The year is 1776; the world is a different one. I am sitting in a dim room that feels like an attic, though it’s hard to be certain. You are sitting with me, though not actually there. You’re more inside my head than anywhere else. Neither of us are exactly sure how we got here, but we know why. There’s one another person in the room. A blond girl wearing practical clothes and a serious expression is sitting on a low chair in front of me. Her name is Cassia Rerdbin and I’m supposed to be interviewing her. She doesn’t seem surprised or unwilling, but refuses to let me make any record of what we say. That’s what you’re here for, to help me remember.
I’ve been chatting with her for a little while now, but nothing of substance has come up. “Have you travelled much?” I ask her.
Cassia shakes her head. “Not unless you count exploring the streets of Delman travelling.”
“Exploring a city sounds like fun. What’s your favourite place to visit there?”
She leans her hand on her hand meditatively. “The parkland. We have been boating on the river several times and it was so peaceful. Much more natural than the artificially crowdedness of the rest of the city.”
I nod and move on to the next question. “What’s one mistake in your life that you’ve learned from?”
Cassia wrinkles her nose. “Are not you supposed to start with easy questions? If this is how you do an official interview, you’re terrible at it. But I will try to answer. It is hard though. Unless I want to be ungrateful and whine about the opportunities I have been given, I’ve only really made small mistakes.”
I laugh. “Small mistakes are fine Cassia. You can still learn things from them, even if it’s forgetting to set an alarm while cooking.”
“Set an alarm while cooking?” Cassia echoes. “What would you want to do that for?”
“It’s complicated, and would distract me from talking to you,” I offer. I figure it must be a cross cultural miscommunication. Those happen sometimes.
“Oh. Well I made a few dreadful mistakes when I was learning to sew. Sometimes It’s hard to tell the backs and fronts apart. Fortunately, we mostly do alterations.”
“So, you studied sewing here at the school. What else did you study? Any favourites?”
Cassia smiles. “There’s so many amazing things to study and a lot of freedom. I especially enjoyed traditions and law. There’s such a vast array of examples. There is also wonderful art.” She drops her voice almost to a whisper. “It almost makes back to the drawbacks of studying here.”
I’d like to ask her more about those drawbacks, but it’s not on our list and we’ve been discouraged from asking about the school for an undisclosed reason. So, I move onto the next question.
“Did you study plants at all? I’m supposed to ask you about your favourite flower?”
Yes, we both know that could be smoother, but it doesn’t really matter.
“I doubt you know them, but there’s an Erint tree here at the school. It came from Trerike, which is my fatherland. They are very pretty trees too, and the leaves are good for medicine.”
I smile. “Very nice. Trees have a more enduring beauty than flowers. I could dream about them. What about you? Anything particular you dream about at night?”
Cassia looks down and fumbles with her hands. She’s seems rather bothered, I’m surprised. We thought this was an easy question when we discussed it earlier.
“I- I have bad dreams,” Cassia whispers, “I keep dreaming about magic. Something terrible happens and I’m caught in the middle.”
I reach out and squeeze her hand. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”
“No, it’s alright. You couldn’t have known.”
I nod. “I’ll move onto a cheerful question. What would you choose to eat if you went out for a special meal?”
“Whatever was recommended.” Cassia laughs and shakes her head. “Sorry, I’m not a food person really.”
“That’s fine. What’s one thing you want to do before you die?”
“Move to Trerike. I have wished we lived there since I was 10. I would also like to travel to some famous libraries.”
“You’re a study freak, aren’t you?” I ask.
“I wouldn’t call myself a freak, but I certainly love to study.” Cassia leans back in her chair and sighs. “Learning is my life. I just hope it will not be my death.”
“Any other special talents?”
“Writing is part of academia, but I consider myself reasonably skilled at it. I like presenting an argument.”
“Debating then? Have you ever argued hard enough to make any one cry?” I’m glad to get that opportunity to slip the question in. It could otherwise be rather sensitive.
Cassia shakes her head. “I don’t like open disagreement and debate isn’t my thing. I’d be more likely to cry myself than make someone else cry.”
“You must be a nice person to be around then. This is pretty much the end of the interview. I’d love to stick around, but I don’t have the time. I just need you to confirm the veracity of your answers. Not that you’d lie about them, but it’s a formality.”
Cassia nodded. “I understand formalities. And I promise that was all true. Some say I might be biased in my research, but I would never lie in an interview.”
“Well it was nice meeting you. I have a suspicion I’ll see you again someday, but farewell for now.”
Cassia smiles and the room fades from our view. The white page of my blog appears behind it.