An interview with Nyx

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 sits Nyx. Nyx is young, barely in her twenties if not still a teenager. Her hair is dark black and pert bangs rest on her forehead over heavy lidded eyes rimmed in purple eyeliner. She is sitting back in a semi-daze, as if contemplating taking a nap. She reaches up lazily and wipes a bright scarlet smear off of the corner of her mouth. A fine mist of something similarly colored is splattered over the carpet and the interviewer’s chair which sits across from her, noticeably empty.)

An interview with Hector

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 Hector. Hector is broad shouldered, his large frame is barely contained by a three-piece suit. His eyes are covered with mirrored sunglasses that hug his face close. His arms are folded and he doesn’t seem to happy about being here. Up against the near wall Gregor is seated, his face hidden behind the newspaper he’s reading.)

Joseph Devon: Okay, Hector, it’s good to have you here.

Hector: Yah.

JD: Now we’ve covered most everything in other interviews except what’s been in the works on your end of things.

H: What’s that mean?

JD: I mean we’ve gone into what testers are and how they work and live and some of their history. All I really have questions about for my readers is what you’ve been up to in the graveyards.

H: I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about. (The newspaper rattles and Gregor’s face appears. Hector glances over and gets an assenting nod from Gregor.) Yeah? (Gregor nods again) Okay. (The mirrored sunglasses turn to face the interviewer again) You want to repeat that?

JD: I was wondering if you could say a few words about what you’ve been up to in the graveyards.

H: A tester stops pushing, they start to rot. A lot of these end up in graveyards, you know, because they wind up chasing after their choices. So, yeah, I’ve been doing some work in graveyards.

JD: Were you the first one Gregor brought back?

H: (Hesitant) No, there were others. I’m just naturally suited to the work that needs to be done.

JD: And can we talk about that work? Frankly and openly?

H: How’s that?

JD: You were a goner, you were a decaying corpse of a tester, weren’t you? And Gregor figured out, (looking over his notes) I’m not sure when, but he figured out that if you feed healthy testers to a rotting tester, the rotting tester begins to grow back. In fact, he found out that they grow back far more powerful than before. Is that right?

H: (Looking over at Gregor) How much does this guy know?

Gregor: It’s okay.

H: You sure about this?

G: It’s okay. I talked to him yesterday. You can talk to him today. And Nyx will talk to him tomorrow.

H: (Indicating with his finger as he talks this through) You talked to him yesterday? (Gregor nods) And I’ll talk to him today? And then Nyx is going to be here tomorrow? (Gregor nods again. Hector thinks this through one more time) Okay then. (Turning back to the interviewer) I guess fire away.

JD: When a tester rotting in a graveyard gets fed enough healthy testers, they come back stronger-

H: That’s right. We’re stronger than before. Much, much, stronger. And faster. Make sure you put down faster.

JD: Okay, yes, I think I’ve got that. But some parts of you don’t quite regenerate fully, do they? Like your eyes? Or Nyx’s hand?

H: Yeah, that’s right. Some parts don’t quite grow back again. They stay a little rotten.

JD: Can we see your eyes?

H: Fuck off.

JD: (Forcing a laugh) So that would be a “No?”

H: (Not responding)

JD: Okay. So can we talk about you for a bit? You were in a graveyard at one point. So that means you gave up as a tester, you refused to work. Would you care to talk about that?

H: This is ridiculous. (Turning to Gregor) How much of this do I have to sit through?

G: I thought it would be interesting. I guess not. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. We’ve really got nowhere to go, though. You might as well kill some time.

H: Nah. (Turning to interviewer) We’re done.

JD: Um…I…okay. I guess we’ll just finish with the questionnaire created by Bernard Pivot and used by James Lipton from “Inside the Actors Studio.” What is your favorite word?

H: Love. (To Gregor) Did you do the jumble yet?

JD: What is your least favorite word?

H: Let’s just go ahead and mark down that I answered “Love” for all of these okay? (Takes a section of newspaper from Gregor’s outstretched hand and begins flipping through it)

JD: Well. I guess that means we’re-

H: Shhh.

JD: (Whispering) Sorry.

An interview with Gregor

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 Gregor. Tall, lean, and pale, Gregor has a sharp confidence to him that he emits through an easy smile and casual attitude that seem at odds with his gaunt coloring and middle aged face. When he needs to, he can appear imposing, if not downright frightening, with a pointed gaze that burns through sallow eyes.)

