow motion, ebbing traceries through and around the bleak peaks of leafless trees, leaving wakes of displaced air. The trees vignette off, unfinished, dissolving in autumn mist hung at the edge of visibility. His right hand splays on soft humus soil, a digital quinpedal. Real coldness seeps at fingertips, index finger indenting into the dirt up to the first knuckle, then will go no further. The sky ripples, on the brink of breakdown. The nail of his finger has reached a layer of hard alloy beneath the lawn turfing.

He stands up slowly. The sun already occluded and descending somewhere beyond the trees, smearing clouds with crushed ochre. Beneath the metal – nothing. Beyond the tree-line – nothing.

Behind where Cornelius stands a man approaches with a jerky ungainly gait. He is recognized as CT Talp, the orderly. Middle-aged, running to fat, dressed in an off-white smock with embroidered initials over the left breast (‘T.C.T.’). Cornelius turns, detecting the sound of laboured breathing, the swish of patent leather on moist grass. The orderly is overweight, physically unfit, vulnerable. Cornelius selects nerve pressure points, potential targets that would render him merely unconscious, or others that would bring death. He has the element of surprise. A sudden lunge now and he can escape, beyond those trees, into… what? Escape from… what?

Talp is annoyed, his shambling uncoordinated lope gracelessly shuddering to a halt. His heavy inhalation clearly audible. He spits inexpertly in the direction of drab flowerbeds, dying daffodils and undisciplined roses. ‘What are you doing out here? You know you’re not allowed…’

Possible responses flare up, but instead he merely shrugs. ‘No reason.’ A surprisingly mild reaction. He begins examining this unaccustomed timidity, hunting motivation. Avoiding confrontation? Tactical deviance?

The orderly relaxes as he regains breath, cheeks discolouring in mottled webs of ruptured veins. A reflection of the trees black against the sky. ‘You’re wanted.’ The jerk of a stubby thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the main building. The old house. The Sanatorium.

Jerry’s eyes follow the gesture, then they wander. ‘What’s beyond those trees?’

Talp sniffs and looks pensive, an expression to which he’s unaccustomed. ‘The electrified fence, I guess. Why do you ask?’

‘No reason.’ He moves to slip his hands deep in the dressing-gown pockets, but recalls the soil trapped up beneath the nail of his index finger, and thinks better of it. So, hands clasped loosely behind him, he begins to pace in the indicated direction. Talp wipes his nose with the back of his well-fleshed paw, leaving a snail-trail, and falls into step. Dampness clings to their skin, wetness staining the air with rich smells of lush decay, juicy drifts of dead russet leaves and rain-soaked earth. They quit the lawn to crunch-crunch-crunch the gravel driveway, between ill-kempt flower borders that shepherd them precisely towards the house.

Jerry’s mind numbs over in pleasing melancholy. Wild-eyed men might be storming the streets of Europe while the Establishment burns, but this is England, slow, unchanging. Rigid structures of class, of morality, of pace, of propriety. This will not change. He recalls other words he’d used to describe this state of changelessness – stagnancy, inertia, complacency, death. It’s not clear to him how this new perspective has come about.


They roll the dice, squatting on the dirt floor. Watch the black cubes dance across the enclosed space formed by their legs.

‘A three and a four – seven.’

He glances up at the victim, the prize, while his companion scoops up the dice. Shakes them eagerly. Mutters some form of incantation. Then releases the dice.

‘A two and a five – seven.’

The captive moans, as much from bored impatience as discomfort. Shuffles his legs across the rumpled vinyl, shifting the weight of hours. The slender gold manacles securing his wrists to the aluminium grille chafe uncomfortably as minutes elongate. Shimmers of sweat stand out on patches of wispy body hair.

He throws again. ‘A three and a five – eight.’

His companion, ‘A four and a four – eight.’

‘Shall we…?’ hisses the gambler. His fingers run the length of the inlaid razor-edged blade at his waist.

