The Interview – Part 2

by Gaston Prereth

There is a strong possibility I went off on one here… How did it meassure up to your expectations raised by Part 1?

“Tell me, Mr Crosswold, do you know much about the theory that the pyramids were built by aliens?”

John’s eyes widened a little and he swung his gaze away from the chubby interviewer sat before him to stare at the small window to try to hide his surprise. The sky outside was overcast and from his position he could only see a blanket of grey.  The room was unnaturally quiet. There was no sound of the busy office down the hall. There wasn’t even the tick of a clock to mark the passing seconds, just a motionless silence. John’s mind scrambled, digging up the endless blog entries and documentaries he had watched about the pyramids.  He took a deep breath.

“I do sir. I have done…”

“Why don’t you give me some of the main points of the argument.”

“I don’t know if you could call it an argument sir, but I’ll do my best. I guess one of the main points is that the structures would have been so difficult to build that the Egyptians would have been too primitive to build them, so only aliens could have managed it.”

“Indeed. Except the Egyptians were great architects, building beautiful cities and other structures. They weren’t perfect, of course,  and there are a number examples of smaller, less precise attempts which, while still impressive, show the learning process the Egyptians went through. We also can see the handy work of the builders all over the monuments. Crane holes, sighting holes for measurements, chisel marks in the stones, graffiti on the stones made by workers, the quarries with more chisel marks and roads, even broken tools in fill in cavities.” John nodded, he knew all this. He curled his toes in his shoes while keeping the rest of his body motionless. This man was just trying to humiliate him. He had clearly not got the job and this guy was just making fun of him to waste the time.

“I know sir, I was…”

“Give me another point in the argument.” said the interviewer, still smiling. He tapped his fingers on the desk, nodding to John in encouragement. John bit his lip and tried to keep his breathing regular as he felt his neck and cheeks flushing red.

“Well, there is their alignment with the stars, and a mimicry of Orion’s belt is often sighted.”

“Indeed, and this is unusual because the Egyptians never looked up and hadn’t noticed the stars?” the man waved his hand dismissively, “They were keen astronomers, of course they aligned towards the stars. I’ve never understood that one.” the man shook his head with amusement. “And that Orion thing, with thousands of stars in the sky, the pyramids were bound to mimic the shape of one constellation or another, we could go on about line of sight too and how they are positioned for maximum effect on the ground, but lets move on.”

“I…” John faltered, trying to think of something that couldn’t be so easily dismissed. He felt an overwhelming need to convince the interviewer, despite not believing in it himself, but he could not think of anything worth saying.  The little man’s eyes were still exploring every inch of his face. He had leant forward at the end of his question and was watching John with such intensity that John started to feel a little dizzy. “Well, some people question why the Egyptians did it. So much money, resources, and people expended just to build a big pointy rock. They think it must have a more profound reason behind it.”

“Ah, but it does. Good.” Said the man, leaning back, “I could point out that the Pharaohs were considered to be half god. They commanded a whole empire which worshipped them, and this is bound to cause acute megalomania and a feeling of self importance. I could point out the beliefs they had in the afterlife and the importance of the ceremony around the Pharaoh’s death to emphasis his greatness in this world and the next. Yet, the most important reason is one that is so often overlooked. The pyramids gave tens of thousands of people something to believe in, something to work towards. They were not just a symbol of the Pharaoh’s death, but a symbol of thousands and thousands of people’s life’s work.

“Whether the Pharaohs knew it or not, the pyramids were a breeding ground for innovation and inspiration amongst the Egyptian people. A breeding ground that, from the early step pyramids, self perpetuated itself into bigger and more magnificent structures. It was the architects that kept the pyramids getting finer, not the Pharaohs. Unfortunately, it was a terrible economic move too, but there is no silver bullet in a prosperous civilisation is there?” The chubby man grinned at John and stood up again, walking back to the picture on the wall, his hands held behind his back.

John’s mouth felt dry. He felt like he hadn’t said anything for an hour and could feel his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth. This was the first interview he’d ever had where he had said less than the interviewer. Clearly, the man wasn’t interested in him and just wanted someone to talk to for an hour. Maybe fill in a gap between meetings. He didn’t understand what the Egyptians and pyramids had to do with anything about Department Seven.

“John, there is a problem in the world at the moment.” said the man, still with his back to the room. John didn’t reply, there were thousands of problems in the world all the time, this wasn’t exactly a revelation. “Religion, in whatever way you look at it, is becoming less central to people’s lives. There are some extremists, there always are, but most people are turning away from religion. Many still believe, but it doesn’t have a hold over people’s lives and actions as it used to.”

“Isn’t that a good thing, Sir?” Said John, feeling that if he’d lost the job already he wasn’t going to let someone preach at him. “Surely people have learnt to think for themselves more, to be more rational and make their own choices rather than following dogma.”

“I’m not saying there are not some good things that have come from it but, as the man who set this department up always used to say, ‘Science has thrown the baby out with the bathwater.’  As science has become more widely known by the public, there has been a marked shift away from religiosity towards a more evidential belief system. The trouble is that this can leave a void for the imagination, a void of inspiration and wonder that the mystical used to provide.”

“That’s not true, there are lots of wondrous things in science that can inspire and drive people forward.”  The man turned back to John, his eyes gleaming. He leant down onto the desk.  John could see the man’s hair in more detail. The tufts of hair looked like they had some pattern behind them, some hidden mystery that held a secret to something profound or strange. John tried not to stare.

