Justice Wing, Serial, Superhero

⎇001JW Interviewing Trey #21

This entry is part 21 of 21 in the series Interviewing Trey

Shades of the old posting style, it’s Interviewing Trey #21! And in less than forever this time, no less! Exclusive to Patreon subscribers for the first twenty-four hours!

I admit, this is a bit of a weird one, but then when we left off, Todd Chapman had just been dosed with something by Lady Violet, so we knew things would be strange in this episode, right? Right!


Interviewing Trey #21

When I died it was on my own terms. I’m not saying that’s for everybody, but honestly I’ve never been the kind of guy to wait around and let things just happen. It’s like my lifelong attitude towards narcotics and anti-social behavior. I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.

“Is that… are we under a dome?” the kid asked, staring up out the window. We were on the 7:35 train riding through Sheol heading for Perdition and points east. The scenery’s not exactly the most attractive – blasted fields and dried river beds, a few bones here and there, some pretty nasty demon slugs cavorting and the odd damned soul trying to run and hide at the same time.

“It’s a cavern,” I said. “Think about it. The one thing everybody knows about Hell is the way there, paved with good intentions or not, is still straight down into the dirt.” I took a pull off my cig, running a hand over my scalp and sliding my hat back on. I’d taken a hit of some kind of green-grey powder and I could feel my eyes beginning to turn inside out, so I figure that meant it was good shit, right?

“Why am I in Hell?” he asked, looking around. Freaked out, I should say.

“Everybody’s gotta be somewhere,” I said. “If your choices are Hell and Hoboken, always pick Hell.” I took a pull off a bottle. It was amber liquid and it burned worse than the so called lake of fire so again – figured it was pretty decent shit. I offered it to the kid but he shook his head. Dumbass. If someone offers you a hit of cheap whiskey, you take it. That’s basic. If you’re an alky you spit it out. If you’re a teetotaler you tell people it was iced tea. Admittedly, that might not be doctor recommended advice, but then neither’s life, you know? Much less death.

“I… did that… did whatever Lady Violet did to me… did that kill me?” He was kind of freaked out but I’ll give him this – he was looking around and trying to figure out the deal. Most new guys getting the express across the Hades border are too busy screaming in terror to really consider the big questions.

I shrugged, rubbing my eyes. “Maybe? Maybe not. Honestly, for all I know you’re on a day pass.” I looked around. “Also, the train service – that’s new. I always kind of liked trains. They’re one of the few kinds of travel where you can drink heavily, type on a portable typewriter, find something soft for an affair on the side, and actually bring a decent amount of luggage along with. You learn to appreciate that, especially compared to, say, a Harley.”

He looked at me. “Why are you in Hell?”

I laughed. “Who says I am? Just because it’s Hell to you doesn’t mean it’s Hell to me, does it? If there’s one thing you need to know if you’re gonna survive this beat of yours? It’s that nothing’s absolute. Absolutely nothing. That’s a constant. Maybe this is my Heaven? Maybe I wanna spend existence playing third circle dive bars with Zevon and Coltan Pike and none of us can afford the rent up skyward. Who knows? You’ve interviewed Gods, right? What do they say?”

“Usually nothing useful.”

I laughed again. “That’s how you know it’s religion, son.” I took another hit off the whiskey. “I’d think you’d know all this shit. You’re the one who spends all his time not just with super crooks but loser super crooks. I read your original piece, by the way.”

“You’d been dead for some time when the article came out.”

“So you should be impressed. It was a sentimental piece of trash, equal parts propaganda and treacle. I had to brush my teeth when I finished it so I wouldn’t get cavities or have the smell of bullshit on my breath. On the whole, I liked it.” I took yet another pull off the whiskey bottle. I was a little impressed with its capacity. “You know the problem with wanting to be Tom Wolfe or Gay Talese or me? None of us want to be anyone but ourselves. It’s recursive of you and a little simple-minded.”

“You don’t believe you’re a role model?”

