For over two years now I have had in my possession the following taped interview, here transcribed for the first time. I would like to say that it was my disbelief which has prevented me from releasing it earlier, but this would be deceiving myself. I know better. In reality, it was the gnawing uneasiness that it might contain some element of truth that has kept me quiet for so long. Perhaps I was fearful of the panic that its disclosure might create. More than likely, however, I just simply did not want to confront it myself. Because of the extraordinary events in recent days, however, I am now convinced that my silence was a tragic error. Not only am I certain that my deepest fears were well founded, but I also feel that the public at large should have learned of it with the utmost urgency as soon as it occurred. Ignorance at this point in our history cannot possibly be to anyone’s benefit, if it ever was. For my part in this obfuscation, I sincerely apologize, for whatever difference it makes.
The government, of course, is well aware of its contents. After all, it was from them that it was surreptitiously obtained. Originally, I had thought, or preferred to think, that its apparent absurdity had condemned it to oblivion in one of those labyrinthian story vaults underneath the Capitol. Despite all of my highly tauted reportial skills, I was nevertheless being hopelessly naive: the government never takes chances. Material as explosive as this would never be ignored, even if it later proved to be the inventions of a deranged mind. In my case, I should have been suspicious when the conspirators who arranged to deliver the tapes to me disappeared almost immediately thereafter. A certain amount of secrecy in these matters is to be expected, but all four of them seem to have vanished with such thoroughness that, for all practical purposes, they might never have existed—a fitting irony given the interview which you are about to read.
For reasons which are perhaps obvious, I shall not reveal my identity, even though punishment for my indirect involvement in the theft would be ridiculous if these contents prove to be valid, as I think they will. Journalists have always been stubborn about the public’s right to any information likely to affect them adversely, and I am not comfortable being an exception to this policy any longer. In my own belated defense, this is not the first time that I have been involved in allegedly illegal revelations. More than a few times the government has taken me to court to contest my actions. Fortunately, I have triumphed in almost every instance, which is probably why the four conspirators selected me as the recipient of the purloined tapes. Whenever a government with practically unlimited power is checked by only the press, anonymity is not only a right but a duty. No matter what happens, I cannot shake this obligation; although for purely selfish reasons, I would much prefer to have my name listed somewhere along with those four brave souls who have made this interview available to us all. I should also express my appreciation to the editors of this “men’s magazine” for their willingness to publish these controversial excerpts.
As a brief background, you will remember that a state of emergency was declared by the president approximately three years ago. The ostensible reason was the threat of invasion, occasioned by the unexplained presence of a rather odd intruder inside the heavily guarded recesses of the president’s private quarters, in his bathroom no less! We were told that uninvited access to this area was impossible. Too many successful and unsuccessful assassination attempts have made excessive security measures imperative. But there he was, an apparent impossibility, causing the security service no end of embarrassment. It was later revealed that the intruder was merely a harmless moron, who had apparently wandered into the living area after having become inadvertently separated from the regular public tour. (There never was a sufficient explanation as to what a lone “moron” was doing on the tour in the first place.) In any case, after his alleged confinement in an undisclosed mental institution (“for his own safety and privacy”), we gradually lost interest in him. Fortunately, he has not suffered a similar loss of interest in us, until now that is.
There were three persons involved in the interview aside from the intruder, and I have identified them by number. One represented the government, another the military and the third the scientific community; two of the voices I am sure you would recognize, but there is certainly no longer any need to indicate who they are. The conversation which ensued prior to the taping is, of course, lost to us. There are a few references to earlier remarks, seemingly an effort to recapture them for a more permanent record, but probably a disguised effort to catch the intruder in a contradiction. If so, it failed. You will also note that some of the intruder’s terms are apparently without meaning; however, since many of the interrogators’ questions were intended specifically to elicit a clear definition of them, I shall not clarify them in advance. Some editorial deletions were necessary for purposes of condensation; for the most part they are trivial comments concerning the ingestion of food and the elimination of bodily wastes. Be assured that he is as fully human as we are, and perhaps even more so despite what you are about to learn. Be also assured that, as far as I can tell from the tapes, no unnecessary force was used; the intruder was quite responsive and cooperative. Finally, be assured that the intruder still lives; otherwise you would not be reading these words.
ONE: This is a tape recorder. Everything you say will be taped. Do you understand?
