Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Role of Stories

I recorded this a bit ago, but with the whole Alex interview translation and Zero's death, I didn't have time to post it.  I've had some time to reflect on it, though.

I went over to visit Caper, kind of pissed about the whole William thing.  I just can't escape this guy's goddamn tall tales.  Pretty much the first words out of my mouth were "Why the hell is William telling your stories?"

I wasn't expecting the reaction I got from him.  He was quiet for a few seconds before turning to me.  He started to roll up his sleeves, grinning.

Caper:  You wanna know how I got these scars?

[Obviously, the scars weren't real.  He usually wore t-shirts, and he doesn't have any scars.  But there, on his arms, were angry-looking scars.]

The Messenger: Caper, I don't have time for another one of your stupid stories.

C: There are a number of variations on that one.  The most popular is my two year stint in a Japanese Martial Arts Cult, made up entirely of Koreans living in Idaho, who on the last day of my initiation into their now-defunct brotherhood made me pick up a scalding metal wok using only my bare forearms.

[I guess the thing that made me keep listening was the fact that he wasn't telling a story.  He was reciting.  As he spoke, he grabbed a book from a shelf, opened it to a bookmarked page, and continued reading.]

C: In the past, the wok has been heated in a kiln; recently it's been full of red hot coals.  The story's an absolute crock of shit, or should I say wok of shit--sorry; I know, I know I should learn to crawl before I walk; sorry again; sorry again; I mean not for being sorry the first time or for that matter the second time--but, you see, it's so hard to argue with all those whirls of melted flesh.

"Show them your arms, Johnny" Lude will say, in his most offhand over-the-top manner.

"Aw come on.  Well, alright just this once."  I roll up my left sleeve and then, taking my time, I roll up the right one.

"He got that in a cult in Indiana."

"Idaho," I correct him.  And it goes on from there.

I'm sure most women know it's bull but hey, they're entertained.  I also think it's somewhat of a relief not to here the true story.  I mean you look at the horror sweeping all the way up from my wrists to my elbows, and you have to take a deep breath and ask yourself, do I really want to know what happened there?  In my experience, most people don't.  They usually look away.  My stories actually help them look away.

Maybe they even help me look away.

[At this point he looked up at me, closing the book.]

C: But I guess that's nothing new.  We all create stories to protect ourselves.  [He paused for a bit.]  So who's The Messenger, and why is he listening to other people's stories instead of telling his own?  What's he avoiding?  What's his story?

[I didn't say anything.]

C: You understand a bit more now?  That thing with William...he didn't have anything anymore.  He didn't have a name or a past.  He chose the name himself.  I chose the past.  And he's not the first.  All these lost broken people with absolutely nothing...suddenly, they've at least got an identity.  They're a person again, or they can at least pretend to be.  It's something that they can hang on to.

M: And what about you?  Why do you tell all your stories?

C: What, I can't have a bit of fun?

M: Who are you really, Caper?

C: You really want to know?  All right, then.  I've been around for longer than you think.  My real name's William.  William Navidson, actually.

M:  [I was...surprised.  I'm not sure now, but when I talked to him, it sounded like he was genuinely offering details of his life.  I...are...are you serious?

C: Maybe I am.  Maybe I'm not.  Who knows?  All that matters is that whoever I used to be...I'm not that person anymore.  I'm Caper now.  Nothing from my past really matters anymore.  It doesn't matter that my father was an abusive drunk or that my girlfriend aborted the son I desperately wanted to have or that I once experimented with a dog in college or that I raised a baby dragon from a hatchling and went on globe-spanning adventures with it before the government took him from me and put him down.  Because whoever I was, whoever I may have been--I can't be that person anymore now that I work for The Big Guy.  You've gotta cut ties with the past, because it'll only bring you down in this line of work.  I, every day, have to work on luring people out so that other Agents can kill them.  I've got blood on my hands, Messi.  I may not kill them directly, but if I were still who I used to be, I'd cry myself to sleep every night.  If I'm not me, if I'm someone else, I'm somehow able to live with myself.

M: Caper, what was that book you were reading out of?

C: *laughter* Really, Messi, you've mentioned Logan on your list of dead people, but you don't know the significance of where he lived?  Well, whatever.  You should really read it sometime.

M: Okay, but what's the book?

C: Well where's the fun in that if I just tell you?  Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some tracking to do.

M: Oh, mind if I watch?

C:  [He paused a while before sighing]  Fine.  I'll show you.  Just...make sure that you don't let anyone know what blogs these are that I'm tracking, and which I'm tracking with.  You see this blog here?  Well, it's been talking about a young girl.  We don't know her real name or her exact location, but we know that she's somewhere in D.C.  Well, we're finally starting to pinpoint her.  You see this post?  Pretty clear as to where her exact location at that general time is, and we might be able to get our hands on security tapes to identify her from what we know.  After that, we'll be able to ID her, and it should be a piece of cake from there.

M: That's...impressive.

C: *sigh*  Yeah, is.  In fact, tomorrow, Poe and I are headed out to do some field work.  Speaking of which, she's been working on some tracking herself.  Some idiot of a runner's leaving a ton of clues to other runners' whereabouts, so she's been watching that pretty closely.

M: You tracking any of those?

C: Nah, they're too far west for us to concern ourselves with.  We're...headed for the girl. [There was a pause.]  Well, Messi, it's been great talking with you, but like I said, we're taking off tomorrow.  I should, you know...pack up some and get some sleep.

[He forced me out the door pretty quickly after that.  Said he'd be back around the end of the week.  Still didn't tell me what book I was supposed to be reading.  Anyone have any ideas what he was talking about?]

-Don't Shoot The Messenger-


  1. It was House of Leaves, by the way. Recognize that passage (and the name he gave you) anywhere.

    Caper seems to draw his stories from quite a lot of sources.


  2. We all gotta tell our story. We all gotta walk the stage, even if we're just Walkin' Spanish.

  3. Navidson's a pretty distinctive name. But honestly, that story of his is probably better off buried. Especially if there's someone still kicking left back there in that old life of his.