The Author and his Characters
The Author and his Characters
Translation from the French by Marybeth Timmermann
It was a beautiful moonless night in July 2036. A chorus of crickets floated up from the garden, the ambient noises of the night. An owl, who must have choked on a mouse, gave off a suffocated hoot, and another one answered with a soft, musical hoot. I had stayed alone in my parents’ country house, where I had come at the beginning of the weekend with a group of friends, who had all returned home this morning. I still heard their laughter echoing through the house. I was in the kitchen when suddenly I was flooded in a bright light that seemed to come from a source located above the house. Total silence reigned. Worried, I ran outside to see what it was. What I saw scared me stiff and I let out an “eh?” An enormous cylinder, bathed in light, was lowering itself into the neighboring field. When it was about one meter above the ground, it stopped moving and remained suspended between the earth and the sky. A giant emerged from it, leaped without touching the ground, and appeared in front of me. Its large eyes, shiny and clear, flashed me a glittering look that froze me in place. I was faced with an extraordinarily beautiful humanoid that was at least three meters tall. «Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, he’s a beaut! » His serene expression showed no sign of fatigue, his blond hair fell loosely to his shoulders, and he was wearing a sparkly gray suit, cinched at the waist with a wide belt studded with multi-colored luminescent points. He held out an object in his hand toward me. I found myself on the inside of a bubble, with transparent curved walls all around, and you can imagine my fear when, pressing against the wall, I saw my hands sink into it. Faraway I saw more giants. They were moving around easily, without touching the ground. « How did they manage to get here without being intercepted by the fighter jets? »
The giant who had first come down reappeared and approached me. He was smiling, and a deep sense of serenity seemed to dwell within him. In his presence, I once again became a little girl. I was plunged into an ocean of love and joy.
<Our spaceship can make itself invisible, so it is undetectable to radars.>
«Well, that’s odd! He’s reading my thoughts and transmitting his to me, without needed to speak! »
<We have no need of speech, for we master thought waves. My name is Moldak. I am human like you, but I come from a faraway time. I am an inhabitant of your future. I live in an era that began a long time after yours ended. We are coming back to the past, into your present, to change the course of History.>
“Why are you keeping me prisoner inside your damn bubble?”
<Don’t worry! We are not some of those predatory aliens who sometimes come visit your planet. But we have to decontaminate you. I am in charge of contacting you. We have chosen you to entrust you with a mission of the highest importance. We know that you, like us, care about saving the French language...>
“I must be going crazy! Why would extraterrestrials be interested in saving the French language, eh?”
<Don’t be so shocked. Our ancestors were French Canadians; they emigrated from Canada when they felt that their community was in danger of extinction… I am a member of the NES (Nostalgic for Earth Society) that alters the past in order to prevent all that….>
“Cut the hokum! History has never recorded such an event!”
<It was a long time ago. The first migration happened in 2050 of your era...>
“A long time ago…. in 2050?”
<Yes, compared to us...>
“And where did your ancestors go-- these first migrants?”
<Their spaceships wandered for a long time from one galaxy to another, but they ended up finding a virgin planet. They baptized it “Francophonia” and colonized it… But these events were so long ago that their memory only lives on in myths. The results of our archaeological dig campaigns have shown that writers are largely responsible for the situation that led to this primordial event. That led us to launch our CHARACTERS program, which aims to maintain French in its place as the writing language of Quebecois writers. We are going to reincarnate the characters of their novels in order to bring them back to the Francophone way, as it should be! We are going to begin with the Author who has just been honored. We have chosen you as Reader. You, along with his characters, must persuade him to rewrite his novel in French...>
“How can you reincarnate characters from novels, when they are nothing but digital beings with no consistency, living out their virtual existence for eternity?”
<That is the case because of laws unique to your space-time. But in our dimension, all fiction can become real. The characters that authors enclosed in the domain of metaphor, by the act of writing, will be reincarnated into bodies and become real entities. They will live a life that you could never have suspected. You will see how they will be properly debugged and how they will all speak-- with a Quebecois accent, you betcha! -- the language of Molière. The Incarnator will upload from your memory The Revolution Was not Quiet, a novel by the Author, a Quebec writer who converted to writing in English…>
“Who is the Incarnator?”
