writing

The Word

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This post was originally published through Patreon on May 29, 2018

Once, I was a writer. Still am, though now I keep my work to myself. In my youth I wasn’t so reticent. I submitted my stories all over, even got some published in prestigious magazines. I was on my way up, ready to storm the gates of the literary world.

Then the words stopped flowing.

The channel through which their magic once surged slowed to a trickle, and a thousand nascent worlds inside my head withered and died. Oh, how I mourned their untimely loss. I sat for hours in silence, trying to pick apart the dam that held the words back. But it was no use. They were gone, and they were never coming back.

Then a miracle: a missive from the gods.

One word.

It burst to life inside my head in the middle of the night like an atomic bomb, waking me from a dreamless sleep.

One word.

It filled my vision like the blinding glare of the noonday sun. It was so beautiful. I had to capture it; I had to contain it for future study. So I sat down at my desk, something I hadn’t done since the magic died, and I prepared to write.

Nothing happened.

The word was so vibrant, so full of life, yet my pen wouldn’t move, couldn’t. There seemed no way to express it in writing. How to record such transcendent beauty, such otherworldly clarity?

This was no natural language, I soon realized, but something more, something beyond symbols and sounds. I kept my interior gaze fixed upon its wondrous contours, and in the course of my examination, I became aware of more: an undercurrent, a river of words just as elemental as the first, throbbing beneath the surface of the world like an artery.

Pumping, flowing.

This was true language. Not the names assigned to things by creatures incapable of understanding the world any other way, but true names, the purest essence of all that ever existed and all that ever would.

I had to examine this other language more closely, had to divine its innermost secrets. So I turned inward, focused on its constant flow, churning now, like a river, pulsing, spouting…

Too close, the current pulled me in.

Flying.

Flailing.

Struggling to hold my head above the water.

Power crackled all around me, and I knew in that moment that if I didn’t pull back, if I let it draw me in much further, I would burn before the searing heat of realities too profound for any mortal mind to comprehend.

Pushing against the flow, I forced my way upriver. But the words had hold of me now, and they didn’t want to let go. The current grew faster, stronger. After a time, I could feel the gravity of another world in the distance, tugging at me from the other side of time.

For a moment, I actually wanted to go, wanted to let the words sweep me away. This was a journey, I thought, that all of us must take sooner or later, a truth the river spoke to me as it charged through the cosmos. But it wasn’t my time. There was more left for me to do in my mortal life, and I couldn’t yet move on.

So I pushed. I pushed and pushed and pushed. All the while, those words sang to me, cajoled me, urged me to follow after them.

I will, I promised. In the fullness of time, I will.

It seemed they understood because, at last, they offered me a way out. A light appeared in the distance, pointing the way home, and all I had to do was trudge against the current and follow after it.

The light grew.

Grew.

It enveloped me, reached down to pull me out, placed me back once more in—

My room. Once more, I was in my room. I was at my desk, pen still in hand, my notebook stretched before me, ready to receive my vision.

Those words were gone now, along with the one that had first revealed itself to me. But I could still feel that otherworldly current beneath me, thrumming, rumbling. The dam inside my head exploded, and a flash flood of new words surged through an opened mind. Only ordinary words this time—human words—yet I embraced them as a long lost love.

I could have found unrivaled success with words like these. I could have made a lot of money, built a towering career as a celebrity author. But it seemed profane to put them to such use, and at any rate, I was no longer interested in making a name for myself. All I wanted was to study that living, thriving river, and to ponder the journey that I promised I would make in the fullness of time.

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A Web of Ink and Paper

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Giles sits in a corner near the back, wearing a dark fedora. He watches as a man enters the coffee shop and places an order for a grande Americano, waits for the man to hand over his money and receive his change, follows the man with his eyes as he makes his way to a seat near a distant window.

The man is not actually a man at all, but something else. Something dangerous.