“Of course I’m a Goddamn role model! I’m the role-modeleyist role-model you ever saw modeling a role! I’ve modeled this role so well I jumped from dumbass kid straight up to icon in eight point two seconds. In the modern mythology of our benighted world, I’m so modeled after by role-seekers that I’m essentially some kind of kami.” One more hit of whiskey, followed by my holding it up to the light. The grey-green-goo was really doing its thing on my dead cerebral cortex by then so I can’t claim I had complete continuity of clarity, but I was pretty sure that the last time I drank from the bottle there were only two inches of whiskey left in the thing, but after this time there were at least two and a half inches left. Maybe I’d found the anti-whiskey, like tachyons but cask-aged.

“So what’s wrong with trying to be you?”

“Because the role’s a role, kid. Kid? Jesus, how old are you. Wait. Never mind. You’re younger than me so you’re a kid by default. Listen. You know me and my work, right? You idolize me and want to be me. But I started out scribbling for high school papers then landed in the Air Force where I learned to rewire radios in planes until I was recommended for honorable discharge because of my antisocial and antiauthority ways. You get the joke, right? I defied authority, so they honorably discharged me. The goddamn Air Force. I wanted to be a pilot, but for some reason they didn’t want to put me in a cockpit. Do you have a ruler?”

“That doesn’t change what you did – for… for journalism and—”

I laughed in the kid’s stupid face. “Butter me up all you like, kid. I deserve every word of it. I am great. But I was also absolutely nothing, just like everyone else – trying to keep my head above water and the lights on while doing the absolute least I had to do beyond what I wanted to do. You know how I did it at the end of my career?”

“I know that—”

“I worked for Fucking Disney, kid. Me. I wrote sports for Disney. I mean, shit. Even I can’t believe I worked for Disney.” I peered at the level of whiskey in the bottle, then took a long, long drink, then looked again. Was it more full? Less? I realized I’d forgotten what the level was before I drank, so I started peering again – maybe I could sneak up on it.

“Look, what the Hell am I doing here?” he demanded.

“For one, you’re interrupting class.”

I jumped in my seat – it was one of those old plastic half-desks they used in classrooms in the seventies, all metal pipes and baskets underneath the seat for our stuff and a base platform you could drop your notebook on and write to your heart’s content, all for the least amount of money possible, then fifteen percent of that knocked off for buying in bulk. Comfort wasn’t part of the bid in the first place. “Excuse me?” I asked, looking around.

“I said that you were interrupting class, Mister Chapman.” The man at the front of the class was maybe five foot eleven, thin as a rail, and had hair that clearly defied mortal combs. He was a bit pink, with absolutely no tan to his flesh, wearing brown corduroy pants and a darker brown tweed jacket with the pockets on the arms and a button down shirt with vertical stripes, the top button unbuttoned.

“I… think I’m in the wrong place,” I said. “I don’t think I signed up for this class.” Also, when had I become Todd Chapman? There was no whiskey bottle in my hand, no aftertaste of cigarette smoke in my mouth, and no train compartment. Instead, there was a classroom straight out of community college in the seventies, with green-painted cinderblock walls and a tan room length radiator under sliding windows, with a campus just beyond with green trees and the dim reflection of light off the distant cavern roof making it all look eerie.

Shut up,” Leather hissed. I jumped and looked at her. She was in the next seat, in jeans and a black t-shirt with the Cheshire Kittens on it and a green and black flannel shirt over it. “He’s telling you things! Do you have any idea how incredible it is to even hear him talking? Show some respect or as God is my witness—”

“Calm down, Leathy,” the professor said. I think it was ‘Leathy,’ or maybe ‘Levee,’ which would be weird. “Don’t lose perspective.”

“I lost perspective a long time ago,” she snapped, then looked chastened. Her hair was chestnut brown and bob-cut, like when she ran around as Dynamo Girl, but had the wave her hair had as Leather and two dyed strips on the front, one red and one green, like Christmas, or the navigation lights on a boat. Port and starboard.