INTRUDER: I know a tape recorder when I see one. You don’t have to treat me like I was crazy or something.
ONE: OK. Would you repeat your name for us then.
INTRUDER: It’s Thomas Melans.
ONE: The president discovered you in his bathroom this morning. Would you please explain to us again how you got there. I remind you, prevarication will not serve you well in court. You were there illegally.
INTRUDER: I never wanted to do anything wrong, and I’ve already told you what I can about how I got there.
TWO: Please repeat it. You must admit—it is not an explanation that is likely to make much sense to us. And if it were true, it would not be very comforting for us. A lot of crazies would like to see the president dead. Our job is to protect him—surely you must understand that.
INTRUDER: I didn’t want to hurt the president. I already told you how I got there and I’m not sure I believe it myself! But here I am, and I’m not ever sure myself where here really is.
ONE: What do you mean?
THREE: I would like him to answer the other question first. How did you get there?
INTRUDER: I know you don’t believe it, but…
THREE: Let us decide what we believe.
INTRUDER: OK. Like I said before, I work for a guy, a psychologist, who thinks that the key to time travel—and even space travel—is a conceptual one, not a technological one. It’s a mental thing. He’s given all kinds of lectures on the subject for pretty big fees. Anyway, he says that all logically possible worlds actually exist…
INTRUDER: I haven’t the slightest idea, but that’s what he believes.
TWO: Do you think he is insane?
THREE: Please, let him continue! Thomas, go on.
INTRUDER: He hired me and quite a few others, lots of kinds of people—young, old; guys, girls; different races, nationalities and religions and so on…
ONE: There’s that word again: “religion.”
THREE: Please, let him continue!
ONE: I am as anxious as you to know how he got here, but you know how often he uses that word. We simply must get him to explain it. After all, it is apparently why he came here.
THREE: Agreed. But first things first. Thomas…
INTRUDER: I don’t understand your problem, but I get a little scared when you talk this way. Anyway, he hired all of us to describe in detail a long list of hypothetical worlds, the ones that we thought would be interesting to visit. He said he couldn’t do it by himself because we’re all limited by our own particular interests. So a lot of different people, with really different interests, could give him a really big selection. But they had to be logical…It’s pretty hard, harder than I thought it would be. And I’ve only just begun to get the basic theme down!
THREE: What kind of world was it your task to describe?
INTRUDER: Well, I’ve always been a really…religious person, so…
ONE: Can we agree to explore the topic now, gentlemen?
(sighs of exasperation)
INTRUDER: So being, ah, religious, I kind of wondered about a world where God was known to exist with absolute certainty. What would it be like to live there? You know, no doubts at all!
(a rather long and quiet pause)
ONE: We do live in such a world, Thomas…You know that.
TWO: (muttering, apparently to the other two interrogators) It seems like a simple case of dementia, but I still want to hear again how he says he got there.
THREE: What was supposed to happen with these detailed descriptions? Did he ever tell you?
INTRUDER: Well, not really. He did sort of hint at it, though. Total concentration. It was something he had been working on for a long time, through drugs and hypnotism and who knows what else. I never really did understand. But he kept saying that our descriptions were going to be the object of concentration. Somehow, I guess, by concentrating totally on the imagined worlds, we would “invert.” That’s his word: reality and imagination would undergo a process of inversion. That’s all I know.
THREE: And you, did you try these drugs and so on?
TWO: Doctor, you seem actually to believe the lad. This will get us nowhere.
THREE: Please…Continue, Thomas.
INTRUDER: Sort of. We all did…But nothing ever happened to anybody. Maybe we kind of half-believed him; we were describing our most desirable worlds; the ones we wanted, really wanted, to live in. So maybe we were all…hoping it was true. My world was the one with absolute certainty about God.
ONE: This world.
INTRUDER: No! Why do you keep saying that; that’s what scares me. I mean a world where doubting God’s existence is completely—logically and empirically—impossible.
THREE: What we are trying to impress on you is that our world is as you describe. God exists and we all know it, as surely as we know that we exist…But to return, what happened this time when you attempted the process?
INTRUDER: Well, I never really took the drugs before—just the hypnotic technique…I’ve always been against drugs—drugs of any kind—even if a doctor prescribed them. God will watch out for me—I have faith that He will.
