In an almost effortless way, the day had become night and I was left alone in a sprawling but comfortable position on my bed surrounded by stray Cheetos and Ritz cracker crumbs. The picture might have been one of apathy for some, maybe depression for others, but for me, I was hard at work. I found my subconscious worked best when it was stimulated in the ways of laziness. The more I laid around and stuffed myself with tasty packages of saturated fat, the more likely I was going to come up with the solution to my problem. Any minute now it will come to me. Surely the Cheeto dust will invade my nostrils and jumpstart my brain just enough to spur it into a creative frenzy. I felt myself begin the descent into sleepiness. I invited the feeling because everybody knows creativity thrives on exhaustion. The Cheeto cloud around my room made me feel dizzy with its salty breaths. My brain transferred from lounge to sleep, and I drifted off into a new world.
“What do you think you’re doing Emmett?” An old lady screeched at me. I staggered back and quickly glanced around to gather my surroundings. I was in an old office room. “Always wasting your time like this!” She added shaking her head.
“What?” I gasped while studying the old woman in front of me. She had long grey braided hair and thin beady eyes. She was short but wide and gave the impression that she would be impossible to topple over. She was wearing a bright blouse with flowers on it. Her hands were tense with frustration and clenched in her left hand was a rolled-up newspaper. She looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place her.
“You should be working.” She growled.
“I was just working until you showed up,” I said pointing at her.
“You were not working.” The old lady put sternly.
“Yes, I was.”
“How much did you write?” She asked. I twisted my face in confusion.
“How did you know that I wrote-.”
“None!” The old lady screeched as she smacked me with the rolled-up newspaper.
“Ow!” I yelled as I threw my hands up to cover my stomach.
“You wrote nothing just like you’ve written nothing all year!” The lady said as she hit me again with the newspaper.
“Hey stop it!”
“You deserve it!” The lady spat swinging the newspaper again.
“Who do you think you are?” I asked the old lady angrily.
“Shocker that you don’t know.” The old lady scoffed. “I’m Mrs. Plilybottom”
“Mrs. Plilybo- How could that be possible, you’re not real?” I asked in surprise.
“Because you’re dreaming you twit.” My mouth gawked open as my mind danced back to my position on my bed coated in Ritz and Cheetos. I must have fallen asleep. I glanced around the room again. It was all starting to come back to me. The gem-studded book on the shiny cherry wood desk. The leaning bookshelf on the far wall. The tall, pointed ceiling. The framed photograph of Mr. Plilybottom. I was in my own story.
“Oh my god! it’s really you.” I finally gasped.
“Yes of course it's me.”
“Incredible,” I said eyeing her up again. She was just how I had imagined her.
“NO, NOT INCREDIBLE!” Mrs. Plilybottom screamed as she hit me with the newspaper again.
“Because I have been in this room for a year because you can’t get off your lazy bum and write another chapter.”
“Hey, I’m working on it,” I said back. Mrs. Plilybottom smacked me again.
“No, you aren’t!”
“I just need to figure some things out first.”
“You need to write first.”
“You don’t know me!” I yelled. Mrs. Plilybottom swung the newspaper and begin to hit me over and over again. I tried to block the blows, but they were too fast. I made her too strong. I thought. My anger grew with each smack until I burst out with a shout.
“Fine! I’ll write okay, I’ll write.” Mrs. Plilybottom stopped her smacking, took a step back, and stared at me satisfied. “In fact, I’ll write right now,” I said as I stomped over to the cherry wood desk. I threw open the gemstone book, grabbed a pen from the golden holder, and wrote a sentence.
A giant purple cube burst forth from the red book that was laying upon Mrs. Plilybottom’s desk. The cube flew through the air and landed on Mrs. Plilybottom with a thud. It swallowed her up inside like a stapler in Jell-o. She was frozen, suspended in the purple cube, unable to speak or move.
“There, I wrote,” I said with my arms on my hips, and a stupid grin plastered on my face. Mrs. Plilybottom didn’t respond, she merely sat frozen in the purple cube that now stood in the middle of the room. I fell into the desk chair and let out a big sigh. What does she know about writing? I thought bitterly to myself. I thought back to the story I had started about a year ago. I had made it through the first three chapters. I introduced Mrs. Plilybottom and her magical book and her stepdaughter Lucy. My plan was for Lucy to go on a magical adventure through the book and discover all of her stepmother’s secrets. Of course, I haven’t written any of the magical adventure parts yet. It’s been a little hiccup I’ve had to deal with. It’s led to lots of late nights, screaming, hair pulling, computer slamming and deleting and rewriting and deleting and rewriting and on and on and on. But it will come to me, eventually, I’m sure of it. Although, where is that little girl? If this is really my book, she should be here somewhere. Suddenly I heard the clacking of footsteps down the hall outside the office door. They got louder and louder until the door swung open and Lucy stepped in her face wide with excitement. She looked just the way I had described her. She had red hair in two pigtails, tied with red bows. She was wearing a turquoise dress that had little ripples on the edges and two black saddle shoes on her feet.
“What was that awful sound?” She announced as her eyes fell on the giant cube in the middle of the room. “Oh! I love it!” She squealed gawking at the cube. “What do I do next?” She asked turning to me.
“Huh?” I asked in surprise.
“When I see the cube, what do I do?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re the writer.” Lucy put as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “So, what do I do when I see the cube?”
