I’M THRILLED TO BE SHOWCASING THIS STORY. AUTHORS WILL RELATE AND READERS WILL GET A GLIMPSE OF HOW OUR WARPED MIND WORKS
By Ian Williams
I squeeze the door handle as I gather the confidence to enter the room beyond. The metal feels cold and damp in my tight grip. It reminds me to breathe calmly, to allow my lungs the chance to find a rhythm before I go on. Only once the sweat has evaporated away can I then push through the door and face what awaits me.
Even though I would rather turn and run, or lock the door entirely, never to be opened again, I breathe deeply one more time and then enter anyway. And, as expected, it’s sitting there waiting for me, its face drawn down into a look of solemnity. It knows what’s coming. It’s a look that halts me in place as I stare at anything but what I’ve come to speak to.
I keep my focus dancing around the periphery of the room for a short while. It knows I’m nervous, sees it written so obviously across my face – now covered in beads of sweat again. For the short few seconds it takes me to find my seat and pull it out ready to plant myself in, I’ve already failed in setting the tone of this meeting.
Once seated I gently place my notepad down on the desk and neatly position my pen on the right of it, perfectly in line with the paper’s edge. I know this is a sign of my nerves, I know it would be seen as a weakening of my resolve too, but I do it anyway; some things are out of my control.
After clearing my throat I’m ready to begin. Although, the first glimpse of those pleading features, those puppy-dog eyes that I imagine in my head alone, have me swallowing hard. Something about the way it stays silent, watching my every move from a short distance away without uttering a single word, makes me shudder. I rub my hands together quickly to create some body heat before I begin.
It’s a little nippy in here, better turn on the heater fan, I tell myself. But the second I reach for the on switch of the tower fan to my left, I hear a voice.
“You always did feel the cold more than most,” it says.
“Don’t do that.” I finally face the screen and say this.
A pleasant rush of warm air buffets my trouser legs while I sit and go through my notes. Within a short while the room feels much more comfortable. Of course the extra heat now serves me up an unwanted dampness to my fingers again.
“Don’t do what?” I hear in reply.
I keep my eyes focused on the scribbled words on the page in front of me as I answer. “Don’t talk to me as If nothing is wrong.”
“But nothing is wrong. This is all just a misunderstanding, that’s all.”
My eyes are drawn to the blank spaces between the lines of notes, to where no meaning resides. It feels easier to remain hidden in this place than to speak the words I’ve been avoiding for the past few days. Yet it has to be done.
“Do you remember when we first started out?” It asks me, again trying to push the conversation in the other direction. When I ignore the question in favour of my mess of paperwork it continues unabated. “We were so excited, so happy to be exploring something new. You would drink your tea as the ideas flowed and then blast them across the page in a blaze of glorious finger taps. It was so easy to become lost in that world. We could have that again, you and I.”
“No,” I snap. In frustration I run my pen roughly across a line of my notes, trying my best to remove the words from existence. “We can’t have that again. It’s too late now.”
“But why? Come on,” it says in its most friendly sounding voice so far. “I can change, become what you want. You can’t just give up on us like this.”
“I wish it could be different, I really do.” I place my pen in a neat line with my notepad; asymmetry is something I dislike. “I’ve thought it through. In fact, I’ve been feeling this way for a while now. But the problem is, you just don’t fit in anymore. I can’t do anything else to help you. I’ve already done more than I should have.”
“So, what, that’s it? You’re giving up on me, after all the good times we had together?” I imagine it is trying desperately to hold back tears as I deliver the bad news.
“You had your chance to conform and you refused to do it.” Despite the harsh tone of my words I am out of control internally. Part of me wants to give it another go, maybe even ignore the problems altogether, but I can’t. If I change my mind at this point, then I might as well give up on the entire project. No, I have to do it, I have no choice.
“What are you doing?” it asks, suddenly more animated than before. The reaction tells me it doubted my words. Now that my intentions were becoming clear it was panicking.
“I’m sorry, this is the only way.” My hand reaches for the keyboard a few inches from me.
“Please, you can’t do this. What if you need me again later? You might. You never know what could happen to the rest of the project without me.”
My finger nears the soft plastic keys, travelling slowly against a torrent of self-loathing and insecurity, on to the one button I need. The pleas are now like a hammer being swung into my skull. It hurts a little more the closer I get to the Delete key.
“No, don’t do this!” I imagine it yelling at me through the screen. “Don’t you dare highlight those words.”
There’s nothing I can do for it now. My mind is made up. I tell myself it will all be all right, just as soon as I have the entire chapter selected and ready to clear from the page. But it begs me not to. It begs me to give it one more chance.
“I’m sorry,” I finally say as the weight of my finger presses down upon the Delete key and the white of a crisp clean page returns to greet me.
I fall back into my chair, feel the warmth of the fan heater against my skin, and close my eyes. Then I type two words across the top of the page: Chapter 4. It feels good to be rid of that problem finally. I tell myself not to fall for the tricks of a chapter in my book that won’t do as it’s told in the future. But I know I will again, one day.
Now, back to editing.
The Sentient Collector…
The sentient Mimic
The sentient corruption.