TWO: “Faith.” What is this? Another nonsense term. Please, gentlemen, if he continues like this, we will not be able to make sense of what he says.
ONE: Something to throw us off the track, perhaps, Thomas?
INTRUDER: You don’t know what faith is? In a world with absolute certainty about God? (a trace of sarcasm)
(inaudible comments apparently among the three interrogators, at some distance from the recorder)
THREE: Thomas, we are noting carefully these rather puzzling remarks, and we will return to them. For now, however, we have decided to continue with the questions about how you arrived where you did. Later, we will explore why.
INTRUDER: OK. I told you I’ll be glad to help in any way I can. But I’m not really sure.
THREE: You said that this time you took the drugs. What happened then? Please be as precise as you can. For example, what were you thinking just at the moment you took them?
INTRUDER: Well, since we were told to begin our descriptions with the general features, or most basic principles, of our hypothetical world, I concentrated on them: a world with absolute certainty…
THREE: Yes, yes…What else? (impatiently)
INTRUDER: Everything else was to be the same. Just this one difference. I concentrated on this idea, too.
THREE: Anything else?
INTRUDER: Nothing really important.
THREE: Again, let us be the judge.
INTRUDER: OK. I was wondering what it would be like to talk to the most important pastor or minister in the whole country.
(A rest break was taken at this point.)
ONE: Are you ready to proceed again, Thomas.
INTRUDER: I guess so.
ONE: Why do you suppose that your “inversion” placed you inside our president’s bathroom, just as he was making use of the toilet?
INTRUDER: I don’t know. All I remember is getting really dizzy and coming to just standing there in front of him. He was kind of sleepy, so he maybe thought I was still a dream or something…Then he yelled.
TWO: Are you saying you simply appeared, out of nowhere? Come on, Thomas. We are not so gullible as that.
INTRUDER: I’m telling you the truth! I told you you wouldn’t believe me. I can hardly believe it myself. And, anyway, it doesn’t make sense.
THREE: How so?
INTRUDER: It was supposed to be a world where God was absolutely certain, and you don’t even know what religion is—or faith either! And when we drove here, I didn’t see one single church!
INTRUDER: Well, what about it?
ONE: What is a…“church,” Thomas?
(another break as food is brought in)
THREE: I suppose now we should begin talking about some of the terms you have been using. They are puzzling to us. Let us start with the one you just used, “church” was it?
INTRUDER: This makes me scared again. You know what these words mean.
THREE: Trust us, Thomas; we aren’t deceiving you. You want us to believe you; now you must try to believe us.
INTRUDER: I don’t have much choice, do I?
ONE: No. Proceed…”church.”
INTRUDER: A place where people worship God, a “house of worship.” And there are lots of different kinds depending on what religion they belong to.
TWO: (apparently to the other interrogators) This is becoming absurd. We now have yet another term. (to the Intruder) Mr. Melans, we are growing impatient with your gibberish. What, precisely, do you mean by “worship?”
INTRUDER: Huh? You’re kidding! What kind of place is this? You say that you all know that God exists but you don’t worship him.
ONE: What does it mean to do this to the deity? What activities are involved?
INTRUDER: (sigh) Singing hymns of praise, prayer, you know. Sermons, readings from the Bible.
INTRUDER: I don’t understand the question.
ONE: Why would you want to do these things? What effect are they intended to have?
INTRUDER: They are intended (angrily) to ask for God’s help and guidance, and just simply to honor Him.
THREE: If I may interrupt, Thomas, you seem to feel that your God is somehow in need of these things. Honorific actions, that is.
INTRUDER: Well…He doesn’t really need them, but He wants to have our respect and love and obedience.
THREE: Would anyone dare refuse to obey?
INTRUDER: Of course they would, people refuse to obey God and love Him all the time.
THREE: Love, of course, would be a ridiculous attitude to take regarding God, but obedience would seem to be axiomatic.
INTRUDER: Well, when you’re not really sure that God exists, you’re not always going to do what somebody thinks God wants you to do. You’ve got to be sure!
THREE: Good point, Thomas. I remind you, we know God to exist with absolute certainty. He is our ruler; he dispenses obligations and prohibitions which are never questioned, and are almost always obeyed. Those foolish enough to disobey are…well, let us say that their disobedience is terminated as soon as it is his pleasure to do so.