“There are,” said the man in a soft almost awed voice, “but as science has progressed into quantum physics and molecular biology, the public struggle to understand them. These are things you need to study for years to understand, to see why they are wondrous and what possibilities they can provide. This is where conspiracy theories step in, they play on the real and concrete things in the world that we still don’t understand, and build the fantastic into every day life. Unfortunately, as we see with the pyramids, to believe in them a lot of evidence and facts need to be ignored or stretched to fit the theory. Basing the fantastic on the concrete is troubling and, when explored, unconvincing.”

“So you think we should abandon science to keep a level of understandable unknowns in the world to inspire the people” said John with a hint of contempt and annoyance.

“You see, now that is why you are here. You understand the problem John, and I am here to provide you an answer to it, a solution. As I said, the problem with basing conspiracy theories on the concrete is that the imagination is too highly constrained, and has to constantly fight against the facts. What, though, what if instead of basing a theory on the facts, you had a theory and based the facts and evidence on that theory?”

“You mean make up the facts? Isn’t that what conspiracy theories often do anyway?” As John spoke the man sat down again. His constant movement up and down was starting to irritate him and he couldn’t help wondering when they had moved from ‘Mr Crosswold’ to ‘John’. Was this strange fidgeting man trying to patronise him?

“Sometimes, but the evidence to show those facts to be fraudulent is very easy to come across because the starting premise is still built on the real world. No I mean start with a theory, say that an alien dropped down in Bushy Park and scared a few locals, something that didn’t happen and there is no reason to believe it did, and then invent the facts to fit the theory.”

“But it would be very easily to disprove, you’d just need one dog walker to say they’d been there and nothing happened and people would be more likely to believe them.”

“True, but what if we say that dog walker had been bribed to say that? Or there was evidence to show that he was not in London at the time?”

“What? That would be easily be proved to be not true.” Said John, glancing back at the window, trying to gauge by the light how long he had been stuck in this tiny room.

“Unless it was true.”

“you mean bribe someone who wasn’t in London to say they were there?”

“And then leak that bribe to the press, with the evidence, yes. Then what would people believe?”

“I don’t know. I guess they might start to think there was something in the theory?”

“And if that kept happening?”

“You mean…”

“As I said before,” Said the man, his face falling into a mask of seriousness. He steepled his fingers again but this time he looked less contemplative and more intense. “Department Seven is hiding something, but it is not what people believe we are hiding. Department Seven’s public brief is to debunk alien sightings and encourage scientific rigour in such cases, but our actual objective is to do this in such a way that it makes the public believe we have something to hide. No one trusts the government, everyone thinks there is a secret agenda. We are here to convince people that we do have a secret agenda, and that agenda is to explore and document the existence and movement of aliens. We are hiding the fact that there are no serious alien sightings reported, by making people believe we are hiding the proof of such sightings.”

“But why? You are brainwashing the public.”

“The public need something to believe in. The worlds economy is floundering and people are losing their drive and passion to advance. We are in a throw-away society and the first thing we have discarded is our desire to take steps forward. Ever since the size of space, and its vast emptiness became a well known fact, people have lost faith in the idea that there is life out there other than our own. We have lost the inspiration and imagination to push on and continue to explore and expand into space. People need help. This isn’t about control or telling the public what to think, this is about inspiring them to go searching for more answers. Space is our pyramids, but people have lost the lust for it. We need that back if society is going to keep progressing.”

“You are still lying. Still trying to control the actions of people.” John stood up to leave, but didn’t move towards the door. Something was holding him here, a desire to stay. A desire to believe, but he couldn’t. It was like the idea that alien’s built the pyramids, his desire to believe was hampered by his desire to be rational and truthful.

“Part of our public brief is true. We support scientific rigour, we are just using unconventional ways to convince people of its importance.”

“Lying about its importance.”

“No, inspiring people to prove us wrong, inspiring people to use their brains and explore the world around them to find something new. Space and aliens are our afterlife, our belief that there is something more and something extra in the universe. Something for which to strive. You know that feeling, when you were telling me about the pyramids, you had a desire to believe it, didn’t you? I could see it in your eyes. You wanted to convince me, part of you wanted it to be true. Think of our work as a gift to the world, a gift of something in which they can believe. A gift you can help bring to the public.”

John’s mind suddenly stumbled. He had been so close to walking out of the door. He had believed this whole meeting to be a farce. He had been certain the man was just toying with him, but now it sounded like he was being offered the job. A job he couldn’t take, of course. He couldn’t help the government lie to the public, no matter what their reasons. He couldn’t…

“You don’t need to decide right away, Mr Crosswold. I understand that learning our true objective can be very daunting and some what uncomfortable, but I must inform you that you cannot leave the building until you have decided one way or another. Then you will be allowed to leave, one way or another.” The chubby man smiled. “We do have a reputation to keep up after all. Take your time.”

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7 Responses to “The Interview – Part 2”

  1. You make it seem so feasible! I take it his choice in the matter isn’t one at all?
    btw – the last paragraph became the victim of three typos.

    • Damn those typos. They are like termites, you think you’ve got them all and then small piles of sawdust start appearing under the dinner table again. Think I exterminated two… not sure where the third ran off too, can you help with the hunt?

      I’ll come clean too… his lack of choice was a last minute addition as if I didn’t end the scene soon I was going to be rambling for another couple of thousand words, but I couldn’t let John just walk out because, obviously, he had been told secret information. He was meant to be happy about getting the job, but it turned out he had more moral scruples about lying than I thought.

  2. I thought you got the claustrophobic atmosphere of the interview room, the creepy man and John’s mental turmoil. Graphic as ever. You need to check the grammer, eg space is one thing……counting backwards, 7, space “is” like the pyramids…. keeping the same voice is important. 🙂 These are technical points, the story was great…and no, I didn’t think you “went off on one”

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