Category Archives: Dialogues without protagonists

Interpretive bomb squads

“See that graffiti? That one other there, those words?”

“I see them”

“Okay, good. I’m going to give you a moment to let it sink in”

“Not seeing it”

“Wait for it”

“…fuck”

“Indeed”

“Shit”

“We have a consensus”

“Fucking shit”

“The process of understanding is complete”

“…fuck”

“We have to be very careful in how we handle this. Under no circumstances can these words be allowed to spread beyond the two of us. You yourself felt their effect – it’d be a disaster”

“You go get the style guide, I’ll get the spray paint. Hurry up – clock’s ticking”

Content mining

“Another one?”

“Sure looks like it. Just look at him. I’d be surprised if there’s even a trace of content left anywhere within his body.”

“What a shame”

“How many is it this month now? Five? Six?”

“Eight. Two more husks were found tonight”

“Jeez. What do you even do with that much content?”

“The sages and gurus say the appetite for content is insatiable these days, and that you can sell it faster than you can buy it. Not sure how that works, but, then again, look at this guy”

“Remember the old days, when people would just create things? Before it was possible to stripmine a person and exhaust all possible content they could ever theoretically conceive?”

“Good times. Being creative was a positive thing. You could be as slow as you wanted, as long as you just produced that one piece of content that kicked ass. Now…”

“Now people are content. And thugs nab them right off the street, hook them up and empty them. Of everything. To sell for pennies”

“What a shame”

“C’mon. Let’s get him out of here. The least we can do is to carry him someplace warm”

The right to keep and bear arms

“The parasite looks quite like an onion, once removed from the bodies of those inflicted. Somewhat roundish, with small white tendrils on one side.”

“I know what a benevolent symbiote looks like.”

“These white tendrils are quite vital to their extraction. There is an enzyme that paralyzes the parasite and renders the tendrils hard as spidersilk steel. With just the correct dosage, it is possible to pull it out by the hairs, as it were.”

“Heresy.”

“Naturally, you do not want to do this by hand. The parasite is slightly telepathic and very -cidal.”

“-cidal? Seems you’re missing some letters there.”

“Oh no, just underlining the very generic nature of the lethality. To say it’s directed at anything in particular would miss all manner of points.”

“Heretics deserve to die.”

“Fortunately, we built an extraction device. No touching required. It even cauterizes the severed pieces of biology that fed the parasite.”

“Sounds painful. And heretic.”

“Quite. But not if administered while the subject is unconscious. The shock of it all keeps them from waking up. Very handy, if you pardon the pun.”

“I do not want to hear any more of this.”

“As it turns out, the extraction process leaves quite a hole once completed. Thanks to stem cells, however, the missing pieces can be rebuilt, albeit slowly.”

“Not listening.”

“Unfortunately, the process we use to speed up recovery is quite a feat of biology. As such, most people can’t stomach the sight of it, much less the thought of it happening inside of their own bodies. We’ve had to build metal armbands to keep frightened eyes and hands away until the healing is complete.”

“Such as the one on my arm?”

“I think you are starting to come to terms to your post-parasite life.”

“Would trying to rip it off accomplish anything?”

“The parasite is gone, and the armband is there to protect you from yourself, in more ways than one. In the early days, we had a patient who burned his arm to ash, and died of emotion after peeling off the charred remains that used to contain the parasite and finding it now contained a literal nothing, a void, a lacunae. Please do not do that.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because the parasites can only be removed from one person at a time. Telepathy, you see. And lethality.”

“No, but, more generally?”

“Very much the telepathy and lethality. But now, I will leave you alone. I suspect you will need to readjust yourself to having your own thoughts again.”

Political logistics

“We need to bury it. As far away as possible. No one must be allowed to possess such evil.”

“Agreed”

“Agreed”

“Agreed”

“Seems we’re all in agreement. But where to bury it?”

“The moon, on the far side”

“Antarctica, underneath the shoggoths”

“Rural Sussex”

“All good suggestions, worthy of consideration. However, the logistics -”

“And the expenses”

“And diplomatic backchanneling”

“And the British”

“…we could just burn it, you know”

“Agreed”

“Agreed”

“Agreed”

A job befitting the benefits

“Okay, so I’m gonna give you the rundown on what you’re expected to do around here. It’s very straightforward, but you need to grasp the nature of it completely.”

“I’m ready. Hit me.”

“Here it is. You’re gonna be around after hours, keeping the lights on, and watch out for anyone trying to break in.”

“Seems simple enough.”

“It is. Now, when you see someone trying to break in, you’re gonna let them in and give them what they want.”

“A good beating and a solid account of their wrongdoings to the proper authorities?”

“No no. Whatever it is they’re trying to steal. Make sure you give it to them. Promptly and without fuss. Anything at all. Just hand it over.”

“…are you being sarcastic?”

“Not at all. We’ve had so many break-ins, burglaries and associated acts of flyby vandalism, that our insurance company finally gave up the pretense, and forced us to take measures to reduce property damage. And, frankly, we’ve grown tired of having to replace the furnishings every other week or so. It’s more expedient and less expensive this way.”

“Really?”