INTRUDER: How do you know, for certain, that He exists? Are you talking about having a really strong faith?
ONE: “Faith?” It is time to clear this up once and for all. What do you mean by “faith,” Thomas?
INTRUDER: You guys really are scary. Faith is believing something—like the idea that God exists—when there’s no proof and even a lot of proof against it.
TWO: Why would anyone believe anything without proof, especially something as significant as God’s existence?
INTRUDER: You mean you all really do have proof that God exists? You’re not just claiming to have tons of…uh, faith?
TWO: Of course.
INTRUDER: What proof?
ONE: Thomas, when we pray, perhaps unlike yourself, our minds assume a different mode so that aurally and visually we confront God. Sometimes, he addresses all of us, the entire human race, at once. There is no possibility for doubt or variations in interpretation. He speaks with the utmost of clarity in presenting us with our duties. The occasional rebellion against God does not, and never can, stem from ignorance.
INTRUDER: Wow…So you don’t need to have faith.
INTRUDER: What happens when somebody does disobey God? What does He do to them?
TWO: I think it is time for another break, gentlemen.
(The Intruder was apparently willing to continue, but the others refused. When they returned, Two was missing and failed to return for the remainder of the interview.)
ONE: Thomas, during the break we were talking amongst ourselves about some of the other terms you have used. We wonder if you would now explain them to us. How about “church?”
INTRUDER: It’s where you worship. And different religions worship in different ways…I know, you want me to explain “religion” too…Religion is…Wow, this one’s rough…It’s part of your life where you relate to God. Religious people, very religious people, are almost always praying and going to church and that kind of stuff.
ONE: Do you mean that you can choose when to relate to God?
INTRUDER: Well, yeah!
ONE: We have no such prerogative, Thomas. When God speaks, we listen. We would never presume to call upon him, ask him anything or praise him as if he needed this. He requires nothing of us at all except our total obedience, and even this he does not need. Hence, it has no meaning for us.
THREE: I am beginning to believe you, Thomas.
ONE: So am I, reluctantly. You imply that for you there are many styles of worship, thus many different “religions.” Is this correct?
ONE: In our world, Thomas, with absolute certainty about God and what he wants of us, this would be an absurdity. Do you understand?
INTRUDER: Yes, I think so.
THREE: Do you understand that an unbeliever is not compatible with our world?
INTRUDER: You mean anyone who has the slightest doubt?
INTRUDER: You mean me, don’t you?
THREE: Faith, as you have described it to us is hardly the same as certain knowledge. In fact, as a claim to knowledge, it is an offense and ought to be prohibited.
INTRUDER: You mean faith is wrong? A bad thing?
ONE: Worse, Thomas. It is not less than a refusal to acknowledge God’s claim on you. In short, it is a sin, and a sin of the worst kind.
INTRUDER: But, but…I don’t have that prayer moder you told me about. How can I know for certain like you can?
ONE: That is completely irrelevant. You exist as an impurity in our theocratic world, a blemish.
INTRUDER: It’s not my fault. (a bit insecure at the turn of the conversation, which now proceeds between the two interrogators as if the Intruder were not present)
THREE: Let us not terrify the lad. After all there is another consideration which we must not ignore.
ONE: And that is?
THREE: If what he has told us is true, and we have agreed that it most likely is, then we—our world—exists as his—Thomas’—imaginative creation. We may be utterly and completely contingent on him for our existence; only as long as he exists can we exist.
ONE: Do you know what you are saying? This is to describe Thomas Melans, here, in the same way we describe God! And that, my friend, is perilously close to blasphemy!
THREE: I mean no offense. I only wish to point out the fact that we find ourselves in the midst of a rather troubling dilemma.
ONE: In what way? You know what is required of us.
THREE: To be quite specific about this, and Thomas, you will want to pay close attention: First, you, Thomas, with your “faith,” desire to be “religious,” to “worship” and so on, are an offense to God. Regardless of how or why you came into this condition, it cannot be tolerated. Our God is a jealous God, and he will not long rest content if even one of his creatures is doubtful of his existence and authority. Second, for us to say that we are, in some sense, a product of Thomas’ imagination is an offense equal to that of Thomas’!
ONE: I think I am getting your point: either Thomas’ blasphemy must be terminated, or ours must be. But we cannot do either without ceasing to exist.
