Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Inspiration/Block (for the writer)( 05/20/10)
By Ann Grover
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There’d been no formal acknowledgment of its demise, no epitaph giving tribute, but it had died, nonetheless. Ideas had dried up, brilliant thoughts evaporated.
I visited the library, loading up with writing manuals and classics, hoping I might yet resuscitate some creativity. A girl with a twinkling stud in her lip scanned my books.
“Written any bestsellers lately, Mr. Finch?”
“Seen our new arrivals?”
Why would I look at the fruit of others’ successes when my own genius had withered?
Smiling, she passed me the books. “Have a good day, Mr. Finch.”
“Bah,” I muttered.
At home, I closed my office door and flipped through several of the borrowed books, but nothing moved me. I turned on the computer. The blank screen stared at me tauntingly.
The “ping” of an incoming email awakened me, but the tone was ominous, foreboding. Suddenly, the office door banged open, ushering in a spectral form with a frayed computer cord wrapped around its middle, from which dangled pencils, rolled manuscripts, and a dictionary. Tattered typewriter ribbons shackled the phantom’s ankles.
“Do you know me?” The shadowy form jerked the cord and pages fluttered from the manuscripts.
“You are my departed imagination. What do you want?”
“I am closer to you than you believe. Tonight, three spirits will visit you. Heed them and there may be hope. For my release and for your writing.” With that, he disappeared.
Second helpings of hot wings, guacamole, and pistachio ice cream had obviously affected my senses.
Immediately, I heard hoofbeats pounding up the stairs. A knight on a charger galloped through the door and slid to a stop, scattering books and papers.
“Are you a spirit?” I trembled in astonishment.
“I am Spiritus Historicus. Come, mount up.”
His armoured hand reached down, pulling me up behind the saddle.
We cantered through the wall and across the moonlit sky, until we reached a swelling sea.
“See the schooner sailing blithely into an oncoming storm? You could write an epic.”
“I know nothing about sailing.”
“You have books, the internet. Google it, lad.”
We cantered past cathedrals and huts, homesteads and pyramids, mammoths and Roman legions.
“I won’t write about this. It’s been done. Repeatedly.”
“Not by you!” He spurred the horse, and we wheeled through battlefield haze. “You’ve never tried.”
“Take me back!”
A colossal snore roused me: my own. The email tone sounded again, as portentous as before.
“Hey, Mr. Finch!” The lip-pierced, neon-nailed girl from the library sat on my bookshelf.
“Are you a spirit?”
“Totally. Spiritus Contemporanus. Let’s go.”
She led me through the closed window. The sun dazzled me, and I was further amazed when the girl flew up into a tree.
“Fly, Mr. Finch. Believe.”
I did and I flew.
“Mr. Finch, you need new source material.”
We perched above a summery scene: my own family picnicking in the park. The boys munched hot dogs while my wife sunbathed, reading. My father was sleeping, slumped under a tree.
“I can’t write about family.”
“Everyone you know has a story. Find it. Tell it. Edit unwanted material later.” She popped her gum. “Vampires are very popular nowadays,” she added slyly.
“You stifle yourself, Mr. Finch. Look!” She lifted her long black sweater, revealing battered and scuffed boots. “The boots are named Obstinacy and Desire. You’ve worn these boots a lot, Mr. Finch, but they’ve never taken you anywhere. You stubbornly refuse to acquire knowledge, and your motives for writing are selfish.”
She was gone, and instantly, another shape approached. A shining holographic entity.
“I am Spiritus Prospectus.”
“I thought so.” I sighed.
“You dislike futuristic fiction?”
“You think it inferior?”
“I think it blasphemous.”
“Only God knows the future.”
“Are you not able to imagine? Dream?” The figure pulsated violently.
“Enough! You have endless subjects: intergalactic colonization, bio-robotics, cloning. But, your fear and hesitation will cause your gift to die. It’s no sin to ponder the future. Remember God is already there.”
I longed to touch the image, but it dissolved into a shimmering pool.
I awoke, drooling into the keyboard, the spacebar grooving my cheek. My office was silent.
I went to the window and saw ordinary, but splendid, sunshine and trees. I breathed and inhaled the breath of a thousand past kings, warriors, and explorers. Scudding clouds formed castles and dragons, a pagoda, a spaceship. I trembled. My fingers twitched.
God, bless me.
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