SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT
Before reading today’s post, I want to tell you about our little project. In the coming months one character from each story in my collection, Voices, will be interviewed by Lisa Lee with Bibliophilia Templum.
No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.
Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing (you can pick up a copy here). If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers.
One more thing before the first session: if you have read Voices and would like to ask a question of today’s character, leave a comment at the end, and I will see about getting an answer from the character for you. Don’t be shy, ask your questions. You may get an interesting response.
The doorknob is cold to the touch. Lisa let her palm linger as she takes a deep breath. She closes her eyes and gathers her thoughts. Beyond the door are the people she was sent to talk to, to interview.
“You can do this,” she says and takes another deep breath. Forcing a smile, she turns the knob and opens the door.
A room with gray walls and dirty white tiles greets her. The lights overhead are fluorescents and casts dim shadows into the corners where she imagines cobwebs cling to the ceiling and spiders caress the carcasses of dead bugs before eating them. There’s not much in the room. A brown piano along the right wall, its ivory keys yellow and its ebony ones having lost their luster. A table sits to her left, complete with clear plastic cups containing water and various juices. There are no snacks to be seen.
In the center of the room are sixteen folding chairs, each one upholstered with cushions a shade of yellow out of the seventies. Stuck to the backs of each chair is a sticker that says Holly’s Mortuary. Fifteen of them form the shape of a U and are occupied. One of them—the one in the center—is not.
Lisa doesn’t focus on any one of the fifteen people waiting for her, each one in their own little world, recalling the stories of their lives, possibly in vivid details, possibly through hazy clouds of the thing we call forgetfulness. Women. Men. Children. They all turn and look at her when the door closes with a click that is too loud in her ears. Her smile falters, but not for long. She forces it back in place, straightens her shirt and walks toward what she calls The Fifteen. She reaches her chair, turns and sits down.
Scanning the room, she takes in the blank stares, resentful faces, some even with a touch of sadness filling their eyes. She settles on one individual, a young boy in his mid-teens and a pimple on the side of his face. She considers him for a moment. He is not fat, but he is not thin either. Most would call him chubby, something she knows bothers him. He stares at the floor, at his shoes. One of them is untied, the loose ends frayed
“Spencer,” she says and waits for him to look up. When he does, she sees the circle of gray beneath his eyes. “Hi.”
He says nothing, but he does frown, an expression that reminds her of Eeyore from the Winnie the Pooh cartoons. “I understand you are a good student. Is that right?”
He looks at her with those sad eyes.
“Well? Are you a good student?”
Spencer nods. It’s a jerky sort of motion. “Yes … yes, ma’am.”
Lisa smiles. It’s a start. “Good to hear, Spencer. So, what do you do for fun? Any hobbies? Extracurricular activities?”
Spencer shrugs. “I … I don’t know. I umm … There is this place I hang out at sometimes. It’s called The Game Room and it’s … it’s where my friends and I play games. You know like Munchkin and Magic, the Gathering.”
“Interesting.” She stares at the boy. She wants to go easy on him, lob some painless questions his way so he can hit them out of the park. She doesn’t want to scare him, to make him any more nervous than he already is.
You’re not here to be his mother, she thinks. Time to take the kid gloves off.
“Spencer, what scares you?”
His head jerks up. His eyes are wide. His bottom lip quivers. Lisa suddenly feels sorry for him, but she knows she can’t turn back now.
“Umm … what?”
“What are you afraid of?”
He licks his lips and then wipes his nose. He takes several deep breaths. “Umm …”
“It’s okay, Spencer. This isn’t the outside world. No one’s going to judge you here.”
“I’m scared of shadows.”
Lisa points to one of the darkened corners behind him. “Like those shadows?”
“Is there something in the shadows, Spencer?”
He nods. His eyes focus on the corner closest to the door.
“Are the shadows … bad?”
He looks back at her. His lip no longer trembles and his voice is soft. “Sometimes.”
It’s Lisa’s turn to nod. Her gut tells her she isn’t going to get much more out of him about the shadows. She switches gears. “What about pretty girls? Are they bad?”
“What about pretty girls named Sarah?”
Spencer stiffens. He looks down at his hands, then back up at Lisa. “Yes.”
“You fell for the pretty girl trap, didn’t you?”
His frown deepens. He gives a nod, but says nothing.
Lisa shakes her head. “What makes teenage boys fall for the pretty girl trap?”
“I didn’t know it was a trap. She was … was so pretty and she needed help with one of her classes and she invited me over. I just wanted to help her out.”
“Did you really think it was a study invitation?”
Ten seconds pass and he says nothing. Another fifteen follows. “I thought she liked me. I hoped she liked me. No girl has ever liked me before. No girl has ever shown me any attention before, and she … she acted like she liked me.” His voice holds agitation in it, an edge that Lisa didn’t think she could get from him. She reverses gears this time.
“So, the shadows …”
“They’re not just shadows,” he snaps. “They are shadow people and they don’t like humans. They kill. They eat. They don’t like me.”
“But they didn’t kill you?”
He laughs. “No, they didn’t.”
“Well, they killed Bobby.”
“Did you let the shadow people harm Bobby and Sarah?”
The corners of Spencer’s mouth turn up slightly. “I didn’t let them harm Bobby and Sarah. I just let them take them. It’s Bobby and Sarah’s fault they got hurt.”
“Okay. How do you feel about letting the shadow people take Bobby and Sarah?”
Another shrug. “I don’t feel anything.”
“Do you think they deserved it?”
Spencer smiles fully now. It is a haunting expression. His eyes become darker. He isn’t looking at his hands now. He is looking straight at Lisa and his face is glowing. He laughs, a sound that is disturbing to hear. “Oh, yes. They deserved it. I just wish I hadn’t been too scared to watch.”
He sits back in his chair, puts his hands on his knees. “Is that all, Ma’am?”
“Yes,” Lisa says.
“Can I go now?”
“Yes. You can return to the page now.”
Spencer stands, nods at Lisa. He doesn’t look at any of the others in the room. A moment later he stands at the door and glances back. His eyes are sad again. “Come,” he says and motions toward one of the corners untouched by light. A shadow pulls itself from the darkness and creeps along the top of the wall, staying in the unlit areas until it reaches the door. Spencer opens it. The shadow passes over the door jamb with an angry hiss and disappears before Spencer steps through and closes the door behind him.
To be continued …