When you become your greatest fear: A Kyrennei Series character interview

Readers of The Kyrennei Series love to ask questions about the premise, especially about how the Addin really works on the inside. There will be more on that coming in Book 5 of the series this fall, but for now here is a character interview that will answer some of the questions you have wondered about and add a little more spice to the summer.

If you haven't yet started on the series, this interview doesn't contain any major spoilers, although you'll have to roll with a few unfamiliar terms. Reading this first may also have unexpected consequences in your experience of the story when you do read it.  That could be a good thing, although I'm not sure what the results would be. 

With no further ado and by popular demand, the character who has been drafted by readers to be interviewed on these pages is...

Atreyu O’Keefe

Q: We'll leave aside how and why you're here talking to me for the moment because that is confidential. We'll start with the basics. Where are you from? Where were you born? And all that.

Illustrative photo - Creative Commons image by Palmira Van

Illustrative photo - Creative Commons image by Palmira Van

I’m from La Grande, Oregon. I was born there. My mom was too. My dad was from Portland. They built our house out on Hunter Road.

Q: You were friends with Aranka Miko as a kid, weren’t you? What was that like?

We were friends for a few years, since we were seven or eight until we were twelve. It was great at the time. There weren’t any other girls my age who lived close enough to visit. We were active, outside most of the time. We played dress-up like a lot of girls, but we’d dress up in wild outfits and then we’d go ride our bikes down the gravel roads and get the gauze of our princess dresses tangled in our chains. 

Q: Was there anything out of the ordinary about her then? Would you have believed that she would play such a crucial role in the world?

No, no, of course not.

I mean she wasn't average or anything. She was kind of wild adventurous for a kid. She talked me into hiking to the top of Mount Emily to camp out by ourselves. My parents freaked out. She was never going to fit in with the mainstream, but neither would I, except for... well, all that. But still I never would have thought anyone from our little backwoods corner was going to do something like that.  

Q: Did your parents approve of your friendship with Aranka?

My parents were always a bit nervous. But when my mom mentioned that I wasn’t best friends with any Meikan kids, I remember my dad said, “Lin, let her be. She’ll have to accept hard reality soon enough. Let her be a child for a while.” 

My dad liked Aranka’s dad too. That was probably part of it. So, they didn’t have anything against us playing, but they believed she was uninvolved and that I would have to grow out of that friendship someday.

Q: What was it like growing up Meikan in La Grande? 

It was okay mostly. I have to say. Even though some things were hard. We had our community. People stuck up for each other. A bunch of guys helped my dad build our house. If someone was sick, you always had people to help out. It was like having a big family. 

We were under pressure from the Addin but only as much as we could bear. It was more that you knew what your limits were. Uninvolveds talk about how “any kid can be president” and all that. We knew that wasn’t true. We knew we couldn’t even be mayor. 

But we also knew that we could live a reasonably good life if we just kept our heads down. At least that’s what I thought as a kid.

Q: But then you were taken.


Q: Why? If you obeyed the treaty, why were you taken? 

Accidents happen. I was always told it was because they didn’t know I was Meikan. That might have been true.

Q: And afterward they couldn’t undo it?

No! No, there is no way they can undo that. And they wouldn't even if they could.

Q: Can you tell us what happened exactly? How you were taken?

A family moved in nearby who had two girls a bit older than me. I guess they were fourteen and fifteen. My mom always made one little effort to welcome new neighbors, even though she was nervous about uninvolveds. She brought them cookies and some spring greens from our garden.

Aranka wasn’t home that day. I think they went on a canoe trip. So, I went with Mom to see who the newcomers were. The girls weren’t very nice at first. Their names were Britney and Chelsea. I tried to act like I was their age to try to get them to accept me a little, but I don’t think they believed me. I didn’t think about the fact that someone like that might be Addin. I was twelve. It just didn’t occur to me. 

When I ran into them later, I kept trying to say hi to them, even though they didn’t say hi back. Once the younger one, Britney, commented on my clothes, laughing and saying she had the same skirt a few years ago, so I must have gotten it at the second-hand store. We weren’t dirt poor or anything and I’m pretty sure that we bought that skirt new, but we did sometimes buy clothes second-hand. My mom thought buying second-hand was socially and environmentally responsible. Or something like that.

