Psychological/Patriotic Tests on Subject Matthew
administered by Pitchaya Sudbanthad, 27th Medical Regiment
In our ongoing attempt to understand the nature and behaviors
of subversives, especially those of the writing persuasion, the Ministry of
Truth and Information deemed it fruitful to perform evaluations on detainees
rounded up by the issuance of the 63rd and 64th Patriot
We ordered a battery of tests for a fugitive subject
recently captured in the woods of the Northeastern Property of Rhode
Island. Below is the transcript of
State your full name.
Matthew David Derby
Derby, is it? Well then, Mr. Der-by, let us begin
our examination with some questions. Tell us, you seem to have a fascination
for dystopia, genocide, the works. People are killed off in masses. Wherefore
this obsession, Mr. Derby?
Well, I hope it doesn't come across as a lurid
fascination, although, in reviews, a bunch of people had referred to me as a
misanthrope. That surprised me a
little. I actually really love
people. I want to set the record
straight on that. People are #1. I can't get enough of people. Huge, meaty clusters of them, crowding
Basically, the landscape of the book came out of the
notion that, for most of the world, genocide is more of a fact of life than
an abstract political concept. Think
of all the people that have been killed in the last century. How can you not be obsessed with that, on
some level? In the midst of the
unfathomable horror, though, we're still having affairs, or worried about
what our kids are saying about us behind our backs, or looking for drugs. The selfish heart is a bit of a showboat -
it manages trump the terror of the world with its own acrobatics. Or replicate it, even in the most
challenging of circumstances. Maybe,
in messing up our own lives, we're trying to confront, or apologize for, the
Yes, we think genocide is a fact of life, too. That
is why we love it. We will be starting a Presidential campaign to promote
after-school genocide programs very soon. But you seem somewhat dissatisfied,
Mr. Derby. What is your idea of the present? What is this mess that you speak
of? Do you dare say that we are not living in the best of possible ages?
I do wish the present were a little better. Mostly, I wish we were a little less full
of ourselves. I mean, have you seen
the look on someone's face as they work their iPod on the subway? You'd think they were examining an
illuminated manuscript from the middle ages.
Man, in about four years those people are going to be using those
things to prop up their windows.
We're not that cool.
Your response is here noted on record. We will
kindly forward your views to the Ministry of Consumer Gadgets and
Thingamabobs. So now, Mr. Derby, as one who writes, what is your idea of
truth? Who do you believe to have authority over truth?
I don't have an answer for that.
Your refusal to answer this question will get you
nowhere, Mr. Derby. Do remind yourself that we are the Truth. There is no
other. Now, one word responses to the following:
sweat-ass (is that two words?)
Very well. Are you happy, Mr. Derby? What are you
feeling at this moment?
I don't really know how I feel, which is why my
therapist had me buy The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook.
It is a popular title among your writing kind,
despite the ban on anxieties and phobia that we have in place. Now we will
begin our tests. Are you ready, Mr. Derby?
I think so.
Mr. Derby, these tests are of the highest scientific
value. You cannot lie to these tests. They have been proven extremely
accurate by years of clinical research. Nevertheless, we will allow you to
have your say on the results, as we are interested in your self-opinion, as
delusional and wrong as they may be. I shall have my assistant put on the
electrodes now. Stay calm. Breathe deeply.
Oh. Damn. I am sort of embarrassed that I got
'paranoid.' Maybe because that is a
fairly accurate assessment of my worldview, and it's embarrassing to think
questions. While I was editing Super
Flat Times I noticed that an alarming number of characters shared this
embarrassment - not that they took online psychological examinations with
result graphics that featured Christina Ricci (although this will certainly
play a major role in my next book), but that others knew more about them than
they themselves knew. Which is its
own sort of paranoia, I guess, but I feel like it's an earned paranoia, which
is better, or more refined, than normal, run-of-the-mill paranoia. There's actual evidence involved.
Yes, your characters are borne of you. Your records
show a long, habitual history of snooping with sound retrieval devices. Next
This can only sound staged, but the badger is truly one
of a handful of contemporary animals that I admire. I've always felt that our present animal kingdom is a major
letdown in comparison to the age of the early mammals, but the badger is a
real standout. Did you know that
badgers can dig through asphalt? I
actually couldn't dig through asphalt, even armed with a laser or a diamond-tipped
drill. I can barely lift a corrugated
cardboard box, so in that sense I feel that this is an inaccurate
assessment. My wife, though, will
take great delight in the accuracy of the evaluation, in which the words
"grumpy," "cynical," and "bulk" figure
Not surprising. Our records show that in your
writing you praised the badger for its “sheer strength and connection to the
earth.” You described it as “a stealthy, hideous creature, banished to the
dark woods.” As you can see, our tests are incredibly accurate. Proceed.
Uh, ahem. I may
not have completed this portion of the test correctly, partially because I
have no sexual appeal to begin with, but also because I believe that it was
intended for a female subject. I
guess I am as close to a female subject as one could come, though, so it may
end up being more revealing than I am allowing for here.
Sexual appeal is something I think about a lot. When I see another ugly person, I try to
stare for as long as I can until that person starts to achieve an incredible
beauty. It doesn't always
happen. Some people are just too
profoundly hideous. But I like to
populate my stories with ugly people.
I think I feel more comfortable hanging out with characters that are
at least as ugly as I am. That way, I
don't feel so much like abusing them.
Additionally, I do often wish an evil old man were
searching for me. Although I would
settle for an indifferent old man with an oxygen tank and a case of Bell's
Dennis Hopper figures into many fantasies that we’ve
recorded. We do not yet understand
this phenomenon, but in time, as with all questions, we will. Next.
Wow. This one
is pretty off-base. I don't know how
I achieved 'hooligan' status. I'm
honored, I think. Is that an
airplane-size bottle of liquor on the bear's chest? I don't even drink.
Drinking is so 1994, isn't it?
Maybe drinking out of really small, doll-size vessels is the new
thing. I could actually really get
into that, I think.
The closest I ever came to hooliganism was that, in
high school, my four friends and I would play Killdozer tapes through a
dilapidated boom box in an abandoned barn and attempt to crowd surf, a feat
that was not easily achieved with three people and one surfer. Often, our sessions would end when someone
fell and bled, and everyone else would skulk home. Then, in college, I got a hematoma in my left shin from a pit
at an actual hardcore show, and my leg became so swollen that I couldn't even
In my adulthood, I once punched a hole in my bathroom
door in a stone-sober rage. There may
be other, sporadic instances of random violence and mayhem. But only in the most unfulfilling,
unappealing way possible.
The test is now over. We appreciate your cooperation
with us. It will be duly noted on your Lifelog. Any last thoughts before we
send you back to the holding area?
My hand smells like dog.
Goodbye, Mr. Derby. We will be watching you.
Oh, don't be such a tease.
Derby lives in Providence, Rhode Island. He is an associate fiction editor at
3rd bed, and his stories have appeared in Conjunctions, Fence,
and Failbetter. His short story collection, Super Flat Times,
was published by Back Bay Books in Spring 2003. It rocks.
Archived at http://lit.konundrum.com/features/derbym_intv.php