A hesitation. A licking of dry lips. ‘We should do it correctly.’

‘Of course, you’re right.’ Silence. ‘Your throw…’


On the screen, a cloak of mist veils the frozen trees, coiling in like a living thing. It moves in folds, in eddies, swirling around the stumps of great dead trunks. Its tenuous upper layers weave strands of silver hair through defoliated branches. They become ethereal, blistered with dew and eclipsed in ghost patterns by shifting shadows. Cornelius knows it’s merely part of the cycle. He pulls the dressing-gown tight around his throat as the cold intensifies. The ground is ashen. Occasional shrivelled yellow grass fights for survival, eked out of the acid shingle that had killed the trees, turning them into petrified monuments of stone. The ground is hard with the pallor of death, frost forming mandalas across its irregular dunes.

Cornelius can visualise the concept, without knowing how or why he knows. He can picture the two worlds – Earth and Moon? – suspended alone in space, far from the warmth of any natural sun. The light of feeble stars mocking three artificial suns that chase each other around the equator of this, the larger of the two worlds. For fifteen hours the suns take it in turns to irradiate the land masses that skirt the Purple Ocean, the Sighing Sea, and the archipelago of tiny islands. Their light raises the total darkness to a barely tolerable twilight. Then the suns set, as they pursue their eccentric orbits somewhere behind the world, over the glaciers that are miles deep, covering every other part of the planet’s surface. For ten hours there’s only terrifying darkness but for the pale stars, before the first sun rises again. All of this Cornelius can see, and understand the cosmic mechanics around which it functions. The suns have now set, accounting for the darkness, the cold, the frost. The shifting temperature accounts for the mist. It’s all part of the cycle.

He curses the pulsing ache at the back of his mind. Climbs a shingle slope towards its crest. Ms Persson shuffles reluctantly behind him, the woman who’s followed him from the Sanatorium, over the slaughtered guard and the electrified fence, and into the waste beyond. Perhaps escape wasn’t such a good idea? The mist washes at them, beading hair with perfect gems.

Above them, all around them, the petrified forest towers, and dark shapes flit forbiddingly against perfect pornographic blackness. Although the crows have long since gone…





 There are four worn sandstone steps leading to recently installed glass swing doors set into the stately terracotta façade of the house, the main building. There’s a bleak linoleum hall beyond. The walls were heavy with embossed wallpaper, its floral baroque still discernible beneath the whitewash, and ornate corniced affectations around the ceiling edges to indicate a degree of antique grandeur.

Talp shuffles across to the reception window, shoes singing on the polish, and speaks in low tones to Ms Persson.

Cornelius lets his mind drift. No time has elapsed. He had not gone beyond the border wire, had not killed the perimeter guard, there was no petrified forest, and he had not been fellated by Ms Persson. There is only now, and he’s walking restlessly back and forth here, in this hall. To his right, as he paces, plate glass panels allow snatches of surveillance into the canteen, an intermittent strobe-style flicker of glimpses. The room looks to be near-deserted, regiments of melamine-topped tables and tubular chairs recede to the counter, a Berlin Wall of shrink-wrapped sandwiches, iced buns, scones and stale tarts. Two portly ladies of indeterminate age with hair scrupulously swept into mop-caps, and eyes glazed with gold-rimmed spectacles, lurk behind steamy percolator piping beaded with silver condensation.

Cornelius notes one man sitting alone in the corner studying a half-consumed cup of coffee, a leprous skin already rippling across its surface. The man has shoulder-length pure white hair and… can he be mistaken? Albino eyes? A second man sits a discreet distance away. He seems to have been subjected to brain surgery, an area of his forehead thickly masked with bandages.

There’s a third figure darkly shadowed, yet ghosted and insubstantial. With a shock of recognition Cornelius recognizes his own reflection superimposed in the glass. He’s unhealthily corpulent, a ragged beard and black knotted hair loose to his shoulder. How did it ever come to this? There’s also the impression of a battered hat, creased brim pulled low, but that might just be a trick of light, because he’s bare-headed.

