Victoria: All right. ‘Dante Effect’ formal interview one, Isabel Ste.Croix. The date is 15 January 2010, time, 7:12pm. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.
Isabel: Of course.
Victoria: First we need to establish a few things for study protocol. Could you please state your full name?
Isabel: Isabel Rose Ste.Croix.
Victoria: And your real name, since that, as I understand it, is the identity of your character?
Isabel: Ms. Angell, we’ve been down this avenue of conversation several times up to this point. If you wish that I pretend to be lying as to make your evening more convenient, I will do so.
Victoria: It’s Dr. Angell. And I am simply asking you to state the facts, Ms Ste. Croix.
Isabel: Then you will have to settle for what you do not believe, if you prefer I tell you the truth.
Victoria: Very well. Date of birth?
Isabel: November 12th, 1859.
Victoria: Just to clarify, you are stating that you are over one hundred and fifty years old?
Isabel: Again, I don’t expect you to believe anything. Whether you choose to believe me is entirely up to you, and makes no difference either way.
Victoria: Very well. 1859. Let’s move on to your family life.
Isabel: None surviving. They died of old age. Well, mostly.
Victoria: I see. Perhaps you could explain your longevity?
Isabel: There are several versions of a response I could give you, Victoria, measured in inverse degrees of the truth and the satisfaction they would provide. I will, then, simply state, that if the world were still populated by everyone from the mid nineteenth century, civilization would have become incredibly complex and mildly awkward by now, don’t you think?
Victoria: While I appreciate your adherence to the fiction of your character on an intellectual level, it is not particularly useful to me as a researcher. While I respect your wish to keep that information concealed, I ask that you consider telling me the truth off the record, so to speak.
Isabel: I won’t repeat myself, Victoria. I suggest we continue on. And I would sincerely recommend that you do not press my companions on the subject of the seeming falsity and improbable nature of their lives. They will not react with the patience that I have.
Victoria: And what, exactly, are you intimating, Ms Ste.Croix?
Isabel: A warning and a recommendation. My companions are not as mild-tempered as I am. While they are under strict instructions, they may, if pressed, feel the need to tempt my anger.
Victoria: And those… instructions… would be?
Isabel: Not to kill you.
Victoria: All… right… Let us simply continue for the time being. Perhaps we will return to this later. Where were you born?
Isabel: This one should suit you. I was born in Lexington, raised in Boston.
Victoria: Your parents’ names were?
Isabel: My father, Byron Ste.Croix, and my mother, Lydia, her maiden name was Rose.
Isabel: Yes, two older brothers. The eldest, Byron, and the younger, Maxwell.
Victoria: And they are all now deceased…
Victoria: What was your family life like, when you were young?
Isabel: Not terribly fascinating, to be honest. I was the youngest of three, and the only daughter. My mother and father cared for me, doted on me well enough. When I was five or six, my brothers were called off to war, and -
Victoria: Vietnam or Gulf?
Victoria: Ms Ste.Croix, if you are not going to tell me the full truth, I am willing – if unhappy – to accept that. I would ask, however, that if there are any questions you feel uncomfortable answering, that you simply decline rather than concocting or promoting fictions that are clearly impossible.
Isabel: Tell me, Victoria, why do you continue to challenge me on the reality of the answers to your questions? Do you honestly believe that if you express your doubts at every answer, it will eventually prompt a different response? Why not just settle happily into your already established belief that you think I am some actress playing a very dedicated role, and continue on with your questioning?
Victoria: I am hoping to get the truth out of you. Ms Ste.Croix, I’m here to study your audience, but an aspect of that study is the interplay between that audience and the performers. A part of that interplay is the sympathetic bond generated by their joint psychology. In addition, I am interested in why you and your compatriots are attracted to this genre. While I do not intend to make you the focus of the study, there might be value in a comparative analysis between those who produce such work and those who pay to view it. I was hoping that for the sake of producing an accurate and comprehensive study, you and your cast would be willing to allow me ‘behind the scenes’ in order to facilitate my work, and allow me to help you with yours.
Isabel: I am being as candid as possible.
Victoria: If you say so. Please continue.
Isabel: Maxwell returned, wounded, and while he shared the mental toll that many of the survivors suffered, he was otherwise fine. My eldest brother, Byron, returned, but, in a pine box. Sadly it seemed that my mother blamed my father for this, and their relationship became largely loveless after that.
Victoria: How do you feel about your brother’s death?
Isabel: It has been a very long time since that happened, and I was young. I mourned him at the time, as would be expected.
Victoria: And the rest of your family? Is there a history of illness?
Isabel: My father died in his late fifties, I believe, from what specifically I am unsure. My mother died several years after, of ‘malaise’ as the Doctor at the time termed it. Maxwell died in his forties, unfortunately unmarried and with no children, at least that we knew about.
Victoria: Were you close to your parents?
Isabel: Yes, of course. I had no issues with them. They may have paid me little attention and left me largely to my own means, but I understood, even at the time.
Victoria: So you didn’t resent your parents for not spending as much time with you as you perhaps would have liked?
Isabel: I was not neglected in any way, so I had little to be bitter about. I had everything that a lower-upper-class family could provide, which, at the time, was plenty. They spent little time with me, but I found ways to entertain myself.
Victoria: Such as?
Isabel: Books, mostly. I spent a great deal of my time at the Athanaeum.
Victoria: Were you drawn to a particular genre? Fantasy? History?
Isabel: Western Esotericism.
Victoria: A little bit of both, then.
Isabel: Very clever. Tell me, is there some particular reason you must always prove yourself as intelligent? Specifically, what is it that you are attempting to prove to me? That you are too smart to “fall for” whatever you believe I am attempting to put past you? Were you badly tricked once before by someone, I wonder.
Victoria: I am here as an objective observer. A scientist. My psychology is not currently under scrutiny. Should you wish to discuss my personal background, I would be more than happy to do so over a cup of tea rather than during a background interview.
Isabel: Of course, forgive me.
[End Part One; to be continued]