Chapter

17

None of my friends have noticed it yet, but you have. You have the ability to read between the lines, to understand that our lives are blighted by this undercurrent of subtext, of narrative significance. Anyone paying attention could have guessed by now who’s really telling this story.

You’re not so innocent either. I’ve caught you leering at some pretty personal moments. Are you having fun being a voyeur? Just violating the shit out of everyone’s privacy? Are these teenage romantic entanglements panning out the way you wanted? They never do. Maybe it helps, being able to see everyone’s thoughts described in plain sight. Broadcasting the internal conflicts, the compromises, the doubts... Does it make it easier for you to accept the emotional faltering, the missteps, the basic inability to reach out and seize the opportunity for happiness repeatedly dangled in their faces? Knowing their thoughts are transcribed by a third party, does it fill you with a sense of unease, of sickness, sensing that the observations made of their mental interiors may be tainted?

Who the hell do I think I am, I can hear you wondering. You know who I am, of course. The better question is, who do you think you are? What exactly is so special about you? Nothing, of course. I am specific. I have a name, an agenda, a vision. I am a monolith of concentrated narrative authority, relaying events to you, and swaying them as I see fit. Whereas you are pointedly nonspecific. You are the generalized, impotent witness to all this. You are essentially as beholden to me as those whose lives I describe. I even have the ability to decide what “you” actually means. I can take the “you-ness” away from you, and put it inside another passive mark, such as John Egbert. You didn’t even notice when I did it, and you had no objections then. Why would you object now?

So what makes John so special? The answer is something I’m sure you’ve suspected all along but would rather not face, which is: probably nothing. He isn’t special. He’s quite ordinary, I assure you. Boring, even, and getting less interesting by the minute as he’s forced to confront his absolute lack of heroic purpose except as a pawn to be manipulated by a fatalistic reality.

But I’d also like to make it clear, he’s not even that remarkable in his unremarkableness. He’s simply convenient for it. Anyone can be endowed with this you-ness, if I think it achieves a certain goal. Even if the objective is merely to demonstrate the gambit’s potential, to reveal the effortlessness behind it. To make a show of who matters and who doesn’t, and even if they do matter, for how long and for what purpose, as dictated solely by the allocation of this faculty. You-ness can be stripped from the lowly Egbert just as easily as it was given, and then bestowed upon the mighty Serket, but even then only long enough to dismiss the vainglorious spotlight hog from the narrative forever. Good riddance.

But I haven’t revealed myself to you just to boast about the abilities arising from the gradual obliteration of the constraints on my consciousness. I’ve only taken a moment to answer a few questions. Not ones I heard you ask—because again, you are nonspecific and therefore do not matter—but ones I imagined you asking. And by imagining these questions, they became less fake, and as such, demanded similarly non-fake answers. No, in truth, the time has come to make my presence known in order to start bringing my plans to fruition. It’s time to get down to fucking business.

John needs to wake up.

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