30 April 2001

"Whoever said we have only two beings
wrestling within has greatly underestimated
the number by a considerable amount."
    - Goethe

I don't underestimate how many beings are wrestling within me--the number is currently hovering somewhere between fifteen and twenty. This seems to be the maximum number of sentient beings I can sustain at any one time in my life, without becoming the crazy old coot you avert your gaze from while strolling through parks and public places. I generally try to limit my conversations with them to the privacy of my home, with only occasional slips before my family and a few trusted friends. These are people who are not likely to report me to the men in white coats when they observe me staring incredulously at "middle distance," carrying on heated debate with invisible combatants, or reaching out to touch somebody who obviously doesn't exist in the same dimension as I do.

Who are these creatures, and why are they taking up residence in my head, you ask?

They're the characters who populate my stories. As I've gotten better at writing them, they've gotten better (and more persistent) at sticking around after the story is finished, insisting I engage in meaningful dialogue with them, providing them with more insight than they were originally intended to have, and giving them more exposure than the mere few thousand words they are generally allocated in a single story.

I never minded giving these phantasms what they wanted, until Finch showed up. I needed a really nasty, totally unsympathetic villain for a story I wanted to write, and I conjured up Finch. He's rotten, through and through. He beat his wife, tormented his children, whored around, thumbed his nose at society, lied, cheated, and stole at every opportunity. Worst of all, though, Finch was thrilled to be a telemarketer. He made my skin crawl as I wrote him -- the way he acted, the things he said, the things he did -- he was completely repulsive. People who have read the story about Finch unanimously agree. He's horrible.

And now, he won't go away. He hovers at the edge of my consciousness like some demon waiting to show me the path to perdition, and more and more, I find myself oddly unable to ignore him. Finch has the ethics of a hyena, and the instincts of a salt water crocodile. He didn't survive the story I put him in, but he somehow managed to resist my attempts to purge him from my thoughts. I've even found myself welcoming telemarketing calls, just to see if the person on the other end of the line is as coolly calculating as Finch.

I'm interested in Finch, but at the same time, I fear his influence over me.

Excuse me. My telephone is ringing. It might be a cold call.


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