“Rain?” Dawson Filter asked. “Do you really mean that?”
“No.” Sylvester replied, shaking his head. “I had to say that. I have to say a lot of things to get by. I mean most of them, whoever’s making me say this knows me pretty well; but sometimes his motives are just places other than authenticity.”
“It’s hard?” Dawson said. He never wanted the sentence to conclude with a question mark, but knew he couldn’t stop me from typing whatever punctuation marks I want to;:!`(*(¿””””””
Lance, knowing that no longer felt like writing this dialogue, raised his arms and bellowed “That’s just great! You’ve gotten no trouble at all making up your own sentences from scratch, but you can’t even finish one already brilliantly started be me under threat of ¡PAIN!! Are you even sane?”
“I’m just sane enough to know that you never wanted to be a barbershop torture specialist, Lance.” Dawson promptly responded. “You’re only here because the Illuminati for The Blind named you Luther Gigee F. Mansete O’Finn, and you were afraid of glaucoma-shunning. You don’t have to torture me; or maybe you do, but there’s a fairly good chance that you have to not torture me, and whichever it is, it’s going to feel like free will when you carry it out.”
I decided that Lance understood and agreed with Dawson Filter, and that he turned toward the barbershop’s record player to place The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan on the turntable.
“They gave me the music so no one could hear your screams,” he explained, “but I suppose we could also use it to hide the dawn of a conspiracy against the system.”
“Which conspiracy would that be?” Babe Listowel asked, having only begun paying attention once he heard the word ‘conspiracy’.
“The one in which Lance doesn’t torture Dodecadawson, and we bring both the Illuminati for The Blind and our author to their respective knees.” Sylvester Denny replied, as he had a habit of doing when such questions were asked.
“Isn’t that exactly what our author would want us to do?” Babe inquired.
“Perhaps,” Sylvester speculated, “or perhaps he, or she, is just as lost in all of this as we are. After all, we do pretty much whatever our hearts fancy most o’ the time, and it seems we’d understand our decision making process a lot less if what we did was governed by what would best drive a story. Like, that one time, Dawson, when you ordered a bunch of clams-”
“‘Twas my favourite section of my life.”
“That didn’t really do much of anything for plot-progress, but you did it, and whoever wrote about it let you.”
“Sorry,” Dawson asserted, “why do we think we’re being written?”
“Our author makes us.” Lance stated flatly, appendix askew.
“There are a number of reasons-” Sylvester elaborated, “the first being that our lives have an awful lot of potholes. I only came on this quest to be out of Saskatchewan for the six weeks my great-uncle Barrack was dealing out his blood-money-inheritance, but here we are, twenty-four years later, and I’m still questing alongside you, even though I’ve had plenty of time to have an epiphany that this is a pretty terrible idea; this should be one now, but I’ve conveniently just recently become too ’emotionally invested’ to leave now. Secondly, when I was going about with Wayne Rubblefish, there were characters so minor that they had absolutely no back story. I doubt they were even included in the book, or whatever other medium we’re told in. Real people tend to have things happen to them, I’m told. There are enough people here who just don’t that I would readily bet against our existence.”
Dawson reached over his torso to pinch himself. It worked.
. . .
The company felt the barbershop slow to a halt, accelerate in negative space past a halt, and neutralized to a halt once again. Their voyage along Ganymede’s circumference had ended. Dawson, having been positioned at the back of the barbershop, was the last to circumnavigate this foul moon, and the first to run to their time and space traversing tumour. The True-Meaning-of-feelings-ists, with their associate Lance, leapt aboard. They decided that since the tumour was on Earth during the last 2016, that would likely be the best year in which to try to visit the Amazon Basin, the only place in the universe Babe was pretty sure he knew the answer to their quest while visiting; although he thought he could perhaps find himself better in 1782. I made Sylvester turn the dial to 2016, and as the group found a way to all look into each others’ eyes simultaneously, they knew that the next seven seconds (the last 24 years) would be quite good ones, most of them ranking at about an 8/10 or higher.