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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Dystopian

Rachel and Adam Deneuve (of Walking Through Fire, by Sherri Cook Woosley)

Dear readers, tonight with us are a woman and her son facing the end of the world. But while ancient gods have come alive and are fighting for supremacy, their world revolves more around Adam’s leukemia.

They are here to tell us about the personal and literal end-of-the-world facing them.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Rachel: Before the firestorm we lived in the suburbs north of Baltimore, Maryland. I’m an art historian turned stay-at-home mom. Now we live here, in Johns Hopkins hospital, room 833 in the Pediatric Oncology wing. We’re lucky, I guess, because I saw a fireball land north of us that night. You know, the summer solstice. I’m sure everything back home burned. I only have the clothes I packed and Adam’s scrapbook because I was working on it right before the storm.

Adam: And Dad too. He lived with us.

But your father isn’t here at the hospital, is he?

Adam: No, he dropped me off and then had to go to work.

Rachel (clears throat): We’d recently separated. It’s complicated. But no, he didn’t answer his phone. I called and called. I don’t know how else to reach him.

I’m sorry to hear that. I’m also a little confused. How did you end up at the hospital?

Adam: I had a fever.

Rachel: Ha, yeah, that’s the short answer. Adam is in his second year of treatment for leukemia. A fever is an emergency in an immunocompromised patient so I was driving him here when the firestorm started. Listen, you said you had to take down information for hospital records, but can you talk to Dr. Abramson? Explain to him that we can’t leave.  

Well, I don’t really have any influence with him.

Rachel: I get that the hospital is running out of supplies. They’re running out of food, fuel for the generator, and medicine. That’s the only reason I agreed to let them do surgery on Adam to remove the port in his chest, but we’ve done everything they’ve told us. Don’t let them send us outside. My son…his body can’t take it. I can set up a school here on the hospital campus. I can sweep the floors. I’ll do anything to keep my son safe.

Adam: That’s not why we can’t leave, Mom. You’re afraid the dragon will come back.

Dragon? What does that mean?

Adam: When we arrived in Baltimore another fireball landed. It grew into a tornado, moving down Orleans Street straight toward us, but when it was close I saw a dragon’s face in the flames and she flapped her wings at us. That’s what pushed us into the hospital a moment before the tornado burned through where we’d been.

Rachel: Oh, that’s not true. He’s got a great imagination from all the manga he reads.

Adam: Mom! Why are you lying?

Rachel: Because it doesn’t make any sense. The world has changed so much in only a few weeks. We have to stay focused on the facts. There’s been no communication from outside of Baltimore and we don’t know how widespread the firestorm is. There could be people from other states trying to get to us, to help. There could still be electricity and a government. Or, there could be nothing. I don’t want to complicate it all with wild rumors.

Other people have also claimed that fantastic creatures are roaming through the area. What do you think about that?

Rachel: Look, I’ve heard about the giant golden bull that races through the sky and eats souls, but I don’t have time for that. Honestly, it sounds like something from an ancient story or piece of art. Mesopotamians, for example, featured many supernatural animals in their mythology. They had lions, bulls, dragons, all kinds of hybrid creatures.

But, that is history, not relevant today. My primary concern will always be Adam. How do I take care of my son when modern medicine is gone? I look out that window right there and I see people starving. Tent camps set up where the Walters Art Gallery used to be. People with burns that don’t heal. Gangs looting collapsed houses. It’s scary and it makes my mind spin with anxiety. I’m trying to hold it together for Adam, but I don’t understand why this happened.

Without Craig, you must feel very alone.

Rachel: Well, I have Nurse Lauren. I wouldn’t have my sanity without her. She and I became best friends over the course of Adam’s treatment because I spent more time here than I did at home. And, when I was home, none of the other moms knew what it was like to have a child go through what Adam is experiencing. He can’t use the swimming pool on certain days, depending on his blood counts.  He could wake up and need an emergency trip for platelets or blood. And the medications. It’s like learning a whole new subject at school. Certain ones like methotrexate mean he can’t be out in the sun while a steroid protocol means he’ll be an emotional mess. I would be lost without Lauren’s friendship, but you know what she’s like.

