Interview #234

By Rachel Levin


[There is a creaking, long and apologetic, indicating the closing of
a door. Fabric rustles. The subject sighs.]
Subject 234: You know I haven’t seen another person in 554 days. The
least you all could do was put someone in here to interview me. I’m
getting very used to my own face, and my own ugly expressions.

[Subject lets out a harsh bark of laughter.]
Subject 234, cont’d: I seem pretty self aware, don’t I? Hey, boss
man! Are any of your other patients this self aware?


[A barely audible click sounds from somewhere near the recording
device.]
Subject 234, reading: Please do not ask us direct questions, if
possible. Thank You. HA! No questions…No information. “You just
have to talk,” they said. “You’ll be helping the world move on.”
Malarky.


[A loud, uncomfortable tapping sound, echoing throughout the room.
Later identified as the tapping of the subject’s nails against the
desk.]
Subject 234: I’m not so sure what I’d talk about. Me, I suppose. My
situation. My, hm. My mental state?

[There is a very long pause. There is another barely audible click
near the recording device.]
Subject 234, reading: Please continue talking as consistently as
possible. Thank You. Yeah, Yeah. Sure thing. I guess I’ve really got
nothing better to do.


[Fabric rustles. There is a heavy sigh.]
Subject 234, cont’d: Like I said, before, I’ve been in quarantine for
554 days. I don’t know exactly how many months that is, it’s…it’s
more than a year. It’s been hard as hell— wait, am I allowed to
swear? Eh, I’ll be polite— It’s been hard as heck trying to keep
myself occupied, let alone sane. I blew through every puzzle I owned
the first month, learned how to bake bread the second month, watched
every single painting tutorial on Youtube the third. And for awhile
there, it was actually kinda fun. I work from home most of the time
anyway, so there wasn’t much of a transition on that front. It seemed
almost like a vacation.


After the first month my partner went home to stay with family. I
thought, Whatever! An apartment to myself! Wonderful, right? Wrong. Oh
so very wrong. You never realize how nice it is to have another
person to talk to until they’re across the country and unreachable.
When the phone lines went dead a few months later, I— those first
days with no communication were the hardest. My partner was all about
apocalypse survival— yeah, they were all I told you so when this all
started— so I had all the food I needed in the house. Although, four
months in, I started getting real creative with my beans. I’ve been
thinking of opening a bean themed restaurant someday, if this ever
ends, how does that sound?


[A faint click.]
Subject 234: Oh yeah, no direct questions, sure, sure. Well, anyway,
I didn’t have to go shopping for a long enough time to get…weird.


[The subject lets out an uncomfortable laugh.]
Subject 234: I’ll spare you the gory details, but I started getting
inside my own head. That was the worst decision my brain ever made
for me…

[There is a long pause. The subject lets out soft laughter.]
Subject 234, cont’d: I’m sure you’ve heard this all before. I don’t
know how many there have been before me, or how many after, or if
there are other people doing the same pseudo interview right now. I
don’t know what you’re looking for, or what you want to find, or if
it’s all just for fun. I don’t know if I was randomly selected, or if
you researched me for days or weeks before contacting me. I don’t
really know anything.

[A chair creaks.]
Subject 234: I don’t really know anything.
[Subject goes into a fit of laughter. Note: confirm subject is
mentally sound. Subject seems to settle down after a moment.]
Subject 234: I don’t need to know anything at this point. Heck, I’m
telling my life story to an anonymous little tape. No idea what you
all will use this for. I guess I don’t care. You all are doing
research, you said?

[Subject sniffles.]
Subject 234, cont’d: What in the world do you wanna find out? Whether
we sit in our homes, holed up and crying, waiting for the day when
Big Brother unlocks our doors? Whether we break our windows and
scream at the sky and take our death wishes out into a barren city?
Or maybe you just want to make sure you have some remnant of humanity
left when we’re all gone. A recording of a real person, who might
just feel real feelings, crying out to its maker, wondering if it
will ever be set free?

[Subject slams a fist on the table. The recording device rattles.]
Subject 234: I’m not going crazy! I’m the only sane one here. I’m the
only one here. You can’t see it, but I’m smiling. I’m saying I love
you to my partner, because I’ll see them again. You all are
collecting recordings like it’s the end of life on Earth.
[Subject stands up, causing chair to creak.]
Subject 234: It can’t possibly be, ‘cause I’m opening a bean themed
restaurant.

[Subject lets out a barking laugh.]
Subject 234, cont’d: I’m gonna give you some wisdom before I storm on
out of here. I feel…hopeless. Days on days on days I feel hopeless.
I know that’s what you all wanted to hear.
But every once in awhile, I wake up, and I look out the window, and
somebody has painted a new mural on the wall overnight. Or there is a
loaf of bread on my doorstep, because some kind soul has bought the
neighborhood groceries. On those days, time exists again, and there
is another side.

[Subject opens the door, and it creaks unceremoniously. The subject
sighs.]
Subject 234: I know you all can’t see it, but there’s another side.

[Door slams shut.]


About the author:

Rachel Levin is a junior at Santa Monica High School, has two siblings, and plans to study English literature. She is passionate about writing, but she also loves reading, music, and playing tennis. Her goal in life is to become a published author, but in the meantime she would also like to teach, and publish others’ books.

Authors

Ryan Kim
Co-President, Harvard Tech Review

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