Final Reports

7/10/22
8/21/22

[Note: files are currently still in revision. Please expect updates.]

Tyler

[Note: The following is a collected transcript of interview clips with participant "Tyler".]

[Start of recording]

Oliver: Please state your name for the record.
Tyler: [Tyler's real name]
O: Thank you. I am going to ask you some questions. Please be as truthful as possible so we can keep this testimony efficient and painless. Is that okay with you?
T: Yes. Where are we?
O: We're in the library. The children' section.
T: Oh.
O: Are you surprised?
T: No. It just feels like somewhere else.
O: Where does it feel like?
T: My apartment. 
O: What makes it feel like that?
T: The color of the walls. It smells like [Sam's] cologne. How are you doing this?
O: I'm not. Are you ready to start?
T: Um… yeah.
O: Let's talk about this. [O shows a tablet with the homepage of the "Un-Monster" blog.] This is yours, correct?
T: Yes.
O: Could you describe, briefly, what this is?
T: This is "Un-Monster". It was my blog.
O: You created it?
T: Yes.
O: You created all of the content, right?
T: What do you mean?
O: You wrote all the words and recorded all the sound. Is that true? 
T: Basically, yes. 
O: What do you mean?
T: I decided what words and sounds would end up on the blog.
O: When did you do that?
T: That was in August and September of 2019.
O: And one post in July, is that correct?
T: Right.
O: Okay. Especially thinking of when you originally started posting. What started that? 
T: I had just moved in with [Sam] and wanted a place to talk about how I felt.
O: How you felt. You wanted a place to talk about how you felt, without having to worry about what [Sam] thought of you. Would that be a fair characterization?
T: Yes.
O: You could have done that with an app on your phone. You could have even done that with a paper journal, like [Sam] did. Why a blog?
T: I had other reasons.
O: What other reasons? 
T: If things went poorly, they did go incredibly, I wanted to show that I at least put in an effort.
O: Did you have any… misgivings about [Sam] when you made this first draft post?
T: No. I had no idea about anything.
O: Tell me about this post.
T: That was the second post I made, the first public post. Are we going to go through each of my posts one by one?
O: No. This is to make a point. If you had actually left and removed yourself from this dangerous situation, we probably wouldn't be here. Same goes if you had "put in an effort", like you claimed you would. So did you do what you said you were going to do? No. So how much of this is really a show?
T: Fair. Fair and good and true and accurate. We would have probably not been here. We would have left and gone to other places. And maybe we would have been fine. We would find jobs, friends, partners. Other people. And when we panic again, not if, when, they get hurt. We end up right back where we started. Our dreams come true and so do our nightmares. I made stupid decisions, yeah. All of us did. 
O: Speaking of true, is everything you wrote in your blog true?
T: Yes. From what I remember, from how I was feeling at the time. 
O: Was it factual, like the events happened?
T: It was exactly how I felt.
O: The monsters, the impossible things you describe, all of it happened?
T: When I liked Sam, things were normal. When I didn't like him, things changed.
O: What things?
T: The whole apartment. So much darker. So much more difficult to breathe in there.
O: Were those actual changes, or were they just changes to how you feel?
T: There isn't much difference for us. 
O: You still aren't answering my question. Did everything you write about in your blog happen? If someone were to take a video of what happened, would they see what you described?
T: They would see some of it. I didn't write everything. I know what's going on, and a camera doesn't see what I'm thinking.
O: So why didn't you record so directly?
T: I wrote about Sam, how he made me feel. Watching him through a camera, even my phone, is just an efficient way to lose a tooth.
O: You knew you were in a bad situation and went to [Brandon] and [Finn].
T: Yes.
O: Why? Your roommate attacks you, as you claim, and you go to your neighbors ten feet away in the same building instead of, you know, anywhere else. 
T: [quiet] That would make me start everything all over again.
O: And why go back? You could have just stayed where you thought it was safe.
T: I could help someone who needed it.
O: Or you, as you just described to me, didn't want to make another big change. You wanted to go back to some sort of familiar.
T: That's not bad, is it?
----------
O: This booklet, "Wildland Animals". What significance does it have to you?
T: I kept it.
O: Why?
T: Because it was significant.
----------
O: You made this blog to try to get to know people. How did that work out?
T: Not great, obviously.
O: No. I mean not obviously. You want friends? Who do you know in Box Elder who you could even have a casual conversation with? Not including the people who live within twenty feet of you and not including me.
[Beat.]
O: You met some people. Do you remember their names? Do you even remember what they were like? 
T: You removed those details.
O: I did. It is a curse. To cast your pain onto other people. To save a life by dooming another. 
T: I'm not interested in saving lives.
O: You turned off the public availability of your blog. Many of the posts were, at one point, public. My question is: why have a public blog in the first place? It doesn't match your… disposition.
T: I like people to know who I am, to enjoy what I've done, to experience it. I wanted people to know I tried. I don't want people to come to me with problems, with stories I can't tell.
O: You shared private details about the lives of the roommates, but not yours.
T: You don't tell us much about yourself, either.
O: I'm not required to tell you anything.
T: Neither am I.
O: I know. Because you use that sense of investigation as a shield.
T: What are you talking about?
O: The flood. You recognized that you walked forward into that situation. You didn't recognize that you also walked forward into the answer. You knew you had upset Sam earlier that day. Then you left him alone. Then an impossible thing happened, and Sam freaked out. 
[Sounds of a tide rushing in, a waterfall worth of static rush in seconds]
O, continued: You ask him about it, and he tells you that you weren't there. You thought that you just didn't see what happened. Did you consider that maybe he needed you as a friend - and you weren't there?
T: You say that like any of it was obvious. I was solving a genuine mystery.
O: And you want an easy answer so you don't have to think about it anymore, so it's not your problem.
T: There wasn't an easy answer.
O: Yes, there was. If you had recognized your own involvement and Sam's feelings, your "mystery" would have been unavoidable.
[Tide sounds stop.]
T: You know that because you can read it. I was making it. Do you know how many people read my blog and gave me any sort of advice? None. Do you know that more people have seen my blog on your website than have seen the actual blog?
O: Maybe a dozen people know your blog existed.
T: That's fine. It was mine to exist, mine to get rid of. Now it isn't. Now it's preserved. Uncontrollable.
O: And harmless.
T: However it exists as people see it, it is not harmless.
O: You don’t know me, either. Did you think you were solving a mystery?
T: Yes.
O: I think you’re not as interested in the mystery as in the solving.
T: What does that mean?
O: You saw this as a problem you didn’t like and didn’t want to deal with. You never seriously considered this as an opportunity to help [Sam], did you?
T: That’s not a weird reaction. The easiest way to deal with something scary is to not deal with it.