Joseph Devon: Gregor, I thank you for joining us.

Gregor: And I thank you for having me.

JD: Now, we’ve been through a number of interviews and we’ve covered most everything concerning your world, I hope. But before we get started, is there anything you’d like to say about being a tester that you want to make sure gets mentioned?

G: Nothing that comes to mind, no.

JD: Right. I suppose if we’re going to talk to you we’re going to have to talk about the Council. Is that going to be a problem for you?

G: No, what happened there happened centuries ago. I’ve long ago made my peace with the Council.

JD: And have you made your peace with Epp?

G: (Smiling his easy smile) I hardly think it’s right to go blaming Epp for the actions of a hundred other testers, do you?

JD: (Slightly put off) I suppose not. Um…(Looking through his notes) so can we talk about what brought on the Council’s punishment for you in first place?

G: Of course. I was opting to do things a little differently when I first started testing.

JD: How so?

G: I’m sure you know the basic idea, we interfere in the lives of humans and we gain energy from them by altering them.

JD: By pushing them forward.

G: That’s one way of putting it, I suppose. At any rate, I decided to see what I could draw out of an entire village up in the mountains of Eastern Europe.

JD: And how did you do that?

G: I’m not going to give up any secrets here, Mr. Devon, but it’s enough for you to know that I was striving to become an icon, a myth, a legend amongst those people. I was curious to know what ways we were allowed to interact with humans, how many undiscovered tools were still left to be found.

JD: And what did you become?

G: I became myth (smiles). I became legend.

JD: You became the origin of vampires.

G: I did. But don’t say it like that. My work has been used and ingested and chewed up and turned around so many times that I actually like to distance myself from today’s notion of vampires. All the stories and movies you have today, they really stray away from the simplistic beauty of what I did up in that village. Of the reaction I was able to build. It was wonderful.

JD: You were just trying to see what was possible.

G: That’s right.

JD: And you ran headfirst into another group of testers, also sensing that new things were in the wind, and also curious to see what was possible.

G: That is a very good way of putting it. I ran right smack into the newly formed Council.

JD: And they opted to punish you, which we’ve already discussed with Kyo.

G: You talked with Kyo, did you? You didn’t get anything interesting out of him, did you?

JD: Not a lot, no.

G: That one’s a bit of a mystery.

JD: That’s for certain. Anyway, is it true that Epp was against the Council by the time they had decided to punish you? He says that he was leaning towards considering your work genius.

G: That sounds correct, yes.

JD: Epp was against the Council?

G: No, that sounds like something Epp would say.

JD: I see. And you, during those years, spent a lot of time in graveyards?

G: That was where they drove me. I didn’t have many other places to go.

JD: And you learned a lot while you were there?

G: Not so much, no. I think maybe you’re going to want to save those questions for Hector.

JD: Hector hasn’t agreed to meet with me.

G: (Surprised) No? I’ll have a word with him. You’ll want to see him and Nyx I’m assuming?

JD: Well, yes that would round out the week nicely. Thank you.

G: (Waving off thanks) It’s not a problem.

JD: Okay, so to end, can we just talk a little bit about what you have in the works currently?

G: I’d really rather not talk about it. You know how it is as a fellow creator. You don’t want to give too much away. It ruins the effect.

JD: Yeah…yeah that makes sense. But it’s safe to say that you don’t entirely agree with Epp’s school of thought.

G: Let’s just say that I don’t think Epp speaks for all of us.

JD: I suppose that will do for now. Um…well okay then. Thank you. I guess we’ll move on to the questionnaire created by Bernard Pivot and used by James Lipton from “Inside the Actors Studio.” You ready?

G: I am.

JD: What is your favorite word?

G: Possible.

JD: That’s interesting.

G: Why?

JD: That’s the same…never mind. What is your least favorite word?

G: Structure.

JD: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

G: A blank canvas, or the equivalent thereof.

JD: And what turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

G: I don’t know. Too many rules, I suppose? That sounds so corny but I suppose it’ll do.

JD: What sound or noise do you love?

G: Bacon frying.

JD: What sound or noise do you hate?

G: I loathe loud trucks. Or cars. Those muscle cars? Ugh. Get a life.