<It is our super robot-- an intelligent machine that transfers characters from the world of novels into the real world, by creating their avatars. The characters will be incarnated into humanoid robots-- living, artificial beings, produced from synthesized biomimetic cells, reprogrammed at the molecular level. The avatars will be endowed with extra-sensory powers and will be immune to sickness and aging. They will be computational doubles, with a body that reproduces the physical features of the character and a brain that encodes its personality, generating an artificial, biological consciousness, unaffected by any organic constraint. There will be the characters that come from the world of the novel, whose faces and personalities will be coded to form their corresponding avatars, and others that will be incarnated into extrapolated avatars, created by the machine, who do not have real equivalents and do not correspond to individual characters, but are the incarnations of groups, associations, or parties that have played a role in the novel. The avatars will be feminine or masculine according to the gender of the character they incarnate, or androgynous if they incarnate a group. They will produce their own energy through photosynthesis and will be connected to the Incarnator, who will command them and record the sounds and images of everything they do and every movement they make. Their biological clock will be sped up until they reach the desired age, and then stopped for the rest of their life, which will vary between 30 and 45 days….>
<How can they have such a short life if they never get sick and don’t age?>
<Their death will be programmed. At the end of their life’s duration, they will dematerialize definitively.>
<Why are their lifespans different?>
<It’s a function of their role in the operation. When you are decontaminated, I will take you to attend the incarnation.>
Surrounded by numerous machines, the Incarnator sat enthroned in the middle of a vast room, between walls covered with screens.
“Welcome, Reader! I am downloading the novel and starting to print the avatars.”
Cameras were filming the operation in real time. On the screens, you could see the avatars forming little by little, before emerging one by one. A computer generated doorman on a large screen announced them: “The General, the Deputy, FCC, PLF, the Separatist, FJC, FCS, the President, the Elected, the Youth….”
<The dresser will now put on them the clothing that will make them invisible to curious eyes.>
A door rolled away from one wall, revealing empty shelves.
<You don’t see the clothes, but they are really there… The Author will be in Montreal tomorrow, at the Museum of French Books, for a book signing. You are going to kidnap him and bring him here. The characters will present him with their petition. You will have to monitor the progression of the French manuscript. You will take your avatar with you….>
<Yes, the Incarnator simulated you. Your avatar will be a replica of yourself, with an identical brain and an identical personality. But her body will correct the defects in yours, reproducing your features in a more perfect form. She will be a perfect beauty. Her body will be able to reshape itself. She will be an angelic blonde on Monday, a flamboyant redhead on Tuesday, a café au lait brunette on Wednesday, have golden chestnut brown hair on Thursday, dark hair and perfectly tanned skin on Friday, then classic brunette and hazelnut brunette on Saturday and Sunday-- in short, she will be multiform and unique. Your avatar will be so beautiful that no one will be able to resist her. She will wrap the Author around her little finger, you’ll see. I will be following along as the operation proceeds.>
<How will we stay in contact?>
<Our brains will remain connected, so I will continue to read your thoughts and transmit mine to you. The avatars are going to follow you into the house and wait for the Author. As for me, I will appear regularly until the completion of the manuscript. Here is the characters’ petition.>
I found myself inside the house, surrounded by my guests.
The next day, I left with my avatar to find the Author at the museum. We climbed into the aircar. I made myself invisible and let her drive. The Shareway 649 East airways were closed, but traffic was moving in all 8 lanes. At the exit of highway 15 South, my avatar put the vehicle in self-driving mode, dictated the address of the museum to the GPS, and did some window shopping at the Dix-30 stores. We crossed the Décarie Boulevard airway and continued on to Van Horne Street, then took a right and followed Van Horne to Cavendish Boulevard. The aircar then made its way to North Cavendish, stopped at number 5851, and parked itself in the museum parking lot.
When my avatar made her appearance in the hall, specially arranged for the book signing, an admiring clamor could be heard. Two long lines had already formed, but as she approached, people stood back to let her through. When she reached the Author, she introduced herself:
“Miss Jocelyne Dion, member of the Ducharme Club of Francophone readers!”
And while the Author held up his laser pen to her forehead, trying to draw the complicated shape of his signature, his hand trembling with emotion, she enjoined him in her marvelous voice, full of innuendos: “Follow me!”
He followed her into the parking lot and when they got in, I pressed the barrel of my weapon against the back of his neck. “Stay where you are and don’t try to resist!”
