Psychewriter’s office was on the top floor of a four-story building, in a corner, with a window that looked out towards a mountain, not down from atop a mountain. Still, it was a perch of sorts. His followers were figments of his imagination that were starting to separate. Among other things, they were seeming real, which was confusing. Worse, they were individuating, or in plainer terms, were having attitudes, growing. This spelt trouble for psychewriter, for this meant he was losing himself.
“Come in, Should-Woman, I’m ready,” he invited in bored voice.
Should Woman had been hovering about his open door, half-peering inside, half-waiting with affected reverence.
“Are you sure? Our appointment’s not for another five minutes. I don’t mind waiting.”
“I know what you’re thinking. In a minute, you’ll suggest I create better boundaries around time, though you’ll be more polite than you usually are.”
He was right about that last part, though as Should Woman entered and saw him edge behind a screen, she bristled at his presumption.
“What makes you think—wait, you think I’m rude?”
At this point, psychewriter moved away from the screen, but still had his back to her. He was fussing with something. Talk about rude.
“Hmm…okay, not rude, necessarily. Direct, maybe. Blunt. Some people like that. Anyway, how can I help you? Why did you want to see me?”
He stepped towards a black leather chair and beckoned her to sit upon a couch that was opposite. His eye contact was fleeting. Should Woman drew breath slowly, realizing she was more nervous than she had been when this idea came to her. His aloofness was dimly familiar.
“Well, I’m having a problem with my character.” My character. Should Woman had never used that term before. Her expression stilled. Memory left her. In an instant, she observed that she didn’t know much about herself: she didn’t know what her job was, who she was to other people; how old she was, even, or who she was before she became Should Woman.
“What’s the problem?”
“It’s your bias against me. Everything I say transitions into a directive, whether I want to give one or not.”
“Well, if you don’t want to give instructions, then don’t”
“That’s not the point. I…I do want to give directives. When I tell people what to do, I’m making meaningful suggestions, trying to help people.”
Psychewriter shrugged. “Okay, fine. So again, what’s the problem?”
“You! You’re the problem, up here in this ivory tower, passing judgment.”
“It’s Adobe, and I’m not passing judgment. You are. You do that a lot, actually.”
“Whatever. You’re making fun of me, using me to make a point, and making Process Man seem like the better…” she trailed off and frowned.
“The better what?”
She stopped and went blank. At that point the scene changed. Psychewriter transformed into a Victorian-attired figure, wearing a tunic and a floral necktie. Below his ears, handlebar sideburns suddenly appeared, framing a cunning grin. The room illuminated with warm light while a painting beside him evoked fire alongside a dungeon. Behind her, a small terrier dog appeared and started yapping, like it was giving her warnings, telling Should Woman what to do.
“I don’t know. That’s why I came here. Tell me what I am. What am I supposed to do?”
Psychewriter’s face twitched, betraying doubt. The plans of the creator had strayed, it seemed.
“Aren’t you doing what you want?” he asked experimentally. A stuckness hung between them for a few moments. Psychewriter gazed upwards, directing his thoughts into a dimpled ceiling. “See, I can’t tell you what to do, though you might have developed that side of yourself because I neglected you in that way. I don’t know. I haven’t figured that part out yet. It’s interesting though, isn’t it?”
Should Woman felt a surge of anger. “No, it’s not. This isn’t a game. This is my…life? Jesus, what am I saying? This totally is not what I came in here to talk about.”
“What did you want to talk about?”
She fell silent, was dumbstruck again. Though she couldn’t draw from memory, she was sure this was what talking to fathers was like.
“Someone else, huh? Process Man, maybe. Well, it didn’t take long for that agenda to fall by the wayside, did it? That’s okay. That’s the way it’s meant to be, I think. Do you want to sit down and talk?”
Should Woman dithered and looked about herself, disoriented by all the changes, inside and out. The door to psychewriter’s office was still open, and the carpet outside was suddenly yellow and stretched out towards a distant horizon. “I don’t know. I think I want to go home.”
“You’re a long way from home now. I say we sit down and figure this thing out. There. I made a decision, told you what to do. Feel better?”
“Yes,” she said, though her feelings were actually mixed, which was a new experience. “No,” she then said. She plopped herself down on the couch.