JD: What is your favorite curse word?

G: Motherfucking hell.

JD: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

G: I could see a pilot. Not a pilot today, but back in the old barnstorming days. Flying a biplane in loops and that sort of thing.

JD: What profession would you not like to do?

G: I have no interest in math. So anything too math heavy. Income tax filer.

JD: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly

gates?

G: Your gains have outweighed your costs.

JD: Thank you. Very interesting.

G: Agreed.

An interview with Kyokutei

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 Kyokutei. Kyo is dressed in a cheap lime-green suit that that doesn’t fit very well and doesn’t seem very comfortable. His face is suggestive of Asian descent and he has high cheek bones and thick dark eyebrows as well as tufts of hair sprouting from his chin. There is a wavering quality to him, as if he is more than one thing at once. At times he appears as a ratty imp, at other times he looks like a great lord or powerful leader from another era who has woken up in the body of a used car salesman, and who has continued on in that role, partly out of curiosity and partly out of an inability to figure out how to get back to his old life.)

Joseph Devon: Kyokutei, I’d like to welcome you.

Kyokutei: Thank you, Mr. Devon.

JD: Now, we’ve been chatting with testers all this week…but (pausing to choose his words carefully) you’re not quite like them, are you?

K: I prefer direct questions.

JD: What are you?

K: I don’t exactly know.

JD: So you are different in some way from the testers I’ve been talking with?

K: That much is certain.

JD: Now (looking through his notes) Epp once stated that you have never once pushed, and that you made a conscious decision to live that way once you came to know the tester’s world.

K: Epp likes to see the best in people. I’m not sure I would have phrased it that way, but, yes, I have never pushed out of choice.

JD: Okay. Right, but, we’ve also heard from any number of people that testers who don’t push will slowly decay, or I think the word “rot” was used as well.

K: Yes.

JD: You’re not rotting. You just don’t have an abundance of…energy, I guess I would say?

K: I shop at thrift stores, yes.

JD: Right, but you don’t rot.

K: No.

JD: (Clearly wanting Kyo to take the initiative and begin talking on his own) So how does that work?

K: How does what work?

JD: How is it that a member of Epp’s world is able to never once test a human and yet not become a rotted permanent visitor in a graveyard?

K: I’m different.

JD: Yes, but how are you different.

K: Why does it matter?

JD: I’m curious. We’re all curious. How are you different?

K: Well, it’s like this. I’m different in that I’m not the same as the other testers.

JD: (Pausing for a split-moment before realizing that Kyo hasn’t actually answered anything) You don’t want to talk about this, do you?

K: Not very much, no.

JD: So how am I supposed to let my readers get to the bottom of Kyo?

K: You’ve got a two-thousand year old Roman slave who can toss people to the far side of Mercury and I’m the point of interest?

JD: Epp answered all of my questions. You haven’t.

K: You wouldn’t understand my time, you wouldn’t understand my culture, you wouldn’t understand my life.

JD: How do you know what I’d…never mind. (Shuffling quickly through more of his notes) Would you describe your relationship with Epp as a friendly one?

K: I would, yes.

JD: Even though you’re out to destroy him.

K: (Shaking his head) Everyone phrases it like that. I like Epp. Epp has a unique problem that most people can’t understand, he has no method of measuring himself. Other testers? They can try to do what Epp has done. Epp? He has nothing like that. There was a period of time a few centuries back when he came to believe that he was slipping as a tester. He was focusing on the wrong things, like putting together the Council. He asked me if I would figure out ways to challenge him. That way, he could be sure he still was on track and wasn’t simply believing his own, I guess you could say his own hype.

JD: Now, the Council-

K: Was a complete disaster from top to bottom. There was no need for it, but Epp thought it would be nice if there was a central, how would I put this, location, I suppose, or base of operations. I believe his idea was simply to allow testers to congregate and share ideas. Maybe set up some systems to facilitate the training of new testers or to answer questions. I think that was what he had in mind, but with Epp it is hard to be sure. I do know that the end result was more formal than he was looking for. It became a governing body of sorts, for those without bodies. Silly, in my mind, but some people went for it in a big way. And they jumped all over Gregor. Starved him out. Then it basically imploded. Now the Council is probably closer to what Epp envisioned, but it’s very lackluster. Not a lot of real power.