“Be careful, Author!” the angel in the driver’s seat told him. “You have the Francophone Reader’s weapon at your neck. I warn you; she’s trigger happy and resents the hell out of you for having chosen Anglophone readers!”
When we got to the doorway of the room where the avatars were waiting, I called out to them, “The Author! Take off your suits and line up for introductions...”
“Introductions?” asked the Author.
“Come on in and you’ll see for yourself! I present to you your characters. Shake hands with your author-- not something you get to do every day! The General, the Deputy, PLF...”
“Who’s this nutcase? There’s no one by that name in my novel...”
“It’s the avatar who incarnates the radical wing that left the Rally for National Independence and founded the People’s Liberation Front. The Separatist, FJC, FCS, the President, the Elected, the Youth, FTQ, FSN, UCC, CVFA, AEQ, CIIQ, ACELF, CEE. General de Gaulle, please read to the Author the petition that his characters present before him!”
“Yes, Ma’am, my Reader! We, the characters of The Revolution Was not Quiet, gathered together for an extraordinary general assembly meeting at Oka, in the extraterrestrial’s spaceship, hereby express our attachment to the French language and urge the Author to immediately get to work on re-writing his novel in French and to renounce his choice of the English language as his writing language. Signed in Oka, on 07/30/2036. Vive le Québec libre!”
I added: “From now on, you are a writer-in-residence. You have one month to re-write the novel in French! Ah, what luck! To have this unrestricted view of the Oka Park-- you will not be short of inspiration here...”
“How can you have a view of the Oka Park when it hasn’t existed for 10 years?”
“The glass in the windows is special-- it preserves the views for a long time after they have gone. The house was here before the park was declassified… What writer would not dream of having this magnificent villa for his writer’s residency-- it has every amenity and comfort and is surrounded by hundreds of trees. Go on, ya damn hoser! And don’t even think about trying to escape-- even though you don’t see the avatars anymore, rest assured that they are still there, and they’ve got their eyes on you around the clock; they don’t have our organic constraints -- And also, the extraterrestrial’s spaceship is watching you.”
«Avatars, extraterrestrials! » thought the Author. «What the hell is happening to me? Stay calm, stay calm, let’s put all these upstarts in their place! »
“This is just one big conspiracy, eh! How dare you bring me a petition? It’s unacceptable! You’re assuming rights that you do not have! You’re going off script and encroaching on my role! Do you think that you can strip me of my prerogatives? You, who are nothing more than paper beings living out your virtual existences between the yellowing pages of books for eternity! And besides, how did you manage to escape from the pages of the novel?”
“Traitor to the French language!”
“Reader, let me beat him to a pulp!” cried PLF, enraged.
“Calm down, calm down! Think of the French version!”
The Author did not understand the reasons behind this rebellion surging through the ranks of his troops. He didn’t lay down his weapons, but decided to adopt a more conciliatory tone:
“My readers, my characters, do you remember what Roland Barthes said? ‘The old Biblical myth is reversed: the text of pleasure is a happy Babel!’ Why do you want to keep me in the ghetto of Francophone writers? You know perfectly well that it is no longer possible to write in French in Canada. Nowadays, all the Quebecois writers that matter have switched to English because everyone understands that English is the language that good books are written in. And besides, didn’t Proust say that ‘beautiful books are written in a kind of foreign language’? Quebecois writers can only succeed in their careers in English. And, anyway, the Writers’ Union stipulates that any author who reverts to writing in French is subject to expulsion. If the French version means so much to you, why not resort to the services of a translator-- I’ll even be willing to pay the bill...”
“No, that’s out of the question! You must return to writing in French.”
“Our magnificent French language must continue to shine through our books!”
The Author, who ended up agreeing to re-write the novel in French, announced to me:
“I am going to start with a preface and a prologue that do not appear in the English text.”
“Is that useful?”
“Yes, I think so. I’m going to tell French-speaking readers how I learned that my novel was selected three months before the official announcement, and how I received the characters’ petition. I will also talk about certain aspects regarding self-translation and the bilingualism of writing...”
“You are right, it will be a bonus for the French version. In fact, what is your novel about? I recite it now by heart, but I don’t understand a single word!”
“What? A Quebecois woman who is not bilingual? Weren’t you reeducated?”
“No, I objected!”
