Keep to the Fringe

by Kaolin Fire

“Ye’ve got to stop running, Mick.”

“Oh, I’m not a runner. Little in this world I’m afraid of, Joe.”

“Oh, I’ll admit ye’ve not got the haunted eyes, the pallid disposition. Ye’re a fighter, sure, and not glancing over your shoulder or naught. Still, though, there’s something in how you take in a place. Almost wistful-like.”

“Is there?”

“There is. So what little is it that you’re afraid of, Mick?”

“The Author.”

“Wot, you mean, like God?”

“Yeah, sort of. But limited, like. See, you and me — we don’t exist, right? Except how he makes us.”

“How’s that limited, then?”

“I suppose for us, it’s not. But he’s only as powerful as his skills, you see. That’s how I found him.”

“A glitch in the machine?”

“Yeah, sort of. He’s just learning, you see. Creates new worlds left and right, whole cloth, disposes of them when they break. But he’s not very creative, right? Keeps reusing characters, just changes ’em a bit.”

“So you’re remembering past lives, only they’re like different dimensions.”

“That’s it. That’s how I found him. In the cracks between the spaces, all that mystical mumbo jumbo.”

“He sounds right dull, your Author. But why are you afraid of him?”

“Well, see, I figure... See, this is kind of hard... Okay: imagine you don’t exist until he writes you, right? And when he’s writing you, you have absolutely no control. It’s all determined by how he feels a plot should work and stuff like that.”

“Go on.”

“Well, when he’s not writing you — you’re still there, in the back of his mind. Sometimes he’s more conscious of you, sometimes he’s less. But when you’re out there on the fringes, that’s where the freedom is. Between scenes, or better yet in stories not even thought of yet. Far enough out, you can start to control things yourself.”

“You can control things?”

“I can control myself. That’s a big start.”

“How can you tell if you’re being controlled? I mean, if he’s a good enough Author, wouldn’t he be making you do things that you seem like you ought?”

“Well, for one. These dreams. These alternate-reality, past-life things. They’re all action, creepy and gory. There’s never any dialogue, so if I keep talking, if I chatter on, I think I’m safer than not.”

“Styles change.”

“They do. You have to be vigilant. You never know what might tip you off — what piece of reality is just a little too perfect, or a little too odd.”

“But you’ve never experienced something more — scientific, maybe? Some tangible thing of your Author’s presence?”

“Well, sometimes I have these fugues. I’ll be one place, and then another, only it’s like nothing’s changed.”

“How do you mean?”

“Like I’ll be exploring the tunnels under a city, and all of a sudden I won’t be able to move, like my arms’re pinned behind me, and lights will be blinding me and voices’ll come out of the walls. And then I’ll be back on the road, just roving — roving’s how I know he’s not thinking about me. Nothing plot-worthy happens on his roads.”

“And me? Are you saying you only meet people he’s written in stories?

“I hadn’t considered that. I meet a lot of people; it seems difficult to see my Author having imagined them all.”

“But maybe if I did some of this past life regression, you think maybe I could live forever, too, staying on the fringe of it all?”

“Nobody said anything about living forever. Authors die.”

“But their works live on, right?”

“But then you’re frozen in what they wrote. That’s the end. Me, I just want control over my existence while it’s mine to experience.”

“So then you live, but you might well not have existed but for what the Author wrote down.”

“But maybe what I do, what I choose to do, will affect that.”

“Like this?”

“What do you mean?”

“How do you know he’s not watching, not listening in?”

“If he doesn’t interfere, I guess I have to be happy.”

“And if he’s just tweaking a line here or there?”

“Well, people, real people, only have so much control over their destiny anyway. Right? You have to be happy somewhere.”

“Good. Good, I’m glad. Thank you for talking this through with me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I want you to be happy.”

“Oh God.”

“Or whatever.”

Copyright © 2008 by Kaolin Fire

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