Talp returns, smiling insincerely, and leads Cornelius through a set of fire-doors wedged open, and up a flight of stairs fenced in by banisters that smell strongly of varnish, to the first floor landing. They halt outside the second door leading off from the landing. Talp places finger to lip conspiratorially, then presses his ear to its wood-grain panelling. His expression oscillates grotesquely between childish delight at indiscretion, and a patronising leer at Jerry intended to draw him into the prank. A burlesque wink seals the intimacy. For whose benefit? Cornelius senses uneasily that the play-acting is intended for him.

Talp slips back into gear. Straightens. Knocks sharply on the door twice, waits a calculated five seconds, then swings the door open. ‘Mr Cornelius to see you, Doctor Langdon.’


‘Two and four – six.’

‘One and five – six.’

--- 0 ---

There’s no rust on the submachine gun. Just a strut of gleaming precision-turned steel growing from the perimeter guard’s casually crooked arm. The weapon’s conspicuous lack of corrosion should have roused his suspicions. For the threat posed by the stance is deceptive. The combination of gun and man is finely and accurately set. Yet the immediacy can be reduced down to its individual parts.

If he moves fast, yes, he can overpower the guard, and the fence electrification can be isolated…

If he moves fast, yes, he can still escape…


‘Are you average?’ asks the man sitting across from him abruptly.

Cornelius is caught off-guard. ‘Of course I’m average,’ he makes the standard retort.

‘For your consumer group, presumably – but perhaps, with thirty years of conscientious service behind you, it’s possible you could be promoted into a new set of consumer parameters. Would you then still be average?’

‘To the higher standard consumer group, yes.’ The initial bewilderment replaced by indignation. ‘But that’s nothing to do with you.’ Perhaps this insistent stranger knows about the escape? Perhaps he hasn’t allowed sufficient time for reintegration into the bleakly austere society beyond the wire? The society he’d forgotten so much about.

‘According to your standards, the ‘average’ to which I conform is of a lower consumer echelon than your own?’

‘That, I feel, is self-evident.’

‘So it gives you a sense of pride to feel your average standards are higher than my average standards. So all over the city, different groups of people walk around smug in the fact that they’re average – but that their average is better than someone else’s average?’

Jerry’s head swims with baffling concepts. ‘The natural order of genetic potential…’ he begins, but the sentence hangs in the air unfinished. ‘The necessary social stratification dictates that there be those above, and those below,’ he completes the expected justification triumphantly.

‘Who are all average?’

‘To their indigenous groups.’ The remark not as solid as he’d intended it to be.




 Jerry moves meekly as indicated into the claustrophobically cluttered consulting room. A cornucopia of vintage luxury, well-fleshed leather upholstery, potted ferns, marquetry and inlaid furniture, assorted Victoriana, a vivid Miró print. Light angles through leaded windows to fall in diamond reticulations across a broad paper-strewn desk littered with photographs, manuals, and unopened buff files.

‘Come in, Mr… er… Cornelius. Please take a seat.’ Doctor Langdon is well-dressed with a polite if forceful manner. One used to respect and obedience. Balding, tonsure of hair meticulously arranged around the polished pate. Thick black-rimmed spectacles squarely positioned on his snub nose. His face as round as the moon, and professionally smiling. ‘I thought we could talk for a while, Mr… er… Cornelius.’

Jerry sits down on the other side of the desk, the chair-covering breathing as he sinks his not-inconsiderable weight into it.

The Doctor turns to a file cabinet behind him, opens a drawer labeled ‘LOK-MOR’, withdraws a bulky manila folder, and begins leafing through it in a preoccupied fashion. ‘Do you read, Mr Cornelius? Which authors do you enjoy?’