La révolution n’a pas été tranquille
The expression Révolution Tranquille, "Quiet Revolution," designates a period of major reforms and modernization of the Quebec state in the 1960’s. La révolution n’a pas été tranquille is a fiction in which I speculate how history might have been altered if one or more historical events had transpired differently. It was first written in English, which I had chosen as my sole language for writing. But, after being honored as an Anglophone writer, the Reader and my characters asked me to re-write the novel in French. My choice of English as my writing language was dictated by the decrease in Francophone readership. From now on, I will write all my novels in English first, and then re-write them in French. My bilingual writing will therefore be writing in a second foreign language, English, which is my first writing language, and then re-writing the text in French, my native language, second writing language, and first foreign language, if you consider the first foreign language you learn to be your native language. Indeed, whether I write in English or in French, I am always referring to a field of language that I translate and from which I draw the language that allows me to express my thoughts.
One morning, when I checked my inbox, I came across this unexpected email:
Subject: [RMF] Reading for All.
Date: Saturday, 03/15/2036, 00:38:21 +0010
Dear past self,
I am writing this email to let myself know that my novel The Revolution Was not Quiet has been selected among the five finalist books for Reading for All and chosen by the panel as winner. I send myself my heartfelt congratulations. Ever since I switched to writing in English, my bookstore success has been limited. The print run of my novels has never gone above the 5,000 copy threshold. After the selection of my novel, the electronic print run will shoot up and reach a total of 43.8 million. But Francophones will have trouble accepting the success of a Quebecois writer who has renounced the French language and will demand that the novel be re-written in the language of Molière!”
«It’s so strange! Why didn’t my editor tell me this news already?»
“Hello, Marion, why didn’t you inform me about Reading for All?”
“What’s going on with Reading for All?”
“Didn't they give the award to my novel?”
“How should I know? The award-winning title will not be known until March.”
“But I received an email this morning telling me that my novel was awarded...”
“It’s no doubt a hoax!”
But when the announcement came, it proved that my future self was right. The press release said: “From March 10 through 14, 2036, CTV Books presented the anniversary edition of the Reading for All show. The new formula for the program consists of choosing a book which will be downloaded into the brains of all Canadians and put on as a life-size show. The Revolution Was not Quiet, one of the five finalist books, was written by the Author, a Quebecois writer who switched to writing in English. The other selected titles are Rain and Snow by George Campbell, Birds by Barbara Horwath, Avida by Paula Hagerman, and Love by Ronald Mullins. At the end of eliminations, the panel chose The Revolution Was not Quiet as winner. The narrative structure of The Revolution Was not Quiet stands out because of its originality. The novel depicts a crucial period of Canadian history-- the 1960’s, when nationalism experienced a great surge. This era gave birth to the Rally for National Independence and was when the Liberation Front of Quebec and the Liberation Army of Quebec carried out their first attempted bombings. During his visit to the 1967 Expo, General de Gaulle spoke his famous line, ‘Vive le Québec libre!’ The Author has chosen this period as a turning point to imagine the following alternate History: on November 28, 1963, André Fontaine founds the National Independence Front that will win the legislative elections in 1966. On November 23, 1967, separatist deputies who now have the majority in the Assembly vote for a resolution to convene the General States of French Canada. Following their convocation from the Parliament, the General States move from la Place des Arts to meet at the seat of the Assembly. The new institution, whose members share equal power, set themselves the task of writing and adopting a foundational text about the organization of public powers in Quebec, proclaim the internal autonomy of the province within the framework of co-sovereignty, and vote in a series of laws guaranteeing the rights of French Canadians. It is not necessary to have a very large understanding of historic culture in order to find this novel interesting.”
After the preface and the prologue were written, the Author didn’t make much progress on the manuscript and started to show signs of recalcitrance. The avatars dematerialized one after another.
When Moldak reappeared, my avatar, crying tears of joy, threw herself at him and began to climb up his body, kissing him everywhere and letting out little strangled cries.
<What’s with these incomprehensible messages that you have been sending me for the last few days?>
<They are love poems in your honor…>
<Yes, to tell you how much I love you! Do you have poets in Francophonia?>
<No, but oral traditions speak of mythological creatures called "poets", who had the power to transmute reality?>
When my avatar gave Moldak a small reprieve, I told him about my observations regarding the Separatist.