“Oh, I see, well this cube isn’t a part of the actual story.”
“Why not?” She said her face sinking.
“Because it’s ridiculous”
“Well, it has to make sense.”
“No, it doesn’t”
“Yes, it does.”
“Well, I like it,” Lucy said crossing her arms stubbornly. “It’s better than nothing, which is what I have right now”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Really? What do I mean by that? How much have you written this year?” Lucy said with a piercing look. I was taken aback by the question.
“Three chapters,” I mumbled.
“Three chapters in a year?” she said with a frustrated look.
“Well, yes,” I said flatly.
“That’s a long way away from a finished novel don’t you think.”
“Okay, maybe I’m struggling a bit,” I admitted.
“I don’t know”
“Well, there has to be a reason,” Lucy said. I paused. The reason? I felt hopeless answering the question. I was being lectured by my own character about my inability to write. Her voice echoed in my mind ‘Only three chapters, in a whole year’. I started to feel like I was broken. I tried to say something, but I found my mind blank. Lucy sensed my hesitancy and bounced on her heels before speaking.
“I mean you’re obviously a great writer Emmett, I mean you wrote me, and I think I’m pretty good.”
“That’s true, but a novel is much more than just one character.” I sighed to the floor.
“And Mrs. Plilybottom” Lucy said gesturing to the cube.
“Well, I kind of… just killed Mrs. Plilybottom.”
“Maybe she survived.”
“Well I suppose yeah I could do that-“
“And you wrote about Pickles my cat,” Lucy said with a huge grin.
“Oh yeah, I forgot about Pickles.”
“Do you remember why he’s called Pickles?” She said bouncing on her heels again.
“Yeah, it’s because when he was just a kitten, he got a little too curious and fell into a pickle jar,” I said with a small grin. Lucy let out a chuckle.
“See that’s so funny.” She said her face beaming.
“It's just a little thing,” I said glancing up at Lucy.
“Novels are just bunches of little things.”
“Well yes, but there’s more to it than that, I mean-“
“See this is why!” Lucy squeaked.
“Why what?” I said with a tight shrug.
“Why you haven’t written. It’s because you’re overthinking it.”
“Well yes, but novels require a lot of thinking.”
“Oh heavens,” Lucy said as she stomped to the giant middle cube in the middle of the room. “Do you see this cube?”
“Well yeah, it’s kind of hard to miss.”
“This cube,” Lucy said kicking the cube that fell on Mrs. Plilybottom. “Is a writer’s block”
“Well, that’s stupid.”
“Why?” Lucy asked.
“Because it doesn’t make sense-“
“It doesn’t have to”
“Yes, it does, everything has to make sense, or else it will be bad,” I muttered in frustration.
“Worry about that later, right now-” Lucy said walking over to the desk and grabbing the pen. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to make sense, just write.”
“but I need-“
“Shhh, write.” She said pointing at the paper. I stared at the sentence where Mrs. Plilybottom was crushed by the cube. I glanced up at Lucy, she nodded, I grabbed the pen and glanced back down at the paper. I took a deep breath. ‘It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to make sense, just write.' My hand dropped to the table, and I began to write.
Lucy stared wide-eyed at the cube that stood in the middle of the room.
“Mama, mama! What happened.” Lucy screamed at the shape of her mother floating inside the cube. Her mother gave no response. Lucy ran up to the cube and pounded her fists onto the outside wall. “Mama, mama what do I do?” She begged as she continued pounding the cube. Hit after hit Lucy saw that her mom jiggled slightly in the strange gelatin material. She kept slamming the cube and jiggling her mother until the movement managed to carve out a small space around her mother’s body. Her mother took a big gasp of air and strained her head against the gelatin to get a glance at her daughter.
“Lucy! Oh, Lucy, something horrible has happened!” Mrs. Plilybottom called out to Lucy from inside the cube.
“What happened?” Lucy cried as she pressed her hands upon the hard outside of the cube.
“I’m stuck in here! Oh, Lucy, I don’t know how much time I have left.”
“MAMA!” Lucy screamed.
“Lucy, I need you to listen to me, listen very carefully. The book on my desk. The one with the gemstones. No matter what happens. Don’t open the book.
“What is going on!”
“Lucy! Oh, my darling Lucy. Promise me you won't open the book.” Mrs. Plilybottom said suspended in the gelatin.
“Mama I don't understand!” Lucy screamed. The cube began to lift itself in the air and hover back in the direction of the book.
“Don’t make the mistake I did Lucy, don’t open the book. I'll find a way out myself. I promise.” Mrs. Plilybottom shouted as she was sucked into the red book and closed in with a snap.
I glanced back up at Lucy. Her character's face was stricken with grief. I could see her conflict. I could see the day when she gave in and opened the book against her mother's wishes. I could see the adventure ahead of her. Maybe it didn’t make perfect sense, no, it didn’t make perfect sense yet. My face split into a wide grin towards Lucy. I ran around the desk and gave the sad little girl a huge hug. I whispered into her ear.
“I promise ill write you a great story, Lucy. One where you meet lots of amazing people and go on an incredible journey, and yes, I promise you’ll get your mom back.” The grieving girl stood still and let me hug her. She was waiting, waiting for me to wake up and finish my story, and this year, self-doubt be damned, I was going to do it.