Uh, I’m not really sure. Black hair? Short?

Rachel: No. Not at all. How do you not know Nurse Lauren? She runs this floor.  

There’s a lot of people. Maybe I’m bad with names. So, Adam, what do you do to relax? Do you play with toys? Have a favorite stuffed animal?

Adam: I’m eleven years old. No, I don’t play with toys. This interview is stupid. I’m going to the teen suite. 

<The hospital room door closes behind him. >

Rachel: Sorry, he’s used to being treated like a third adult in our family. I guess he took your question the wrong way.

I’m not offended. I just wanted to know more about him. He looks like a regular kid. Why is he so special?

Rachel: Excuse me?

The interview is over. Thank you for your time.

Rachel: Wait a minute. Why are you so interested in my son?

Tell me a secret and I’ll tell you mine. Make it a good one, Rachel.

Rachel: Fine. You know what? I saw the dragon, too. The night of the firestorm. She was in the flames. It was just like Adam said. She extended her wings. I thought it was to kill us, but the rush of air pushed us into the hospital before the buildings around us burst into a fiery inferno. I don’t know how to process that information. What the hell is the firestorm?

Was that secret good enough? What’s yours?

I AM that dragon.


Sherri Cook Woosley has an M.A. in English literature with a focus on comparative mythology. Her short fiction has been published in Pantheon Magazine, Abyss & Apex, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Walking Through Fire is her debut novel, a combination of her interest in Sumerian mythology and her experience as a mother to a child with cancer.

You can find Rachael and Adam on the pages of Walking Through Fire.

Join us next week to meet a man woken after 50 years of cryogenic sleep, to find the human race nearing extinction. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

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Neah (of Earth Quarantined, by DL Richardson)

Dear readers, in 300 years, when the virus which killed millions of people is gone, humanity lives in a planet-wide quarantine enforced by an alien species.

With us is a young woman, here to tell us about life and her surprising role in that society.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

My name is Neah. I’m 24 years old and I live in an underground city with 200 other indwellers. We call our home ‘the station’ because it’s a converted power station from before the Great War. It’s busy, noisy, crowded, and above all, smelly. Picture taking a shower right after someone else and you can see why some of us would kill for a bit of privacy. But it’s the only home we’ve ever known so who’s to say it isn’t the only way of life?

We’re the survivors of a devastated world. We learn to live and die in the station. There’s no going outside because the land is still toxic from the Great War. But there is an air of curiosity around the place. Why are we here? Will we ever leave? Will we meet an outdweller who can tell us what their world is like? Who is stopping us from seeing this devastated world with our own eyes?

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Our toys are cherished possessions because they’re the only connection we have to our natural parents. You see, as babies we are delivered to the station to wait out the devastation. We grow up knowing where we came from, but we never know who our real parents are of if they’re still alive.

Outdwellers travel for miles to deliver their offspring to be raised by us in the station. They’re placed in quarantine and often the babies are delivered with toys or stuffed animals. My favourite toy growing up was a set of plastic keys. I was always curious about what the keys might open. Probably explains why I entered the security profession.

What do you do now?

I’m a sentinel – a law enforcer – and I’ve just taken on a senior officer role. A sentinel’s job is to search for breaches in the walls so the toxic air from outside doesn’t get in. We also do visual checks of the water recycler and oxygen bays. A normal shift is eight hours, which leaves plenty of time to hang out in the entertainment hub or spend time with the family. It’s not like we have a lot of options for jobs inside the station. Every role must have a function and anything else is done in our free time.

But my true role inside the station is to learn how to be a High Council Leader. I’m the daughter of one, and it’s a role that will pass to me shortly. I’m not happy about it. Too much political bull crap for my liking. Continue reading “Neah (of Earth Quarantined, by DL Richardson)”

Joshua Wyman (of Arid, by Anne Joyce)

Dear readers, tonight with me is an ambitious man, from a distant future where moguls dominate the water supply and sell it back to the public at ridiculous prices.