----------

O: You all lived within a hundred feet of each other? How could you just ignore each other?

T: You would be surprised at how well I can ignore other people. 

O: I’m not surprised. I’m just confused. Because that worked at the start, when it was not in front of your face. And then when it was in your face, it was one of the worst decisions you could make. 

T: You think I was wrong.

O: I think this makes sense. And you explain it. I’m not getting that all the time today. I think your instinct did not help you do everything you wanted it to. I also think it didn’t help you do most of the things you wanted to do. I want to know. Why did you keep going that way when it became clear that it wasn’t working anymore?

T: That’s the disaster.

----------
O: How did your arm and shoulder get healed so quickly?
T: I'm not allowed to talk about that.
[Oliver tilts his head and raises his eyebrows.]
T: [hushed] Really, I don't know.
[Tyler pulls up his sleeve and shows the scars.]
T: It was a while ago now, but this is still way too healed for.. That.
----------
T: I don't remember putting that letter in there.
O: Sam put it in. Thought it would give a little more context.
[Tyler starts crying.]
----------
O: "Un-Monster." That's a strangely appropriate name. How did you come up with it?
T: There was a storytelling forum by a similar name that was active when I made the blog. I thought the name sounded cool. So I borrowed the style.
O: I'm familiar with that forum. It doesn't exist anymore, not in the way it used to.
T: Funny how that is.
O: But the name. A combination of a prefix and a noun, trying to invoke a verb phrase in a way that is outside of typical English morphology. People don't talk like that. And "monster". A warning. This seems kind of complex for just thinking the name sounded cool.
T: I didn't think too hard about it.
O: Yes, you did. You thought hard about everything. You were the smart one. You wanted to be a detective. You created a situation where you could be cool. You created a mystery by not doing the smart thing right away so you could later be the hero who's just so nice and understanding to the freaks around him.
[a quick flash of light and a clicking noise like from a film wheel]
----------
T: I will not sit around here and defend myself for the sake of your character arc. I'm done talking to you.
O: You think I'm here so I can be a better person? You think that's why I can't leave this stupid library? You know so little. Go home.

