She could be breathing down my neck, claws dug into my shoulder, a threat close to my heart, ready to rip through. But I wouldn’t stop now.
The glow from my computer screen was the only light in my room, since I’d summoned and welcomed the darkness around me, happy to hide in it as I shamefully wrote and wrote, my nerves tingling with glee as I neared the end.
I clicked and clucked and clattered away, fingers angrily pounding every letter they could find, every word they could remember. They didn’t like when I wrote. They said it didn’t matter if I wrote down every word in the world, writing was for people who couldn’t live their own lives, make their own stories. And by defying them, I’d done just that.
The final word blinked onto the screen, the sound of my finger leaving the button pushing an echo into the room. It was done. At first, it was exhilirating. I knew I’d still have to edit, and rewrite, and that my self-esteem was ready to lower again with doubts and worries, but in the moment, I was a superhero, ego shot to nine hundred, pride swelling in my chest, despite the clump of disgusted, angry relatives hounding me at the door.
Everything in me was on fire, so I pushed away from the desk, worried my computer would blow up in flames. I’d been writing since I was seven years old. I didn’t care if I couldn’t be famous, if I couldn’t be known, I just wanted to finish. I wanted to be a writer. I felt...whole. I felt completed. What a terrifying feeling, I’d thought.
Then my door creaked open, and I stumbled, slipped, reaching out to shut off the screen before she could see it.
“What are you doing?” She asked, peering into my room, letting her light from the hallway crawl in, hunting and eager to expose.
“Nothing. Homework.” I murmured in response, my heart suddenly starting to drop when I’d realized the blinking on the computer had shut off. Did I save it? Did I make a copy? Did I ruin my life? My throat began to close, sweat began to cool on my face as it paled.
“You’re writing again, aren’t you?” She muttered, leaning against my doorway. The fire from before was starting to die out. “Look, it’s a nice hobby, but when are you going to really do something with your life? Your cousin is a doctor, your brother is a chemical engineer!”
And I knew she was trying to help me. But all this ever sounded like from her was, “I know you’re running just as hard as the others, but even if you all cross the finish line at the same time, only they will get the gold.” I whipped my head to glare at her, but my eyes only saddened, losing their spark. They always get the gold.
“I was doing important work. I might have just deleted it all.” And in my head, I was setting the scene. If I stood from this desk, planted my feet, threw back my neck and screamed out the agony into her face, became my anger and fury instead of my dying fire, would she leave me alone? Would she give me the gold?
“Okay.” She murmured, shrugging agile shoulders and picking up the laundry basket by my door. “I’ll leave you to it then.” And then she was gone, walking back down the hall, scolded by the anger, frightened by the fury. Her hungry, searching light disappeared as the door creaked shut, yipping and whimpering as it hurried back into the hallway, scrambling after her. The wind from the window suddenly whipped by, pushing my silk curtains out to let in the moonlight.
My heart started to race. Everything sat on whether this computer shut off or not. That exhilarated feeling, that bold and glorious fire, the gold sitting at the finish line, it was all depending on this. With shaky fingers, everything else inside me still as a rock, I reached out and pushed the button on the computer.
The screen lit up. The loading started. My heart was pounding, my brain holding up all my organs on a thin string, ready to let go if that screen was blank.
And then it opened, bright and blinding. White and clear as the day it was born. My old, ancient, crummy computer had just erased everything.
All because I’d shut it off too fast. All because I was afraid.
The strings cut. I slumped in my chair, head hanging low. Everything was gone. Just as I’d finished, the world had to bring me back to the start. The fire in my chest flickered and yearned, but then it collapsed as well, a little light in my heart blowing out, shutting off.
All I’d ever wanted to do was be a writer.
I took a heaving breath that rattled the desk, and a pencil rolled off and fell in my lap. The wind from my window leaked in once more, lapping at my neck like an encouraging cat. The story, erased from my computer, written in white words against the blank screen, was waiting for me. What was a writer? Someone with a story to tell.
“I am a writer.” My brows furrowed, surprising tears blooming in my eyes. “And my cousin is a doctor, and my brother is a chemical engineer.” I tossed the pencil aside. The wind blew into my fire, bringing it back to life. This story was in my heart, and I would never forget it.
I wouldn’t be afraid again. Even though the clacking of the keyboard was the loudest I’d heard it, and the door was open just slightly, enough for the whole entire world to listen in. They would all know what I was doing, but I wouldn’t be afraid anymore. Slow and steady wins the race.
It actually felt nice, watching the blank page fill with words once more. But my eyes started to ache from staring at the bright blue screen alone.
Only this time, I wasn’t afraid of letting the light in. I wasn’t afraid of being seen. So in a moment of glory I stood, tore back the curtains from my windows. I turned on every light in my room, and it leaped on me like a hungry wolf, snarling and searching, licking at my wounds, burning my eyes, exposing everything I’d been working on, the loose papers across my bed, the glinting, masqueraded computer screen cluttered in words, the tossed aside pencil sitting under my chair.
I stood, chest heaving. Maybe losing everything wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe it was just the fresh start I needed. I looked outside my window, a silhouette in the new brightness of my room. The people outside carried lanterns and baskets, chattering boredly, eyes dulled and tired. They didn’t have plays, they didn’t have games, or toys. They didn’t have stories. Their eyes were just as hungry as the light. I saw my screen blinking in the window. Ready for the challenge, it seemed. I grinned down at the people. My quaint little town was filled with living corpses, and I would bring life to them again. That would be quite the reward, I thought.
Who needs dumb gold, anyway?