He’s here to tell us about his plan to steal a vehicle from the oppressors , and his journey across uncharted wastelands filled with murderers and thieves.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in Phoenix AZ with my parents and brother, Justin. Phoenix was a beautiful city when we were kids, before the bombs were dropped and the water barons took over. We used to ride our bicycles all around our quiet, little suburban neighborhood and play baseball with the neighbor kids. You can’t even walk down the street anymore without being harassed by a Purifier.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

My Zbox was probably my favorite toy. Justin and I would play on it every day if our parents let us. Those came out in 2030, I think. They’re like an Xbox but with more options. One of my most cherished memories is when my parents took Justin and me to see the Grand Canyon. If you’ve never seen it in person, you should add that to your bucket list. It’s amazing! It changes color as the sun sets. I think about my family a lot these days. I hope they’re still alive and doing alright.

What do you do now?

I used to be a consultant for a clean energy firm. Now I live in a broken-down shack in the desert. I hunt for food and bury cans in the ground to get water. This is NOT the plan I had for my life, of course. I can give full credit to the water barons for this new “lifestyle” of mine. Continue reading “Joshua Wyman (of Arid, by Anne Joyce)”

Nash Bannon (of Lifeliners, by Stefan Vucak)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a member of homo renata, the species destined to replace homo sapiens. This young lifeliner, as they are commonly called, is here to tell us about his life in Australia amidst protest marches by extremist groups, riots, attacks against lifeliners, and repressive laws enacted by governments everywhere — and his current position as a Senate candidate for the Lifeliner Party.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

What can I say? As far back as I can remember, which is a long way back – my eidetic memory is a dump truck – Melbourne has always been a fun city for me. My twin brother Mark and I spent time riding the trams and keeping our parents from finding out what we were up to. We played pranks on our younger sister Natalie. Let’s face it. We were mean to her, girls having an odd idea of fun. As Melbourne changed, so did I. I knew about lifeliners, of course. They sucked energy from people, and everybody thought they would one day take over the world. When Mark and I turned fourteen, Dad has a quiet talk with us, which turned my bright, innocent world into something dark. Why? We were lifeliners, a secret I could never reveal to anyone, not if I wanted to live.

Did you have any favorite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

As a kid, I was never much into toys, preferring to explore the wonders of emerging technology, devouring books, and learning what it meant to be a lifeliner. On a tram, Mark and I would select a donor and jam off him. We weren’t fussy. It could also be a woman. A light touch to establish a connection, and two minutes or so would be enough to drain a bit of life-force, as I called it, without disturbing the donor.

I loved our family outings, having fond memories of our trips to Daylesford. Dad was a QANTAS exec and Mom a graphics artist. I guess some of their smarts must have passed to me and Mark. I must say that our sister Natalie was pretty sharp herself. We had a wonderful time as kids, something that will stay with me always.

What do you do now?

Would you believe it? I am now a Lifeliner Party federal Senator! When I fell in love with Cariana Lambert, the last thing I expected was being betrayed by her, something that wounded me deeply. I got it sorted out, but the draconian laws being passed by the federal government to strip away rights and freedoms not only from lifeliners, but ordinary people, and the increased incidence of attacks against lifeliners, led me into politics. There is a lot more to the story, of course, but you’ll just have to read the book to find out. Continue reading “Nash Bannon (of Lifeliners, by Stefan Vucak)”

Clare Rhoades (of Abnormal, by AJ Mullican)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a genetically-gifted young woman. Unfortunately, her socio-economic background is from lower echelons, marking her as an “abnormal”. She is here to tell us about her world, and about her dangerous struggle for survival against the “Gifted”.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in a poor borough of Heaven’s Light called Undertown. Most of the buildings are older, brick-and-concrete construction, but the roadways are the same electrostatic roads as Uptown Heaven’s Light and other major cities. I went to a public school, but I stayed in the back of the class and tried to keep my head down. The Squads patrol Undertown pretty regularly, so I had to keep a low profile to keep myself out of a camp.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

My favorite toy wasn’t really a “toy”—it was my own mind. I remember how Mom would sit down with me and teach me to use my telepathy to search for Squads, to read the minds of the neighbors, to manipulate thoughts. She made a game of it, and her mind was bright and golden and full of love. I really miss her…

What do you do now?