JD: Interesting.

K: Not particularly.

JD: And you helped the Council to prosecute Epp recently for Bartleby’s disappearance?

K: Correct. Not my finest work.

JD: Because you turned on Epp like that?

K: No, because it was an ornamental gesture with no real backing. I felt like a paper tiger up there. But I hadn’t thrown anything new at Epp recently so I went along when Gregor wanted to put him on trial. There’s not a lot they were going to be able to do. After the Council punished Gregor all those years ago most testers finally got it through their skulls that it was just too much damned work to uphold a punishment like that. I mean, they starved Gregor out. They had gobs of people following him around, making sure that he was never able to push, and they did it for decades. Truly idiotic. Was never going to stick. And, as I said, after that the Council just became more of an informal club. But Gregor wanted to put Epp on trial and, as I said, I didn’t have anything better to do.

JD: I see.

K: Do you?

JD: Maybe.

K: Splendid.

JD: I think we’re going to end this now. We’ll just work through the questionnaire created by Bernard Pivot and used by James Lipton from “Inside the Actors Studio.” You ready?

K: Are you?

JD: What is your favorite word?

K: Redemption.

JD: What is your least favorite word?

K: Revenge.

JD: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

K: Very little.

JD: And what turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

K: I’m not a big fan of being given too much instruction.

JD: What sound or noise do you love?

K: Footfalls crunching in the snow.

JD: What sound or noise do you hate?

K: Fax machines.

JD: What is your favorite curse word?

K: Go fuck yourself.

JD: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

K: A monk studying Zen Buddhism.

JD: What profession would you not like to do?

K: Government work.

JD: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

K: We serve rice wine.

JD: Okay, we’re done.

An interview with Bartleby

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 Bartleby. Bartleby is dressed in black from top to bottom. His clothes blend in with his hair which is just as dark and hangs in short pin-straight lines about his head. His age is hard to tell, he could be anywhere from twenty to mid-thirties. His demeanor is standoffish, as if he isn’t entirely sure that he is okay with this interview.)

Joseph Devon: Welcome, Bartleby, and thank you for coming.

Bartleby: Yeah. Yeah, it’s no problem I guess.

JD: So we’ve talked with a few of your kind thus far, gotten a wide range of perspectives, is there anything that comes to your mind that we absolutely must know about being a tester?

B: I don’t…not that I can think of, no.

JD: All right. Then let’s dive right in. You are roughly the same age as Mary, and like Mary you are one of Epp’s students? Correct?

B: (Taking a deep breath as if choosing his words carefully) I’m not so sure that I’ll ever refer to Epp as my teacher again. Frankly, I’m not sure that anyone, anywhere, ever, should refer to Epp as their teacher.

JD: (Checking his notes) Right, right. There was an altercation between you and Epp when he felt you weren’t progressing as a student.

B: You could call it an altercation I suppose.

JD: What happened?

B: What you need to understand about Epp is that he doesn’t consider himself a teacher or a mentor or a leader. If he assumes anything close to one of those roles, it’s under the assumption that you will learn. He isn’t interested in how smart you think he is, he isn’t interested in feeling superior to you, he isn’t interested in any of that. He teaches so you’ll learn, and if he gets the feeling that you aren’t taking a proactive enough stance as a student, if you start to worry about making him happy rather than learning what you came to learn, well he doesn’t react too well.

JD: How did he react?

B: He kind of grabbed me by the shoulder and tossed me onto the far side of Mercury.

JD: The planet?

B: Yes. That would be correct.

JD: You’ll have to forgive me, but how-

B: He’s Epp.

JD: How far is it possible for one of you to travel?

B: No idea. It’s a mix of how far your kind has gone and how far one of us believes is possible to travel. See, your world and our world are constantly intertwined and your notions of your world greatly affect ours. If I had let Epp down in the year, I don’t know, 52 AD, before telescopes had allowed you to actually see distant planets and what have you, then I’m not sure how far Epp could have sent me. It’s like cell phones. (Reaches into his pocket and takes out a cell phone) We use these all the time now. The notion of having a personal communication device didn’t exist for us until you guys came up with it. But we only use the idea of cell phones, it’s not like we have cell towers set up in some parallel universe. And, it’s worth mentioning, that long distance communication was possible for us before you came up with it, it just required a very deep understanding of the nature of things and a tremendous amount of energy. Epp was probably able to do something similar to making a phone call eons ago.