[Burrow procedure.]
[END OF RECORDING] 

Sam

[Note: The following is a collected transcript of interview clips with participant "Tyler".]

[Start of recording]

Oliver: Please state your name for the record.
Sam: [Sam's real name]
O: Thank you. I am going to ask you some questions. Please be as truthful as possible so we can keep this testimony efficient and painless. Is that okay with you?

S: Fine. I saw that patch of dirt outside the entrance, under the windows.
O: A service project some kids did in 2015. It was a garden? Originally… perennial flowers. None of the originals they put there are still alive. 
S: Hm.
O: They submitted their report to our archive. I could probably find it if you wanted.
S: I don't actually care that much.
O: Oh.
S: It just looks like they all dried out.

-----

S: [Tyler] knew something was happening right away, just like I did, and ran away.
O: You think he knew?
S: Yes. If I started the flood, it wasn't gone when he showed up. It was gone because he showed up.
O: You originally thought that was a coincidence.
S: [Tyler] thought it was a coincidence. He didn't realize he was already with us.
O: Like a tooth in a bigger row?
S: [smiling] Something like that.
O: And you're still mad at him?
S: He lied to me.
O: He certainly could have lied to you. Did you ever consider the possibility that he might have been wrong? Or that he didn't know all of what you needed? Or he was just trying to stay out of your way?
S: I was injured. He didn't really care why.
O: He also doesn't care to be around you when you're upset. 
[Beat.]
O: It's not you. It's mostly the vibes.

----------

O: Why aren't you guys superheroes or something like that?
S: Not the most brilliant idea. "Don't worry, civilian! I'll save you from that burning building! Oops. I panicked and you all drowned instead." We can manage small, individual tasks and even some combos. Thanks for the tips on that, by the way. But we are too unpredictable relative to other humans. The town can't do anything to actually keep us under control.
O: Hm. Could you tell me about this?
[Oliver shows Sam the "Un-Monster" blog.]
S: Great, not this again.
O: You don't like it?
S: No.
O: Why not?
S: Do you like getting reminded of when you screw up?
O: You think you screwed up something?
S: Yeah. A lot of things. And he kept them all.
O: You kept a lot, too. Your notes were one of the more substantial parts of the project. And one of the more interesting parts, personally.
S: Of course we're only interesting when we're written down. When we're read. Why live if it isn't recorded? I hate him [Tyler] so much…
O: He did leave for a while.
S: And went all the way to, next door. In the same building. 
O: I think that was because he still cared about you.
S: I don't think so. I moved out, in a house across town now. 
O: Renting it from someone.
S: Yeah. When I say I'm going, I mean it.

----------

[O shows S the zine]
O: Do you know who wrote this?
S: Not really.
O: You don’t know?
S: I didn’t say that.
O: Does it mean anything to you?
S: Yes.
O: You read it?
S: Yeah, obviously. 
[O shows S a particular page with a triangle.]
O: Did you write this?
S: No.
O: But you knew it was there.
S: Yes.
[O shows S a particular page with a toy.]
O: Did you write this?
S: Part of it.
O: Which part?
S: I couldn’t really say.
O: You’re kidding me.
S: No, I’m not. 
O: Did you or did you not write this?
[S grabs the book, shows a particular upside-down page.]
S: I wrote most of this one.
O: You’re sure of that.
S: It’s the one I saw the most. Drew the picture, too. More like a stamp.
O: What does this book mean to you?
S: T wasn't with me when I needed him. And then he can change things like I can and he still doesn't help me. He hides from me. How could I trust someone like that?
O: You attacked him.
S: When I found out he stole the only solid explanation for the flood. Yes, I did.
O: What does that book explain about the flood?
S: It shows me who I am.