I’m kind of…between jobs. I have a “job” of sorts, but it’s not one I chose, believe me. I’ll get out of it…one of these days. Continue reading “Clare Rhoades (of Abnormal, by AJ Mullican)”

Oliver Muriel (of Lost Names, by AN Mouse)

Dear readers, joining me on the interview couch tonight is Oliver, ‘captain’ of a mercenary team. He’s here to tell us about his recent escape to Syama, why there are quotes around his title, and what it’s like living with professionals when you aren’t one.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What’s the Ves like? Are all the stories true?

Depends on who’s telling them. Let me put it this way; there was a shootout in my apartment block. On my floor. I managed to get back to my apartment because I had sold the guy some scrap tech I had dug up a few weeks beforehand and he remembered me. The whole country is dirty. The buildings, the streets, the money. I mean, we’re in Syama now, and like, it’s bad but it’s not as bad. The worst part for me is that I don’t speak the language, but I’m learning.

You don’t have anything good to say about it? No cherished memories?

My cherished memory is the day we left. No, I’m kidding. The day I met the team. That’s kind of a weird thought, because I knew Ame and Rosa for years, we just weren’t close. And I guess the day I met Hastin wasn’t a very good day. All the time we spent together, though, for sure. Those are good memories.

What do you do now in Syama?

Well I’m not hauling scrap, that’s for sure. I’m a ‘co-coordinator’, which sounds hilarious when I say it out loud. They call me ‘captain’, and I don’t mind, but it’s a little more flattering than I deserve. I take care of the team. Make sure we have a place to sleep, things to eat, that we have a plan. I’m our first aid guy and our therapist. Hope of getting Hastin to a real doctor is pretty slim, eh, but we’re doing our best. Continue reading “Oliver Muriel (of Lost Names, by AN Mouse)”

Nash Xander Korpes (of The Korpes File by J.I. Rogers)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a master technician, formerly with the Korlune Military Research and Development. He is also the first from the diasporan population to win top prize at the prestigious Symposium.

As Nash’s time is limited, I’ve arranged to meet with him between appointments. He indicated that he is willing to answer questions about his early life and talk about some of  the difficulties he’s faced, career-wise, in a country ruled by xenophobic traditions.


Congratulations to you and your team on your recent Symposium win, Master-Tech Korpes. Do you have a moment to share with my readers?

Certainly, it would be my privilege, Assaph. I’m a big fan of your column.

How does it feel to be the first Diasporan entrant to have won this prestigious competition?

That’s not entirely accurate. My Master-Mech, Davis Trent, is also Diasporan but I think I can speak for both of us by saying it feels great.

Can you give my readers a little history about yourself? Where were you born, for instance?

Born? Just kidding. Yes, contrary to popular opinion I wasn’t hatched in a Rec-Gen lab; I had real parents, though I never met my father. He was killed in our last border skirmish with Ankoresh. My great-grandparents were among the first Tyran refugees settled in Diaspora Twelve after the final exodus. Locals referred to D-Twelve as Astel which means ‘hope’ in Tyr; my mother said it actually translated to ‘awful weather.’

By the time I was seven, my mother had become the Master-Mech in charge of the city’s reactor. She, my grandmother, my sister and I lived in a three-bedroom apartment that had been in our family since the settlement. The city was less than twenty kilometers from the coast, so we were constantly being hit by the storms that blew in from the Northern Hotari Sea; our dome maintenance crews deserved medals for their efforts.