“I’m well aware,” the professor said, “and for what it’s worth I’m sorry for that, but it’s not why we’re here.” He gestured at the chalkboard – a real chalkboard, not a whiteboard – which had ‘THEOLOGY PHILOSOPHY SPIRITUALITY UNDERSTANDING’ written across the top. “You’ve got to come up to speed quickly, Mister Chapman, and there’s only so much I can teach you so we need to get you through the course fast.”

“Come up to speed? Come up to speed on what?” I asked.

“The core of theology is doctrine,” he said, writing ‘DOCTRINE’ underneath the word ‘THEOLOGY’ on the board. “The core of philosophy is inquiry,” and he wrote that under ‘PHILOSOPHY.’ “The core of spirituality is faith.” He wrote that down, before moving to the last space. “But the core of understanding is belief, Mister Chapman. It must be, because we know from quantum theory, religious studies, the social sciences, and professional gambling alike that perfect understanding… true, comprehensive understanding is impossible. There is always another layer to unearth, always a smaller set of particles to find, always a mystery kept in the sanctum that the priests can know but you can’t. But to admit we lack the capacity to truly understand something means admitting that we don’t actually understand anything, and we are not designed for that. So we take the things we believe we understand and use them in place of actual understanding. And when we encounter evidence to the contrary, we often flatly reject it rather than admit our understanding was flawed. Our belief outweighs reality, despite or indeed because of our claim that we understand our subject perfectly.” He underlined BELIEF,’ which he’d written under ‘UNDERSTANDING.’

He turned and faced me, eyes on mine – and I realized they were glittering like gold… like Gary Mitchell from the Star Trek pilot but gold instead of silver. “What is the founding, fundamental basis for belief, Mister Chapman. Don’t look around. Don’t ask for help. Just answer.

“Perception,” I said, without any hesitation. “When we say ‘seeing is believing’ it’s because it’s true. Even if we’re wrong about what we’re looking at we believe our first impression – that’s why you jump at spiders you see out of the corner of your eye only to realize they’re hairballs or something.”

The professor nodded. “Good,” he said. “That’s very good. You need to know that. You need to understand that, before you get anywhere near the Wicked Witch.”

“What Wicked Witch?” I asked, slowing down as I did so. We were walking down a fairly fast clip, though I realized the yellow brick road seemed to actually be a gradient of bricks – yellow to red to black to green to blue and even as we walked through the woods of Oz we could still see the cavern high overhead.

“There’s always a Wicked Witch,” Leather said. She was in a black and blue gingham patterned pinafore except it was clearly made of PVC leather instead of cotton, with leather thigh highs into stylized mary janes but with four inch heels and a pointy hat on her head. “Jesus, Chapman. You’ve been doing this how long and you still don’t know there’s always a Wicked Witch?”

“Is it you?” I asked, a bit dizzy as I looked at her. She looked like Dorothy had fallen to the Dark Side of the Force and become a dominatrix Sith Lord.

She giggled. “No! Well, okay, yes. But I’m the Wicked Witch of the Eastern Seaboard. You want the Wicked Witch of the Center Cannot Hold.”

“Are you really here?” I asked Leather.

She shrugged. “Does it matter?”

“Absolutely it matters. If this means you’re dead and in Hell—”

She laughed. “Does this look like Hell to you?”

I closed my eyes – they still itched like I’d snorted the powder from before, but that wasn’t me, right, so that made no sense. I rubbed them and the bridge of my nose. “I’m scared, Leather,” I said.

“I know,” she said. “You are truly fucked. I mean, this is epic.

“I know it is. I know that Lady Violet sent me here—”

“Not quite,” the professor said at the front of the class. The linoleum was now the same five color gradient as the bricks had been. “The Lady Violet unlocked a door and then shoved you through, but you chose what was on the other side, Mister Chapman. And that’s good. That’s very good. You need to understand. You need to be ready to understand.”

“And understanding is actually belief and belief starts with perception,” I answered, shifting. The desk was really uncomfortable. Also, there was snow outside the classroom, now.

