by Pete Milan.

Interview Five


The exterior of the largest chocolate factory in the world. It is looking the worse for wear. There is smoke, but it is not the smoke of a busy manufacturing concern. One set of windows has been shattered and there is a black, smoldering steam oozing out of it. There has been a fire.

Our interviewer stands in front of the gates. He looks a bit lost.

Q: Our first attempt at this final interview has met with some...resistance is, perhaps, not the proper word. We arrived yesterday to speak to the final subject, and...well, the footage will speak for itself.

Cut to: Yesterday. The camera follows the interviewer through the factory's front door. Inside, everything is in disarray. Glass is shattered. Furniture is overturned. And as they pass one hallway, there appears to be a large red stain on the floor. It might be strawberry sauce. It might not.

The interviewer arrives at a door labeled simply CHARLIE. He knocks. As he does, the door swings open slightly.

A: (OFF) Go away.

Q: Mr. Bucket? I'm here about the interview.

The camera briefly takes in two of the tiny men--dark and hairy and wearing deerskins--carrying a stretcher down the hallway. It is a small form covered by a sheet.

There is no reply from within. The door, prodded by the interviewer, swings open to reveal a darkened office. The only light comes from a bank of security monitors. Each of them displays a scene of chaos and fear.

One shows what seems to be a tribal ceremony of some sort. The tiny men are standing in a crowd, each of them holding a primitive weapon, torches burning in the background. There is a tall man, dressed in plum purple, exhorting them to some purpose. There is no sound. The date shows that this tape is a week old.

Another shows a large chamber filled with candy making equipment. It is on fire. The tiny men swarm through the chamber. They seem to have split into two factions and are making war on one another. The carnage is terrible. This footage was taken two days ago.

Still another shows two men locked in a life or death struggle on a catwalk above a vat of chocolate. One of them is the tall man in purple. His face is very, very mad. The other's face cannot be seen, but he is a well-built man of about thirty with a head of thick blond hair. They are going at one another with fervor. This footage is only six hours old.

Q: Mr. Buck--

A: Get out!

The demand is made with such emphasis that the interviewer immediately slams the door. He looks into the camera, not sure what to do. Then he simply walks back the way he came. He passes two tiny women dressed in what appear to be palm leaves. They are weeping copiously.

Cut to: Today. The interviewer has passed the gates and is walking to the front door again. This time, as they approach, the door swings open, and a man--a well-built man of about thirty with a head of thick blond hair--is standing there. He wears a blue suit of an eccentric tailoring. His face is kind. His eyes are sad. There is a recent scar on his forehead.

A: Good morning! I'm Charlie. Welcome to the factory!

Q: Good morning.

They step through the front doors. Many repairs have been made, but the place still looks rough.

A: As you can see, we've had a spot of bother over the past couple of days.

Q: A spot of bother? This place looks as though there's been a war!

A: Well, that's not far off the mark, really. Please, step into my office.

They head down the hallway into the office. The red stain has been inexpertly cleaned. It's more brown now. They enter Charlie's office and take their respective seats.

A: Well...what would you like to know?

Q: What has happened here?

A: Nothing. Just an internal problem. There's been a slight interruption in the manufacture of our Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delights, but nothing to be concerned about.

Q: Nothing to be concerned about? Sir, I saw what was on those monitors. I've spoken with the other children who were with you on that factory tour. At first, I thought they were simply paranoid, but clearly something strange is happening!

A: ...was. Something strange was happening. But it's all dealt with now, and I can assure everyone that our chocolates will continue to be the finest to be had.

Q: Charlie. What happened?

Charlie is silent for a long time. He looks down at his desk.

A: He saved our lives, you know.

Q: You're referring to your predecessor.

A: I am referring to a man who was as much a father to me as the man who raised me. He saved our lives. If I hadn't won that ticket...if I had never come to this place, I never would have made it to my thirteenth year. We were surviving stale bread and toothpaste, for God's sake.

Q: Yes, but surely it was coincidence that led you to win that ticket. Wasn't it? Surely it was simple good fortune. It didn't come about as part of any sort of machinations.

Another long silence.

Q: Where is he? Can he explain this?

A: He is past explanations. He is...he is dead.

Q: I beg your pardon?

A: He died. Very suddenly. A swift illness.

Q: But I saw him on the monitors! He looked as vital as--

A: Sir, I'm not going to argue with you. I will make one statement, and then the subject is closed. Am I understood?

Q: ...very well.

A: Fine. Then...let us say there is a man. A man whose only goal was to make people happy. An inventor. A genius, capable of wonders undreamed of. He invents electrical devices long before they are in general use. He creates medicines which give long life and uses them on himself, so that he can live for decades--centuries--without aging.

Q: He was that old?

A: He read Dickens in the original installments. This man could do anything. But his great love is confectionary. For what is more simple, more direct than candy? What gives greater pleasure? So he becomes a candymaker. And for a while, things are good. But starts to go wrong. His workers become spies for his rivals. He grows paranoid. He shutters his factory and wanders the world in search of something new. And he comes across a tribe of people. He becomes a friend to them, and eventually their leader. Here, he thinks, are people I can trust. People who will do what is right. And so the factory opens again.