<You know, it’s really strange, he is not like the other avatars. I started to wonder about him when, the other day, he took my hand and fell at my feet, begging, ‘O, Reader! You, for whom the novel has no secrets, tell me who I am. What do you know for sure about the character I incarnate? I am seeking in vain the least certitude about him, but no matter how much I search, everything falls apart into confusion and doubt!’ Starting then, I began to observe him. Can the avatars feel emotions?>
<What type of emotions have you noticed in him?>
<His facial expressions and the stammering of his voice express something akin to love.>
<I will have him analyzed by the Incarnator.>
The report analyzing the Separatist revealed that the program had been infected with the Love virus and recommended its destruction and subsequent reconfiguration in an improved version. He was dematerialized and reconfigured. The new version had the same traits as the old one, but the flaws had been fixed.
When Moldak introduced me to the new Separatist, I flipped out. My skin tingled with goose bumps and my heart beat wildly. I fell crazy in love with him.
<Ayoye! My poor Reader, it pains me to say this, but I think that unfortunately you have been contaminated with the virus that infected him. I advise you to not become too attached to him, eh? He only has two more weeks to live.>
<Moldak, I beg you, don’t do that to me! I won’t be able to live without him!>
<The only way to save him from his programmed auto-destruction is to transfer him into the body of a person in the real world. The Incarnator can make a complete digital simulation of his cerebral state and implant it into another brain. The conscious state of the program will survive in the biological body of the infiltrated person and the two mentally fused brains will form a single person.>
<Since we have the Author handy, he is the obvious choice for this person!>
<The Incarnator will hack into his brain, his own consciousness will be erased, and his autobiographical memories will be replaced by the Separatist’s memories. After the operation, the Author and his character will be fused into one and the same person, and the infiltrated organic brain will contain a perfect copy of the software. The Author will remember only those experiences that the Separatist had before the transfer.>
<What will become of the forgotten aspects of the character-- those traits that the Incarnator did not put in the latest version and the forgotten memories stored in the two brains?>
<Don’t worry! What’s been forgotten will be scanned and transferred along with the other elements of the program and will also be preserved in the infiltrated brain. Memory contains both what’s forgotten and what’s remembered; it’s made up of clusters of blank neurons. It’s their activation, initiated by exterior stimuli, that prompts the neurons into an active state and allow for recalling the contents of the memories encoded in the blank neurons. The new personal identity will be constituted based on everything the program remembers and forgets.>
<Will the Separatist remain conscious during the transfer?>
<He will have a sort of fragmented consciousness and will have dreams about the transition. But he will not know if these mental states were generated by his brain or the Author’s brain, or if they are the effect of intermediate consciousnesses generated by the transfer process.>
<Will he be capable of taking over the manuscript?>
<He most certainly will be capable! He will be a monolingual Francophone and will be connected to the Cloud. He will be able to access all of its data, no matter what the semiotic format of their code or their presentation. He will be an agent of the global brain and will be able to interact autonomously with the data sphere that hosts the development of the consciousnesses of everyone on Earth, all computer programs, and the lines of communication that link them together.>
<Won’t he be handicapped by his monolingualism?>
<No, because his brain will be able to translate any language...>
<But didn’t you say that he will be monolingual?>
<Yes, but his ability to translate will be inherent to his act of language, his language field. The universal grammar he will be endowed with will understand all the languages of the world. And he will be able to draw from this multi-language unconsciousness to express his monolingual thought. He will be a French Academy and a franglais court of law all by himself. He will be able to form new French words in order to translate any expression from any other language and find the neologisms he needs to replace all anglicisms.>
This morning, while we were still in each other’s arms, the Separatist who had become the Author addressed me with these words: “Your manner of narrating is so pleasant, graceful, charming, and gentle! But now that I have become the Author, you are no longer allowed to narrate.”
“Then I will be quiet and let you tell the rest of the story.”
Don’t look so disappointed, dear readers! You will see that everything up until now is nothing compared to what I will relate to you.
Having taken charge of the manuscript, I asked Moldak to take me to visit the era of the 1960’s, in order to get inspired.