“Precisely. And that’s precisely what you bring to the table,” Kyle said. I was standing in front of his desk, like it was old home week. Kyle was Kyle Elias, and all those years back he’d been the editor of Amplifier magazine – the one who’d given me the assignment to go interview Leather in the first place. “Everyone thinks they understand things, but they don’t understand shit, and the superfluous riff raff keep blindly pushing things around. There has to be someone to cut through all that. There has to be a witness, Todd. And God help us, that’s got to be you.”

“Me?” I scoffed, scratching the back of my head. My hair was longer now, and I was kind of scruffily dressed, but then I was maybe twenty five and didn’t know better. “Is there a witness protection program? Because I need one.”

“Don’t underestimate the importance of the audience, Mister Chapman.” I froze, hearing that voice – that damnable voice, with the little bit of laughter in every syllable.

I turned slowly. The Jack O’Knaves was there, with Trey on his left arm and Trey on his right arm, each with one and a half hearts on their spangly leotards. He was grinning. “You didn’t think you’d get away from me that easily?” he said. “Because you know, I turn up just like a bad penny.

“Am I the audience?” I asked. “I thought I was part of the setup – part of the performance.”

“Exactly,” the Jack said. “You’re the witness. The viewpoint. The camera and the filter through which the audience sees the most incredible sight ever to grace a stage – namely, me. But you’re not ready. I’m getting you there.” He looked around. We were on the terrace off the meeting room, where the Buzzard and I had talked. The projected false ‘outside’ was there, but I could see the walls more clearly now, and of course the distant ceiling above. “Do you know the funny thing, though?”

“I’m sure I don’t.”

The Jack shoved each Trey away from him, and they fell like ragdolls and didn’t move. He stepped closer to me, his eyes on mine. “I didn’t send you here,” he said. “This isn’t part of the plan. I didn’t send you here, and Lady Violet’s nowhere near smart enough to have done this with any intentionality. Isn’t that funny?” He laughed his four-beat-laugh. “Hah-hah-hah-HAH!”

“Is it?” I asked, looking around again.

“It is,” the fetish chick said. She was sitting across from the kid on the other side of the aisle on the train. “But I don’t think anyone’s laughing.”

“That’s your first mistake,” I said, double-checking to make sure my cigarette was still in its holder and my bottle still held 750 – n% milliliters of whiskey. If I were going to be me again instead of the kid I wanted to be sure to pick up where I left off. Otherwise, you ended up backtracking and that’s just a Goddamn waste of time. “Actually, it’s more like your seventy-first mistake, but no one’s really counting because who could possibly count? Not me – I’ve never counted for much.” I looked at the two of them, before drinking several gulps of whiskey down, then holding the bottle up and peering closely. My hypothesis had been the bottle would be nearly full, now, but as it turned out it had maybe two swallows left at most, so it looked like science had failed me.

“Which mistake is that?” the kid asked. The fetish chick had skiddadled which was too bad. She’d left the kid with me. And here I thought she’d liked him.

“You have to laugh,” I said. “No matter how sad or angry you get, you have to laugh or else they’ll get you on a technicality. Call it defiance or a coping mechanism or stubbornness or required conformity, but either you laugh or you don’t survive the process.” I snorted again, taking one of the two remaining slugs off the bottle. I didn’t look at how much was left afterward – I had vague hopes of sneaking up on the missing whiskey that shouldn’t have existed in the first place, and the only way to manage that was to pointedly not pay attention. That took more concentration than you’d think.

“I don’t find any of this funny,” he said.

“All the more reason. If you’re going to be a witness, you need to have a sense of humor about it, or else you get too involved and you lose sight of what you’re trying to understand. And if you lose sight, then everyone else will founder around in the dark, because people are basically idiots.”

He looked at me. “Is that a philosophical tenet?” he asked.

“It’s the most basic of all philosophical tenets, Mister Chapman,” the professor said at the front of the class. “People are idiots, because people can’t handle really understanding what’s around them. Why do you think so many people hate answering your questions? Why do you think you have to ask them, regardless of the consequences?”

“Lady Violet said I was broken,” I said, double-checking. Yup. I was me again.

