Introductory Note: this would be, to say the least, a difficult interview to arrange. "Levi Thomas" was the name that would have belonged to Mara Cadell's fraternal twin, had he survived to be born. He died shortly before that point. Mara, emotionally traumatized by that loss, coped by keeping Levi alive in her mind as a companion. (The traumatic nature of her loss is based on reports from many twin survivors.)
Q: Let's start with the obvious. Are you real? Or a creation of Mara's imagination?
A: Wouldn't you like to know?
I could tell you to ask Mara -- not that she's in a particularly good position to answer that question -- but of course, she doesn't like to talk about me. She'd be quite perturbed that you even know of my existence (if that's what we call it for purposes of discussion).
Q: How is it that you two function? Does she just hear you, like a voice, or is there something more? Emotions, sensations?
A: Let me check my notes. Or rather, Mara's therapist's notes. Yes, here's what she told him. "We talk. It’s more immediate than, say, hearing music in your head — but it’s not like someone’s in the room.”
Q: Do you ever have control over Mara, in any way? Like an alternate personality taking over a body.
A: I don't possess her. I'm not a dybbuk. I may influence her behavior on occasion -- by distracting her, or making her laugh when she shouldn't, that sort of thing. And I try to talk her into doing what I recommend in various situations. I have a surprisingly good record there.
Q: Do you play any part in Mara's artwork -- her drawing and cartooning?
A: Not directly. I don't think I would have been that visual. I'm more about the words. We often talk about her drawings. Sometimes I lack the context to understand them, and she explains. And her cartoons show a sense of humor that she doesn't normally indulge. That side of her, that hidden mischief, is where she and I are most alike.
Q: To what extent do you see yourself as separate from Mara? And a related question: do you form your own attachments to people, ideas, or things?
A: Shall I say, we're inseparable? . . . There have been cases of conjoined twins where surgical separation would have killed one of the two. Sometimes that has been necessary, so that at least one could survive. If it's ever necessary for Mara's sake that I cease to be part of her life, that'll be all she wrote, as far as my existence goes. Or so I assume. It's a strange universe, and I'm hardly an authority on what surprises it may have in store.
I do have opinions. I may trust some people less than Mara does, and let her know it. I doubt I've ever trusted anyone more than she does. I'm the suspicious type.
Q: Is Mara better or worse off for your presence, do you think? What do you think would happen if people found out about you at the Twin-bred project?
Let's take those questions one at a time.
Mara would be better off if I had lived. And it's possible she'd be better off if I had never existed. I'm not sure "better to have loved and lost" applies in these circumstances, if it ever does. . . . But there we were, twins. There's no getting around that starting point. And she's tenacious, in love as in other things. It wasn't in her nature to simply move on. All things considered, I think she's better off isolated and secretive than seriously depressed. And of course, I'm good company.
But it's quite important, I believe, that I remain a secret. If people found out about our little ménage a deux, it would very likely endanger the Project, and might end Mara's career.
You must understand, Mara is not the easiest person to get along with. She's prickly and doesn't suffer fools gladly. And she has a very low tolerance for organizational politics. All of which means that only her exceptional scientific ability induces people to put up with her. There are many who would like to be shut of her if they had a good enough excuse. Delusions of twin-hood? Good enough.
Q: How do you feel your presence affects Mara with her work at the project, dealing with twins all the time?
A: I exist because she needs me to help her cope with life in general. Without my presence, or shall we say my availability -- I'm not muttering in her ear nonstop -- I doubt she could handle being around twins day in and day out.
I should add that despite the pain involved, there are ways it's been healing for Mara, being surrounded by Twin-Bred. All around her, she sees humans and Tofa, most of whom would never have had a twin if not for her. You could say that she's ensured I didn't die in vain. Though I doubt she's thought if it in those terms.