Giles reaches into his pocket, produces a faded leather notebook and silver fountain pen and begins to write. He works carefully, starting with the coarser, superficial details and slowly working his way to the more refined. They are special words. Words of power.

Giles does his best to capture the essence of the man, though even words such as these are only crude approximations. They reach inside and bind him, pair with flesh and bone and spirit, tearing him out of space and time like a coupon from the local newspaper.

It isn’t until he’s nearly finished that the man by the window notices, and by then he’s already fading like an overexposed negative. He bolts from his seat and stumbles backward, opens his mouth in shock, ambles toward Giles like a wounded soldier.

The patrons of the coffee shop have taken notice. Some scream. Others run. More than a few gawk stupidly, cell phones at the forefront. God, thinks Giles, these are the creatures he’s sworn to protect?

Before the man can take ten steps he’s already disappeared, torn from the fabric of reality and bound forever in a web of ink and paper.

Giles caps his pen, closes the leather notebook and strolls to the door, ready to tackle his next assignment.

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Choose Fiction For The Perfect Vacation

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Hello, and welcome to the Jeff Coleman Travel Agency.

Please, pull up a chair and have a seat. There’s nothing like getting away from it all, is there? I’m excited for you! What’s that? There’s a problem? Well, tell me more about it and we’ll see if we can accommodate you.

You don’t have much money? Yes, I can see how that might limit your options. But there are plenty of places to go that won’t cost you an arm or a leg.

There’s something else? You don’t have any time off from work. That’s a shame. But there are plenty of places you can go for just a weekend.

That’s not all? Of course not. No, no. That’s fine. Please, go on. I like a challenge.

You want a thrilling adventure outdoors, but your spouse wants a cozy romantic getaway? And you have kids and there’s no one to sit for you, so you’ll have to bring them along?

Yes, I see your point. I’ll be honest with you. I’m not really sure what we can do, unless… You know what? I think I might have something. Hold on.

I see you’ve helped yourself to some coffee in my absence. No, that’s fine. It’s complimentary. As I was saying, I think I might’ve found something. Take a look at these.

Why are you confused? Yes, those are books. Calm down. I know you said you wanted a vacation. Let me explain.

You don’t have much money, right? Then this is the perfect solution! A book can be yours for just a few dollars. You can tour as many worlds as you’d like. You can quest for buried treasure. You can battle fearsome beasts. You can discover exotic landscapes and architecture, the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else. And you can have all of this for less than the price of a meal at a decent restaurant.

Try booking a hotel, flight and rental car for that little cash!

Yes, I’m aware that you’re quite busy. Wait, what did you say? Sixty plus hours a week? Well, no. I admit my job is a tad cushier than that. But that’s not a problem either. You see, books require very small investments of time. Do you ever have to use the bathroom? Do you eat lunch? What about the drive home? Yes, alright. For the drive, we might have to get you some audiobooks. Still, my point stands.

Traveling by car, train, plane or boat can take hours or even days. But travel by book is always instantaneous, and you can return whenever you’d like. You can slip away for a few minutes when things get too hectic at work and your boss will never know that you’ve gone!

Yeah, that is pretty cool, isn’t it. What was that? Oh, right. Your significant other. Yes, and the kids. That’s not a problem either.

I know you said you wanted an adventure. Yes, I also remember that your spouse prefers a romantic getaway.  I’m aware that you require something child-friendly. I do listen, you know. It’s my job. Why can’t you have all three? No, I’m not crazy. Just hear me out.

See, the great thing about traveling by book is that you need not leave your spouse’s or your childrens’ side. You can go places without ever having to leave. We’ll find you a thriller, a horror, or maybe even a good old fashioned epic fantasy. We’ll book a romance for your spouse, and there are plenty of options for the kids. You can spend time with your family while also enjoying the convenience of your very own private fantasy.

You’ll take it? Great! I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

How can you thank me? Please, your smile is reward enough. Oh, and there’s the matter of my usual fee…

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