----------

O: You didn’t think to ask [Tyler] honestly about what you needed from him? Even better. Knowing him, he might not have told you anything even if you asked. You knew at least two other people who didn’t just know but could help. Why didn’t you ask them about Wildland Animals? [Tyler] left in the flood. Why trust him at all?

S: I didn’t. He betrayed my trust.

O: And you attacked him for doing something reasonable. You attacked him for being someone who cared but did not care enough, in the right way, on time. And then he left, into [Brandon] and [Finn’s] place. His leaving is the worst possible situation for you. You also have nowhere else to go next. You chomped your only lead. The neighbors do everything in their power to keep you two apart. Rain is good for dry plants, but a storming flood destroys instead of heals.

S: Once he left, I didn’t have to worry about it.

O: That sounds like something [Tyler] would say. You didn’t have to, but you did. You went exploring, just like [Tyler]. Out in public. Into stressful situations. When you knew, know, that if you panic, you could kill someone.

S: Wildland Animals would not have helped with that.

O: You’re right. That book just tells you who you are. Not who you have to be. What did you learn from Wildland Animals that was so important you had to attack your roommate?

S: It wasn’t just about the book. He lied to me. He didn’t trust me. He didn’t help me. He ignored me. He knew the truth and left me behind.

[Beat.]

S: Yes, I thought about attacking him. And then he bled. Like I did.

O: You almost let everyone drown to prove a point to your roommate. If you want people to help you that is not the way. You’re impulsive. No one else will trust you.

S: You know the way and you know the impulses we have. Does it help you leave any faster?

O: Not as fast as I would prefer.

S: I think I understand you.

O: You stop at understanding?

S: What’s after that?
----------

O: Do you regret fighting with [Tyler]?
S: No. 
O: You don’t?
S: [shrugging] We learned a lot about each other.
O: [evenly] Do you think what you learned was worth the harm you did?
S: I don’t think about it that way. [gesturing behind himself] [Finn] probably does. I know fairness doesn’t matter that much. 
O: You were scared.
S: What, of [Tyler]? No! No. When [Tyler] has the whatever-we-have, it’s a fun toy that he has time to play with. 
O: And you feel like when you needed him and he left, he treated it like psychosis.
S: Exactly!
O: He treats himself like a blessing and you like a curse when it’s really the same thing.
S: [laughs in relief] Every opportunity he had, he pretended I was crazy and that he was nothing wrong. The opposite is true. He made me sound like an idiot.
O: You did most of that yourself.
S: That hurts.
O: Sorry, I don't care. Because you do sound like an idiot.
S: Shut up.
O: I'm kind of surprised that [Tyler] didn't leave sooner, knowing you.
S: Shut up…
[Sound of rising water.]
O: Are you still going to pretend that you're okay, like you pretended you were hurt?
[A chair crashes backwards to the ground. Roaring sound of rushing water.]
[Sound of fabric hitting a face. A grunt. Rushing sounds stop.]
O: [calm] You wanted someone to take you seriously. You're in pain. You just want the pain to stop. When you do that, everything is an obstacle and trying to hurt you more. But you know that's not true. When you're in pain, it feels like the pain will never go away. You don't trust yourself to know it will. You don't trust anyone to help you. You want to be an adult? You can't throw temper tantrums anymore. You'll hurt someone.

----------

S: I don't have a job anymore. I'm "the guy who bit his roommate". Thanks for that. You know, I was the second one that could go out. [Brandon] was great. [Tyler] was too… shy at first. But I could regulate, if I kept moving. If I kept my energy in check. Made some friends. You think any of them like me, now that they know this? When people are further away, they just need more time. You think anyone makes time for me?
O: I am, right now, as we speak.
S: Just because you took out our names and addresses doesn't mean we don't have names and addresses. People will find us.
O: I’ve taken precautions so that doesn’t happen.
S: [completely trusting] Thank you. I thought I was so out of control. Now I am.
O: We picked this time and place because you were unprepared for them. You're tired. You're unfocused. Really, you're sloppy. And whatever power you have isn't easy here. 
S: Yeah, but the one doing most of the work is y--
O: Thank you for your time, [Sam].
[END OF TRANSCRIPT]

Brandon

[Note: The following is a collected transcript of interview clips with participant "Brandon".]