<The past is past and fiction is fiction. However, if you make it a condition for writing the novel, there is no reason we can’t prolong our time travel for a little while. I can have you visit it this very evening...>
<Visit a decade in one evening! Moldak, are you teasing me?>
<In reality, it will be much less than that! ‘This evening’ is merely a point of reference to situate our trip within Earthly time, whereas our spaceship travels in time by going faster than the speed of light through hyperspace. Without this speed, we would not have been able to visit the Earth.>
<And how will I be able to withstand traveling at such speed?>
<You will be dematerialized during the trip and rematerialized only after leaving hyperspace to return to 2036.>
<But if I’m dematerialized, I will not be able to immerse myself in reality so that I can give a realistic effect to my narrative.>
<Don’t worry. The Incarnator will simulate in your brain a life-size representation of the reality we will be traveling through.>
<In order to better understand, think for a moment about what happens when a person dies, when she sees her entire life flash before her eyes. But for you it will be more than that. It will not be just your life that you will see, if you had really already existed, but the history of an entire era....>
<If I must be dematerialized for the trip, why not just let you go in my place?>
<Your presence is necessary. Your dematerialization will be generated by the contact between your body’s matter and its antimatter and will produce an electromagnetic radiation. If this radiation does not pass through the time we are visiting, your brain will not be compatible with the simulation program.>
When Moldak announced to the Readers that he was going to take me in his ship to see 1960’s Quebec, they threw their arms around us, at least my Reader did-- as for her avatar, she began to climb up Moldak’s body. They were both weeping and wailing.
“Take me with you! I can't live without you!”
“I love you; you are my lifeblood! Whether you are in Francophonia or on the Earth!”
“Calm down, calm down! We will be back before tomorrow morning.”
After the trip to the past, I said to Moldak, <Jesus Murphy, I don’t get it! What the heck? It’s incredible! This author, what a pathological liar!!! So, I never existed, and the revolution was quiet!>
<André Fontaine really existed, and the revolution was not quiet, but that happened in a different past, in another universe...>
<Why didn’t we go there?>
<It’s not our world. In that universe, French Canadians did not emigrate and ended up assimilating. Instead, the endangered Anglophone minority were the ones who emigrated...>
<Eh? What are you talking about?>
<Yes, it happened in 2070 of this era. Canada had become a province of the United States of America and Asia. English was listed in the World Atlas of Endangered Languages and children no longer learned it in their families as their mother tongue. The Anglophones decided to emigrate to escape the voracity of the hegemonic language.>
<And where did they go?>
<They colonized a planet in the Tadpole Galaxy...>
<Now that the novel has been contradicted by the reality of our universe, I propose imagining a new fiction. I even have an idea for the title I’m going to give it: The Author and his Characters.>
When the General dematerialized, the Reader lowered the flag to half-mast, went into mourning for three days, and sent a message of condolence to the French Ambassador. The Ambassador sent the message along to the Canadian authorities:
“The French Embassy in Canada presents its compliments to the Minister of Foreign Business Affairs and Sustainable Development, and is honored to pass along the information contained in the following message received by the Embassy:
‘To his Excellency the French Ambassador to Canada,
In these difficult times, we Francophone readers-- still reeling from the shock of emotion caused by the dematerialization of the avatar that was the reincarnation of the General de Gaulle-- wish to express our great sorrow and our eternal gratitude to the General for supporting the fight for Quebec’s sovereignty. We will never forget the slogan, “Vive le Québec libre,” that he shouted on July 24, 1967, from the balcony of Montreal’s City Hall. All the characters in The Revolution Was not Quiet had their homeland at the ready. But De Gaulle dreamed of a country. Signed in Oka on August 19, 2036, The Reader and her avatar.’
France strongly condemns the reincarnation of General de Gaulle and the usurpation of his identity by a cybercriminal organization. The defense of the image of the deceased is a moral right of personality after death. The reincarnation of historical figures in avatars constitutes an attack on the respect due to the memory of the dead. We ask the Canadian authorities to ensure the integrity of General de Gaulle's image and respect for his memory.
The French Embassy in Canada takes this opportunity to reiterate that we hold the Minister of Foreign Business Affairs and Sustainable Development in the highest regard. Signed in Ottawa on August 21, 2036.”
The police ended up discovering where the Author was being detained. When their convoy set off, Moldak sounded the alert: <To the spaceship, avatars! I hear the police car sirens-- far off for now, but they have our location in their GPS. You, Separatist Author, stay with the Reader! Give me the manuscript-- it will be kept safe! Tell the police that you hid here because you wanted to remove yourself from your usual surroundings in order to finish your manuscript, and that you brought the Reader with you to type it up.>
I followed the progress of the police:
“We have the house in sight!”
