by S. Kovax
Robotic female voice: ‘Welcome to the audio library, Mr. Firm. You have chosen The Tom Plutarch Interview audio file. If you would like to play the file, touch play.’
Robotic female voice: ‘Playing The Tom Plutarch Interview audio file.’
Classical music in the background.
A new voice speaks. ‘Okay, Tom. Can we begin?’
Rustling of papers and plastic.
‘Okay, the dictation machine is on. Cool. This is Sally McDonald from the Incredible or Impossible Magazine, and I have Tom Plutarch sitting next to me.
‘Just for reference, Tom is a millionaire entrepreneur, Buddhist priest, professor of psychology, Nobel- and Pulitzer-prize-winning author, and last but not least, a superhuman mind reader. Tom, when did you start to read other people’s thoughts?’
‘Thanks for the lovely introduction, Sally. Straight cut into the middle of the steak; I like that.
‘Well. It’s difficult to remember the exact time. I would say I recognised my ability when I was about three-four years old.’
‘You didn’t really answer my question.’
Slurping. Audible exhalation. Glass knocking on wood.
‘You are quite right. I didn’t. As I learned to speak, I noticed that sometimes my parents didn’t move their mouths, but I could still hear them talking. Obviously, I didn’t know the actual meaning of thoughts or language at that time, so when these concepts became clear in my head, I realised I was different from other children.’
‘I kept it as a secret and used it to my advantage.
‘I used it to cheat on exams, or to control people, to make them do what I desired. Nothing serious, of course; I wasn’t a criminal. I simply convinced them that I was right, making them believe that I’m smarter, so they supported and followed me. I became quite famous, and you probably know the rest from the papers.’
‘When did you decide to live separated from society?’
‘A few years ago after my wife, Elisabeth, had left me, and after my suicide attempt.’
‘Would you mind sharing a bit more?’
‘As my ability improved, particular problems... surfaced. I couldn’t sleep, for example. I heard the neighbours’ thoughts like they were speaking next to me. I saw their dreams, nightmares. She was the only one who could help me deal with the chaos in my head. Simply looking into her eyes calmed me down.
‘Without her, I would have gone mad for sure. Well, I still did after she had left, but that phase of my life is over now. I bought everything in the ten miles’ radius of this mansion so that I could be alone. I began to study ancient Eastern philosophy and the art of meditation. They helped a lot. However, I will never forget Elisabeth. I even would say I will always love her to a degree.’
A few seconds of silence.
‘I’m sorry, this is not part of the interview, but I can’t hold it back. Would you mind reading my mind? Please.’
‘No worries. I was expecting it. The question you asked a second ago lingered in your head since you had entered my house. Now you are regretting you’ve asked. Now, you doubt me. The last two thoughts were about my ability. You think it’s amazing and you want it for yourself. The sky is blue. Elephants. Your favourite food is sushi. A series of random thoughts, like-‘
‘Thank you. This is remarkable.’
‘Thank you. Now you have a proof of my ability. We can speak honestly, in my opinion.’
‘Please. Let’s save ourselves from empty phrases. We both know why you are here.’
‘Excuse me, but I don’t get what you mean.’
‘Well. I know that you are a member of the secret society called The Firm, which is studying extraordinary people and trying to reproduce or replicate their abilities in its ordinary members. The leader of the organisation is an individual called Jarvis Firm with whom I have, how should I express, not the fondest relationship. Did you know that I was part of The Firm in the beginning? Did they inform you?
‘In the beginning, I thought our collaboration was going to be beneficial for both of us, but Firm’s true purpose became evident soon, so I left him. I wished to help people, not use them to gain more power.
‘Anyway. I know you possess a mind reading ability too, and that you are wearing a thought generator machine, which should block your real thoughts and emotions from me. I also know about the armed squad outside, listening to this conversation, planning to capture me.’
‘How do you know?’
‘You forget what I am, Sally.’
‘The machine was tested on me and other psychics. It should work.’
‘Sally. You are mocking me... Please, psychics. You call yourself one, yet your perception is narrower than a chicken’s. What do you want from me?’
‘You must know it already.’
‘Well, yes, partly. I just want your little friends sitting behind the monitors to join the party.’
‘You guys receiving this?’
‘Of course, they are. Your equipment is working fine. Oh please, the weapon is not necessary. We are having a conversation.’
A metallic click.