The professor scoffed, rolling his gold-glittering eyes. “Lady Violet’s proving my point. You have to ask, because you can’t be a witness unless you know what you’re seeing. You can’t see the truth unless you unlock it, and your questions are the only key you know how to use. Without that perception, you don’t know what to believe, and if you don’t believe what you’re seeing then no one else will, either. That’s the problem with my teaching you. I only believe true things, Mister Chapman. That’s not who you are. That’s not why you are. I can’t show you how to be a witness because you can’t see the obvious. You’ll have to talk to my brother.”

“Your brother?” I asked.

“Yes indeed. The only other two aren’t available because they’re topside. So it’s either me or it’s him, and it can’t be me.” He paused. “Get out.”

And I fell. I fell for ten or twenty seconds, or maybe three thousand years. There didn’t seem like much difference. When I hit all my bones shattered. Hey, you try falling who knows how many stories and then landing on bricks.

“Come on,” Leather said, back in her fetish-dress. It was glittering, now, the black and blue squares now red and green, and made out of thousands of tiny sequins. “We’re here. You’ve got to see the Witch so you can see the Wizard! Don’t you know anything about these stories?”

I tried to explain that all my bones were broken and so getting up wasn’t really practical, but my jaw was one of those bones so it came out mostly as a gurgle.

“Always with the excuses,” Leather said. She reached down, scooped me up, and hurled me forward, down the path and straight into a cave – a cave within the cave, if you will.

I landed with a sickly wet sound in a heap. There was a reddish glow in here.

“Hello there, Mister Chapman,” I heard above me. “Thank you for coming. Please, get up.”

I got up. Somewhere, I’d lost all my clothes, and this was a beautiful woman in a black toga, practically spilling out so it was embarrassing and I tried to cover up even as I gawked. Her skin was green and her hair was red, but otherwise I knew her on sight.

“…Hecate?” I asked.

The Goddess Hecate looked at me, cocking her head. She smiled, just a bit. “Just so,” she said. “We didn’t really get a chance to meet at the backers’ meeting. I did get a good look at you, but then that was the reason you were there. That was the reason we were all there. The Jack O’Knaves wanted to prove to everyone that he had you and he could provide exactly what he had claimed.”

“I got the feeling no one cared about my presence,” I said.

“Oh no. We all cared about your presence. We just didn’t care about you. Well, they didn’t. I care quite a bit about you, but there are always games to play. So I waited for opportunity.” She chuckled – it was throaty and sensual. “Imagine my delight when Lady Violet provided me with one. I thought I would have to intercede more directly, and that’s dangerous when you’re on the Jack’s turf.”

“You’re a goddess. He’s a stage magician. Can’t you wave your pinky and make him into tapioca?”

“The answer is simultaneously ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ my little Fox.” She smiled enigmatically. Her green skin had turned nearly porcelain white, like she was a classical statue. Her hair was now bronze. Her eyes were still human eyes, however, and the effect was creepy.

“Your… little fox?”

“Of course. Todd: Scots, derived from the Middle English, meaning fox, used for the animal or a wily person with foxlike ways. It’s really very versatile, and even more apropos.” She chuckled. “My red Fox. Our red Fox. Or the Jack’s red Fox. We’ll have to see, won’t we?” She turned away from me, and began to draw on the wall of the cave with a piece of chalk she’d gotten from the classroom.

“So if you’re opposing the Jack’s plan, why do you fund Dispater’s Pit?” I asked.

She looked over her shoulder. “Two reasons. Dare you guess?”

I thought for a moment, then shrugged. “You probably want first hand information on what he’s doing, and you want him to think you’re on his side. At least, at first guess.”

Hecate smiled. “Excellent, my little Fox. Excellent. There may be hope, yet. For you, for Leather, for me, and for the world. Maybe, at least.” She looked intently at me. “Finish your whiskey.”

I looked. I was holding the bottle. It had that one swallow left in it that I remembered seeing when I wasn’t me, but… “actually, this isn’t mine,” I said.

Hecate snorted. “You act like I made a request. I assure you I didn’t.”

I looked at her, and then I drained the last swallow. It burned like the hottest fire, all the way down into my throat and stomach, where it spread throughout my body.