[Start of recording]

Oliver: Please state your name for the record.
Brandon: [Brandon's real name]
O: Thank you. I am going to ask you some questions. Please be as truthful as possible so we can keep this testimony efficient and painless. Is that okay with you?

B: Whatever you say. [yawns] I will warn you before the questions start. Last night’s melatonin has not worn off yet.
O: We won’t start quite yet. I’ve gotten into stargazing lately. Something to do at night. 
B: I think that’s neat. Can you show me how to find the Big Dipper?
O: Sure, if the light is good. But that isn’t really the name of the constellation.
B: I know. I’m teasing you.

----------

O: [Brandon], you don't seem to have changed much at all since the disaster.
B: Sorry. We made peace with it. We're not exciting. We knew we had to stay put.
O: It seems like there is some sort of implicit understanding between you and [Finn].
B: That's a good way to think of it.
O: Have there been any drawbacks to that?
B: Sure. Beyond the… "speech issues" we had with [Tyler], it was difficult to explain anything to him because [Finn] and I were so on the same page.
O: Isn't it a coincidence that you all ended up so close together?
B: I hope not. I hope we could help.
O: Do you think you did?
B: No.
O: Why not?
B: We always miss something.

----------

O: Let’s talk about [Tyler]. Why did you let him stay with you?

B: It seemed like the easiest thing to do.

O: Why didn’t you make him go somewhere else, far away from [Sam], where he would be safe?

B: If a sailor is being chased by a sea monster, which is the safer direction: further into open water or onto land?

O: So you’re the safe land?

B: In this story, yes.

O: But isn't the point that everything is wild?

B: [smiles]

----------

O: You guys are pretty creepy.
B: We are cursed.
O: Statements like that don’t help. What do you mean?
B: We can change. We can’t help the people we are closest to.
O: But what do you mean, a "curse"?
B: Maybe not the best description. More like a haunting. Mmm. That's not good either. More like a single thought that fills the mind and seals it shut from anything outside. So we are.
O: Is that why you see your apartment when you're here?
B: It's why you see the library when you're here. The wildlands surround us still. Gone. Here. No difference.
O: You don't get to choose who you hurt.
B: That's what I mean.

----------

O: Let’s talk about [Tyler]. Why did you let him stay with you?
B: It seemed like the easiest thing to do.
O: Why didn’t you make him go somewhere else, far away from [Sam], where he would be safe?
B: If a sailor is being chased by a sea monster, which is the safer direction: further into open water or onto land?
O: So you’re the safe land?
B: In this story, yes.
O: You don't seem comfortable with this story.
B: I prefer solid ground.

----------

O: Are you just agreeing with everything I say?

B: Only when you say things I agree with.

----------

B: Can you show me how to find that star?

O: It's a constellation, not just a star. Why the sudden interest?

B: It's not me who's interested. [gesturing around the room] This is all the same place, isn’t it?
O: Yeah. You know. Always free. Always trapped.
B: You like black holes?
O: The byproducts of dead stars as they collapse, so strong that they even consume light?
B: So strong that they distort time and space. That’s us. We are true to ourselves. So true that we consume everything around us.
O: And we collapse?
B: And even the things we think are constant are not so certain.
O: And we destroy everything.
B: And we might end up somewhere unexpected.
O: Even if it all goes the same place.
B: Especially if it all goes the same place
O: I like the animal idea better.
B: I thought you, of all of us, would appreciate the stars.
O: Thank you.

----------

B: This is the best result for everyone. We can live and we can be happy.
O: All of you?
B: I can live.
----------
O: Do you think I'm missing something?
B: Yes. You can see us.
[B stands up and walks through the interviewer.]
B: You can't hold us.
[The interviewer turns, grabs the participant's shoulder.]
O: I can try.
[END OF TRANSCRIPT]

Finn

[Note: The following is a collected transcript of interview clips with participant "Finn".]

