imagination

Selina

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The old man hunched over an antique desk beneath the dim light of a small lamp. An open notebook stared up at him, empty though he’d been sitting there for hours.

Once, when he was young, he’d enjoyed a vibrant career. Back then, the words had flowed like wine. He’d brought stories into the world the likes of which had never been told before. But now in his old age, the well had run dry.

Of course, his books had never been his own. That was his dirty secret, the thing he kept from his readers whenever they asked him where he got his ideas. He’d always offer the standard bullshit, that he’d been a reclusive child, that it was his retreat into fiction that changed the way he saw and thought about the world.

But the truth was he was a fraud, for while the writing had been his own, the stories had come from someone else.

When he was only a teenager, a visitor came during the night. A woman, garbed in flowing silk that glowed in the dark.

“Wake up,” she whispered.

He almost screamed when he saw her, but she placed a hand over his mouth and assured him she meant no harm. She said her name was Selina, that she’d wandered the world in search of someone to tell her story. She placed a finger to her lips. Then she covered his eyes.

What followed was a supernova of sights and sounds, streaming before his eyes like a cosmic newsreel. An excerpt from a life outside the universe.

When he finally came back to himself, she was gone.

A notebook and pen had been left beside him. An open invitation, he thought, and he stayed up until dawn, trying to capture some small part of what he’d glimpsed in the mysterious vision.

She came to him the following night, and the night after that. Each time, he would sit down after she’d left to search out words that might do justice to the otherworldly snapshots of her life.

The books that resulted propelled him to unheard of heights. Nobody had read anything like them. People fawned over his work. Even the sharpest critics seemed at a loss.

But five years ago, Selina stopped visiting.

He flailed, struggled to recall something of her supernal sojourn through the stars so he’d have something new to write about.

But without those constant visions to guide his work, his writing became derivative, stale and uninteresting. People stopped buying his books. Eventually, he locked himself inside his house and never went out again.

Now, he gazed up at the lamp, still at a loss after five years. He closed his eyes, and he wondered if Selina would ever visit again.

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The Stone

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A special shout out to my new patrons, Buffy, Melody, Sandy and Jenn! If you want to read early drafts of every novel, novella and short story I write, as well as receive free copies of all my books in the digital format of your choice, become a patron by clicking here.

“Psst, boy.”

Adrian glanced toward the alley, where an old man stood hunched against a brick wall.

“Boy,” he repeated. “Come here. I have something for you.”

Curious and heedless of potential danger, Adrian did as he was told. When he was close enough to get a good look at his soiled rags, and to smell that he hadn’t bathed in weeks, the man glanced sideways, as if nervous he was being watched.

“Take this.”

Adrian looked down at the man’s closed fist.

“A gift,” he said, shoving a smooth round object into Adrian’s left hand. A moment later, he darted off into the shadows.

Adrian examined his prize.

A stone.

Brow furrowed, he continued home and placed it atop a shelf. He didn’t think about it anymore that day.

Meanwhile, the stone waited.

That night, when Adrian returned to his room to sleep, he found the stone where he’d left it. He picked it up and carried it with him to bed. Beneath the moonlight spilling through the window, it seemed almost to glow. Suddenly, his imagination went wild, and he was certain this simple object could reveal the universe’s deepest secrets.

When exhaustion overtook him and he finally fell asleep, the stone was still clutched between his fingers.

He dreamed that night.

He was tumbling through the stars, falling, floating, jets like cosmic sparks shooting through space. Galaxies spiraled in the distance, galaxies of every shape and size, whirling, colliding, bursting in blinding coruscating flashes.

Adrian felt lost, but he was not afraid because he held the stone.

“The cosmos are yours now,” said the voice of the man he’d met in the alley. The universe shook with the force of his words. They were a binding, the oldest and most powerful kind.

And then he was opening his eyes, and all he could see or hear was the pale light of the moon and the chirping of crickets outside. He glanced at the ordinary-looking stone, still firmly grasped in his left hand. It felt warm.

Adrian smiled.

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Alexandria

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Alexandria stood by the curb, looking out at the street as the sky poured rain. Meanwhile, a group of other kids was playing hockey. She didn’t ask to join. She knew they’d only laugh.

She stared after them for a moment before making her way along the sidewalk. The clouds above were a roiling sea of gray. The gloom pressed in around her, but it was not an uncomfortable feeling.

She could feel the imagination inside of her, crackling with feral wildborn magic. The storm amplified her power, so often latent and inactive, and she could feel a whole universe of possibilities fanning out before her.

Alexandria snapped her fingers. A world emerged. She snapped her fingers again. It disappeared.

Let the other kids have their game. She had something better.

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