JD: That’s interesting.

B: Our relationship is give and take. Epp drilled that into me over and over.

JD: And then he threw you onto the far side of Mercury.

B: (Doesn’t respond for awhile) Yeah. Then he did that.

JD: Now you wound up with some side effects from that trip.

B: Yes. We can just get right to it. I now light on fire constantly and without control.

JD: You’re prone to bursting into flames?

B: You’re repeating me.

JD: Sorry. Can you explain that?

B: I can explain it to my liking, yes. Whether it makes sense to you is not up to me. But I was on Mercury, where the temperature can reach up to eight hundred degrees. And I traveled there almost instantly. Now you, if you were to land there, you’d just burst into flames and be killed in seconds, but I don’t technically have a body so obviously I didn’t die. Instead I was suddenly dealing with molecular motion and chemical reactions that I had never seen anything like. It was different, wildly and completely different and whatever part of me I use to interact with the physical world has been unable to take in and deal with all the…all the crap I dealt with while I was there. (Irritated) So, no, I can’t control what happens to me so much any more, it’s not like I was able to get used to the energy shift that happens when you travel millions of miles and hundreds of degrees like that (Snaps his fingers. Outside a burst of lightning flashes).

JD: (Looking outside, confused) I had no idea it was supposed to rain today.

B: (Rubbing a palm wearily against one eye) Sorry, that might have been me. (Looks outside) I’ve got a lot on my mind recently. (Clearly getting worked up as smoke begins to billow up out of his shoulders) Can we maybe wrap this up?

JD: (Alarmed) Absolutely. We’re going to end with the questionnaire created by Bernard Pivot and used by James Lipton from “Inside the Actors Studio.” You ready?

B: I just said I was.

JD: What is your favorite word?

B: Ice-cold water.

JD: What is your least favorite word?

B: Alone.

JD: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

B: The thought of showing other people what I can do.

JD: And what turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

B: Bursting into flames.

JD: What sound or noise do you love?

B: A woman’s laughter.

JD: What sound or noise do you hate?

B: Any large machinery that isn’t properly oiled.

JD: What is your favorite curse word?

B: Son of a bitch is always nice.

JD: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

B: Let’s see…whaler?

JD: Whaler?

B: Yup. Does it have to be a current profession?

JD: It doesn’t have to be anything, no.

B: Then whaler. One of those guys who worked on a whaling ship a couple hundred years back. I’m not sure what role on the ship I’d like, but I’d figure it out.

JD: What profession would you not like to do?

B: No idea. Ballet dancer.

JD: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

B: We’re air conditioned.

JD: We’re done. Are you okay?

B: I think I’m fine now, thanks.

An interview with Mary

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.

M: Oh.

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?

M: Faith.

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.

An interview with Matthew

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.

JD: 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?

JD: 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?

M: Cock-knocker.

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.

An interview with Epictetus

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 Epictetus. Epictetus’ dark black skin is offset by his immaculately cut suit, and both of these combined with his muscular tone and stern dark eyes would make him seem imposing if it wasn’t for the warmth in his smile.)

Joseph Devon: Good morning, thank you for coming.

Epictetus: No problem at all.

JD: So this is the first in a string of interviews. I wasn’t sure where to put you in the order, but I decided that it was probably best to start with you.

E: I take it this means I’m going to be getting all the hard questions.

JD: Unfortunately, yes. Should we start with your age?

E: I’m roughly 2,000 years old.

JD: Roughly?

E: We don’t really have any means of keeping a written history, so some information gets lost.

JD: And by “we” you mean?

E: Testers. Or pushers we’re sometimes called.

JD: Okay, and what is a tester exactly?

E: Have you ever had something bad happen in your life that, once you got through it, you looked back and viewed as a positive influence? A source of growth?

JD: Maybe.

E: That was the work of a tester.

JD: I’m not sure I…I don’t think I understand.

E: (There is a long pause as Epp leans back in his chair and stares off, thinking. He comes back to us smiling.) Well, let’s take you for example. If you make it as a writer will you look back on these years of struggle as a formative time? A time of learning?

JD: Not really, this seems kind of like a giant pain in the ass. I want to hang out in Spain and drink all day. That’s what I thought I was signing up for with this writing gig. It’s taken me somewhere rather different.

