Maeve O. is a vulgar presence, but she’s a woman who knows how to get what she wants.
Maeve O.: “Yet you keep talking, love.”
You told me you wanted me here for commentary.
MO: “I said ‘complimentary’ reasons. You’re supposed to be my character witness.”
You know I can’t witness anything, Maeve.
MO: “Oh I do. So why don’t you sit quietly and let me talk?”
You’re a mean one.
MO: “The title of my eventual autobiography. But this isn’t that. This is a director’s cut of the critically acclaimed, commercially lauded, publicly beloved, PS 1 : some kind of forest. So let’s not spend too much time on me, as deserving of it as I might be.
Instead, lets talk about a work of narrative nonfiction that has itself made the audience member question: ‘What the hell is going on? Really though?’
Well buckle in duckies, because here’s where we give some answers.
PS 1 : some kind of forest is a story on two levels. At the outset we’re witnessing an exchange between myself, the inimitable Maeve O, and one of my lower level flunkies, one Pitch Writer.
Pitch has come to my office at the end of our quarterly cycle, just weeks ahead of the biggest festival of the year. Pitch’s job is, or I should say, was, Pitch’s job was to come up with scripts for propaganda reels that the government would screen at the festival: ‘The Second Compact’s war against the nations of the Greater Entente (an alliance typically shorthanded as ‘GrEt’) will not only be won in the Temples, but in the minds of the people of the nations of the world, whether they be friend, or, currently, foe.’ We know that there’s an extensive black market throughout the GrEt member states. We know they watch our stories. We know that when the time comes, humanity will remember who the true enemy is, and we will unite against them, against the Demons, the aliens, the invaders, the ones who wish to steal our whole world.
And that’s not just propaganda I’m spewing. It is and it isn’t. ‘Propaganda’ is a delicate edge. Everything is ‘propaganda,’ if you want it to be. If you imagine it to be.
Which is what Pitch Writer and I were discussing at the beginning of PS 1. I was in the middle of explaining to Pitch that all of his ideas were worthless drivel, that he was less of a human being than our hated alien overlords were, that I would rather fornicate with an alien than with him, that if he didn’t stop lowballing me I would fornicate with a demon, with his children watching, and his grandparents watching. Just casual banter really, but Pitch bursts under the pressure of it, as I knew he would.
When you’ve been in this job as long as I have you get an itch when someone is holding out on you. It comes at the base of your spine and can be mistaken for a bowel shift.
And so Pitch gives up what he was holding out: he plugs in a rough flyover of a memory skim he has acquired, a memory of a lush Asiatic forest. A memory of a Demon capture mission gone horribly wrong.
We don’t see what happened during the initial attack, we don’t even see the battlefield, not at first. Instead we see only this young Ward, this young woman, still in her Academy gear and still clutching desperately her falstik.
This women is crashing her way through this bamboo jungle, covered in dirt and rasping under a heavy curtain of smoke, calling out for some ‘Diez,’ (probably another soldier on her mission). And just as we see the women collapse, gasping, wrenching off her helmet, only then do we see the terrible shadow looming over the scene. The audience immediately knows it’s a Capital Class Demon, can sense the horrifying, otherworldly power of the thing. The young women looks up, finally recovered, and our perspective snaps forward.
‘Diez!’ the woman cries, stumbling forward towards her squadmate. He’s standing in a razed field some distance in front of her. All around him is death, destruction, despair.
Diez has taken his helmet off, but doesn’t look towards our perspective, doesn’t look towards the woman. Instead he starts to adroitly blather on about how he failed his team, how his team failed him, some kind of drivel about sunsets, who knows, he has clearly lost his mind.
A fact which he proves by bursting his own head like a ripe melon, directly after his little speech.
Why do they always have to make a ‘little speech’? Why the need for self expression in a medium you’ve deemed inconsequential? Batty.
Diez may be dead, but our heroine is still very much alive, and she stumbles her way over to the corpse of her friend. In her blind spot, the shadow of our villain rises: the towering alien presence looms like an actual horned beast, watching malevolently as the girl collapses near Diez’s outstretched hand. There’s a flash of a purple lotus, seemingly inconsequential, and then…
Blackness. Nothing. The skim ends before the girl’s death is shown. The lights come up in the room. Pitch is sitting there, nervously smiling at me. Inside, my insides are tearing themselves apart.
Have to buy myself time. I need a minute to think.
Alright well, we just have to buy it from him. Pretend everything is normal. It’s just some skim. Pretend it’s just some skim.
‘Well it was good, before you started waxing poetic. You’ll take a Wark for it.’ I hear myself say the words. Do they sound convincing? No, I don’t want them to sound convincing. Only normal. I need to sound convincing, but only as much as normal.
We haggle briefly, and I make sure to slip in an insurance policy: if the reel ever does air publicly, we’ll include a blood splash at the end, to imply the girl’s death. No one can know we don’t actually have the footage of her demise. No one can know she might still be alive. Still, I needed a better solution. My stomach settles as I make up my mind.
Which is how I found myself, on a Tuesday, a normal average, run of the mill Tuesday, planning the death of my good friend and coworker Pitch Writer. This is Life.
We’re still talking over the details of the footage, and I’m sure to bring up the incidental connection to Project Seventy-Three on my own, lest he find the omission suspicious. By the time he’s told me the general location of where he trawled the memory from (one of the slummy bars he frequents) I’ve already decided good old Pitch wouldn’t be leaving the Propaganda Section, he wouldn’t be making it out of the building alive.
‘…but I didn’t think they let people leave there.’ Pitch says, and I snap back to the present, where Pitch is still alive and stupid and capable of causing problems. I take a minute to meaningfully refill his drink.
‘No,’ I hear myself say, ‘They don’t.’
AND THAT! My friends. Is propaganda.
For surely if you’ve read this confession, I wanted you to read this confession, would not have produced it if I hadn’t expected it to be consumed. So why produce it? Because you will consume it.
– Maeve O.