She turned back to her drawing. It looked like an elaborate closed double-door – the kind of line art drawing that would take a month to get right. She reached over, and turned the chalk-lock, and pushed on the drawing, and the doors swung open, outward. “Go on. He’s waiting for you.”

“Who? The wizard? That guy’s brother? Some other New Journalist? I should warn you – I’m not up to meeting Truman Capote or Terry Southern.” I was feeling even less up to being them, but figured I shouldn’t say that.

“Go and find out, or stay and don’t.” Hecate smiled a bit more.

I looked at her for a long moment, and then I walked through the doorway she’d drawn.

I was on a beach. I was on a beach and there was a beautiful sky above us, filled with stars and nebula of gleaming yellows and reds, greens and blues and all those stars contrasting off the velvety black of the night sky.

There was also a man sitting on a beach chair just ahead of me, and a second beach chair next to him, with a table between them and a couple of beers sitting on that table. It looked for all the world like a setup for a Corona ad.

I walked over and slid into the chair next to him. I was wearing my ‘working’ outfit – black turtleneck, heavy jeans, armored leather jacket. I didn’t have my vision enhancing sunglasses, though.

The man looked just like the professor, but I knew he wasn’t the professor. He was wearing Hawaiian jams and sunglasses – Ray-Bans, not wraparound like mine had been. His hair just as messy as the professor’s, and he had a tanning mirror under his chin.

I looked at him for a long moment, trying to figure out if he was asleep. Finally, I spoke up. “You can’t get a tan at night,” I said.

He grinned. “I believe you,” he answered, setting the mirror down and taking off his sunglasses. He looked at me—

His eyes glittered. His iris was a glossy black, and there was no separate pupil disrupting it. He looked easy-going and… guileless, almost.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m Todd Chapman.”

“I believe you,” he said again. He grinned even more.

“Good to know.” I paused. “The professor… he said that… perception was the foundation of belief, and belief was the core of understanding.”

“I believe you,” he said a third time. He sounded very amiable.

“Does that mean you understand me?”

“I understand you,” he agreed.

I took a deep breath and rubbed my eyes again. “Can one of you just… answer a question without making it weird and arcane?”

“I can do anything, at least from your limited frame of reference,” he said, just as amiably.

I opened my eyes. “What?”

“I can do anything, at least from your limited frame of reference.”

“Oh.” I paused. “So…”

“You haven’t actually asked me any questions, other than the one about whether or not I was capable of answering a question without making it weird and arcane.”

“…point.” I looked at him for a long moment. “What’s your name?”

He looked delighted at the question. “Gary!” he said, brightly.

“…hi Gary.”

“Hello!”

“And… you’re the wizard?”

He frowned. “If you say so.”

“Leather said so.”

“I believe you.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet you do.” I knit my brow. “What are you?”

He smiled even more. “I’m a witness,” he said.

“A… witness?”

He nodded.

“…Kyle Elias… the professor – your brother, I guess… Leather, I think… Hecate… they said I was supposed to be a witness.”

“I believe you,” he said, clearly even more delighted.

“But your brother said he couldn’t teach me, because he only believed true things.”

That made Gary laugh pretty hard. “I buh-believe you,” he managed to say through his chortling.

“Is he wrong?”

Gary shook his head, getting his laughter under control. “Of course not. He believes he’s right, and he only believes true things, so he’s obviously right.”

“…but you… do you… what do you believe?”

Gary’s eyebrows went up. “That’s a long list, but okay. First off, I believe that cream soda—”

“Not that – I mean, that’s not what I meant. What’s the difference between what you believe and what your brother believes?”

“Oh!” He thought for a moment. “He only believes true things.”

“And… what’s different about you?”

Gary’s smile looked beatific. “I believe everything,” he said.

“Everything? Even… lies? False things? Bad information?”

“Exactly!” He looked sidelong at me, waiting.

I opened my mouth, then closed it and looked up at the sky. “Somehow, I believe you,” I muttered.

“Good,” he said. “You do understand.”