E: (Laughing) Testers are often misunderstood. But didn’t you say awhile back that “every word matters,” in your writing? Did you always have that viewpoint? Did you always rewrite stories four or five times? Did you always force yourself to focus as much as you do now?

JD: Not so much, no. I used to not believe in rewriting.

E: And would you say that all the years and all the piles of rejection letters for your manuscripts were what made you constantly return to the work and attempt to improve yourself and your craft?

JD: I don’t think I like where this is heading.

E: So isn’t it possible to say that being rejected has made you into a better writer?

JD: Has one of you been rejecting my stories?

E: (Smiling) You know I can’t answer that. And there many other factors than testers at play in this universe. But that’s just an example of how one of us might go to work. It can be as simple as altering something in the physical world, like maybe slipping rejection slips into your SASEs, or it’s possible someone went to work inside of you, forced you to doubt yourself, applied pressure to you to go back and relearn your job.

JD: (Clearly uncomfortable) Can we stop talking about me specifically? It’s a little weird.

E: Of course.

JD: Thank you. Now a couple more questions about testers in general, and then I’d like to hear a little more about Epictetus specifically.

E: My time is yours.

JD: Would you describe yourself as a ghost?

E: Not really. Although it’s quite possible that many ghost stories you’ve heard are actually about a tester. We exist in your physical reality, that’s important to note, but we interact with it differently. I’m capable of being visible to you or not, for example. And to pick up, say, this pen I could either manipulate it through physical exertion (Epp picks up the pen in question with his hand) or I could manipulate the very basic energy contained in the pen at a quantum level (Epp stares at the pen and concentrates, it cracks and curls up until it compresses into small ball before disappearing).

JD: (Impressed) You owe me one pen.

E: It would seem that I do.

JD: Right then. Now, how does one become a tester?

E: Through a series of choices. Essentially, a person becomes a tester by finding themselves in a situation in which they, and two people close to them, are in danger of dying. For me it was a house fire two thousand years ago. I woke up in a house full of flames and heard my wife screaming. The only thought that went through my head was that if someone was going to die that I wanted it to be me and not her. In fact, I believe I did some begging that this would be the case. And it was. I died. She lived. This is what’s known as the first choice.

JD: You mentioned three people, though.

E: Yes, well, after the first choice is made a tester exists in a kind of a trial basis. These are called newbies by some people. You become this otherworldly thing that can disappear and (laughs) destroy pens and such. But you aren’t a tester yet. There’s still your second choice to be made. That’s where the third person comes in. For all testers it seems like there was only one other person involved, it seems like a straight forward trade, your life for theirs, but that isn’t the case. Eventually that other person dies, and then everything becomes clear. When my wife eventually passed away it finally dawned on me that I had heard two other people screaming in that house fire. My wife and another woman who meant a great deal to me. After attending my wife’s funeral I had to make my second choice. It was time to actually decide if I had sacrificed myself for my wife or for this other woman. And, in this second choice, it is possible for a tester to be born. If you decide to protect the other person, if I had chosen that other woman as the reason for my sacrifice, then I would have become tethered to her and when she finally passed on I would have exited from this world.

JD: But you didn’t make that choice.

E: No, I chose my wife, who was passing away. Now it gets a little confusing. Because, while I did choose my wife, my bond with the other woman was strong enough so that I didn’t actually follow my wife from this world. But once my wife passed, because she was the one that I chose, all bonds ceased to exist. In other words, in choosing my wife I chose to remain here, on this world, but become permanently separated from those that I loved. Those, in fact, that I loved enough to die for in the first place. I became a tester.

JD: You’re right, it is a little confusing.

E: (Laughs) Yes, but that is more or less the point. There is an odd little hiccup in the universe that allows us to exist. A loophole, if you will, in what seems to be a simple moment of self sacrifice. We juke the system and stay behind while the doorway to the next world closes. But, yes, it can get confusing, and in the end it doesn’t exactly matter. The thermodynamics involved in an internal combustion engine are also confusing but you don’t need to understand them every time you want start your car. I loved my wife enough to die for her, and when she passed on I decided I loved the world enough to not go with her and cast myself adrift forever.

