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 Matthew. Matthew could just barely be considered a short man and his thinning hair makes him look older while his blue eyes are playful and childlike. He is constantly shifting positions, one minute sitting forward eagerly as if excited for the interview, the next moment shrinking back in his chair as if he is about to take a final exam that he is sure he is going to fail.)
Joseph Devon: Matthew, thank you for joining us.
Matthew: (Smiling) Oh, I had nothing else of much importance going on tonight anyway.
JD: So we had a chance to talk with Epp yesterday. He gave us kind of a beginner’s course in your kind.
M: (Laughing) I find it hard to believe Epp could make anything sound like a beginner’s course.
JD: You find him to be a difficult teacher?
M: First off, I don’t think I’d call him my teacher. Not to his face. He can shirk that title and that can have some odd results. You can ask Bartleby about that. And second, no, I think Epp is a great teacher, but when he gets all (makes a yap-yap motion with his hand) it can be difficult to follow. When he gets rolling I don’t think he quite understands that the rest of us aren’t two-thousand year old geniuses.
JD: I could see that, yes. So he gave us a brief overview of how one of you is made. It’s rather confusing, I must say.
M: Yeah? You thought so? That always made sense to me. Although I’m pretty new, I only became a tester about eight months ago.
JD: Maybe you’d like to explain it your way?
M: Well it’s pretty easy really. My wife and I were held up and the mugger’s gun went off and the only thing that went through my mind was, “Me not her, me not her, me not her,” over and over again. Something, somewhere, heard that and let my little wish come true. I wound up in this weird sort of limbo, just bouncing around, and my wife got a chance to continue her life. Pretty normal.
M: (Laughing) Oh yeah. Just your average self-sacrifice boilerplate kind of stuff. Anyway, so I was supposed to hang around until she passed away and then we’d both move on together, only there was something I didn’t realize, and that was that my daughter was involved too. So I had a choice to make, move along with my wife, or use my daughter to keep me here and become a tester.
JD: So this all made sense to you at the time?
M: Of course not, during those twenty years or so as a newbie I had no idea what was going on. I can only make sense of this now looking back. At the time things were…they were pretty jumbled. Dying will do that to you. But after making my second choice, well, things started to make a little more sense. (Pauses and thinks this over) Yeah, it was after I got cast loose that I was able to make sense of this.
JD: Now, would you mind going into more detail about that, about what it’s like to be cast loose.
M: It sucks.
JD: More detail than that?
M: You have to say goodbye. You have to say goodbye to both of them. I had to let go of my wife and daughter, who I had just met, on a deeper and more profound level than you could possibly understand. And you’re alone. Totally alone. And, as if that isn’t bad enough, as if the funny little ache you carry around with you isn’t enough, the hurt can come back to you at any time.
JD: The hurt?
M: Yeah, the pain of letting go, of saying goodbye forever, can just come ripping into you at any time. It’s like if the single worst moment of your life was allowed to come back to you without warning, only it was twenty times stronger than you remembered. That’s what the pain is like. You’ll all of a sudden have this, just, catastrophic heartache and you’ll of course want to compensate by going to go visit with one of your choices. It’s rough. (Running a hand over his face) It’s rough all over.
JD: And what happens if you go for a visit?
M: Well, you’re going to need to ask someone else about that, I’m pretty new so I don’t know if I understand it entirely. But basically I think you can sort of get stuck. You have to keep in mind, the urge is like a drug, once is never enough, so you can wind up making a visit that lasts for centuries. And, again I’m not sure I have this right, but I’m pretty sure that if we don’t put in work, if we don’t push or test, after awhile we start to decay.
JD: (Nodding) We’ve got some questions about that for some other people, yes.
M: Yeah. So, anyway, the pain is bad, and it can lead to the urge to visit with your choices. Or, hell, the urges can just come on their own. And, and¸ you need to keep in mind that doing the work? Testing itself? That sends us back into the moment that created us. I’ve only really pushed once, this little girl, but all I heard the entire time was my wife’s scream, just over and over and over again. And I came out of it terrified and feeling utterly alone and wanted nothing more than to see my daughter. So digest that. If we don’t push, we rot, but in order to push we have to face our worst moments over and over and over again.
JD: That’s interesting, I’d never thought about it quite like that.
M: Well…me either for that matter. It’s probably best not to. And, you know, it’s important to note that there are some upsides to this condition of ours. We get to create greatness. That’s pretty neat. (Smiles) And I can light my cigars without needing a match. And the views from the top of Mt. Everest at midnight, on a clear night? Astounding.
JD: I’m sure they are. All right, I think we can wrap things up there. I’d like to thank you for coming. We’re going to end with 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?
M: Um…I don’t know. Mushrooms?
M: Yeah, mushrooms. Isn’t this one of those, “There are no right answers,” sort of things?
JD: Of course, yes, no mushrooms is fine. Perfectly fine. I was just expecting something different I guess. No, it’s fine. What is your least favorite word?
M: (Frowning in thought) Well, now I kind of don’t like “mushrooms.”
JD: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
M: I have a great desire to no longer be the stupidest person in the room, so I work very hard to catch up with the people who have been testing for hundreds of years.
JD: And what turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
M: Feeling like I’m trying my hardest but not gaining any ground.
JD: What sound or noise do you love?
M: Rain against a window.
JD: What sound or noise do you hate?
M: Crowds. Being surrounded by a large crowd.
JD: What is your favorite curse word?
JD: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
M: Something easy, like a data entry person, something where I could just go in, do my work, then be done for the day and not have to think so god-damned much.
JD: What profession would you not like to do?
M: Cashier someplace crowded.
JD: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
M: You’re allowed to rest now.
JD: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.
M: Same here. That was fun.