“What? I don’t—”

But he wasn’t there. There was just Trey, still lying on the floor where the Jack left her, and we were entirely in darkness. There was only one of her, now, and she had three hearts on her outfit, but the one in the middle had a jagged line down its center.

“Trey?” I asked, softly.

“You could never be a Heart.” Trey didn’t move – not even her lips – but I heard her, clearly.

“Why do you say that?” I asked. I know what she’d told me before, but that was in the real world, not wherever Lady Violet had thrown me.

There was no answer.

“Trey?”

“What do you believe?”

My mouth dropped open.

With a gasp, my eyes opened up. There was acoustical tile over my head and my head and throat hurt badly and I looked around—

I was in a hospital bed, in what looked like one of the lounges Jack’s different suits of Henches used on the levels below Dispater’s Pit. Ahead of me, I saw a man in a blue polo shirt and white slacks, with the white word PUSH stenciled on his lapel. He looked at me, then turned to a table on that side of the room, picking up a wired telephone and dialing three numbers.

I looked around some more. There were two other beds in there, I noticed. Both were empty.

“Hello?” the man said into the phone. “Yes. It’s Push. He’s awake. Please let Mister River know.” He hung up.

“Could I get some water?” I asked – croaked, more like.

Push didn’t answer me. He just turned and walked out, shutting the door behind him, leaving me alone in the room.

I closed my eyes, the pounding behind them getting worse. As near as I could tell, I was actually awake now. Whatever Lady Violet had dosed me with had worn off or been flushed out of my system. Clearly someone had found me and turned me in while I was on my little unwanted vision quest.

“What do you believe?”

Right then? I had no idea.


With thanks and acknowledgement to Gary W. Olson

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19 thoughts on “⎇001JW Interviewing Trey #21”

  1. ….Took me a minute to recognize Professor Evan Shapiro.

    Honestly “Dorothy turned dominatrix sith lord” describes Leather pretty well.

    …I’m now deeply concerned that I was both correct that the Jack is using Todd so he can tell the world that the Jack made a Casino disappear AND that the above plan isn’t anywhere near the entire thing.

  2. You know Todd, when The Buzzard calls Leather Eve Shapiro to your damn face MAYBE you should take his word for it…

    If belief is what defines what’s true, is there even a difference between believing everything and only believing what’s true?

    My head hurts.

  3. Having had a bit of time to think about this, that whole experience seems to be telling Todd to just ……watch and witness, ask questions sure, but….don’t try to figure this out. Don’t …reject any of it because it doesn’t make sense, don’t ignore any of it because it doesn’t fit what you think should be happening, just ….watch and take notes.

    Which, feels sorta like the opposite of what they should be telling him? Like, if they were actually trying to give him sound advice, it seems like they should be telling him to try to figure out what’s really going on and then use that info to not get stepped on when the Jack’s plan hits its climax. It also feels a little insulting, like asking someone reading a murder mystery novel to disengage their brain and not to bother trying to figure it out.

    However, I will grant that being a reporter is different. And objective reporting is, yes, impossible, but you can get closer to it I suppose by believing everything and reporting your experiences of that as accurately as possible. So….. I dunno. I suppose Todd can try to disengage his brain, but don’t ask me to disengage mine.

    1. I would submit that we don’t know what ‘being a witness’ actually means in this context. Especially since Gary and the professor both claimed to be witnesses as well. And they alluded to two more out there.

      Needless to say, if we assume that Hecate wasn’t just a metaphor — and that is neither confirmation nor denial — it seems unlikely that she would risk stepping on the Jack’s toes just to tell Chapman to disengage his brain.

      Of course, Hecate’s also a first tier villain the same way the Jack is. Whatever she might want, there’s nothing that says it’d be better than what the Jack wants.

      Also, consider the professor’s words. He told Chapman that Chapman asked questions because those were the tools he had with which to unlock perception.

      Whatever way Chapman might be a ‘witness?’ It isn’t likely to involve standing back out of the way and passively observing.

