So, my working theory that the person speaking in the interludes (referred to as the Interlocutor) and the person speaking in the episodes (the Narrator) are substantially (if not necessarily entirely) the same person.
Maybe this seems so manifestly obvious that people will wonder why I feel the need to point it out. Maybe it seems like such a strange idea that people will wonder why I’m making this leap. Maybe both things will happen, if enough people listen to the series and read my thoughts on it.
The short answer is there’s enough overlap between them to strongly suggest they’re the same person but also enough difference to raise a little bit of doubt.
In listening to the second interlude again in preparation for this post, I did have one wild thought. Is it possible the Interlocutor is the Narrator’s wife? Is it possible they’ve both GONE? That there’s some wacky comic misunderstanding at the root of their relationship where they both think the other one is the fearless rock while they themselves are weak and fearful?
(O. Henry, you devil!)
The illusion of transparency being what it is, it is certainly possible for two people mired in their own anxieties and phobias to assume that the other is not so encumbered, to assume that their own fear must be plainly visible to others even when it isn’t and to therefore assume that if another person’s fear isn’t equally visible, they must not be feeling it. This happens.
But it doesn’t seem likely, for two people in an intense long-term relationship. It’s hard to believe they never talked about fears. Again, not impossible, but unlikely.
The only reason this idea even occurs to me is that I keep trying to account for the difference between how the Narrator talks about her lover (when she does) and how the Interlocutor talks about her love (and she talks of little else). The Narrator is reluctant to talk about her wife at first, but when she does, it’s clear she puts her up on a pedestal. The Interlocutor is looking back with a good deal of resentment and blame.
This could be explained by it being different aspects of the same person (different levels of consciousness, different states of being), or the same person from a different (later) time… or by it being different people.
I don’t know.
I’m putting this out here as a wild thought, not a guess or prediction. I’m still going to proceed with my baseline understanding being that the Interlocutor is the same person as the Narrator, though at the very least her narrative is not happening “in between” the episodes, chronologically.
So, in this interlude, our Interlocutor is telling a story about/to her absent partner.
I remember sunrise, how it used to be.
I remember my first sunrise with you. First night we spent together. It was like a world broke open and came pouring through. Then when the sun rose it was like it happened all over again.
It reads like a sweet story in text, but if you listen to it, it doesn’t sound sweet. It sounds weary. Guarded.
I felt like it was a gift you gave me. In that moment, I think I started trusting you, because if you made me that happy, it was inconceivable to me that you would ever hurt me.
Yes, I really was that stupid.
You might remember I had some side speculation in the last episode about how far back the machinations extended, if this whole scenario was deliberate. It’s lines like this that make me feel that way. Less the part about being stupid to think her partner could ever hurt her (because that could refer to an event at any point in their relationship) and more the part about how she started trusting her back then.
At the same time, there doesn’t have to be any kind of nefarious world-breaking science fiction conspiracy at work for a person to feel this way about their lover. It’s not necessary to break the whole world to make a person feel like that; it’s only necessary to break their world.
Yet this isn’t how the Narrator feels about her wife in the present of the episodes, and as she’s alone in the world (and has casual access to her wife’s social media accounts) it seems unlikely she’d somehow discover some more personal betrayal. That doesn’t mean she can’t or won’t.
I’m just saying, in the context of the larger story, it’s hard not to equate these veiled barbs about being hurt/betrayed with the ongoing situation.
If the horror of the story is all psychological or, for lack of a better word, spiritual, both could be true. It could be a completely mundane betrayal of which the Narrator is not currently consciously aware that broke her world and put her in darkness. To be clear, I don’t think Sunny Moraine’s going for the “all just a dream” ending, or worse, that we’re going to find out the Narrator’s been drooling in a padded room this whole time.
But it’s certainly possible that what’s happening has some… metaphorical… elements to it, no matter what sci-fi trappings may be involved.
Thematically, interlude 1 was about a scary thing the Interlocutor found reassuring, because for the first time she saw her partner’s fear. Interlude 2 is about a sweet thing turning sour, if not sinister.
I know we didn’t have a night together for a while after that. I never told you what I was doing in all those nights without you.
The line about “nights without you” kind of jumps out to a listener trying to suss out indications of the overall relationship, but I think the Interlocutor is specifically describing nights early in their relationship, before they lived together, because she’s saying they didn’t have a night together for a while after their first sunrise together.
So what she would do is she would stay up all night by herself to be awake for the sunrise, hoping it would be as spectacular as the first, even though they never were. Trying to re-capture the magic.
I know it’s not fair to you. I know it’s probably wrong. But I feel like you took those sunrises away from me. You gave one to me, like the first hit of a fucking drug, and that’s when they all started slipping into the dark, because after that it was never enough.
The line and that’s when they all started slipping into the dark jumps out because it’s a description of the literal situation that the Narrator has been in, but it’s describing a process that began early on in the relationship.
(Metaphorical elements, like I said.)
The lines that precede that excerpted passage seem to refer even more directly to the situation in the main story.
It doesn’t matter how late I stay up, now. It doesn’t matter how early I wake up, either. I’m not even sure I’m sleeping anymore.
There’s still light. But it’s weak. It’s not bright enough to break anything.
But again, could easily be metaphorical.
Is the Interlocutor a person at the end of a relationship gone bad looking back bitterly in bleakly poetic terms, while the Narrator is some other aspect of her experiencing it in a very different and more literal way? Is the Interlocutor the Narrator in the dark, dwindling world of GONE but further on, after she’s found out that her wife is in some way responsible?
I don’t know.
Either could be true. Neither could be true. Both could, in a fashion, be true.
This series keeps me guessing.
Some other observations: I paid attention to the the sound mixing on this interlude. It’s not just static and distortion, there’s the “darkness distortion” and some other sounds that I think become important in subsequent episodes, if I remember right, but that’s getting ahead of me.
There might be some voices in there. It’s hard to tell, which I think is part of the point.
I’ve compared the appeal of this series to the YouTube web series Marble Hornets before, which alternated episodes on its main channel with tangentially related videos uploaded by “totheark”, which often consisted of subliminal and/or ciphered messages. It had a robust enough fandom that any hidden messages were pretty quickly sussed out and deciphered.
I don’t know if there are any Easter eggs hidden in the background noise of the Interludes. Maybe someone will look for them. I can’t see myself diving for subliminal messages when I’ve got my hands full with the liminal ones.