A satire on celebrity and business.
In the near future, Mardin, a young publicist living in Istanbul, is hired to raise the public profile of FromBirth Ltd, a new company which specializes in the commercial supply of body parts. To promote the public profile of FromBirth, Mardin produces a "documercial" film about the contribution of Ayeshia Smith -- the first ever 100 per cent donor. The film is so successful, Ayeshia becomes internationally famous for being dead. Mardin looks forward to a long and lucrative career, never dreaming that Ayeshia is about to make the ultimate comeback.
I’d been kicking around Istanbul for almost a year after finishing my business degree at the Bosphorus University and I had drifted in and out of several mundane jobs, not really knowing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. One day, when I wasn’t doing anything at all, my father happened to phone. He told me a cousin of mine was getting married next week and the ceremony was to be held at our village—Kesim.
As there was nothing to keep me in the city just then I hopped on a coach for Kesim that same afternoon.
Most of my family still lived in the village, but the first person I met when I arrived was Yusuf, another cousin of mine, who had left Turkey years ago to live in England. The last I’d heard he was working as an accountant at a hospital near London.
To my surprise, Yusuf told me he had come back to Turkey a few days early because he wanted to speak to me in private before the wedding. I hadn’t eaten yet, so we went straight to the local tripe-soup shop, which stood in the corner of the market square.
While we waited for our soup Yusuf explained that he had changed jobs a couple of months ago for something even more exciting than working as an accountant at a hospital. The new opening was offered to him by a certain Dr Groome, a consulting physician and high-flying clinical researcher who worked at the same hospital. Dr Groome had told Yusuf that he planned to launch an independent medical supplies company, which was to be called FromBirth Ltd Wages would be low at first and working conditions a little less than luxurious. However, Dr Groome said, all that would change when the latest generation of immunosuppressants that he had developed came on stream. These new drugs were going to transform organ transplantation into a safe and cheap procedure. When that happened, FromBirth Ltd would be perfectly placed to take advantage of increasing demand and as a result it would develop into a multimillion dollar business.
Yusuf had quit his job the very next day and joined Dr Groome in founding FromBirth Ltd. The company was at the fledgling stage as yet and they were currently looking to recruit more staff. That was why he was talking to me.
“Why?” I asked. “I don’t know anything about pharmaceuticals.” “No, the new drugs will be manufactured by a different company. FromBirth Ltd will concentrate on meeting the increased demand for replacement organs created by the drugs. You see, with these drugs, virtually all of a donor’s body can be utilised.”
I looked at him in disgust. “How on earth can you make any money out of that? Don’t people donate their bodies for free after their death, if so inclined?”
Yusuf smiled. “Exactly. Very few are so inclined. There’s no incentive.”
“And how on earth are you going to solve that problem?”
We were not alone in the tripe-soup shop. An assortment of fig packers and sheep farmers sat at the other tables. They probably didn’t know a single word of English between them. Even so, Yusuf gave them a furtive glance and leaned forward to speak in a lower voice, in case they overheard him and ran off with the big idea. “We plan to offer a financial incentive,” he whispered.
“To dead people?”
“No, no, listen. We are in discussions with an investment bank. They are interested in offering an insurance package with very low premiums to anyone who pledges to donate their body to us in the eventuality of their death. In return, the investment bank gets a percentage of our profits. If all goes well, they will fund our expansion into a large-scale operation.”
“What do you mean, if all goes well?”
“Naturally we still have to put the operation together in some smaller form—in order to demonstrate its viability. What we need now is someone to handle public relations. I was thinking perhaps you would be suitable.”
I stared at him. “But I’m a recent graduate with no track record. Okay, I’ve studied public relations at university, as you know. But still, a British PR agent will understand the target audience infinitely better than I ever would.”
“We live in a global economy, don’t we? They are not so different from us over there. And then, money is tight during this phase of the project. The bank doesn’t want to commit fully yet. Not until we have established what the public’s reaction to the scheme is likely to be. And so…” He sighed—I was forcing him to be brutally frank. “You’re just about all we can afford at the present time.” “So you want someone to work for peanuts.” I shook my head. “Yusuf, I get offers like that all the time.”
“But this is different,” Yusuf insisted, “because if we succeed the profits will be huge and you’ll be entitled to a percentage. Two percent, like everyone else. And we’re talking millions of dollars! I think it’s a chance worth taking.”
I reflected on this for a moment. “When would you expect to see a return of millions of dollars?”
“Too early to say.” He began fidgeting with a spoon.
“I don’t know,” I said. “This enterprise…it all strikes me as…” I searched for the precise expression. “Half-assed and dodgy.”
Yusuf broke into a broad smile. “Welcome to the real world.”
“Maybe that’s how it is in the UK, but—”
“Come on now, are you saying you have a better offer waiting for you back in Istanbul?”
“No, not really.”
“Then think about it, will you?” Yusuf said. “I mean, think about it now. We’re in a hurry.”
“Alright, I’ll give it a go.”
“Good. Wait for my call after I get back to the UK. I’ll need time to arrange things for you.”
“You mean like a visa application and a work permit?”
Yusuf gave me a sharp look, like I might be joking. Then he smiled. “Yeah, that stuff. You’ll need to pay a charge.”
He waved down my alarm with his spoon. “Leave it to me. Don’t fret about the petty little details now. Be prepared—the future’s coming sooner than you think.”