Matthew Huntington’s problems seem to keep growing. Not only is he seeing things in garbage cans but his mentor doesn’t think he’s working up to his full potential, his best friend can’t offer any solace but drunken confusion, and his wife is dying in Central Park.
Of course, the fact that Matthew himself died over two decades ago isn’t helping things.
And then things start to really go wrong.
Come explore the world of Matthew and Epp and see what a samurai from
Feudal Japan has to do with the course of modern physics, what a two-thousand year old Roman slave has to do with the summit of Mount Everest and what a dead man from Brooklyn has to do with the fate of the world.
(In a sparsely furnished room the interviewer sits across from Epictetus. Epictetus’ dark black skin is offset by his immaculately cut suit, and both of these combined with his muscular tone and dark eyes would make him seem imposing if it wasn’t for the warmth in his smile.)
JOSEPH DEVON: Good morning, thank you for coming.
EPICTETUS: No problem at all.
JOSEPH DEVON: Should we start with your age?
EPICTETUS: I’m roughly 2,000 years old.
JOSEPH DEVON: Roughly?
EPICTETUS: We don’t really have any means of keeping a written history, so some information gets lost.
JOSEPH DEVON: And by “we” you mean?
EPICTETUS: Testers. Or pushers we’re sometimes called.
JOSEPH DEVON: Okay, and what is a tester exactly?
EPICTETUS: Have you ever had something bad happen in your life that, once you got through it, you looked back and viewed as a positive influence? A source of growth?
JOSEPH DEVON: Maybe.
EPICTETUS: That was the work of a tester.
JOSEPH DEVON: I’m not sure I…I don’t think I understand.
EPICTETUS: (There is a long pause as Epp leans back in his chair and stares off, thinking. He comes back to us smiling.) Well, let’s take you for example. If you make it as a writer will you look back on these years of struggle as a formative time? A time of learning?
JOSEPH DEVON: Not really, this seems kind of like a giant pain in the ass. I want to hang out in Spain and drink all day. That’s what I thought I was signing up for with this writing gig. It’s taken me somewhere rather different.
EPICTETUS: (Laughing) Testers are often misunderstood. But didn’t you say awhile back that “every word matters,” in your writing? Did you always have that viewpoint? Did you always rewrite stories four or five times? Did you always force yourself to focus as much as you do now?
JOSEPH DEVON: Not so much, no. I used to not believe in rewriting.
EPICTETUS: And would you say that all the years and all the piles of rejection letters for your manuscripts were what made you constantly return to the work and attempt to improve yourself and your craft?
JOSEPH DEVON: I don’t think I like where this is heading.
EPICTETUS: So isn’t it possible to say that being rejected has made you into a better writer?
JOSEPH DEVON: Has one of you been rejecting my stories?
EPICTETUS: (Smiling) You know I can’t answer that. And there many other factors than testers at play in this universe. But that’s just an example of how one of us might go to work. It can be as simple as altering something in the physical world, like maybe slipping rejection slips into your SASEs, or it’s possible someone went to work inside of you, forced you to doubt yourself, applied pressure to you to go back and relearn your job.
JOSEPH DEVON: (Clearly uncomfortable) Can we stop talking about me specifically? It’s a little weird.
EPICTETUS: Of course.
JOSEPH DEVON: Thank you. Now a couple more questions about testers in general, and then I’d like to hear a little more about Epictetus specifically.
EPICTETUS: My time is yours.
JOSEPH DEVON: Would you describe yourself as a ghost?
EPICTETUS: Not really. Although it’s quite possible that many ghost stories you’ve heard are actually about a tester. We exist in your physical reality, that’s important to note, but we interact with it differently. I’m capable of being visible to you or not, for example. And to pick up, say, this pen I could either manipulate it through physical exertion (Epp picks up the pen in question with his hand) or I could manipulate the very basic energy contained in the pen at a quantum level (Epp stares at the pen and concentrates, it cracks and curls up until it compresses into small ball before disappearing).