Jerry shrugs. ‘Mervyn Peake. William Burroughs. Edgar Rice Burroughs. Fritz Leiber’s ‘Grey Mouser’ books…’

Again the smile. ‘I wonder, have you read this one?’ He passes a slim paperback across the desk. Cornelius picks it up, weighs it experimentally. The title is ‘Breakfast In The Ruins’, strap-lined ‘A Startling Novel Of Inhumanity – Past, Present And To Come’. The author, Michael Moorcock. ‘Look inside. The title page. Perhaps it’ll jog your memory.’

He leafs disinterestedly. A line of print comes out at him – ‘Michael Moorcock died of lung cancer, aged thirty-one, in Birmingham last year’ – then it’s gone and he’s riffled through to the end of the book. ‘Sorry. Means nothing to me.’ He replaces it centrally on the desk, thrusting it back across the intuitive personal-territory divide.

‘What do you suppose happens to fictional characters when the author dies?’ muses the Doctor. ‘Do they also die at the moment of their creator’s last breath? Do they still exist, but without fluidity, without the possibility of change or development, trapped into ever-decreasing repetitions without hope of escape? Or do they survive their progenitor’s death only to become subject to alarmingly accelerated laws of entropy – lacking infusions of new energy until they begin to ebb away by degrees, becoming less and less substantial, more chimerical, until they just cease to exist…? I wonder.’


At the age of thirty-one Jerry Cornelius began to deliberately unlearn. He forgot how to write. He scrawls childishly as they attempt to reach him.

--- 0 ---

In his head, Cornelius can hear Europe scream.

‘It seems,’ says Bastable, the stranger, with educated nonchalance, ‘that Mikhail Bakunin’s writings were accurate, merely premature.’ His words are rhythmically punctuated by the commas of random gunfire and exclamation marks of militia sirens. Opposite the deceptive calm of the window of this crumbling riverside slum, a Cathedral burns. Flames are praying hands striving into the night sky like over-lurid symbolism. While further away, the burning city of Capitalopolis makes dawn six hours too soon.


‘Four and six – ten.’

‘Five and five – ten.’

--- 0 ---

A wraith-like arm of mist moves between them with animal eagerness. Ms Persson hastens her step until she can again see the striding man ahead of her. She stays close as he half-slides, half-clambers down the far side of the slope. Cornelius ignores her, lost in his own thoughts. There are roots protruding irregularly from the gradient. Stone limbs of petrified trees, a forest stilled to silence an age ago by an unknown cataclysm. The nature of catastrophe forgotten. In many cases the roots are as thick as a man’s thigh, providing useful purchase for their perilous descent. Fingers scrabble in the ground, finding only crumbling shingle, dissolving into harsh grit. Shrouded in dressing gown and his own breath, Jerry slithers from protuberance to petrified root. The only sounds, his laboured breath and the mocking laugh of dislodged pebbles.

Ms Persson, her hair falling about her voluminous cape, follows the man in mute acceptance. Spectral shapes quiver in the mist as they near the base of the slope. Leathery grass fights up from the ash. The slope less pronounced now. He walks stooping into the valley beyond. The animate mist an observer, an intangible wall defining the limit of the world, yet encroaching with stealth. Then the grass grows more profusely across the floor of the hollow. Glancing neither left nor right Jerry leads the way through the cloying vapours deeper into the natural valley. The grass becomes healthier as they walk, until even scrubby living bushes survive, in greater profusion the further they go.

Then the dead forest ceases abruptly. Instead, a tall wire mesh fence bars their path, bright silver in the dim starlight, a forming ice-sheen spinning dancing cobwebs across its surface. The barrier is three metres tall, flowing as far as the eye can trace, following the meandering contours of its path.

Cornelius speaks slowly, as though the process of distilling his thoughts into words is unfamiliar. ‘We must have come in a circle, back to where we started.’ The success of the pronouncement prompts him to say more, but his eyes move faster, to seize and identify an oblong metal plaque positioned halfway up the fence.

He reads the symbols aloud, tasting each unfamiliar syllable. ‘STRICTLY NO ADMITTANCE,’ he mouths. ‘TERMINAL CANCER SANATORIUM’.



