Monday, April 17, 2017

Interview with the Author

"What did you like about writing when you were younger?"
"I didn't know how to care about the audience."
"That sounds terrible."
"I mean I wrote with too much description, it was fantasy world-building."
"So you read it today and what?"
"I see how impatient I was, how controlling."
"Of the audience?"
"Of everything. Myself, the story, the audience, I just didn't want to leave anything up to anyone."
"You didn't want it to be a collaboration."
"That's it exactly. I was also in a hurry which made for sloppy writing at times."
"What else?"
"I was more interested in moods than stories. I could write evocatively at times but the evocation never went anywhere. I didn't understand why I liked the stories I read. I didn't understand the writer's restraint was letting me imagine more for myself. When I tried to write my own stories I tried to have the same feeling and it was like looking down the wrong end of a telescope."
"You didn't find an audience?"
"I didn't find an audience"
"So you changed how you write?"
"I evolved it. I worked at restraining myself, being patient with the story, making sure everyone wants something in every scene."
"If this were a scene from one of your stories, would it go anywhere?"
"What do you want?"
"Excuse me?"
"If this were a scene from one of my stories, we would both want something."
"Oh, I see, but you know what I want, it's why we're here."
"Exactly, and I want to give it."
"So we would qualify?"
"As fictional characters?"
"As fictional characters."
"I'd say we would."
"Thank you for the interview."

The writer got off the couch and shook hands with the interviewer. The cameras switched off.

"I'm bored by stories about people with names who do things to become things."
"What's your next project about?"
"I don't know. Except that I'd like it to be heavy on dialogue and action with description limited to only relevant external sensory details."
"Like the leather of the couch and the cut of my suit?"
"No, those don't matter,"
"What does matter?"
"Unusual details that advance the story."
"No space for beautiful writing in your fiction?"
"Looks are not enough. I need to work on my stories."
"What would the Lord of the Rings be without beautiful writing?"
"I first read that when I was 13 years old. It's my bible."
"Would making it shorter make it better?"
"Tolkien gave us a new world. That new world warranted description."
"What about our world?"
"It warrants less."
"You talk like those slaves to reality."
"I'm not, but I do like speed."
"Description slows down the pace?"

The crew had gone. The studio was empty except for the writer and the interviewer.

"We should go if we don't want to get locked in."
"Locked-in syndrome is one of my greatest fears."
"Most people would agree with you."
"I need a taxi."
"There's a stand right around the corner."
"Can I drop you someplace?" "
That's alright."
"Thank you again."
"I'm a fan."
"You didn't say so before."
"I didn't want to."
"Ha. You are a fan."
The interviewer smiles. The author does also. Then the author is out the door and going around the corner without looking back. The interviewer goes back inside the building.

A room is filled with books and keyboards. Pencils and pens. The author is lying in bed watching the interview on a pocket computer. There is no editing of content. Only changes of camera angle. There's coverage, close-ups and cutaways but no cuts.

A rumbling stomach sends the author to the fridge. There are leftover barbecue chicken wings. The author eats them cold.

Sleep brings dreams of industrial keyboards set into metal steps on wheels. In the dream one is ordered online

Morning breaks through the windows. It's not the right morning. Memories of dreams of waking in rooms filled with light. The distant crash of surf beyond dunes beyond windows.

The sun rises black on a green sky. A colour negative. The author knows what's happened and runs down to the cellar. Down behind boxes of old magazines he never plans to read again is a door. The author opens the door and gets inside. Locking the door behind.

