In June I began writing a new original story every two weeks and posting them to this website. Much to my surprise, one of those stories, Second Choice, spawned a second story, then a third, then a fourth and so on until it became clear to me that this was actually one novel length story coming out of me in installments. This was all fun and good but now that seven months have gone by since the first story it has become clear that a brief refresher course is needed for me and many of my readers. Therefore, leading up to the publication on this site of Part 7 on March 6th I will be interviewing a number of characters from this work here on my blog.
(In a sparsely furnished room the interviewer sits across from Mary. She is a small woman and noticeably self conscious, but when she loses herself in the moment she is capable of exuding an energy that can captivate an entire room. Her hair dangles in golden twists about her face and her cheeks seem to shine when she smiles.)
Joseph Devon: Hello, Mary, thank you for joining us.
Mary: I’m happy to be here, Joseph.
JD: Okay, so we’ve met with Epp and gotten the perspective on testers that two-thousand years can bring, and we’ve met with Matthew and gotten a brief overview from a relative newcomer. Before we get into specifics, is there anything you’d like to add from the perspective of someone from the middle-ground, so to speak?
M: Hmm…I don’t know. There’s a lot to it. I guess…could I say that?
JD: You can say whatever you’d like.
M: Then yes, I think that’s what I’d like to add to your notion of testers as a whole. In the end it isn’t as if we go through a transformation in our personality, just in our physical being, so over the years the more I interacted with other testers, the more I came to realize that there isn’t much in the way of rules for us. You’re going to come across all kinds. (Hesitating and thinking over her answer) Is that what you were looking for? Something like that?
JD: That was just fine, Mary, thank you. Now, you’re, what, three or four centuries into this?
M: That is correct.
JD: And before making your first and second choice you were?
M: I was a nun.
JD: That in itself provides an interesting perspective. Do you think your previous calling has affected the tester you have become?
M: Of course! But on the other hand who I was as a person probably has had more impact than anything. I think that’s what I wanted to say earlier. Can I change my answer?
JD: This isn’t that formal of a setting, Mary. We’re just having a conversation. You can revisit anything you’d like.
M: Oh, I see. Yes then, I think it’s important to realize that while all of us have the initial choices in common, who a person is or was defines them more as a tester than anything. I’m willing to bet that Epp, when he was human, was a very likable man who enjoyed learning new things. If you extend that out two thousand years you wind up with someone who has come to understand most of the current mysteries of the universe.
JD: So a tester will be defined by his personality traits that carry over from his days of being alive?
M: No, oh is that what I said? That isn’t quite it. It’s also important to remember that we constantly grow, or don’t grow, as testers. We aren’t fixed in stone. We’re just people with a slightly different way of interacting with the world. I think that’s what I wanted to say. How much a tester learns is up to that tester, and how much they grow is up to that tester, and…and how much they fail, too, I suppose.
JD: Right. According to Matthew if a tester doesn’t do his work regularly he can start to (looking over his notes) decay, I think was how Matthew put it. Would you care to talk about this?
M: You’re talking about graveyards, aren’t you?
JD: You tell me.
M: Well you know about the pain, the hurt that can overtake us? And how it gets so that the only thing that seems to be important to us is visiting with our choices?
JD: Matthew went into that, yes.
M: Okay, then follow that through to the end. If a tester gives in, decides not to do his work and decides instead to visit with his choice permanently, if they don’t force themselves back to the work, then they’re going to just sit and visit with their choice forever. During the first few decades this means visiting a living person, but after that it means visiting their final resting place. And, Matthew was correct in that not doing any testing will begin to wear away a tester. Epp believes we are paid back by the universe for pushing people ever forward. I’m not sure if that’s entirely correct but that is the basic idea. We’re nourished in some way by the work. Neglect the work, we start to, how did Matthew put it? Decay? So if you visit, or rather, if I were to visit a graveyard, I’m likely to see any number of testers who have given up. They’ve opted to wait out eternity at their choice’s final resting place. And so graveyards are filled with the wasted remains of our kind. It’s sad…and dangerous. Epp never should have risked taking me and Matthew to one.
JD: How dangerous?
M: Very. One of those things tore apart Epp’s leg. It was my fault, really.
JD: So these failed testers–
M: Oh, I don’t like that. Don’t call them failures, that’s too harsh. It’s a difficult world we live in.
JD: Okay, so one of these testers who has chosen to visit permanently with their choice, they could pose a real threat to a healthy tester? Is healthy the right word?
M: Healthy is fine. And no, the testers in the graveyards are very sluggish and slow. You would have to go out of your way to get into their way for one of them to hurt you. Which is exactly what Epp did. (Shaking her head) I really have a hard time watching him limp now. Did he mention how that was all my fault?
JD: It didn’t even come up.
JD: At any rate, the graveyards as you describe them, and the constant threat of giving in to your desire to see your choices, that makes it seem like you live in a very bleak sort of world.
M: That side of things can be, but then there are the mountain tops.
JD: The mountain tops?
M: (Nodding) They’re the complete opposite of graveyards. Mountain tops are where testers go to rest after finishing a push.
JD: Because pushing can take so much out of you.
M: Very much so, yes. After a decade long push it’s possible for a tester to travel to Mount Everest or high up in the Andes and collapse for a century or more.
JD: A monumental nap, if you will?
M: Yes. I consider it a very special treat to be able to visit a mountain top.
JD: So you can’t get up there normally?
M: No. No testers can. Not on their own. You have to have recently pushed, or you can follow someone up who recently pushed. They’re sacred places. They are reserved for those who need their rest. I really do love them. If you could come with me to Everest I could show you the exact opposite of the graveyards. I could show you hope triumphant and optimism everlasting sprawled out peacefully on rock faces and snowy clefts.
JD: That does sound nice.
M: It is.
JD: Okay, I think we’ll end on that and move right to the questionnaire created by Bernard Pivot and used by James Lipton from “Inside the Actors Studio.” You ready?
M: I am.
JD: What is your favorite word?
JD: What is your least favorite word?
M: I suppose I’ll go with the obvious and say doubt.
JD: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
M: Beauty? Does that make sense?
JD: And what turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
M: (Wrinkling her nose) Pettiness.
JD: What sound or noise do you love?
M: No one believes me, but on a good winter night the wind atop Mount Everest hits a note three octaves above perfect C. In the deep black of midnight it is wonderful.
JD: What sound or noise do you hate?
M: Babies screaming.
JD: What is your favorite curse word?
M: I am not going to answer that.
JD: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
M: I would do anything to have the courage to perform on stage. Broadway fascinates me.
JD: What profession would you not like to do?
M: Something where I have to argue a lot. A lawyer, I guess.
JD: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
M: The world is most certainly a better place because you existed.
JD: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.
M: (Smiles) That was fun.