“The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.”
― Stephen King, Bag of Bones
A metallic clank fills the room as the author slides the deadbolt out of place. He heaves open the heavy metal door with a grunt, steps through and then lets it fall back into place with a bang, being sure to slide the deadbolt back after it does. He flicks a switch, and a single light hanging from the ceiling flickers on. Taking a deep breath, as if to calm his nerves, he begins to descend down the rickety wooden stairs.
At the bottom the author flicks on a second hanging light, illuminating the small, cave-like room with a wooden table and a metal chair, accompanied by ankle and wrist shackles. Sitting in the chair, he sets down his battered notebook, a 24 pack of ballpoint pens, and a bottle of water. Flipping to a blank page in the notebook, he takes a pen out of the package, and with great care, writes: Chapter One. His book, as it happens, begins with a fight scene. A beating, really. The author takes another deep breath, shackles his ankles and forearms to the chair, and begins to write.
He scribbles rapidly, scrambling to get his words onto the page as if his life depends on it. As he does, the room begins to shimmer, the surroundings taking on an almost sketch-like quality. He is no longer sitting but rather, standing, and no longer in his dingy basement but in an alleyway. Looking up, he barely has time to register the first punch to his face. It hits him in the nose, which begins to bleed as he grabs onto a wall for support, another punch clipping him on the ear. As he groans, he is offered a brief respite from the violence in the form of his assailants’ jeers. There are five of them in total, all of them wearing black leather jackets accompanied by greased-back hair. Without warning, another punch comes his way, hitting him in the stomach, and he gasps, falling to the ground.
More chuckles and jeers abuse his ears as he struggles to get up. Shakily back on his feet, he throws a weak punch to the attacker standing in front. It grazes his chin just enough to hurt as a look of shock, followed quickly by cold rage, crosses the assailant’s face. The author smiles weakly. This was the only part of the routine he enjoyed, albeit slightly.
The gang goes silent as their leader cracks his neck, laughs humorlessly, and then quickly tackles the author, throwing him to the ground, and kicks him without mercy. Sensing that their dominion has been restored, his gang quickly joins in as the author lies on the ground, curled in fetal position, and fighting to stay conscious. Eventually the leader calls off his lackeys, some of whom get one last kick in, chuckling all the while before swaggering off to stand behind their leader, who grins again, before pulling a switchblade.
With that, the chapter is finished and the author finds himself back in his room, back in his chair. He is covered in sweat and breathing heavily, his arms sore from struggling against the shackles, but he bears none of his character’s many injuries. He looks down at his precious pages of work, bought in blood, sweat, tears, and pen ink, as his broke halfway through.
The author takes a long drink of water before looking again at the page, crumpling it up and tossing it away. It was imperfect.
He takes a new pen and flips to a new page where he writes Chapter One across the top. He pauses to catch his breath before beginning to write the now-familiar scene yet again. As reality shimmers around him, he thinks of the switchblade, and shivers at the thought of starting work on chapter two.