Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: The Writer’s Skill/Craft( 04/22/10)
Drooling Down the Rabbit Hole
By Chely Roach
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Since my husband started working overnights, I’ve had a hard time sleeping. When my doctor prescribed Ambien, she neglected to mention how powerful it was. More problematic than that, she also left out that it was extremely fast acting.
I kissed my husband at the door, then went to the bathroom and swallowed a tiny, harmlessly looking ten milligram round tablet. I went back to my writing desk where I resumed strolling through the virtual aisles of Amazon.com, hoping to find a bargain on a manuscript guide written by an infamous literary agent in New York City.
Within fifteen minutes, I skipped right past drowsy and tumbled reading glasses over slippers into the land of Jerry Garcia…
The screen on my laptop morphed into the appearance of a thick steel door. It had rivet welds around the edges, and a closed square window at eye level. As I shook my head in disbelief, the little window flew open and a face smooched itself into the opening. I flinched and screamed.
“Psst, hey lady, I’ve got something to show ya.”
I turned and looked behind me.
“I’m talking to you, Kelsey.”
I studied the face in the hole. Pleasant but generic features, covered with loads of makeup. She looked like a young Phyllis Diller. “You are freaking me out…who are you?”
The door opened with a metallic scrape and screech, “I am your muse,” she said.
“You’re not exactly what I pictured. What’s with the clownish makeup?”
“Duh. It’s stage makeup. You have me playing a plethora of different parts you know. I’m quite versatile. Hurry up, you’re letting in reality. It stunts my growth.”
I stepped across the threshold, and entered a white world with no boundaries. No floor, no ceiling, no walls—just endless white.
A table was in front of me. On it laid a hardback copy of the manuscript guide I was hunting for. “Cool, you found it.”
“Pashaw. For what it’s worth.” Phyllis snapped her fingers, and instantly I was walled between two bookshelves that continued in front of me for miles. “You could read all of these, and they wouldn’t give you what you need.”
I walked the aisle, skimming book titles. How to Write for Children, How to Get Published, Why You Aren’t Published Yet, Why You Need an Literary Agent, Chick-Lit: A Guide to Finding Your Sassy Voice, and on and on.
Phyllis whispered from behind me, “Kelsey?”
When I turned around, she was holding open an oak Dutch door. “Here you will find half of the answer.”
I peered in to see hundreds of bookshelves spanning my entire periphery. I approached the first one on my left; I saw Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Mildred D. Taylor. I glanced to my right and saw names like John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Shakespeare, Stephen King, John Grisham, and Khaled Hosseini.
“These are all the books you’ve ever read, and all the books you will read in the future.”
“Sheesh.” I was dumfounded.
“Here lies half the recipe, turn around to see other half.”
When I spun around, there was a sheer white curtain almost touching my nose. I drew it aside and stepped in.
The white endlessness was replaced by a thousand video projections that filled the expanse. I saw every face I have loved, hated, mourned, or imagined. Scenes from cherished memories, my biggest heartbreaks, and thousands of other moments of my life were splayed everywhere I looked. A menagerie of music played; notes that made my fingers move as if the keys were beneath them, lyrics that enticed me to sing along. On the floor were scattered pages filled with every story I have written—every post-it note scribbled with ideas. The sensory overload caused tears to spill out.
I heard a familiar voice, though not Phyllis’, say my name. “The secret lies in you, right where I put it. Believe.”
Phyllis put her hand on my shoulder. “It’s time for you to go now.”
“But I don’t want to go…”
“You have to, Kelsey. You are drooling on your keyboard…”
I slowly drew my head up from my surreal rabbit hole, foggy and heavy, streaming a stand of saliva between the keys and my cottony mouth.
Despite the cloud in my brain, I stumbled to bed and decided it might be best to halve those Ambiens from then on out.
Phyllis would also get a makeover in the morning.
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