JOSEPH DEVON: (Impressed) You owe me one pen.
EPICTETUS: It would seem that I do.
JOSEPH DEVON: Right then. Now, how does one become a tester?
EPICTETUS: Through a series of choices. There is an odd little hiccup in the universe that allows us to exist. A loophole, if you will, in what seems to be a simple moment of self sacrifice, the moment of our death. We juke the system and stay behind while the doorway to the next world closes. It can get confusing, but in the end that doesn’t exactly matter. The thermodynamics involved in an internal combustion engine are also confusing but you don’t need to understand them every time you want start your car. I loved my wife enough to die for her, and when she passed on I decided I loved the world enough to stay behind without her and cast myself adrift forever.
JOSEPH DEVON: Okay, I’d love to ask more about that sense of being adrift, but we’re running out of time and I want to just get a little history on you. What was your greatest push?
EPICTETUS: They all have their merits. but I’m assuming you’re talking about Newton.
JOSEPH DEVON: Yes. I’d like to talk briefly about that and Kyokutei’s role in it.
EPICTETUS: A lot of people don’t understand Kyo. And for good reason I suppose. He is a little different. But he’s tough and he’s pure, that much I can tell you. And, after I had been testing for about fifteen hundred years, I felt I was getting soft so I enlisted Kyo to help me, to challenge me, to attempt to destroy me if possible. One thing Kyo did was to dig up a young boy named Isaac Newton. There was such huge potential in Newton that failing while pushing him could have obliterated me. So Kyo became my own personal tester. A tester of testers, if you will, although he seems to only be working for me at the moment.
JOSEPH DEVON: Possibly because you’re the only one crazy enough to ask someone like him to destroy you.
EPICTETUS: (Smiles) Possibly. You have to understand, though, after fifteen hundred years of anything you’re going to begin to wish for some way to shake things up.
JOSEPH DEVON: That seems perfectly understandable. All right, I’d like to thank you for coming. I didn’t get around to asking you everything I wanted but I think we’ve done all right. We’re going to end with the questionnaire created by Bernard Pivot and used by James Lipton from “Inside the Actors Studio.” You ready?
EPICTETUS: Most certainly.
JOSEPH DEVON: What is your favorite word?
JOSEPH DEVON: What is your least favorite word?
JOSEPH DEVON: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
EPICTETUS: I try to keep with me a sense of wonder at what people can accomplish.
JOSEPH DEVON: And what turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
EPICTETUS: When I think back at how long I’ve been here…it can sometimes seem to me like I’ve overstayed my welcome. Like maybe it’s time to move on.
JOSEPH DEVON: What sound or noise do you love?
EPICTETUS: Perfectly shaped ice cubes dropping into a nice, thick, crystal whiskey glass.
JOSEPH DEVON: What sound or noise do you hate?
EPICTETUS: The roar of a fire.
JOSEPH DEVON: What is your favorite curse word?
EPICTETUS: (Laughing) There was a wonderful one in use in Gaul awhile back but I don’t think it would translate well. I guess, “Ah, fuck,” is nice. Sort of flows nicely.
JOSEPH DEVON: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
EPICTETUS: I’d like to be a cook. A cook in the local bar, you know, I don’t want to be a chef. I like more rustic stuff. I want to be the guy who makes the buffalo wings that you crave every weekend.
JOSEPH DEVON: What profession would you not like to do?
EPICTETUS: I don’t think I could be a surgeon.
JOSEPH DEVON: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
EPICTETUS: (Thinks for awhile) That was some good work you did; now go see your wife.
JOSEPH DEVON: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.
EPICTETUS: No problem at all.
Come back tomorrow for the feature about the sequel, Persistent Illusions.
field of self-publishing since his first book, The Letter. He is known
for his world-building literary style, instantly accessible characters
and poetic dialogue as well as the "26 Stories in 52 Weeks" writing
project from his website at JosephDevon.com.
Find Joseph on the web:
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Sept 23 Guest Blog and Review
Curling Up By The Fire
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