‘Come with me willingly, and everyone’s going to be okay.’
‘First of all, you have to prove that no harm has been done to Elisabeth.’
‘Why don’t you read my mind if you’re so strong?’
‘Because you weren’t there when your colleagues kidnapped her. What you genuinely don’t know, I can’t know either.’
‘I want to hear her voice.’
‘That won’t be possib-- what?’
‘Just pick up your phone and turn on the loudspeaker, as your colleague instructed through your earpiece.’
Ringing. Fumbling with a phone. Click.
‘Nice to hear your voice again, Firm. Could you please be so kind and give the phone to Elisabeth?’
‘Tom, please, give them what they need? If you do, they will release me.’
‘Please, try to calm down, my dear. Are you okay?’
‘Excellent. You are going to be free soon. Now, could I speak to Firm for a moment?’
‘You made a big mistake when you harmed my ex-wife. However, if you release her right now, we can end this incident without further injuries.’
‘Plutarch, we didn't-‘
‘Please. As I said earlier, let’s save ourselves from empty phrases. Mental harm is harm too, and you underestimate my abilities. I’m not the same person anymore. By the way, Sally, why don’t you reconsider where to point that gun?’
‘No. No. Please. Oh my God, Mr. Firm. He is going to kill me. Help me!’
‘Miss McDonald, this is Mr. Firm. What’s happening?’
‘He’s made me point the gun at my own head. He controls my body.’
‘The team is on the way.’
‘I don’t think we need casualties, Firm.’
‘Please help me! I don’t want to die! I'll never tell anyone about this, I swear. Mr. Firm?’
‘Hang on there, Miss McDonald. Everything is going to be okay.’
Multiple steps outside.
‘Oh, I hear the other guests are here.’
‘Please, let me go.’
A loud impact and quick footsteps, followed by a new voice.
‘No, you freeze.’
A minute of silence. Piano piece in the background.
‘Now, I would like to make a few things clear. I am not sure how many of you can hear this, but I suggest you share my words with your little secret society. You think you know what I am capable of. Well, my dear friends, you are utterly wrong. You have absolutely no idea. If you had, you wouldn’t have tried this in the first place.
‘If there is any further harm done to Elisabeth, and I mean any, I will know about it. And then, I will exterminate you. I will erase your society and its members from the surface of the Earth.’
‘I think you are the one who underestimates us, Plutarch.’
‘Let Elisabeth go, and I will let your colleagues go too.’
‘They are only pawns on a chess board.’
‘All right. All right. I will give you what you want. I will go to your headquarters, you will release Elisabeth, and then we can handle the rest on our own.’
‘What’s my guarantee? A minute ago you wanted to erase me.’
‘My word, the lives of these people in front of me, and Elisabeth.’
‘Hmm. Your word. I think, after all these years, after all this hassle, the only thing that will surely bring your DNA to me is revenge.’
‘Firm? What have you done? Elisabeth? Elisabeth! NOOO!’
Sobbing. Screaming. Multiple gunshots at once. Bodies dropping. Piano music. Muffled crackling of the microphone.
‘See you soon, Plutarch.’
Robotic female voice: ‘End of audio file The Tom Plutarch Interview. If you would like to play the next audio file in the folder, titled The DNA Analysis of Tom Plutarch, touch play.’
About the Creator
World's Shortest Creator Interview
The Queen of Saturn has commissioned you to design for her a new pet that will fit in her handbag, to replace Skittles, the late royal pet who made the mistake of pooping on the royal phone. What would be the notable characteristics of your pet?
As Saturn's atmosphere is quite poisonous and hostile (1800 km per hour winds), I would create a mini Elder Thing from Lovecraft's universe. They were funny-looking: wings, oval-shaped barrel for a body with starfish-like appendages, the top appendage having five eyes and five eating tubes, five more limbs at the bottom. They were incredibly tough and able to withstand the largest pressure: ideal for Saturn in a smaller size. Maybe I would make them a little bit fluffier.
If the Queen demands that the pet have the personality of a literary character, what character would you instill into the royal pet?
I would give the pet the split-personality of Tyrion and Cersei Lannister to keep the Queen entertained with some witty dialogue.
About the Artists
Our very own D Chang is a designer and game writer from Austin, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Avast, Ye Airships! and the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology, and he has a janky retro JRPG on Steam. He does the Space Squid illustrations, editing, and other squid stuff.