The author wishes the interviewer could be there. In another universe, the author had invited the interviewer home to continue the discussion, maybe more. But that was in another universe. In this one. The author returned home alone.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Benevolence

Howling, the puppies were fed into the grinder one by one. Francis fed them whole, the paste that came out the other end had bits of fur and bone still recognizeable in among the blood and excrement. Francis put another puppy into the grinder. Its eyes wide in terror. Its nose overwhelmed by the reek of its ground up brothers and sisters. Francis didn't look as scrabbling legs slipped on the smooth lip of the feeder funnel. Francis didn't listen to its wailing as its tail and then its hind legs were caught by the the teeth of the grinder. Francis focused on making certain not a drop of precious offal spilled from the recepticle that was now nearly full. The last puppy was in the grinder now, the machine screamed alone where moments ago it had been accompanied by a hellish chorus. The puppy was all the way through the grinder. Francis shut off. The ensuing silence was deafening.
Time to clean the grinder. Francis wheeled the receptical aside. It was a large blue plastic water drum resting on an office dolly. He picked up the end of a garden hose and turned the water on with his free hand. When the jet struck the grinder there was a tinkle of metal. Washing down the machine was just the first part. When water alone had removed as much of the blood and bone as possible, Francis shut off the water and turned to the back of the grinder. There was a large electric cable plugged into the base. Francis pulled it out. Could never be too careful around an industrial meat grinder. Francis smiled. In over a decade of work he'd not yet had an accident on the job.
It was Hector, his foreman. Francis turned to look at him. Hector was a short man who walked around with a clipboard even if he didn't need one. He'd read somewhere that it made him look more managerial.
"Leave the rest of the cleaning for later, we need the material topside."
Hector never called them puppies. Francis bet he had a dog at home. Francis imagined putting Hectors imaginary dog into the grinder to see if Hector would still call it material when it was his own dog getting ground up into paste.
"Sure thing boss."
Hector smiled. Francis waited until he was taking the 'material' away before rolling his eyes. Hector was easy to flatter, all men who rise above their competence responded to flattery in Francis' experience. The less competent they were the easier it was to flatter them. Francis pushed the dolly to the elevator and pressed the button for the top floor. As he held the handle of the dolly he tried to catch the cameras mounted in the ceiling out of the corner of his eye.
The elevator door opened.
As Francis walked in there was a moment when the cameras couldn't see his fingers. Francis dipped one finger into the paste then brought it up to his mouth. Francis sucked the offal off his finger looking to all the world as if he was biting a hangnail. He felt the corruption flood his mouth. His head felt light with the thrill of forbidden delights chased by the fear of being caught out.
The elevator doors closed.
The elevator rose.
The elevator doors opened.
Francis blinked against the brightness of the sun. He pushed the dolly several steps out past the doors of the elevator to a second dolly. Laying beside it was an empty blue plastic drum. It was perfectly clean except where on the side that had been laying in the dust.
Not a living thing could be seen in any direction.
Francis righted the drum and put it back on its trolley then wheeled it back to the elevator. Once he was inside he pressed the button to down.
The doors closed quickly. Francis watched them shut through unblinking eyes.
The doors opened. He remembered to breathe.
Francis pushed the dolly with the empty drum into place under the meat grinder and walked to his bunk.
When he got there, someone was lying in it.
Francis reached for the panic button. Rough hands pulled him down. The last thing to go through his head was his teeth, they shot back out of his jaw all at once and perforated his brain. Like an electromagnet that only pulled teeth had been turned on behind his head. Francis stumbled back and collapsed rag-doll fashion in the doorway to his bunk.
The person on his bed got up and walked over to him. His arms and legs moved like the bones had been broken in several places and badly reset.
Francis blinked. The teeth crawled back across the floor and reinserted themselves in his bloodless mouth.
The person kneeled down and brushed a tuft of hair out of his eyes.
"I," Francis managed. Looking up, the face of the person was wrong. To Francis it looked like someone had drawn an upside down face and then built a face from the drawing.
The person began to drag Francis to the grinder even as the holes in his head were beginning to heal.
"Shhh," said the person. "Hector mustn't hear you."
Francis tried to scream but some of his teeth had perforated his throat. The vocal cords were growing back but not fast enough. How had it gotten in here? What had they missed?
Fingers with too many joints plugged the machine back on.
Francis tried to scream but could only gurgle.
Hector returned to see Francis hard at work filling another drum. With kittens.
"Getting a head start on tomorrow? Good man," said Hector.
"Shhh," said Francis.
When it was over, the silence was deafening.