[Start of recording]

Oliver: Please state your name for the record.
Finn: [Finn's real name]
O: Thank you. I am going to ask you some questions. Please be as truthful as possible so we can keep this testimony efficient and painless. Is that okay with you?

F: Of course. I have some idea of how this will go. 

O: Hopefully that's a good thing.

F: Sometimes, it's not.

-----

F: I feel like even when no one is around, everyone sees me.
O: Reading Foucault doesn’t impress me. [Note: a general theme of the work, especially “Discipline and Punish”, 1975.] Try again.
F: I don’t care which books you’ve read.
O: Have you seen the building you’re sitting in?
----------
F: You had time and perspective that we didn't.
O: You certainly acted like you had all the answers and gave them out whenever you felt like it.
F: I had to do something. To get Tyler ready. To get him confident enough to care honestly for Sam. Even if that means putting on a show.
O: Did you have any insight about Tyler and Sam that wasn't just from having similar experiences yourself?
F: You think that doesn’t hurt, seeing the course ahead and knowing and staying along?
----------
O: You’re not listening to me.
F: Yes, I am. (Already and always).
----------
O: Why didn't you just try writing things down, if speaking didn't work?
F: What do you think you've been looking at for the past twenty months?

----------

O: What can you tell me about this? [holding up a copy of “Wildland Animals”]
F: That’s mine.
O: You made it?
F: Yes. With some help.
O: Who helped you?
F: The neighbors. Couldn’t finish it without them.
O: Did you make it for them?
[F nods.]
F: If they wanted to understand each other and figure things out like adults, we would have explained it directly. They wanted to act like children. So they got a picture book.
O: You’ve mentioned difficulties with that before.
[F presses his knuckles together and opens his hands like double doors. A display.]
F: If they show that they need it explained to them like children, we will make it work.
O: Why include other animals in here?
F: Those two aren’t the first or last to need an ego check.
O: Aren’t these pages about you?
[F nods.]
F: The first secret is that it’s about us. 
O: I guess the second secret is that “it’s not about us at all.”
F: That wasn't in what we sent you.
O: [an incomprehensible phrase, possibly "I learned it from you" or "You learned it from me"]
F: You’re trying to provoke us, testing if we are okay even in stress.
O: That is one of the purposes of this conversation, yes.
F: Why test us? At this point, we’re not the ones hiding anything.
O: I know.
F: When will you share that other sheet we gave you?
O: Never, if I had any say about it.
F: When?
O: Shortly after I get clearance for posting these transcripts.
F: That’s fine.
O: Why didn’t you just tell [Tyler] and [Sam] what was going on if you had so much insight?
F: We tried. We called them often in the weeks before [Tyler] came to us. And then he was staying with us. And it still took that long for him to start listening. 
O: You could have helped more directly.
F: Yeah. [soft thuds - counting on fingers] We have lives. We’re not babysitters. We don’t completely  know how this works, either. 
O: Those sound like excuses for letting monsters out in public settings without supervision. Didn’t you have an obligation to help?
F: No. Just to understand.
O: Can you tell me more about that?
F: In a different version of this story, I live with “Sam” and “Brandon” lives with “Tyler”. And the disaster is even worse. Not because we think so differently…
O: But because you think so alike.
F: That’s it. Those two were panicking. If we showed up from a machine, everyone in the apartment would have been in danger. Best case scenario was to get those two way from each other and keep eyes on. You would have been helpful.
O: I didn’t know who I was then.
----------
[Finn shifts around the room.]
O: I'm sorry. You can't leave that way.
[Oliver reaches out his hand. Finn shifts backwards, finds his hand outstretched to shake Oliver's.]
F: [excited] Your hand kind of hurts.
O: It's not fur.
F: You think I can’t find my way out of here?
O: I know you can. I also know the Internet exists. Your problem isn’t local.
[F sighs, understanding and exhausted]
O: And that’s how this works. 
F: [disappointed] a bunch of problems with one solution.
O: Or the same problem with a handful of tracks.

[Recording noise increases.]
O: [angry, getting angrier] If it wasn't for you, if you cared about anyone else, I wouldn't be here. [echoing] Do you know how much they took from me---?
[NESTING PROCEDURE INITIATED]