JD: Okay, and we’re going to look at that sense of being adrift when we talk to some other testers throughout this week. For now, though, we’re running out of time and I want to just get a little history on you. What was your greatest push?

E: They all have their merits but I’m assuming you’re talking about Newton.

JD: Yes. I’d like to talk briefly about that and Kyokutei’s role in it.

E: A lot of people don’t understand Kyo. And for good reason I suppose. He is a little different. But he’s tough and he’s pure, that much I can tell you. And, after I had been testing for about fifteen hundred years, I felt I was getting soft so I enlisted Kyo to help me, to challenge me, to attempt to destroy me if possible. One thing Kyo did was to dig up a young boy named Isaac Newton. There was such huge potential in Newton that failing while pushing him could have obliterated me. So Kyo is basically a tester for the testers. Although he seems to only be working for me at the moment.

JD: Possibly because you’re the only one crazy enough to ask someone like him to destroy you.

E: (Smiles) Possibly. You have to understand, though, after fifteen hundred years of anything you’re going to begin to wish for some way to shake things up.

JD: That seems perfectly understandable. All right, I’d like to thank you for coming. I didn’t get around to asking you everything I wanted but, like we said at the beginning of this, it’s probably best that you get asked the hard questions even if that means a little less Epp than I had hoped for. We’re going to end with the questionnaire created by Bernard Pivot and used by James Lipton from “Inside the Actors Studio.” You ready?

E: Most certainly.

JD: What is your favorite word?

E: Possible.

JD: What is your least favorite word?

E: Can’t.

JD: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

E: I try to keep with me a sense of wonder at what people can accomplish.

JD: And what turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

E: When I think back at how long I’ve been here…it can sometimes seem to me like I’ve overstayed my welcome. Like maybe it’s time to move on.

JD: What sound or noise do you love?

E: Perfectly shaped ice cubes dropping into a nice, thick, crystal whiskey glass.

JD: What sound or noise do you hate?

E: The roar of a fire.

JD: What is your favorite curse word?

E: (Laughing) There was a wonderful one in use in Gaul awhile back but I don’t think it would translate well. I guess, “Ah, fuck,” is nice. Sort of flows nicely.

JD: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

E: I’d like to be a cook. A cook in the local bar, you know, I don’t want to be a chef. I like more rustic stuff. I want to be the guy who makes the buffalo wings that you crave every weekend.

JD: What profession would you not like to do?

E: I don’t think I could be a surgeon.

JD: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

E: (Thinks for awhile) That was some good work you did; now go see your wife.

JD: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.

E: No problem at all.

I am writing and publishing a novel online in installments

A few things today.

1) The above title. I am writing and publishing a novel online in installments. Installments. That word has eluded me for, like, eight months now. I kept telling people I was writing a novel in serial form, whatever that is. I’d explain the site and this project and then say something, “And, on top of that, some of the stories are sort of mixing together so really I’m now also writing a novel in serialized form.” Which doesn’t make any sense. I swear, without a keyboard under my fingertips I make about 85% less sense. Not that I make tons of sense with the keyboard. Anyway, installments. That’s the word I’ve been wanting to use. It’s okay though, I’m just the writer here. It’s not like I’m supposed to be able to think up descriptive words and phrases for things and stuff.

2) I’ve been tinkering with the site some. I know a lot of you don’t particularly need to read all the blathering and blundering I do before I get to a new story, so now you can subscribe to get the stories and just the stories in your reader or inbox. It’s in that button off to the side there by the orange chicklet. However, before you take this option I should tell you that…

3) We’ve got another Matthew and Epp story coming next. When I got it into my head to write and publish this novel in installments (serialized? seriously? that’s the word I’ve been using?) there were a number of things that didn’t occur to me. One of the bigger ones was that long time readers would be coming into the later parts having read the earlier parts six, seven, eight months ago. Which makes things difficult, especially when you write like I do. Normally for something like this there’d be a “Previously on <example> this happened…” But I’d rather write three more books than summarize any past one so hopefully I’ve figured out a different way to do this. Which I will be rolling out in the blog as the next deadline approaches. Hopefully it will work.

Oh, and 4) Flying monkeys. Go tell some people. Go here and tell them. Tell them! Tell them what you have seen here and that quality fiction is alive and well on the internet (maybe not that last story so much but you know what I mean) and tell them to rejoice.