“Send out the mini drones!”
“Take a right! To the right!”
“Straight ahead! Come with me!”
“In position! Maintain your positions!”
“Go see what their conditions are.”
A loudspeaker spat out, “Show yourselves! You are surrounded! You are surrounded! Our negotiator will contact you-- he is unarmed, so don’t fire on him!”
When the negotiator arrived, he found the Reader in my arms.
“What the hell’s going on, eh? We thought you were taken hostage!”
“Whatever made you think that I was taken hostage?”
“The investigation into your disappearance came to that conclusion.”
“It’s not true! I simply removed myself from my usual surrounding in order to finish a manuscript that is very close to my heart.”
“Show me your authorization!”
“I didn’t have time to go through all the formalities...”
“You are therefore in an irregular situation! Forward! Follow me! Search the entire house!”
“What do you mean, ‘Search the house’? Where is your warrant?”
“My warrant is my face! And who is this young woman?”
“She is my ladylove, my muse, and my faithful reader. I took her with me to keep me company and to type up the French manuscript.”
“Wait, did you just say ‘French manuscript’? Round up these Francophones!”
“You have no right to take us in-- we are Canadians!”
The commando leader took out his weapon and pressed the barrel against my temple.
“Now, I’m gonna give you ten seconds! Where is the French manuscript?”
“No! Don’t shoot! I had it, but when the Extraterrestrial sensed that you were coming, he grabbed it from me and vanished along with his avatars!”
“Leave her alone! I swear to you, I’m telling the truth-- he took it with him!”
My ladylove-- shoved to the ground by a huge muscleman who twisted her by the arms-- was crying and yelling as she fought back.
“Aaah! Author, help!”
“Noooo! My ladylove! Don’t hurt my Reader!”
“We need the truth-- talk or we finish her! You have seven more seconds!”
In the police station, I was able to see the report about my arrest on TV. My photo was shown next to the Reader’s. “The Police intervention tonight in Oka. The goal of the operation was to free the Author who had been missing for several weeks. The neighboring houses were evacuated, and a security perimeter was put in place. The streets in the area were closed off to all traffic. But when the special forces gained access to the house, they found the Author holding a young woman in his arms. What appeared to have been a hostage situation was instead a crime of Francophony. The Author and the young woman have been locked up. The spokesperson for the police reported that no one was injured in the operation.”
The very night of my arrest, I had a visit from two women I’d never seen before who claimed to be my mother and my wife. They tried to hug me, but I forcibly pushed them away and kept saying to them, “Get away from me! Who are you? What do you want from me? I am not who you think I am-- I am the Separatist, avatar of André Fontaine, President of the National Independence Front, who existed in a different universe!”
When I said that, they started to cry. They continued to come regularly despite my protests and complaints to the police. Another woman came in. She was crying and said, “Ah, Author! Do you want to ruin me? How can you compromise yourself after all your success in English?”
Moldak made contact with me and told me that my connection remained active.
<Your neocortex is still connected to the virtual neocortex of the data sphere. You can access any domain of the global brain, just by thinking about it. Stay in contact with the Reader and don’t worry about being tracked-- the quantum transmissions between your brains insure total confidentiality.>
They subjected me to intensive interrogations. The Reader admitted to having sent the email and gave detailed information about the CHARACTERS project. A Writers Protection Program was created within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The army and security services were put on alert and started off in hot pursuit of the phantom spaceship.
I was accused of aggravated Francophony and placed under psychiatric observation. Then I received this email from future me:
Subject: [FGL] Le combat des livres.
Date: Densday, Aprentober 11, 53, 03:23:17 +0237
Dear past self,
I am sending myself this message to announce that Le combat des livres, the Radio-Canada program that ended a long time ago, will start up again on pirated radio and be broadcast from the planet Francophonia, at the bandwidth 104.3 MHz. It’s the first time that the show is dedicated to two books by the same author, my novel The Revolution Was not Quiet, against my other novel L’Auteur et ses personnages. This special edition will be more of a language war than a book war. The Canadian federal government will find it hard to accept the success of a Quebecois writer who has returned to the French language. They will attempt to jam the transmission and do everything they can to force me to re-write the Francophone novel in the language of Shakespeare!”