Anyway, I figured those girls weren’t going to have anything to do with me. Then one day a week or two before summer break they came up to me in the public library while I was checking out books and waiting for my dad to give me a ride home. All of the sudden, they were acting really nice. There were two other girls with them. One of them was Rose Sinclare who was an eighth grader and already a social queen. She smiled at me and said I was cute. I couldn’t help feeling good when someone so popular said something nice to me. 

They said they wanted to show me something and we went back to the teen section. That’s a room at the back of the library that’s all glassed in and has lots of posters up. There are some couches for kids to hang out on. Those girls had smart phones and this was before it was standard for everyone to have smart phones. They started showing me pictures... 

Q: That's it? That's all that happened? They just accepted you and you went willingly because you didn't know they were Addin? 

No... It wasn't just that. When it happened I felt kind of dizzy. Like if you spun around in circles dancing really fast. I held onto the couch really hard and I must have looked a little weird. Then the girls were all laughing and patting me on the back. 

“See. No big deal,” Rose told them and then asked me, “How do you feel, Atreyu?” 

I didn’t know why I should feel anything, but I did feel a little different. I really wanted to be Rose’s friend and I wanted her to like me and like what I did and what I wore. I think that was the first thing. The rest of it sank in more gradually over the next few weeks. At first, they didn’t tell me anything about special Addin stuff. 

Q: But that still doesn't sound like a big deal. Was there ever a moment when you were shocked to realize you'd been taken?

I started to wonder and the idea didn't bother me. Then I wondered why I'd been afraid of the Addin.

It wasn't a single moment. It took a little while to really understand it. That's probably because I was so young. I wasn't shocked. I thought it was funny. I was a bit nervous about how my parents would react. Very briefly, but I knew they couldn't do anything to me. That made me kind of giddy, knowing that my parents were weak and brainwashed and I didn't have to do what they said every again. 

Q: How did your parents react?

My dad showed up at the library to pick me up and Rose and the others said goodbye just like they were my friends. Rose said something like, “Have fun and don’t get into too much trouble at home.” 

My dad got on my case when I got in the truck, saying I was being sullen and turning into a teenager. Then he started giving me a lecture about how you always have to use the sign, even if you’re pissed off or whatever.

I’d just picked up the sign a few weeks earlier and I still wasn't entirely sure what had happened. But I couldn’t remember it. I couldn’t even remember what it was. I still don’t. I know it was something I could do for those few weeks, but it was just gone.

I did get sullen then and I wouldn’t answer my dad. It took a few days before I told my parents straight out that I didn’t remember it. First I told them maybe I wasn’t really old enough. They talked to some of the Meikan elders. At first they hoped maybe it was a fluke, like I’d regressed or something.

They took me to see Annie Reese. I only knew where we were going when we pulled into her driveway and my dad got out of the pickup and ran in to talk to her. When they came back out Annie was really upset. And by that time Rose and the others had made the situation clear to me, so in the end I told them.

I got out of the truck and said, "Yeah, you idiots. I finally woke up and realized how stupid you are. Now you have to leave me alone. It's the law." 

My mom started sobbing and some guy across the street was staring at us. I felt embarrassed to be around them at all, so I walked away and went to one of my new friends' houses in town. I had to go home eventually, but it was different then. They couldn't boss me around.

Q: Do you really think the Addin didn’t know you were Meikan?

Britney and Chelsea acted all shocked that I had been Meikan. I’m not sure. I think maybe some of them knew. It’s hard to say. Why else would they have been interested in such a young kid? It’s possible Rose knew and the others didn’t. The way she acted was different. She could have been told by adults to practice on me.

Q: So then the Meikans shunned you?

Annie Reese let everyone know about it and immediately no Meikans would even look at me. At first, I didn’t really care that I was shunned. I had new friends. And it was good that the uncool people who I knew around town didn’t try to bug me or say hello to me. If they had, it would have been really awkward with my knew friends.