Langdon stands up, adjusts his spectacles. Beyond the window, crows are still circling, the persistent mist turning the colour of rust as the sun sets. ‘Does the term ‘Conjunction Of The Million Spheres’ mean anything to you?’

Cornelius feels a knife turn somewhere in his gut. For the first time it occurs to him to wonder where he is, and by what right this man is interrogating him. But the flicker of resentment passes as quickly, subsumed by weariness. The need for subterfuge subverted by lack of volition. A drug? Some subliminal implant? Whatever the reason, that slight surge of resistance is gone. He nods dully. ‘The ‘Conjunction Of The Million Spheres’ is a point in the multiverse cycle, an alignment of worlds and alternate worlds.’

‘Do you consider it to be an actual cosmological – or supra-cosmological – phenomenon, or merely a personal cellular symbolism?’ offers Langdon smoothly.

It’s impossible for Jerry to form a reply.

--- 0 ---

‘Capitalopolis,’ says Bastable, ‘exists across the ages, assuming multiple guises. Byzantium. Londinium. Melniboné. Babylon. Rome. And it’s the ultimate cancer. The scab of impurity on the flesh of time.’

‘I’ve never really thought of it like that,’ concedes Jerry.

‘Well, now you’ve thought, what are you going to do about it?’

Cornelius glances nervously around the cold cellar. It seems strange to think that outside, above this Bunker, the sun is shining. Above this crumbling riverside slum that’s thrust itself into his life, the city still smoulders. The questions still unanswered. The book, open on his lap, says ‘revolution is the festival of the oppressed’. He no longer understands. He’s unable to make value judgments. He remembers the night before his escape from the Sanatorium. Recalls each detail of the room he’d been allocated, the curtains drawn, the Tibetan mandala over the cold fireplace, the wardrobe of smart Carnaby Street fashions, even the lettering down the spines of album covers, ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience’, ‘Deep Fix: New Worlds Fair’, ‘Hawkwind: Warrior On The Edge Of Time’, the titles of sprawled magazines, ‘Tarzan Adventures’, ‘Science Fantasy’, ‘New Worlds’, and a London A-Z street-map open at Ladbroke Grove.

His mind stops pacing. Everything in the room is memorabilia from the past. This is 1986. Surely he has a stake in the 1980s? He tries to think of events before his incarceration. To remember the assassinations he’d carried out – Lord Mountbatten and Airey Neave… when? Motives elude him. Something to do with a Right Wing coup enacted in 1983 in which they’d be figureheads. Or was that on a different plane of the Multiverse?

He blinks away the images. His new companion, Bastable, sits opposite him, his only contact so far in this austere, cynical, bleakly negative city. This pessimistic decade. This strangely unfamiliar London, Tanelorn, Melniboné…

‘What do you think happens to fictional characters,’ ventures Cornelius cautiously, ‘when their creator dies?’

Bastable looks pensively at the floor. ‘I’ve no definite ideas, only impressions. I envision the writer’s eyes closing, I envision a fleeting, refuge-seeking consciousness straining through salt pores seeping slowly into the earth. It’s distorted into bizarre convolutions as different strands run together and merge like fluid, ideas trickling from the cooling brain, drip-drip-drip, returning to formless source. All imaginings, all dreams, all fictions in there, leaking into riddles. That’s the way I see it…’





‘Five and two – seven.’

‘One and one – two.’

The manacled youth’s eyes widen. He squirms lasciviously, penis moving, lapping at his undulating stomach, half-erect in an agony of anticipation.

The triumphant gambler stands. Unsheaths and wields the ornate rune-sword in a single terminal thrust. To the youth on the black vinyl sheeting, it’s an act of sexual penetration. His cells are clustering limpets, sucking thirstily at the steel, spit-bubbles and saliva drooling down his chin, teeth piercing the tissue of his lower lip, drawing bright beads of blood.

