The Interview with Virgil Blue

Jay opened the door and froze when he saw Virgil Blue’s silver mask staring back.

Virgil Blue sat cross-legged on top of a table. Jay sat in Blue’s vacant wheelchair and stared at the Virgil’s mask for a while, unable to do anything else. His thoughts wandered the embossed, buggy eyes.

Jay knew he lacked the strength to take a proper photo. Without looking from the mask, he willed himself to put his notepad on his thigh and prepare his pen. His wrist locked in writing-position. Unable to break eye-contact with Blue, he hoped his blind scribbles were legible later.

“I’ve lucked into an interview with Virgil Blue,” Jay wrote. “Their stare transfixes me. I sense messages from past millennia behind the mask. Even if this teacher of teachers says nothing, I’m honored to share space with them.”

Jay couldn’t turn the notepad to continue writing. Instead he watched the mask. He could’ve watched the mask for hours.

Jay saw his reflection in the silver eyes. The perception of depth reminded him how to focus his vision and operate his facial muscles, allowing his gaze to stray from the mask. The Virgil’s robes were navy and thicker than rugs. The Virgil’s sleeves were tucked into each other to hide their hands. The Virgil’s knees were so knobbly they made the robes look like a crumbling cathedral.

Jay found strength to turn his notepad and continue writing. “Virgil Blue’s commanding aura cannot be overstated. I wish I could coax even one word from behind the mask.”

He gathered courage to speak. “Hello, Virgil Blue. My name is Jay. We’ve met before. May I ask a few questions?”

Virgil Blue did not respond.

Jay recalled Skyy’s lesson about asking three times. “May I ask a few questions?”

Virgil Blue did not respond.

“May I ask a few questions?”

Virgil Blue did not respond. Jay sighed and continued writing. “It seems I must leave without a quote.”

Jay wiggled his toes. He couldn’t yet stand under the indomitable presence.

On a whim he wrote “”, an empty quote to convey the Virgil’s wordless message.

“Drop the pen.”

Jay dropped the pen.

“Close it.”

Jay closed the notepad.

“Chase truth in your own navel, not mine.”

“I don’t want the truth,” said Jay. “Not anymore.”

“Shut up.”

He did.

“Stop listening, too.”

He did.

“My body was born centuries ago, but my story is older. I heard it from the previous Virgil Blue, who heard it from the previous Virgil Blue, who heard it from the previous Virgil Blue, and so on. My story concerns the first man, Nemo, after the Biggest Bird declared him the first Virgil Blue.

“The Biggest Bird made Nemo immortal to guide Sheridan for all time, but over centuries, despite perfect health, his mind deteriorated daily.

“Nemo’s last students struggled with his peculiar discipline. Nemo reacted violently when his students answered questions incorrectly—or correctly. He demanded students sit nude with him outdoors on winter nights so frozen fog would frost them.

“When students complained of frostbite, Nemo ate the afflicted fingers and toes. He acquired a taste for flesh and filed his teeth sharp like a shark’s. His final lesson was a display of depravity: Nemo chased his congregation through the snow ranting and raving, pouncing on his slowest students and biting off their fingers at the knuckle.

“It was decided Nemo should retire, and with startling lucidity, Nemo agreed. To pass the title of Virgil, Nemo invented a ceremony in which a bird’s egg—fertilized with sacred seed inside—was smashed on the appointee’s forehead. He passed the title of Blue to his only student who still had ten fingers and toes. Then Nemo climbed above the clouds, never to return.

“The new Virgil Blue brought Sheridan back to non-cannibalistic orthodoxy. They anointed subordinate Virgils to stabilize the islands.”

The room was quiet for a while.

“Two centuries hence, Nemo appeared in Virgil Blue’s dreams. In these dreams, Nemo ate the Blue Virgil’s fingers and toes. When no phalanges remained, Nemo chewed other extremities. After excruciating years, the Virgil’s dream-body was totally devoured. Virgil Blue knew their time had come, and they passed the title. They retired above the clouds after their old master. Since then, every Virgil Blue has passed the title after Nemo cannibalized them in the dream-theater. Every former Blue climbs to the cloudy peak.

“Some laymen dare trespass on that sacred peak, and such trespassers never return. Beyond that, everything these trespassers own is ruined. Their property burns. Their children die. Their spouses throw themselves in the sea. This is why the peak fits as final resting-place for the Blue Virgils: they call nothing theirs. As Nemo breaks my bones in his teeth each night, I understand the asceticism he imposes. Nothing is mine, not physically, mentally, nor spiritually. When Nemo finishes gnawing my skullcap, I will lose nothing in climbing above the clouds.”

The room was quiet for a while.

“Jango Skyy is a masterful Virgil. For his sake, I am the last Blue. Time ends with me. I am Nemo’s last student and his last victim.”

Jay did not move or speak for several minutes. He bowed his head, picked up his notepad and pen, and left without a word.

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