“Really. We’ll have to pay quadruple premiums if we don’t keep someone like you around. Do you understand what it is you’re supposed to do?”

“Keep an eye out for burglars, let them in, give them what they want, and let them go without a fuss?”

“Your grasp of the situation is complete. Welcome aboard!”

Rationalists and rational persuasion

“Let’s go back to basics. Some basic principles. Just to make absolutely sure we are on the same page. Are you okay with that?”

“Yeah, sure, whatevs.”

“It is rational to do what works. Are we agreed on this?”

“Yea”

“From this follows that to act rational to do what works, instead of things that do not work. Right?”

“This much is obvious.”

“Therefore, it is not rational to use approaches that do not work, and it is even more not rational to channel vast amounts of time, energy and work into them. It would, by definition, by wasted on something that does not work, which is irrational.”

“This is just a longer way of saying what you just said.”

“Therefore, in trying to convince others of something, the rational thing to do would be to take an approach that works, rather than one that does not work. Are you with me?”

“Yep”

“Thus we can finally return to the reason we’re having this dialogue. Your comment ‘astrology is a bunch of unscientific bullshit and you are a dumb butch whore for even thinking about it’ -”

 

Library of unread books

“And over here, we have a section of love letters”

“That’s unexpected. Why do you have them, and where do you get them?”

“Why is a difficult question, one which will eat your heart and your soul should you let it. How is easier. We get one of everything that isn’t written.”

“One of everything?”

“And only one, so be careful whilst perusing.”

“I meant-”

“Oh, I know, I know. When something for whatever reason is not written, it ends up here. Seems we’re some kind of transdimensional repository of possibilities. Things that could happen but didn’t need to happen somewhere, and this is that place. At least when it comes to written things; I assume that there are other places where… other possibilities play out.”

“How would that work?”

“The less you think about it, the happier the rest of your life will be. Ah, here’s my favorite section. Unwritten tax forms.”

“How could that be in any way… oh, I see. Those that were not written. The honest ones.”

“Quite.”

“How are these organized? I don’t see anyone moving either to or fro carrying anything.”

“The morphogenetic field.”

“I should’ve known.”

“Yes”

“One last question. Why is it called the library of unread books, rather than unwritten ones?”

“Ah. Now there is a gateway question if there ever was one. What is the difference between unwritten and unread?”

My tunes won’t bring milkshake

What I work with? Well, that’s an easy question. I build specialized playlists for themed restaurants!

If it’s an easy job? Well. Ask me to build one for a restaurant. Any kind. Just make one up.

Chinese?

Okay, when you say “Chinese”, do you mean city or rural? Coast or mainland? South or north? With or without Mongolian influences? How much should the communist regime be acknowledged? Would it be offensive to mix regional styles and –

oh, you get the point. Well, good. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, you just have to know the area. And the restaurant. Once, I built what I thought was the perfect playlist, until I visited the restaurant and realized the noise levels of the area didn’t mesh with my subtle selection. Had to redo the whole thing to make it through the ambient noise, while still remaining thematically appropriate.

yeah, you really do get to appreciate the diverse nature of local cultures. Thing is, though, that I mostly know them through music. Which is important and all, but it’s limited when taken alone. For instance, I have no idea who listens to Peruvian neofolk huayno, or if it’s even a thing in actual Peru, but I know it works well in certain urban upscale restaurants.

If we could go to one of them?

well, here’s the thing: it would either be a place I sounded, or a place someone else did. In either case, I’d be listening for mismatches and mistakes and genre fatalities, and it wouldn’t be pleasant for either of us –

a local fast food joint that pretends nothing and only plays ruthlessly unspecialised commercial radio all the time?

sure. You’re paying, though!

Are you sure, love?

Your true love? Yes, we have files on such things. We could look it up if you’d like – it won’t take long.

Let’s see… is there anything I should know about how you spell your name? No? Okay then, let’s find out where –

Oh

I’m not sure I should –

Well…

You sure?

Okay, if you insist. But I’m going to give you this one last chance to change your mind. One last chance to –

You’re even more sure now?

You know me, you know my work, you know what it is that I do. I am strongly urging –

Okay, okay. You’ve made your case. I’ve given you the chance. You have insisted. Here goes.

Your true love was supposed to meet you three years ago. You were supposed to spend your formative years together, building shared meanings and lives and a small but thriving community of contrarian souls resisting the calcification of modernity. Theatre would be a thing.

Yes, were supposed to.

Yes, again, were supposed to. You are grasping the implications.

There’s more. There’s also the option of not finding out.

Okay then. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Your true love was never born. There was an ecological disaster that killed –

You have heard enough?

I understand. And I’m also so so sorry.

A list of small drama communities and theatres close to where you live? Why, yes, we have files on such things

The only thing you need to know

“I do not understand this movie. The plot is incoherent, the characters have no apparent motives, and I don’t think we’ve even been given their names. While I do certainly appreciate that every story in some sense begin in medias res, I would also appreciate to be given hints as to what the backstory might be. What drives the characters, where do they come from, where are they going? Who this story is is just as important as what it is, and -”

“I hate to interrupt your musings, but you do realize that you are watching a porno flick, right?”

“…things suddenly make very much more sense, yes, thank you.”