“Explain it to me again,” said the policeman, “Like I’m seven years old.”
They were speaking across a high counter, so the policeman was looking down on Hubert.
“I have been using stories to influence people,” said Hubert, “And I finally made John Endebauer rob the bank. So I am an accessory.”
“What exactly did you give him? The guards’ schedule, the codes, keys to the back door?”
“No, I just gave him the role of the robber. Through the contracts, and the slips, and the letters, and the invoices we have been sending him. You see, I placed a single word which was out of place in each document. I would, for example, write ‘Please find attached once the monthly breakdown.’ Or in another thing ‘the balance of your upon checking account has been resolved,’ and so on. Until I spelled out ‘once upon a time’ and then the rest of the story. It took years and years, but the story lodged itself inside Mr. Endebauer’s brain.”
“Okay,” said the policeman hesitantly, “And how did that make him rob the bank?”
“Well, the story is centered around a prince who is the good guy, but he is also a timid and bland character, like a lot of princes are. The most interesting character is the villain who is a local highwayman. You see, through the trope of badassery, I paint the villain as the one worthy of emulating. People who read the story want to be like him.”
“So you think you caused him to rob the bank, huh?” mused the policeman, “Well, it’s a little hard to believe, but let’s say it’s the truth. Why turn yourself in?”
“I’ve been telling this story to many, many people over the years,” said Hubert, “But I was also telling another one. In the other one, the author becomes one of the characters when he turns out to be causing all the pain and suffering in the world. In this version of the story, the badass brigand rises up and kills the author. I think Edna Shaw who’s been reading this story will come after me soon. I need your protection. I need to be in prison before she can reach me.”
“Yeah?” the policeman smiled ironically, “And what happens in the story when the author gets whacked?” Hubert seemed really small down below, scrawny and weak, large glasses, messy hair, clothes too big. He looked like the incarnation of lack of power.
“The whole universe ceases to exist.”