One more short story by itself. This one is called “Finn,” and it was published directly on Scribd, which is an app that you can use to read books and stories both in text and in audio form — I read “Finn” in text, but it’s available both ways. I got the app specifically for “Finn,” just like I bought an issue of McSweeney’s specifically for “Willie the Weirdo.” The difference is that I didn’t subscribe to McSweeney’s, and while my original plan was to cancel my Scribd subscription as soon as I was done with this story… I kind of want to keep it? I probably shouldn’t, I already have Audible, and Kindle Unlimited, and I’m subscribed to a million podcasts, and I know where to find free books and audiobooks, too, I have library cards in two counties and a Libby account to borrow from them both, I have a longer to-read list than I’ll ever get through in my lifetime (and I’m a fast reader descended from some long-lived people. It’s just a really long list.) But I’m also just a sucker for access to stuff I want to read. I should probably cancel it and just re-up when I know it has something to read. No one’s paying me to read a ton of books. I don’t know that I actually will, though.
Finn is… an interesting short story. It concerns an Irish kid, in Ireland, who has terrible bad luck. I mean, really, super awful luck. He literally got dropped as a baby, like in the process of being born. And got knocked into a coma when lightning struck close enough to him to leave a streak down the back of his jacket (can that happen?) And one day, this bad luck manifests itself in him getting kidnapped in a case of mistaken identity.
And… his kidnappers let him go? After some “enhanced interrogation techniques,” that is. It’s interesting, though, because the old man running the operation is implied to have Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia (there it is again), and the kidnappers are actually defying him in letting Finn go, but they don’t trust the old man’s judgment. They also say some things that imply that perhaps what they were doing, or trying to do, was some form of covert op more than criminals kidnapping for nefarious purposes. They refer to having saved the world previously. And the concern with using “approved enhanced interrogation techniques,” repulsive as that may be when you know that it’s just approved torture, suggests someone who at least thinks he’s the good guy. I think.
The part I find most interesting is the end, though. Finn gets let go — suddenly and confusingly — and when he’s out, he’s not quite sure whether or not to believe it. Maybe he hit his head and is in a coma again, and this is all a weird scenario that his brain has concocted in its deeply sleeping state. Maybe the kidnappers are killing him, and his mind is throwing out an “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” episode — instead of his past life flashing before his eyes, an escape is flashing before his eyes in the seconds before death.
This all seems like a reasonable reaction from a traumatized kidnapping victim. Finn’s actually maintained more equilibrium than you might expect throughout this episode, no wonder he’s having trouble now. Except — the story suggests that these fears might actually be founded on something. He decides to test his reality by going on a piece of playground equipment he refers to as the Twisty (a slide, I think?) over the protestations of a playground mom who tells him he’s too big for it. He thinks to himself that he’ll either still be there when he reaches the bottom of the Twisty, and therefore he’s in reality, or he won’t, and this is all a dream. Which is as good a logic as any, I guess. He pushes off. And there the story ends. We don’t know if he found himself at the bottom or not or what happened if he did (or didn’t). I’ll be mulling that over for a while. I actually love that sort of story. I put down a book with supernatural boogeymen of some sort, and I’m OK because I know that’s not real. But the brain can do… we don’t even know how much. It could do this, probably. It’s at least plausible. So once the possibility is raised that the whole escape is in Finn’s brain, you have to at least consider that may be correct.
This is the last thing on my list before Stephen King’s last release as of this writing (and probably by the time it hits the blog too.) Which means I’ve almost completed my chronological journey. On to Fairy Tale!