Excerpt, The Pursuit of Ordinary
‘Dad,’ he said, eventually.
‘Hold on, I want to watch the news,’ his dad replied, flapping a hand at him, as if to shoo him away.‘Dad, I’m serious,’ Dan said, picking at the skin around his thumbnail—pick, pick, pick—until little spots of blood appeared, gradually growing, bulbous, full of life, scarlet bubbles of reality nestling on top of his skin, taunting him with their realness, a visual anchor to a life he could no longer attach to.
‘I think I’m going mad.’ The sounds of the house magnified, creaking wood, wind on windows, water churning somewhere, in the dishwasher or the washing machine.
‘Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, it doesn’t feel like me staring back. I stare and stare at my face and it doesn’t feel like my face at all. It doesn’t even look like me.’
Dan paused. His dad wasn’t looking at him, but Dan could tell he wasn’t listening to the news any more, he was frozen, unsure what to do or say.
‘I don’t think I exist, Dad.’
His father finally looked away from the television and toward him. On his face was a look of concern, even fear.
‘Are you being serious?’ he asked quietly.
A diagnosis hadn’t been easy. His GP hadn’t had any real ideas, and several referrals and therapists, each with their own approaches and labels and treatments, had proved equally ineffective. Eventually, one month shy of his eighteenth birthday, his father had found the Babalaway Clinic, a small private centre near Portslade. The consultant there, Dr Alabi, smiled a lot, twirled his biros, nodded. He understood. He said that a lot, ‘I understand.’
‘He shows all the signs of chronic, refractory and obsessional self-observation,’ Dr Alabi said, without looking up from his notepad. Dan shifted uncomfortably in his seat, glancing over at his father, who refused to look at him, despite the fact that he could clearly sense Dan staring at him.
‘And what does that mean?’ his father asked.
Dan turned his gaze away from both his dad and the doctor, choosing instead to stare at the bookshelves at the side of the room, filled with medical textbooks and psychology tomes. No fictional or recreational reading for Dr Alabi, it seemed, only books to make his patients and their families feel confident about his expertise.
‘Often, like Daniel, patients have symptoms for many years before consulting a doctor,’ Dr Alabi continued, still scribbling notes to himself. Finally, after what seemed like an age, he looked up—but not at Dan.
‘This condition is rare, especially in someone so young, Mr Garrison,’ Dr Alabi said, leaning back in his chair, arms spread widely. ‘But it’s not unheard of. People suffering from it often feel they’re not real, that they’re watching themselves from afar, like in a film.’
‘Yes,’ Dan’s father said, animated and excited to have a name to put to his son’s condition. ‘Yes, that’s what it’s like, isn’t it Dan?’
He grabbed his son’s arm, smiling, as if something good was happening. Dan didn’t answer; he just stared at Dr Alabi, wondering why he wouldn’t look back at him.
‘It’s a neurological disorder mainly, and we aren’t sure of the trigger. What we do know is that sufferers often develop other psychological disorders, like self-harming or…’ Dr Alabi trailed off.
Dan picked at the cracked leather arm of his chair, dark brown leather, with grey weave underneath, like a cotton lattice was holding everything in place.
Bestselling JHP Fiction title, Goodreads Choice Awards nominee, Best Debut Author
Can Louise move on from the loss of her lover Tom? Can she and Tom's twin brother Adam really find a way to love one another? Or are they trapped on a path of self-destruction, moving towards a tragedy neither can avoid?
April 2018, available now to pre-order
After witnessing a fatal car accident, a homeless man wanders the streets of Brighton, trying to ignore the new, incessant voice inside his head. Is Dan ill or has he really been possessed? A twisting modern tale of life and love.