      According to what Gary and the Professor (Thursdays on NBC — let’s all be there!) are saying, perception is the key to belief, and belief is the core of understanding. The Professor only believes true things. Gary believes everything. What kind of understanding they get for that?

      And if the professor only believes true things, and Gary believes everything… then… what does Chapman believe?

      1. Chapman… Hmh. Believes what he learns by asking questions?

        That doesn’t mean he believes what people *tell* him, but we’ve seen that he’s capable of looking at them and concluding that they’re not telling him their truth, or that they aren’t revealing enough for him to know what’s going on yet.

        I mean, I think, that he sees asking questions as his tool to uncover things. The tool doesn’t always uncover everything, but what he learns when he uses it, that lets him build understanding.

        1. …you know, I remember something from Kitten House Rules…

          I looked at her for a long moment. “How many songs has she given you?”

          “I don’t know exact numbers. Probably twenty or twenty five?”

          “How many made it to Cheshire Kittens albums?”

          “Four. One less than Zed, but Zed doesn’t submit nearly as many.”

          “And… of the couple dozenish songs of hers that you rejected? Were they all because of their message being wrong? Or the feel? Or were they too political.”

          Tabby looked at me, slightly flushed. “That’s… sure. Of course they were.”

          I looked at her.

          “What?”

          “Tabby, you can tell me anything you want and I’ll put it in the article. But I just told Aileen I was going to tell the truth and nothing but, so it’s gonna be pretty clear that I’m—“

          “Fine. Most of them sucked. Okay? Does that make you happy?”

          No idea why that came to mind. Hm. Better just put it here just in case.

          1. …you know, people seem… awfully willing to answer Chapman’s questions.

            Must be the reputation and the chutzpah.

          2. It must be. You know, funny thing… even Lady Violet and the Buzzard, despite insisting upon their lack of interest, seemed willing to answer at least some of his questions in one way or another…

          3. (I get the sudden feeling I should go back and look at the number of people who’ve thought of something new or spoken honestly in response to Chapman’s questions. Leather and Lady Violet spring to mind, of course, given what I’ve been reading, and then there’s Tabby’s quote…)

          4. Belief is understanding. Perception is belief. Asking questions leads to some sharing of perception when they’re answered, answering questions sometimes leads to re-examining one’s *own* perceptions…

            Huh.

            *makes note*

  4. Hmmm…. Huh. If he only believes things that are true, how does he feel about Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem? The one that says roughly that “For any form of advanced logic, you can either prove all true things or only true things. Meaning your logic will either prove some false things as true or there will be true things you cannot prove.”

    1. Hm. I defer to the professor.

      Professor:

      There is a certain seductive quality to the word ‘proof.’ We are accustomed to the idea of proving something true or false, and if something is not proven, it therefore is tagged as unproven and therefore suspect.

      However, we are not discussing fact. We are discussing understanding. And, as we have already established, the core of understanding is belief, for exactly these reasons. Logic may or may not prove the truth of an assertion, but one may continue to believe it is true regardless. Our understanding of the cosmos requires tenets we accept as ‘real,’ whether or not we can certify those tenets against a test, outside authority, or logical chain.

      I only believe true things, as has been established. Your question, distilled somewhat, is ‘how does this professor verify truth?’ The simple answer is ‘I don’t.’ I no more verify my beliefs than I verify the distance from the Earth to the sun as averaging roughly one astronomical unit. I accept that distance, and I believe that distance is accurate. Which it is.

      If one looks at me, therefore, one apparently sees a sophistry in action. I only believe true things, therefore anything I believe must be true. Any student more than two weeks into Intro to Logic could dismantle that argument trivially. However, as we also discussed… the foundation of belief is perception. If I, in fact, only believe things that are true… and if we take as read that the things I believe are true, then the obvious conclusion is that somehow I can perceive these truths inherently.

      This contrasts with my brother, Garrison, who believes everything. His understanding is much broader and more confused than mine as a result, but arguably it is also worth less than my understanding. Certainly, I generally have contempt for his beliefs.

      And yet, he is a witness and so am I. What does that mean? It means that [CONNECTION LOST]

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