Rick Hartman took one final puff on his electric cigarette before pocketing it as a skinny girl in a headset ushered him into the hotel room. He reached instinctively for a stick of gum, remembered that was no longer necessary, then decided to have one anyway – it would calm his nerves.
“Don’t fuck this up,” his editor had cheerily told him this morning. “Did you know how hard it was to get a whole half hour with Saint Pris?”
Not that hard, it would appear, otherwise they’d be sending golden boy David Everett instead of Rick, who had gained the unfortunate reputation around the office of being more than a little washed up. Still, interviewing the hottest musical act of the New Year might just be enough to get him back in everyone’s good books.
Rick allowed himself to be led into the centre of the lounge of the hotel suite, where two winged armchairs had been positioned to face each other. Rick took a seat in the armchair on the left, and waited. After a couple of minutes, when the gum had lost all flavour, his nerves returned. Saint Pris may have only been on the public’s radar for five minutes, but it still felt like he was anticipating an audience with royalty.
Almost quarter of an hour into his allotted time, Saint Pris finally appeared, surrounded by a small mob of makeup artists and bodyguards. She waved the entourage away as she sat down, and they vanished into an adjoining room. She looked smaller, frailer, than her photos suggested. Her pale, angular face was almost entirely masked by a massive pair of mirrored sunglasses that gave Rick the impression of looking at an insect.
Every pop star had to invent a persona these days. Saint Pris took hers more seriously than most, though. She claimed to be an extra-terrestrial princess from a distant world, and had yet to be spotted out of character. Rick found it mildly offensive that the girl’s management hadn’t bothered to put the slightest effort into their science fiction research when brainstorming a name; everybody knew Pris was the femme fatale from Blade Runner. A cyborg, incidentally – not an alien.
“Good afternoon,” Rick said, pressing the record button on his antiquated Dictaphone. “Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.”
“You are welcome,” replied the girl behind the sunglasses, “it is lovely to meet you.” Her voice, expressionless as it was, could almost be that of a robot. Pris by name, Rick thought, Pris by nature.
“This is shaping up to be your year,” Rick continued. “A number one single, the cover of Rolling Stone, and you’re set to support Madonna on her next tour…”
“Cher,” Saint Pris corrected him.
“Of course. Cher. Anyway; very little is known about Saint Pris outside of press releases and music videos. What can you tell me about your background?”
“Saint Pris is an Archalian.”
“I see,” Rick smiled, humouring her. “But what about the woman behind Saint Pris? When did you first fall in love with music, for example? Where was your first gig?”
“Saint Pris comes from the 9th dimension,” she intoned. Another affectation, it seemed, on top of the glasses, was referring to herself in the third person.
“The 9th dimension?”
“Where stars freeze and water burns.”
“Saint Pris, though, it’s a moniker – an alias.”
“Correct. Saint Pris is a chosen name.”
Saint Pris did not respond, and Rick realised he was going to have to spell out the question.
“What is your real name?”
“Saint Pris is an Archalian. To utter the true name of an Archalian in this world is to tear down the very walls of reality itself.”
Rick leant in conspiratorially.
“Come on,” he implored. “Just between us. What’s your real name?”
“You must desist, immediately. Or you will face an unimaginable fate.”
Rick snorted. You could say what you liked about Saint Pris (and the bloggers certainly did), but he’d be damned if she weren’t committed to her art.
“Okay, okay,” he laughed, holding up his hands as if in surrender. But he had no desire to surrender. None at all. Nothing stays hidden, he thought. Even a bloody so-called Archalian has to have a birth certificate.
Saint Pris tensed, as if she had overheard his internal monologue somehow, telepathically stumbling across his intention to uncover her true identity.
“To speak the true name aloud is to condemn the entire cosmos,” she breathed. “This cannot be permitted.” And then, without another word, she removed her sunglasses.
The stare of Saint Pris was unlike anything Rick had ever experienced. At first he thought that his life was flashing before his eyes, but he knew that couldn’t be it, as the images being transmitted into his mind directly from Saint Pris’s eyes were much grander and far-reaching; wars, tsunamis, the moon landing, the hanging gardens of Babylon… The life of the world was flashing before his eyes. And Rick knew that he was done for.
The floor beneath them began to tremble, and a sinking sensation began to seep into Rick’s feet. He looked down, and the carpet itself had started to dissolve, pulling Rick down like quicksand.
“What’s happening?” He yelped, gripping the arms of his chair. “Help!”
Saint Pris simply looked at him with her saucer-like eyes, and shook her head.
“Please!” Rick begged, his knees vanishing into the quagmire. As the armchair started to subside with him, he let out a terrified scream: “Save me!”
“Give my regards to the 9th dimension,” Saint Pris whispered into the void, referring to herself for once in the first person. “And good luck, Mr Hartman. Good luck.”
But there was no reply from Rick Hartman. The vortex swallowed him and the armchair whole, and seconds later there was no trace of him left in the hotel suite except for a battered Dictaphone on the carpet.
Saint Pris sighed, put her sunglasses back on, and carefully retrieved the tape recorder from the floor. She pressed rewind, and listened to the brief interview all the way through, from its delayed beginning to its abrupt end.
“Is that what I really sound like?” She pondered aloud, replaying it again, and again. Finally, she removed the tape from the Dictaphone and crushed it beneath her right high heel. There would be no more interviews today.
This little piece of nonsense was inspired by (and is therefore dedicated to) David Bowie, Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey, among others.