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Fantasy Fiction

At 5 am she rose from her sleep like a rocket breaking the atmosphere into consciousness. As tradition dictated, she looked at the clock, told herself ‘Five more minutes’ and then got up anyway. She knew all too well that once she left the realm of sleep, she could not return until the experiences of the day bought her passage for another journey into unknown lands.

               She had things to do, she reminded herself as she switched on the coffee pot, washed the dishes from the night before and made herself sit down at the old worn desk in the corner of her apartment. She opened the laptop and sat before a blank screen watching the little cursor as it lit up, disappeared, lit up then disappeared. She looked down at the keyboard, all the little keys just waiting to be played like a piano, but nothing came.

No story began to take shape in her mind as she looked at the blankness of her screen, white, empty, intimidating. She sat for 20 minutes, then she got up, poured a cup of coffee, and popped some bread into the toaster. Food would help her think she decided but she knew deep down she was only trying to distract herself. Fear quivered in her belly. This was the third day that no story came to her. Inside a claw was squeezing that part of her that trusted the well not to run dry. Every day that passed without inspiration made that claw tighten more and she was secretly terrified that it might just squeeze that part to death.

She had told her editor that she was taking a little vacation, taking some time to live a little, add some flavour to her work, and find a new secret ingredient to make the stories even better. In truth she was waiting, breath held with anticipation for whatever it was that had sustained her to come back. She felt abandoned, left behind and wondered how long it would take the world to realize that this was it for her. She was dried up, worn thin, and no longer capable of her craft. She remembered her grandfather’s hands. Once so strong and capable, mangled by arthritis in the end, unable to do what they had been made for. How she had cried over those hands.

She had been writing since she was a little girl, back before pressure and talent made her work wanted and needed by the public. No matter how much she gave them, they always wanted more. Some of them were so demanding that she thought they might crawl right into her brain if they had the chance. Take up residents like the insects in “James and the Giant Peach” eating away at the pink matter to gain some of her essence, feel some of that glory. Only she did not feel any glory, not really. What she felt was something akin to tap dancing on a cliff edge, exciting, yes, but terrifying. At any moment she would slip on a stone, or step onto weak ground, the earth would give way and she would be sent howling down into the darkness and murky waters of mediocrity and boredom.

She wondered sometimes what it would be like to live a normal life. To get up and go to a job that she tolerated to earn a paycheck that only just covered her expenses. She had known such people, she had even written stories about them, but the idea that she would have no other choice but to live that way, shook her to the bone.

The truth was, she really had no other skills. From time to time, she would peruse the newspapers, secure in the knowledge that she had written her piece for the day, and this was not in any way a pressure, only a journey, an expedition into what she considered the real world. She would look at the want ads and imagine applying for the jobs available. Server wanted, caregiver, receptionist, fry cook, all wanted. None of which she was qualified for. All she could do was write, even though it felt more like she was channeling the stories then writing them.

When the lights were on and she stood at that podium reading back the words that really, wrote themselves for her, she would feel that warmth spread through her. A kind of joy that came from knowing her words meant something to someone. In fact, it meant something to a lot of people, but the feeling never lasted long. Beneath it she could feel a tiny undercurrent of guilt, for this was a gift from the universe and not a result of her own hard work. She was a mouthpiece not a genius and somehow, she had managed to fool the world into thinking it was her talent. It was not the act of writing that made her feel this way, but the act of taking credit for that writing.

She knew that as soon as she was done reading the inevitable questions would begin, and her most hated, most cringed upon question “what’s next?” would be asked. Usually by some innocent youth who hungered for her stories the way some hungered for bread or water. What they didn’t seem to understand was that the stories weren’t really hers at all. She did not sit for hours laying out story points, or character traits, she did not think long and hard about twists or plots or meaningful conflicts. Instead, she would simply sit down, put her hands to the keys and begin to type. Marveling at the words that appeared before her, as interested, and mystified as her biggest fans, as words that fit beautifully, poetically together grew into intricate patterns on their own.

After the typing frenzy, she would read what she had written, with a tweak here, and a correction there, the story would be complete, and she could rest knowing she had done what the universe had wanted of her, fulfilled her purpose, justified her existence for another day. A feeling of deep satisfaction as good as the best designer drugs on the market, but like any drug, be it man made or natural, when it left her, the withdrawal was a nightmare.

Sighing, she plucked up the magic 8 ball that rested in an old egg cup she had inherited from her grandfather. She smiled as she looked at it. Grampa’s eggy cup she used to call it when she was little, now it was all she had left of him, other than a few photos, scattered around the house with the others of her family.

She shook the ball, without asking the question that sat so heavily on her mind she dared not utter the words out loud. Terrified of the answer, she held her eyes closed for a long time before curiosity got the best of her and she finally looked down.

“It is certain.”

Relief flooded through her, and she smiled. She put the ball back onto its precious stand and stood to stretch. She buttered her toast and refilled her cup with what her editor liked to call ‘the nectar of the gods’. An idea suddenly struck her, like lightning it flashed through her mind and her fingers began to itch. They way they did when it was about to be a really good one. She rushed to sit at her desk, a broad smile lighting up her features. Maybe it wasn’t the end just yet, she thought as she put her fingers to the keys and began to type, a story pouring out of her like hot dark liquid from a coffee pot. 

June 27, 2021 14:44

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