Interview #5

“Interview #5

by Stacie Turner

“I am a god,” the woman said.

So far for this class Mary Ellen had interviewed two separate frat boys pretending to be vampires, a woman selling essential oils, and a polycule that only wore clothing made before 1940. University Public Access TV was like that. The people who came on got exposure. She got three journalism credits and a crash course in the many, many ways people could be strange. “Oh?” she said, letting the slight raise of her voice turn it into a question. People talked more when you gave them space. Ask a man if he loved his girlfriend and all he’d say was yes. Just let him talk and he’d strip his soul bare, revealing himself in ways he never intended.

Sometimes in ways he might have been better off keeping to himself.

A lot of men were assholes.

Today’s guest seemed sweet, though she was painfully washed out, with skin stretched too tight over her cheekbones and frail, delicate hands. Mary Ellen couldn’t guess her age. She might have been twenty. She might have been eighty. She also wasn’t saying anything else, and her lower lip trembled like she was about to cry. “Angie?” Mary Ellen prompted her, double-checking the name on her information card. Space for your subject to open up was good, yes, but too much dead air would lower her grade. She needed to do five interviews, and this was the last day to get one in before the deadline so she couldn’t redo it with someone else if this woman didn’t work out.

“I don’t want to offend,” Angie said softly. “Maybe I should call myself an angel.”

“Everyone likes angels,” Mary Ellen agreed. “Christmas announcements. Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy. And the cherubs at Valentine’s Day with their arrows and all. What do you do? As an angel, I mean?”

“I kill people.”

The heating kicked on with a loud thunk, but other than that it was totally silent in the studio. Mary Ellen raised her eyes slowly from her prop index card. Angie Highbury, was what it said. 2PM. She was supposed to wing it for these interviews. Go where the wind takes you, had been the professor’s advice, but it made people more comfortable if it looked like she was reading questions, so she always held the card like it mattered.

She really wished it had a question on it she could default to right about now, but it didn’t, so she just echoed Angie’s answer. “You kill people?”

Angie nodded. “We all got together, you understand, and we decided to split the world. I took this part.” She waved her arm around, and Mary Ellen had no idea whether she meant this recording studio, or this town, or what. “Things are bad, you know?”

“They are,” Mary Ellen said, keeping her voice totally neutral. She glanced over at the control booth, looking for John. He was a creep, but it would be nice to have backup if this woman got violent. Naturally, the one time she wanted him, he wasn’t there. Great time to step out to hit your pen, you fucker, she thought.

“We’re going to let governments go on, doing what they do,” Angie said. “There’s so much day-to-day stuff. I just . . . it’s too much to make all the decisions about whether you should allow four-story buildings, or only three, you know?”

“Zoning laws are a lot,” Mary Ellen agreed. She tried to crack a joke. “Too much even for a god to keep track of.”

“An angel.”

Shit. “Right.”

“But we decided we would . . . we each have local control, you have to understand. What I decide is punishable by death isn’t what everyone else will. Things will be different in different places.”

“Naturally.” If she could keep agreeing, maybe she could keep this woman happy long enough to get her out of here. Then she’d call that hotline for people with psych issues. The number was hanging in the bathroom, she’d seen it a hundred times but of course she couldn’t remember it now. “Is there a warning system?” she asked. “Or do you just strike people down?”

“I just strike,” Angie said. She twisted her thin hands together. “Well, struck, I guess. I feel . . . I shouldn’t feel bad about it, right? They deserved it.”

Mary Ellen’s throat was so tight she could barely force the words out. “I don’t think I can tell you how you should feel.”

“But I wanted people to understand,” Angie said, looking down. “I didn’t want them to be confused, or think it was a tragedy, or . . . that’s why I signed up for this interview. So people would know.”

“That seems . . .” Mary Ellen searched for a word she could use that wouldn’t upset her guest. “Thoughtful?”

“Be not afraid,” Angie said softly. “I only killed the rapists. I turned them all to dust so they’ll blow away on the wind, but you’ll be fine. You’re a good person. Everyone seeing this will be fine now.”

The fear drained away and in its place something inside Mary Ellen began to ache. Understanding led to compassion, wasn’t that what they said? And now that she understood, all she could think was, this poor woman. This poor, poor woman. “Let me turn the camera off,” she said. She couldn’t exploit this for a grade. The funny undergrads with their fake fangs, sure, but not this. She’d rather take the hit to her GPA. “I think we’ve got tea in the kitchen. Let’s go have some, okay? We can talk more there.”

“That would be nice,” Angie said. “Now that we’re done.”

Mary Ellen gently steered her out of the studio. She felt sad and sorry and tired until they passed a pile of ashes outside the control room. Then she got very, very awake.

“He’s gone now,” Angie said, meeting her eyes. “They’re all gone. Do you think there’s honey to put in that tea?”

_______________

Stacie Turner lives in Connecticut with her family and cats.  Interview #5 is her first published story.  Her website is www.stacieturner.com

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14 Responses to Interview #5

  1. Hannah says:

    I did not know to expect, but wow. As always, you keep me on my toes.

  2. Tori says:

    Absolutely wonderful and haunting!

  3. Crystal Logsdon says:

    Wow! So thoughtfully written but the twist at the end took my breath for a moment.

  4. Elair says:

    Phenomenal as always – absolutely loved it.

  5. Amanda Borton says:

    This was so good! Very thrilling.

  6. Arlene says:

    I did not know where this was headed, and the ending really packed a punch. I read this a few hours ago and I’m still thinking about the full implications. Fantastic story!

  7. Kimberly Martin says:

    Beautifully unexpected

  8. Erica says:

    Wow, chilling and beautiful.

  9. Lauren says:

    Great story. Wonderful emotional punch for something so short.

  10. Nancy Anderson says:

    Oh gosh, I loved that!! At first I just thought it was a fun story, but once I sat on it, I noticed what you did at the end, and that’s just such masterclass. Loved how it hit me, like ho shit *all* gone. Poor John? Ha.

  11. Silvia says:

    Beautiful! She dusted the creep! I absolutely loved this story!

  12. Mary Griggs says:

    Scary beautiful! Well done!

  13. Emily says:

    I love this! I love the shift in Mary Ellen’s tone over the course of the story (and what it says about her, the effort to stay neutral, and the compassion in the face of what looks like severe mental illness juxtaposed against the shock of the final reveal), and the new information is so beautifully paced through the story. And “they’re all gone” just leaves me with so many questions about who will be left, how many people will be left, but we won’t know until after tea happens- heck of a tea party coming up… it feels so open ended, while also feeling so perfectly complete.

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