Wow. It has been a LONG time since I've posted anything here... I've lurked a little since then, but I've barely had the time & inclination to write. Real life kinda intervened - work, family, a relationship that didn't work out...

And I STLL haven't had time to review stuff that I should have. Sorry, all!

Anyway, this little ficlet is something I have been working on for some time (I haven't forgotten Four Rooms btw). It is an attempt to write in the present tense. Why? Because I've never done it before, and, most likely, will never do so again. I have most likely stuffed up the grammar & done weird things with the tenses, as a lot of my grammar is self-taught.

Apologies to Joss Whedon for the title.

Conversations with live people

The room seems somehow oppressive, small. Rage fills it with a palpable, bitter air.

"They're inherently flawed."

A sigh. The words are new, breaking the uncomfortable silence, but the argument runs on old tracks, the grooves worn deep through years of fighting. Then the same voice speaks again.

"They're despoilers. Ruining what they don't consume, always consuming more than they need."

Silence. Broken by a soft, "You don't understand."

"What don't I understand?" The tone is sharp, petulant.

"That there's balance. You're right, there are bad people in the world, but there are also good people. And even the bad have some good in them. You just have to look for it."

"Good people? Don't be such a naïve fool. There is no such thing as good. It's a human idea, not something that can be objectively defined. It's a self-serving theory, just like everything else they dream up. It's all designed to let them ignore the truths that lie under their noses. Even if they think of themselves as…" he draws breath to add contempt to the next word, "good, they'll happily look the other way if there's something to gain. And even if they do something that appears selfless, they only do it to inflate their own egos. Everything comes back to their own self-serving interests."

"So… there's no such thing as inherent good but there is such a thing as inherent evil?"

"Do you deny that they cause harm to us, to our sisters, to the planet and themselves? What better definition of evil is there?"

"There's some truth in that." The sentence is said in a carefully neutral tone.

"You see?" smugness, "Those spiders are greedy. Remember when we were young? Those people we saw, who were ready to kill each other because the water line was too long?"

"Yes. I remember almost everything," his brother shifts in his seat, a faraway note of pain in his voice, "and I know that when resources are tight, when it's a life or death situation, the worst part of humanity shows. But," the word is enunciated and it's clear that this is a big 'but', "how did they get like this?"

A pause.

"It's human nat-"

"No, I mean, how did they get to be here, stranded on this world, just hanging on."

"They ruined their home plane-"

"What happened to the ships that bought them here, that were going to help them settle here?"


Another pregnant silence, where the meaning of the words sink in.

"You blame me for their actions? You bastard! I was doing what was right! I was protecting us! They would have torn us to pieceslike… like…"

Power and gravity have come back into his voice, overriding his brothers'. "I'm not blaming you for everything that's happened. But you do need to face the consequences of your actions and take responsibility for them. I know what I've done, I've seen the results – and I know that I'm accountable for some of those you've killed because I didn't stop you." A heavy sigh, and then Vash continues. "It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, Knives. You believed that all humans were inherently evil and would destroy us, and you acted on that belief. That made them paranoid and desperate and they did try and kill us. Well, not us. Me."

The room becomes still. Right now the only sounds in the room are the faint rasps of breath, the muted creaks of occupied furniture and the pinging of the metal window frame expanding in the heat of the suns. The air smells faintly of dust and decay, the lingering edge of the kerosene that fills the unlit lamp on the bedside table mixing with a rich undertone of food.

"I answer to no-one."

"We all answer to ourselves and the rest of society."

Knives snorts contemptuously. "Human society is below me. It is nothing."

"What about my society?" An edge of humour is back in Vash's voice.


Knives turns to look out the small window. He is actually fidgeting, something he hasn't done since he was one. "What about our sisters, Vash? What can I do for them? What have you ever done for them?"

"Some plants are still alive because of me. As a whole, I uh, I haven't done much, but…" he grins disarmingly, "it was kinda hard 'cos I was trying to run away from you and everyone else who wanted to kill me. I think I've got time to figure something out now."

"If you'd just done what I said, if you'd only seen it my way this would have never happened!" He surges upwards, trying to leave the bed.

"You're right, Knives. I probably would be dead by now."

The other sneers. "Weakling. Would you have really cut your life short for them?"

"What can I say? I'm a people person. Can't survive without 'em."

At his brother's words, Knives stares into his lap and whispers, "I never wanted to hurt you like that."

"You did, anyway." He shrugs, as if to say it was no big deal. "And I hurt your too. You're lucky I'm learning to leave the past behind me. I want to help you, and I want to help them, and I want to help our sisters, too. I think we might be able to compromise."

Knives frowns, and almost says something. He pauses, presses his lips shut, and then ventures to say "how do we help them though? It's impossible to help everybody."

"We'll find a way. There's always a way, if you look hard enough. And I want you to know you don't have to think like me. Just 'cos I-"
"-live with a human," he's grinning now, with real humour, "it doesn't mean I expect you to. I just want you to let go and allow them get on with their lives. We can figure out a way to help our sisters together, as long as it doesn't involve killing. That's all I ask. Can you do that?"

There is a deafening quiet, and a sense of uncertainty, of teetering on the edge of some great pit.

"I'll… I'll try. For now."

Over-simplification time: postmodernism. It means different things in different disciplines, but at heart it is all about shaking up settled conventions and assumptions (mostly to do with 'reading' text). One aspect of this is revaluating the idea that there are independent, definable and essential meanings of abstracts such as love, charity, truth, goodness. Everything is both relative and constructed: meanings shift over time as it is set by human culture, and certain definitions are privileged over others due to ideas of class, race and gender. What we think of as absolute and inevitable are really the results of propaganda and manipulation. Or at least that's kind of the theory. Once again, this is a gross oversimplification of a complex theory, and I am emphasising only one application of postmodern theory.

I'm no postmodernist. It has a definite point and useful applications especially in disciplines like history and English, but I like to believe in the essential natures of love and goodness.

I happen to think of Knives as an adherent to postmodern philosophy. Why? Not really sure, but I think it works.