Letters Column in January 2012: “The Right-Hand Door”

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“The rules are simple,” the monster says. “[Jane] is willing to forgive. Simply come up to this podium, and say, ‘It was wrong. It was vile. I had no right.’ Then turn, and walk through the door on the right, and begin your new life as an employee of a new, brighter, more loving Earth Division. Or walk through the door to the left, and continue your life as normal.”

The rules are displayed on the screen.

A hand raises. The monster points.

This is a Vice-President in Charge of Sales. His name is Miles, for what it matters. “This is a game, right? I mean, you’re not bloody serious. We’re not going to—I mean, it’s fucking crazy.”

The hero kills a Vice-President in Charge of Sales. His name was Miles.

The monster clears his throat.

“It is juvenile,” he says. “In the literal sense. I’ve sold you all out, and that puts each and every one of you at the mercy of a child. She’s about six years old, and each of you has collaborated, directly or ex post facto, in torturing her. If you refuse to play in her little tea party, I won’t save you, because that’s not in my interest. You can repent in jest, treating it as a game, but I imagine that something horrible would come out from under your bed and devour you in the night. It’s up to you. Leave through the left, or leave through the right.”

The monster turns off his laptop. “That’s all.”
The Fable of the Lamb

The monster may think Jane’s not being totes fair to Central, but the crew of Hitherby Dragons has resolved to be nice to you this year!

There should be many more, if shorter, Hitherby Dragons entries per week this year. 3-10x, depending on where my pace settles in.

Starting …

Now!

**

a) Yeah, I think I have to give up my insistance on not particularly liking Vincent after this one.
— Xavid, on Vincent and the Devil

That can happen!

Young Vincent is actually pretty sympathetic, anyway. I mean, he was a good kid, and totally salvageable. He could have been saved if he’d gotten out of there. He could have been saved if Iphigenia had been able to see how wrong what was happening to her was. I mean, heck, in general if the kids who were suffering at Central weren’t so monstered-over themselves into believing that it was OK, then the various hangers-on like Vincent might have had a chance.

By the time he was an adult all I can really give him is “he could have turned right. He could have taken the right-hand door.”

I don’t think it’s as simple as saying that he was fundamentally bad. I don’t think he was. I think he deserved more chances to turn away. I think it’s unfair that there are people who could be saved if they let go of their stupid ideas who only get one or two chances to do so before they die. It’s unfair because letting go of stupid ideas isn’t easy. It’s one of the hardest things there is! And I think it’s a damnable shame that some people finish their lives as small and evil and rotten. I think that’s even worse than people having to suffer, although I could be wrong there, that could be my mirror neurons overacting like we talked about yesterday. But still!

It seems like—

One time, see, a friend of mine was really upset at the absence of justice in the world. He was afraid of an ending for things that didn’t include reincarnation or a Hell or anything like that, an ending that was just life stopping, because then there would be people who would live out their lives doing awful things and having a good time and they’d die well-fed, comfortable, accomplished, and even happy, and that’s the end.

And I realized that I wouldn’t want to be one of those people.

I mean, seriously: how small a life is that? How shallow? How poor, to live unable to recognize the wrongness of others’ suffering? How weak and pale the flame that burns in a wicked person’s heart! How pointless, how shallow, how lost! The comforts of their body and their self-righteousness are as the comforts of an ant whose hive is well. Even the guilt and shame of not doing more, even the pain of sometimes being wrong, of knowing that you have sometimes been and done wrong—how much better those things are than being a fucking bastard, because if you’re wrong sometimes, if you’re guilty sometimes, if you’re a screwed-up failure for how you’ve handled other people and their inner worlds sometimes, at least you get to live in a world where other people matter, and that’s the best part of this whole existencing!

It has to suck to be evil. It has to be the worst thing ever. It has to be like… like those days when life is just a fog, when I’m so tired and messed up and undercaffeinated or undermedicated (speaking of which, that’s been straightened out! as of yesterday morning.)—

like those days when life is just a fog, when I’m so tired and messed up and undercaffeinated or undermedicated or confused or whatever that I go to think about what something means, what I should do, and I can’t because there’s just a yawning void and a white mist inside my head. Being Stalin must have felt all very well and good to Stalin, but how much better to be a Solzeineitzyn!

Although really you want to have all the pieces of Maslowe’s hierarchy, you understand; what’s ideal is having food and shelter and love and purpose and self-esteem and the ability to value others and take responsibility for your actions and embrace the awareness of your own faults and fallibility.

Is all that stuff on his hierarchy? It probably should be.

But Vincent could have turned right.

He could have!

He really could. It is thing that it is possible for a person in this world to do.

b) My obsessive name cross-referencing requires me to say that the dates work out for Derek the Zoo Keeper to be the Derek that played basketball with Max that one time.
— Xavid, on Vincent and the Devil

Hahaha! Awesome. So mote it be, at least on a tentative basis.

c) Vincent mostly strikes me as very aware of his situation but nevertheless unable to figure out what to do about it.
— Xavid, on Vincent and the Devil

The sad truth is that he was dead as soon as he took the door on the left; I’m not actually sure he could have made things come out any differently at Elm Hill. He is, perhaps, an object lesson to the effect that “try to kill your boss” is not the correct answer to “I am collaborating with wicked folk, and do not know how to escape.”

It’s a common mistake! You understand. You see men doing it with rape culture—some of them handle the awfulness of it by deciding it’s not awful, and then there’s the ones who make Vincent’s mistake there, handling it by vociferously explaining how they’ll totally kill or would totally like to anyway kill anyone they see out there doing all that sexual assault. But that’s not really something you do for the victims. Ineffectual rage at the abusers you’ve found yourself unwillingly collaborating with is something you do to help feel good about yourself.

Vincent doesn’t have any particular right to kill Melanie, and “think really hard about killing Melanie and then realize that that’s not in the cards” is the closest he comes to taking positive action in the siege.

He could probably have just walked away. I don’t know if that would have been good. It would have saved his life, probably, and so on some level I must think that’s what he should have done. I would have been OK with that, you know? If he’d walked away, he could have come back in fifteen years as a sort of hero. Or figured out weeks later that he should tell the hero about what was happening at Elm Hill. Or called the cops, not that that would have helped.

He was too compromised to try to throw in with Liril and Micah without a plan. I mean, it would be a nice fantasy at best: at some point in this long period of collaboration, you’ll throw off your disguise and reveal you’re really on the side of right, and have been all along! That wasn’t collaborating in torturing children, that was lulling suspicions! Dun-dun-DUN!

But the world doesn’t work like that.

I’m sorry for people like Vincent that they don’t get more real chances. It can be hard to spot your chance at salvation when it comes. His came.

He took the door on the left.

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