Q: And what makes this hypothetical man decide to hold a contest?

A: Loneliness and anger, in equal parts. You see, these people he has found do not restrict themselves to his factory. They go out and see the world, always unnoticed because they are quite small, and report back on what they see. The candymaker is unhappy with what he hears. The bad fluorish and the good fail. Many children are mean brutes and their parents are worse. Also, the candymaker is lonely. He knows that eventually, the medicine which keeps him alive must fail. And so...he conceives of an idea. A contest. But the contest will be decided before anyone enters. He will find a very good child...and four very bad ones. He will punish the bad and reward the good.

Q: My God...they were right. It was a trap.

A: We are speaking hypothetically.

Q: Of course we are.

A: His employees--his tribesmen--are only too happy to go out into the world and find suitable subjects. There are so many of them, you see. So very many. And so, four wicked children are punished...some learn and some do not. And the good child becomes the candymaker's protege. And they have adventures together and the child's family is saved and they live happily ever after. Until...until the candymaker begins to go a bit strange.

Q: In what way?

A: Well, it worked very well, his plan. And as the years go by, he thinks about how easy it was to simply punish those deserving of it. He had inventions enough to deal with thousands, millions of the cruel and the bad. He could do it. And why stop with children? The adults, too. He could cleanse the world of meanness and brutality. He could, too. He was an ingenious inventor. He could have been another Edison, another Einstein. But now he wanted to become a monster of vengeance. The lone arbiter of morality and punishment.

Q: What...drove him in this direction?

A: Any number of things, I suppose. Isolation. Loneliness, again. I think, largely, it had to do with his long life. Perhaps a man was not meant to live so very long.

Q: This hypothetical man...did any of his plans succeed?

A: Not many. There was another man who had an inkling of what the candymaker was about, but he was soon...removed from the field of play. There was a woman who was under surveillance because she was the candymaker's enemy, but she captured the spy and kept him as a pet. She was also taken out of the equation, although not by the candymaker's hand. Again, this is simply hypothetical, but I imagine she is quite enraged at the person responsible for her recent, if brief, incarceration.

The interviewer squirms in his chair a bit.

A: But no. His plans do not succeed. Because the boy...the good boy...has become a man. And maybe that was why he was there, after all. Perhaps the candymaker knew that someday, he might go wrong, and a good man might be needed to stop him. Of course, whether the man was good or not...

He trails off. There is a long silence.

A: There is an argument. The argument leads to a struggle. The struggle leads to an outright civil war, for the tribesmen have become divided. Some are loyal to the candymaker, some to the protege. And a battle takes place. And there are deaths. And there is pain. And at the end of it, the candymaker has finally left this world, leaving destruction in his wake. No one ever learns of the candymaker's deeds, for what good could come of telling the tale? Why let him be a monster when he was a saint for so long?

They lapse into silence again. After a while, the door opens. It is one of the tiny men. He speaks to Charlie in the pops and clicks of his language.

A: Thank you, William.

The tiny man departs.

Q: William?

A: Many of the tribesmen named their children after their revered leader. (He smiles.) I understand some of them have named their children "Charles" as well.

Q: That was...quite a story.

A: Yes. It was. (A bit of animation comes back into him.) But nothing to do with us! We've got a lot of work to do! World of pure imagination here at the factory, you know! But first, we must lay our founder to rest.

Cut to: The chocolate room. The colors are so vivid that they wound the eyes. The camera cannot take it all in. The candyfloss shores of the chocolate river are completely crowded with the tribespeople. Many of them are bandaged. Standing in their midst is Charlie, along with two aged persons who can only be his parents.

Moored at the edge of the river is a boat, made from a gigantic boiled sweet. There is a body laid in the boat. It is dressed in a plum-colored velvet suit, and its face is covered with a top hat. It is in repose, its hands folded on its chest.

A: (whispering) There'll be a proper funeral tomorrow. The President's sending an emissary, I understand. This is mostly for them.

One of the tribesmen steps forward. He is old and venerable with white hair. He stands in front of the boat, facing the others, and gives a long speech in the tribespeople's language.

Q: (whispering) What's he saying?

A: (whispering) He says that this is their leader, the man who saved them from starvation. He says that they must honor him in death as they did in life. He tells them to be proud of him.

The old venerable finishes. He stands over the body and touches the hands. Then, he unmoors the boat and pushes it into the river. The camera follows the boat as it disappears into the tunnel at the end of the river.

A: (whispering) Goodbye.

The camera pushes in close on the boat. Close on the hands. We can see that the hands are not just folded; they're clasping something. It is a jar of pills. We can only make out a few letters--NKAVITE. Just before the boat disappears into the tunnel, it seems that something jars the camera. It must have.

For how else could the hands of the body seem to move?


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