INTRUDER: What do you guys mean by terminating my blasphemy? Doesn’t you God forgive sins? Isn’t He a loving God?
ONE: God is God. Whatever he does is right and loving, simply in his doing it. And as far as forgiving sins…there is never a reason to do so. We know our duties. There is never a question. Those that disobey God do so out of willful rebellion, deliberately, knowing fully what they are doing. There can never be an excuse. Forgiving is a human attitude, not relevant to God.
INTRUDER: Well, can you beg…plead with Him…or something?
INTRUDER: So what happens to sinners? Do they go to hell when they die?
ONE: Thomas…sinners are sacrificed…as an act of purification.
ONE: They are burned alive.
INTRUDER: Hey, wait a minute. This is crazy. I haven’t done anything wrong. (very anxiously)
ONE: It is not what you have done, Thomas; it is what you are. You simply should not be. God will not sanction “faith.”
THREE: Remember the dilemma. Neither will God sanction our attributing our existence to Thomas Melans.
ONE: What shall we do then? Nothing? (increasingly exasperated) God will not tolerate that either! You know what happens if we refuse to carry out the purification.
INTRUDER: What happens?
THREE: The prayer mode, Thomas. God invades our minds and walks us to the purification fires. All of those who could have, but refused, to carry out their duty are destroyed.
INTRUDER: So we’re all going to die?
THREE: Not necessarily. If what you say is true, that all possible worlds can really exist as long as someone entertains them in thought in the appropriate way, then there is no reason to suppose that we must exist in this one forever.
ONE: What are you saying?
THREE: I am saying that total concentration could invert each of us into our own preferred worlds—out of this one. Our prayer mode can possibly function as hypnotism and drugs did for Thomas.
ONE: And what would your desirable world be like? (sarcastically)
THREE: Why it would be a world which has successfully killed God, of course.
(Here the tape was turned off for an indeterminate period of time, and resumed later without the Intruder.)
ONE: We are all agreed, then?
THREE: It was my idea.
TWO: I guess so. There is certainly nothing to lose and everything to gain…Has Melans agreed?
ONE: His fear of being burned to death was sufficient to convince him to go along. The equipment and drugs will be delivered to him three years after we deliver copies of the tapes, just to be sure. That should give everyone an ample opportunity.
TWO: Are you sure no trace of God will remain?
THREE: Not as long as you imagine your world to be one which has thoroughly killed him.
TWO: Good…Melans never considered the possibility that in our kind of world we would detest God. The more people to invert into a world which has destroyed God the better. I can already taste the revenge. I almost wish I could be around to see it happen.
(The tapes end at this point.)
Obviously, given the recent spate of mysterious disappearances (people that I have known for years, a few close friends and even some members of my family), something has gone terribly awry. I suspect that Thomas Melans has tried to improvise, with varying degrees of success. Lacking the appropriate drugs and hypnotic equipment, he has apparently devised some alternative method of his own. But he has not been able to do away with our world—only random individuals—leaving us who remain with memories of those who used to be! A rather curious state of affairs: a succession of alternative worlds with the memory of the previous worlds left intact.
In any case the time has about expired. Melans should very soon have the proper material delivered to him (via some kind of delayed mail, I suppose). At that point all of those who remain will no doubt cease to exist. This will end the tyranny of God and his theocracy, of course, but it will not afford us the pleasures of revenge. For this, we must all concentrate on the kind of world the conspirators suggested; a world in which the only remaining trace of God is the memory of his thorough and eternal death at our hands. A world in which humans have killed God is the only one where freedom can truly exist. Some might think that, without God, all things would be permitted; hence, liberty would be its own contradiction. I, however, have more confidence in humanity. After all, “to kill a tyrant” is not possible except as a moral act. (Otherwise it would be a capricious killing, for no reason in particular.)
Ed. note: Shortly after this material was delivered, the writer achieved prayer mode, and peacefully walked to the nearest purification chamber.
Bob Pielke’s academic writings have been in the area of ethics, logic, and popular culture. Included in the latter is an analysis of rock music entitled “You Say You Want a Revolution: Rock Music in American Culture.” He has also published short stories, feature articles, and film and restaurant reviews. His novels include Hitler the Cat Goes West and The Mission.