Up until ten years ago, Astel had one of the top producing Tellium mines which employed over half the city’s population. Sadly, like most of our equipment, our air filtration systems were outdated and couldn’t handle the level of dust that was generated. The particulates that escaped created a perpetual amber-hued haze. You had to mask-up when they were swapping the filters out, or you’d run the risk of getting a lung infection. Continue reading “Nash Xander Korpes (of The Korpes File by J.I. Rogers)”

Gabriel Kerr (of Manumission by E.R. Harding)

Dear readers, tonight on the interview couch is a man objecting to immortality.

In a world where a person’s consciousness can be transferred to another bio-frame, the corporation that controls this is king. He believes, like some, that the Metaform is the greatest threat to humanity in its authentic, natural and biological state.

He is here to tell us of his adventures.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up on part of Errik’s estate that was always called the Camp, or the Church. My Dad was a militant activist and he started the Soul Defence Force when he was quite young. My mum left when I was still a kid, so I don’t remember her, but dad was pretty mean and belted me a lot. I had a lot of mates growing up, and I was quite happy. Of course it was different when I got older. It was a lot less fun, and much harder work.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

I didn’t have toys. I mean, I might have done when I was a baby, but I don’t remember them if I did. Life was all about training, and as soon as I was old enough, I was out on raids with the older lads.

What do you do now?

Life’s good now. I have enhanced intelligence, which means I learn stuff instantly and I never forget anything. I also have a really long projected lifespan, potentially unlimited actually, because when this bio-frame wears out I’ll buy another one. The life of a millionaire playboy could get a bit dull though, maybe. Oh yeah, there’s nothing to complain about now. Not really. Continue reading “Gabriel Kerr (of Manumission by E.R. Harding)”

Jazatar Baldrik, aka Jaz (of Trust A Few by EM Swift-Hook)

Dear readers, tonight we have something slightly different. A notorious criminal was recently released back into The City. After 5 years of brutal convict military service, he has to face up to a future with very limited prospects.

We could not get him to appear on the interview couch as a guest, as we lost track of him amongst the stars. Instead, we were able to replicate here the last pre-release report from the Coalition.


Report of interview with Jazatar Baldrik.

Pre-Release assessment final phase. Interview conducted by Specialist Interrogator Kilven, Coalition Security Forces. Interrogation Room 473.

Subject appeared slightly ill at ease, high levels of adrenaline recorded, several emotional peaks noted, none visible externally. Neurocological reports suggest the degree of honesty and self-revelation the interview required will have been a mid-level trauma for the subject.

So Jaz – You prefer I call you Jaz? Good – You have been serving a sentence with the Special Legion for the last  five years – and that means you must have committed a crime that is considered a capital offense. Can you tell me about that? Oh, and do bear in mind we’ll know if you are lying to us and if you do that could prejudice your chances of release.

Yeah. I know that. I’ve been wired to the Lattice long enough to know how it works. But, your question, what’s to tell? It’ll all be in my record and you lot ripped everything I ever knew about anything out of me when I was arrested. So you know I was part of a terrorist attack on a Coalition installation. If it’d worked it’d have screwed up Coalition control of the Varn Sector, but it didn’t – someone must’ve betrayed us because you lot were there and waiting. And you know what? The fact I had zero previous and a solid record as a merc fighting in your inter-corporate resource wars didn’t even get a mention at my trial. And you’ll also know I never liked those fanatics in the Legacy, I’m not going to have anything more to do with them. I only did it for my brother.

Ah yes, your ‘brother’ – not a biological relationship, but you felt a strong emotional bond for Avilon Revid, the leader of that terrorist strike. Do you still feel the same way?

About Avilon? Well now that’s an interesting question, because he’s not ‘Avilon Revid’ anymore is he? After your brain plumbers got through with him he’s a completely different person. He’s not got the faintest idea about what he was like before, only what he’s been told. So no, I don’t feel the same way – I feel it different. But no matter what he’s become he’s still my brother and I’m not going to let him rot if he gets out of this. Continue reading “Jazatar Baldrik, aka Jaz (of Trust A Few by EM Swift-Hook)”

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