I saw that most of the Meikans shunned my family too. At home my family acted stiff around me. I could see that my dad was really angry when he looked at me, but he didn't raise a hand against me. My mom cried a lot. I thought she was just silly and hysterical. I had no idea how much it hurt her that I was taken. Then my dad and my brother moved away. My mom was pretty much alone because a lot of Meikans were too afraid to have anything to do with her, even though she still had the sign. They were afraid of me. I could see it in their faces and their hatred too.

Q It’s odd. It doesn’t sound that terrible to be taken. It almost sounds like your family and other Meikans overreacted.

It wasn’t a terrible thing for me. I've said that plenty of times. And I did think they overreacted. That’s how it was for me. I’m sure they saw it differently. They saw me change. I went from being a kid who was interested in the community, a kid who had dreams and goals for my own life and a kid who was really into saving forests and protesting clear-cutting to a kid who was  passionate about the popular crowd and having all name-brand clothes and perfect make-up.

There's a cost. You lose yourself, but you don't grasp that, so it doesn't actually hurt while it's happening to you.

 I didn’t care about our community anymore. I really thought they were delusional and I thought the Addin was much more practical and reasonable. The Addin knew how to run things. They had a hierarchy that made sense, based on how talented you were as well as good looks. 

When you’re in the Addin you want the Addin to be in control. It’s the most obvious thing in the world. You know that people are better off with the Addin in charge, even the people who don’t know about it. And all you want for yourself is to be accepted in the Addin. 

I could sit down and have dinner with my parents and not have any real problem unless they brought it up. I knew they had weird ideas that would screw things up, if they ever got their way.  But once I was brought into the Addin I had older mentors who explained to me why I had to let my parents be the way they were. They weren’t important and as long as they didn’t stir up any trouble it was best just to leave them alone.

Q: But you didn’t just let Meikans be. You gave the Addin names of Meikans in La Grande.

A few months after I was taken I was asked to come and talk to some people, including the mayor. That was a pretty big deal for me. One of the Addin teachers let me out of class to go, so my parents didn’t have any idea about it. 

The mayor's people told me again how I had to accept that my family and other people I knew wouldn’t understand. They seemed disappointed that I had been shunned by Meikans so soon. That is another reason I suspect that my being taken wasn’t entirely an accident. But it could have been. It doesn’t really matter. The Addin never really took the treaty seriously. What they took seriously was the need to keep Meikans docile and quiet.

Anyway they started asking me who was Meikan. They already knew about some people, but not about most of them. I didn’t know everyone’s last name at that age, but I could name off which kids were Meikan from all over town and they could then figure out who the families were. At the time I didn’t think about why. They wanted to know and I was so happy to be important enough to help them that I was all glowing and elated inside. Maybe I was just an immature kid or maybe its a specific Addin thing. I don’t know, but it never occurred to me at the time that I was betraying anyone or what the consequences might be. 

Q: But Aranka wasn’t Meikan. Why did you stop being friends with her as well?

She wasn’t cool. She was nowhere near the popular crowd. After I was taken, all I cared about was being accepted by the popular Addin kids and doing what they wanted. Mostly I just couldn’t be bothered with Aranka. She was insignificant. 

When she kept following me around and talking to me, Britney told me that I had to get rid of her for good. She let me know that having a nobody like that act like your friend was really bad juju. It would hurt my chances in the social scene. So, I told her to get lost. I told Aranka I was just pretending to be her friend. 

Q Why was Aranka not cool?

I don’t know… No specific reason really. She dressed very practically and she didn’t seem to care about what was in style. But it wasn’t even mostly about appearance. The social crowd can always find something about you to pick on, but they mainly do it because of who you are inside anyway. 

She wasn’t as quiet as a low-status person should be. She’d go ahead and talk, even when you were supposed to listen to the cooler people and work your way up to being worthy enough to talk. When the top girls decided someone needed to be punished, she didn’t seem to notice. She’d still laugh at that person’s jokes and talk to them. 

I guess most of all, she just didn’t play the game. She knew it was there, but maybe she didn’t know it was mandatory to play it. Or maybe she couldn’t play it the same way. Kyrennei are still Kyrennei even before they’re changed. Maybe there is something about them that is never going to fit in.

Q: Do you feel hope for the world, given how powerful the Addin is?

I do now. I can't really say more about it, because like you said it's confidential. But there is hope. For me, it's about compassion. That and I still believe people have good souls.