Writing

I Only Had To Bleed

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This post was originally published through Patreon on July 12, 2017.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
—Ernest Hemingway

I huddle over my desk beneath the soft light of an incandescent lamp, brow furrowed, and stare down at the empty pages of my notebook. There’s a world out there somewhere, waiting for me to give it life. But I cannot find the words, and without them this other world can remain only a pale shadow, suspended in the half-life of the imagination.

I hear a thousand screams, a million, all from denizens of this other world. “We want life,” they say. “Please, give it to us.” Their cries have become a fire that burns me from the inside out, until my soul can bear the pain no longer.

“All right,” I say. “I’ll try,” and the screams die down to an expectant whisper.

I tremble. I know the words will come if I ask them to, but they require a sacrifice, an offering as old as humanity, and I am afraid. I glance around the dim surroundings of my study, bite my lip, and turn back to the notebook at my desk. Resolved not to stall any longer, I pick up the pen, and in a single practiced motion I stab downward and break open an emotional artery.

The pain is tremendous, and at first, the words come in fits and starts. I have to drag each of them from my head kicking and screaming, sharp, sticking barbs that tear skin and flesh as I pull them out into the light. I want to stop and lick my wound. But if I do then it will heal, and my sacrifice will have been in vain.

So I toil through the night, through ice and fire, dredging up the best and the worst of myself as an offering, a vessel into which that other world might enjoy the coveted fruits of existence.

Just before dawn I finish, bloodied and bruised. The inhabitants of that world whisper their thanks. Tears well at the corners of my eyes.

It was nothing, I think. I only had to bleed.

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Birth of a Soul

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Fingers working. Pen scrawling. Mind racing. A cascade of symbols. An avalanche of thought. A word emerges, followed by another. Ideas burst in Jaiden’s mind like the birth of stars.

A singular voice echoes through her head, begging for life. The sound is faint but clear, and Jaiden tries harder, forces her wrist to move faster. But a dull throbbing pain has blossomed in her left temple, and after a while, she decides she’s had enough for the night.

The words stop. There’s a single agonizing cry from a soul desperate for release, then silence. The universe in Jaiden’s head is still once more.

She caps her pen and sets her notebook on a dusty shelf. Tomorrow, she thinks with some trepidation, will be the day she finally finishes. Her work has been slow going until now, and until today, she thought it would never be finished. Now, she’s afraid of what will happen when she commits the last few sentences to paper.

Never mind. Not something to think about tonight.

She ascends the darkened staircase leading from the basement to her kitchen. She brushes her teeth, turns out the light, and slips into bed.

Tomorrow, she thinks as she drifts into the cold, black void of sleep. Tomorrow, the struggle will come to an end.

*               *               *

Light. It pokes her in the eye, startles her awake. She glances at the clock. 9:37 a.m. She gets out of bed, pulls a robe tight against her body, and ventures back to the kitchen.

The house is quiet. She’s lived alone for as long as she can remember, has never known any other kind of environment. She finds the silence contemplative. It speaks to her more loudly than words, impresses upon her truths that are inaccessible to her when she’s downstairs working.

What was life like before she started writing? She asks herself this question often, and can never think of a satisfactory answer. It’s as if she was born into the world exactly as she is in this moment, forever static and unchanging. The idea unnerves her, and she refocuses her thoughts on other things.

Before she can rest for long, she hears the voice inside her head. Its invisible feelers twine through the crevices of her brain, making itself known, making itself understood. Jaiden can feel its eagerness, its desire to be released into the world at last, and she can deny it no longer.

She glances at the basement door, afraid. Down in the basement is where her notebook and pen wait for her to return, where they wait for her to finish what she’s started. She takes a deep breath. Sighs.

No peace, Jaiden thinks. No peace until she gets this thing done. She opens the door and works her way downstairs.

*               *               *

Once more, the words flow. They form an electric current that hums inside of her as they surge toward the pages of the notebook.

The voice, once a whisper, has grown louder, closer. It urges her to hurry, speaks of pain and suffering as it awaits its incarnation.

Jaiden’s forehead beads with sweat, and her heart pounds like a race horse, until her chest has constricted and it’s become difficult to breathe.

She has to rest, has to take a moment to catch her breath. But the soul that occupies the space between her mind and the notebook will wait no more. It’s just a hair’s breadth from life, and it won’t be denied.

There. Just three more words. Jaiden scribbles the first one down, but has trouble lifting her pen to write the second. She feels faint, lightheaded. Her head falls to the surface of the desk, but she won’t give up, not when she’s so close.

Like a child learning to write for the first time, she grips the pen in a tight-balled fist. She places the next word down.

Only one left.

Jaiden’s head is pounding, and her vision has blurred around the edges. A stroke, or a heart attack? She doesn’t know, only knows that she has to keep going, that she has to push the last word out before it’s too late.

Only three letters. She can do this. She lifts the pen. Writes an E. Stops. Winces. Lifts the pen once more.

N.

Light bursts behind her eyes like a camera flash in the dark, but she forces her fingers to work, forms the final letter of her opus.

D.

Just like that, the pain climaxes. There’s a moment in which Jaiden teeters on the edge of excruciating agony. Then her eyes close and her head smacks against the surface of the desk.

No more words, no more pain.

Only darkness.

*               *               *

She opens her eyes to the dull orange light of a nearby lamp. She squints. bobs her head. Looks around.

She is not Jaiden, but the soul Jaiden worked so hard to release. She marvels at her newly acquired body, flesh and blood rather than thoughts and ideas. She flexes her fingers, her arms.

A miracle.

She does not know what has become of her creator—where she’s gone, or if she’s survived. Her only clue is the vague notion that all of this has happened before, that in the fullness of time it will happen again, an endless procession of life and death, of creation and annihilation.

An idea—a soul in need of life—will come to her one day, she’s certain. When that day comes, she’ll have to write it into existence and sacrifice her own life in the process. That is how it was always done, and how it will always be done.

For now, however, she will live. For now, she will drink in the miracle of consciousness. She rises to her feet, bows her head out of reverence for her creator, and climbs the stairs.

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Read My Next Novella For Free

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On August 5, I’m going to release an entire novella to my mailing list for free, one chapter every two weeks. I’ve never done this before, and I haven’t decided if I’m going to do it again. If you want to read one of my longer works but don’t have an e-reader or aren’t able to purchase anything, now’s your chance.

If you’re already a subscriber, you don’t have to do anything except wait 🙂 If you’re not, all you have to do is join the mailing list by entering your email address at the bottom of this blog post and clicking the “Subscribe” button (if you do, you’ll also receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.) To complete your subscription, you might have to check your spam folder for the confirmation email.

Here’s a back of the book blurb to whet your appetite:

Giles has always felt different, like he’s never truly belonged, and it isn’t until he meets others of his kind that he discovers his true nature. As an Earthbound, he’s both human and Immortal, born to protect the world from an ancient race that has the collective power to destroy the universe.

He embraces his mission, devotes his life to imprisoning every malevolent creature he encounters. But when a routine binding goes awry and one escapes before he can capture it, Giles, who has never been outside California, must travel halfway across the world to the Philippines, where the runaway phantom has taken up residence.

Shaken by his inability to capture it and afraid of failing again, he must venture far beyond his comfort zone to confront the evil creature once and for all. But this time it knows Giles is coming, and it will do anything in its power to stop him…

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