“So, hey, did you find your phone?”
Evan glanced up from his hand of playing cards. “My…? Oh, no, it’s still missing.” He sighed. “I can’t think where I could have laid it down.”
“Oh.” Oliver frowned. “That’s weird. So who were you talking to?”
“A little while ago, when I was grabbing the game from the other room. It sounded like about half a conversation, so…”
“Oh, that.” Evan smiled in remembrance. “I was talking to my Author.”
“Well,” Evan amended, “your Author, too. Everybody’s Author.”
“You don’t seriously believe in that Author stuff, do you?” Oliver said incredulously.
“Certainly I do. You don’t?”
“Of course not.” Oliver slapped a card on the table and reshuffled the deck. “Some invisible girl in the sky who wrote the world into existence? That’s ridiculous.”
“How so, ridiculous?” Evan asked. “Where do you think we came from, just spontaneously sprung up off the page?”
Oliver shrugged. “Could’a happened. Like, y’know, there’s mysterious imaginative ether, and stuff.”
“Whose imagination?” Evan pressed
“The collective imagination,” Oliver pronounced. “We all imagine ourselves; a basic matter of mass self-belief.”
“I see.” Evan fingered his cards, expression thoughtful. “But what about before we have the cognitive function of make-belief? How do infants exist?”
“Easy. The rest of us believe in them for them, until they’re old enough to believe in themselves.”
“Sweet of us. So who was it who believed in the first babies?”
“Their parents, of course.”
“And where did the parents come from? Were they never babies?”
“Uh…” Oliver squinted at the wall, reviewing the math he’d set up for himself. “Well, look, nobody knows how it got started…”
“I do,” said Evan, setting down a pair of cards. “The Author wrote them, just as she wrote you and me.”
Oliver shook his head. “I don’t buy it. There’s just not enough evidence.”
Evan’s eyebrows rose. “You don’t think this is evidence?”
“This dialogue. Our words appearing between quotation marks. The narration around them. It all smacks of Authorship!”
“There’s an explanation for that,” Oliver said vaguely.
“Is there likewise an explanation,” said Evan, “for how I’ve met the Author personally? How we’ve talked together, and laughed together, and how wholly adored I feel whenever she speaks my name?”
“Delusion?” Oliver offered.
Evan looked at him. “Why is my belief a delusion, while your belief is all that bars you from nonexistence? How is any one belief better than any other, unless one of those beliefs is truth? And if we’re dealing with a matter of truth, than what difference does anyone’s belief make?”
“Belief in something makes it true,” Oliver insisted.
“You obviously don’t believe that,” said Evan, “or you’d believe that my belief in the Author makes her true.”
“Yeah… well…” Oliver set his cards down in annoyance. “You know, you are really overcomplicating this.”
“I’ve been trying to simplify it. The truth is very simple: The Author wrote us – is writing us right now! – and will continue to do so until story’s end.”
“If the Author’s so all-powerfully awesome, why would she waste her time writing stories about fictional nobodies?” Oliver challenged.
Smiling, Evan answered, “Because she doesn’t count it a waste. This is what she loves. We are what she loves. And it would please her no end to have you love her, too, as I do.”
“Yeah, well,” Oliver grumbled, “she doesn’t talk to me, does she?”
Evan laughed. “She talks to you all the time! She talks to everything – even inanimate objects, to which she’ll temporarily assign personalities. She likes imaginative role-play. But we are more than a game to her. We are her characters. Her children. Her greatest creation, and her heart’s delight.”
“Then why does she let bad things happen to us?” Oliver demanded. “If you’re so much to her, why did she let you lose your phone?”
“I’d wondered that,” Evan admitted. “In my frustration over the loss, I asked her that myself.”
“Yeah? And what was her answer?”
“She wouldn’t tell me.”
“But from the other room, you heard me asking,” said Evan. “And now here we are. I think that may be my answer: A plot device to bring you nearer to believing the truth.” Evan chuckled, and spoke as if to the air, “Clever Author.”