Dear readers, tonight with me on the interview couch is a young woman who woke up one morning to find reality disintegrating around her.
From a horoscope that is astoundingly accurate, to sausages which keep appearing out of nowhere all around her, to how she can walk through walls.
She is here to tell us about humanity’s search for truth and the meaning of existence, through the eyes of someone who wishes the Universe would just stop bothering her.
We never meet any of your family. What are they like?
My parents are lovely people. My dad works as an accountant and Mum is a registered nurse. She’s a great person, despite boring people to death with her encyclopedic knowledge of the novels of the Brontë sisters. She really should go on one of those quiz shows. Dad collects Star Wars memorabilia, which is kind of cool. I’m an only child. That is, I did have a brother but he died of cancer. I was only four at the time so I don’t really remember much about him.
What do you do now?
What I did before. Study, bitch, drink coffee and indulge my chocolate addiction. But I don’t know…things are different. The sun is…have you ever seen the Sun? I mean, stared at it for ages, felt the warmth of it on your skin—really felt it, like fingers massaging you? My senses seem to have gone up a few notches since…well, since that time. Things just appear different. It’s hard to explain.
What have you learned as a result of your adventures?
Don’t drink too much. Don’t believe everything you see. If your flat-mate brings in a new houseplant, move out. They do a really good show at the Brisbane Planetarium. Turkish is actually a rather cool language. Is that the sort of thing you mean? Because if I was to tell you what I really learned, you wouldn’t believe me. You couldn’t. Because you’re here, in the cave.
Ah, yes, Plato’s Cave. What’s the significance of that?
Google it. Or read his book, “The Republic.”
How do you reconcile science and pseudo-science now? Who won in the end?
Well, as a Lit Major, I should say “There are more things in heaven and Earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Which come to think of it would only be apt if your name was Horatio. Let’s just say the question is still out there somewhere. I don’t think anyone actually won, in the sense that one side triumphed in putting the other down. Science can explain a lot of things but keeps coming up with more questions. Pseudo-science thinks it has all the answers, but won’t listen to reason. The only thing that actually “won” was beyond anything that anyone can explain.
What was it like being flung headlong into another universe?
Have you ever stood on the edge of a cliff and wondered what it would be like to throw yourself off? No safety rope, no net at the bottom, nothing but air between you and certain death…and then you actually THROW yourself off? And in the few seconds it takes before you turn into red jelly at the bottom you realise that you’ve just done the stupidest, most senseless thing ever? What do you think that would be like? Because that’s as close as I can come to explaining it.
What is the worst thing about being able to walk through walls?
You’re asking me to explain the impossible again. Um, I guess it’s the feeling that you’ve left something behind. You walk through and then you think “this isn’t right”, and it’s that feeling that you’ve put your car keys somewhere and have no idea where, and you really need them urgently. Or like you forgot to put pants on. Not that that’s a feeling I get often, mind you.
Are you still friends with everyone who shared your adventures?
No. That’s something that… [clears throat] No, I’m not going to talk about that, sorry.
So no romance on the horizon?
Are you kidding me? After what Jack did? I don’t have time for that shit.
Do you hate anyone?
Heather would say that hate’s a strong word. I say it’s a really useful one. Sometimes sharing a house with Heather felt like hating someone very, very much. But that’s mostly my fault, I must be painful to live with. I’m the sort who leaves hair around the plug-hole and makes sarcastic comments while you’re watching your favourite TV show. I must be a total bitch. So I guess people have a lot of reasons to hate me. As for hating anyone else, I kind of like to mellow my way through life, so…oh, hang on. There is someone. Yesterday I was going up an escalator and the guy in front of me stepped off at the top and just stood there, so I had to bump into him. He didn’t say anything, just walked off like I didn’t exist. Him.
How is your cat, Bruno? Tell us a bit more about him, since he features to some extent in your recent adventures.
Bruno was the runt of a litter of three. None of the litter matched, so I guess their father was a travelling man. We acquired him from some friends and when I left home my parents gave him to me. He’s fine. He’s about twelve years old now, so starting to slow down. I’ve always liked cats, and even collected cat figurines. Don’t know where they are now. With the rest of my personal belongings that never returned, I guess, on the far side of Neptune or wherever. Neptune’s a planet, isn’t it?
Yes. Your knowledge of astronomy is as woeful as ever, I see.
I never saw much use for planets. Except the one we live on, of course, and even that has its moments.
What does the future hold for you?
Once I finish my Arts major in English literature, you mean? What everyone who gets one of those does. Fuck all. What I’d like to do is a bit more travel. There are places I haven’t been and I think I’d see even old places in a totally new way now. Read your Plato. It’s all in there.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
I lost my virginity at the age of seventeen at a party. The guy’s name was Greg someone or other and he lasted about sixty seconds. I’d kind of blanked the incident out until you asked me to think of something no one knows. Now it’s stuck in my mind. Thanks for nothing.
Some people might regard you as an unreliable narrator. What would you say to that?
What, that I’m lying about what happened? Yes, I get that all the time. It doesn’t bother me now. Does it make a difference if I am? Imagine the universe is actually a computer program, and what we perceive as reality is nothing more than fake experiences fed into us. What difference does it make to our daily lives? None. So if what I say isn’t true, what difference does it make? The sun still comes up in the East every day.
Russell Proctor is an Australian writer, but has also been many other things in his working life, including a lawyer, teacher, professional actor, medical project manager and even a pizza delivery boy. At present he is semi-retired, tutoring school and university students in the evenings and writing during the day. His interests include hiking, astronomy and cats. He has travelled extensively throughout the world, preferring out of the way places to modern civilization. He is currently working on a fantasy series set in a Victorian-era music hall entitled Forgotten Gods.
You can find Emily Branwell on the pages of Plato’s Cave.
Join us next week to meet a master thief, living out on the frontier worlds. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right), via Twitter, or like our Facebook page to be notified when the next interview is posted.