The gambler withdraws, the blade quivering, red and gorged. The stealer of souls. The plunderer, life devourer.

The youth’s shell crumbles, dry as husk, gradually imploding as they watch. A fine dust silting the floor.



There’s a bank of three screens set into the wall. Cornelius only becomes aware of them during his third day in the Bunker. Watching flickering images of himself. Surely the screens must have been there before? Why hadn’t he noticed them? On one screen mist veils frozen trees like a cloak, a living thing. It moves in folds, in eddies, swirling around the stumps of great dead trunks, washing up in sensual ripples against the electrified perimeter fence. The visual representation of Cornelius stands bewildered, his dressing gown open and flapping dismally. Ms Persson kneels in front of him, head dipping into his groin, thin lips trapped around his penis, cheeks pulsing in delicate cannibalism.

On a second screen they’re fleeing through gleaming body-tissue hunting cancer cells, squirming like maggots through cool labyrinths of flesh, into the drunken air of wheezing lungs. Wraiths of darkness snap at their heels.

There are rows of giant stone heads, some of them so fissured the eye-sockets have been eroded away. There are rib-bones in the snow, the fetid breath of burnt-out tank shells littering Siberian ice-fields. Black flags flap dismally.

The ruins of the Sanatorium rim the horizon, glimpsed through silver breath and parted reeds. As though canine teeth have devoured them leaving jagged ruins in a wash of lunar-pale light. The sky swirls in a psychedelic vortex.

On the final screen, eyes are closing. Behind the eyes, all imaginings, all dreams, all fictions are leaking into riddles…





‘Let me offer you an analogy. Bear with me, humour me,’ cajoles the Doctor. ‘I’m using an interocitor implant – the product of extreme miniaturization, capable of regurgitating all manner of supplementary information to my faulty memory. And pirate-technology’s taken it way beyond such limitations. We can set devices into the back of the hand, allowing instant neural data-retrieval.’

Cornelius nods, unable to search out Langdon’s conversational drift.

‘Indeed, it’s possible to insert all manner of micro-unit nudges and prompts directly into the cerebral cortex, doing away with manual intervention altogether. This involves additional, more ambiguous factors, particularly in the field of memory supplements, where differentiating between real and implanted memories becomes problematic. It’s possible to be altered by memory-substitution. Psychiatrically, this can be an attractive proposition, a tool to edit case histories, to amend events retroactively. Politically it can be a control mechanism…’

‘What has this to do with me?’ interjects Cornelius.

‘Bootleg memories? Black-market implants? Counterfeit memories? I think you know very well what I mean, Mr Moorcock. The mind is a remarkably resourceful machine. It constructs its own defences, its own logics. If it finds reality unacceptable it can replace it with a new reality. It controls all sensory inputs, it can design self and the universe into any configuration it pleases. Is that not so, Mr Moorcock?’

‘I don’t understand. I am Jerry Cornelius.’

Langdon removes his spectacles in a gesture of futility. ‘Multi-dimensional adventurer? Androgynous Messiah? Hermaphrodite superhuman? Please be rational. Don’t confuse the author with his fictions. Don’t confuse creator with creation. Don’t take refuge in escape mechanisms.’

‘In the multiverse all possibilities coexist.’

‘But this is 1986, not the groovy sixties. We no longer believe our Nietzschean myths, our dilettante posturing, our macho narcissistic preening. This is the Terminal Cancer Sanatorium. There’s no escaping biological inevitability. We must accept it, not construct elaborate and desirable fantasies of alternate selves, alter egos…’

‘I am Jerry Cornelius,’ he asserts, standing abruptly. The chair careens away behind him to tipple backwards soundlessly. ‘I am Jerry Cornelius. I am Jerry Cornelius.’ He looks down. Through the transparent tissue of his hand he sees the blurred image of the desk’s bevelled edge. As he watches, the wood-grain in the laminates becomes clearer and the hand less substantial, until nothing occludes clear visibility of the desk.