Written Into Existence
Imagine being in a book. Being the main character, or one of the protagonists in a large, extensive book universe. A universe in which every little detail has been documented: the smells, moisture, noises and colours in the atmosphere. A series of books in which the characters have been raised from birth. Whole families being raised from nothing. The stories of a town, like, and unlike any other town. To write such a book, one would have to, be of immense intellect, devoid to the concept of time and possess semi-divine writing skills. Think Tolkien, with the attention to detail of King and the unexpected twists of Dahl. Basically, a writer that creates true life on his pages.
Would this character know he/she was in a book? Would he/she realise? And what then? This is exactly the conundrum our protagonist is in. She has begun to realise that she is not her. She is exactly who she is, but thoughts have begun gnawing at the back of her mind. Sometimes, as she speaks a sentence or finishes a thought, she catches the hint of fresh ink drying on paper. Almost as if the writer just put it down. This had never bothered her as much as this day before, and every day it gets worse. She becomes more and more convinced that her life is not her own. She sees a psychiatrist, he diagnoses her as absolutely normal. “No signs of depression or anxiety” he says with a cheer. She wonders if he thinks his diagnosis will make her happy, but it only dampens her mood. She silently wished for some sort of mental illness to explain her wild thoughts and wandering mind. Then she wondered if this appointment too, was planned and executed by the writer.
As a child, these thoughts never bothered her. And rather naturally, as most children have other objectives to achieve, as did she. When she made it to her early twenties, some of these thoughts began to form in her mind. A paranoia of sorts. But she brushed it under the carpet, and looked forward to life, fresh-faced and willing. As life had its way with her, she began to believe in her thoughts more. She stopped considering them as hallucinations and began to listen to the little voice more. As the twenties turned to thirties, a husband and child appeared in the equation. And her mind was kept busy by them, and her job. A job she had no interest in. She remembers a degree, and something of her extensive course, but not why she studied it. And yet, despite all the reasons to be sidetracked, her mind still found time to remind her of her predicament. To remind her, her story was not her own. Her family brought her great happiness but great sorrow. Sorrow because she felt pity that they loved a version of her, that was not her. Sorrow because she felt they had been written to fit her. And yet she loved them dearly.
She decided to change her perspective and look at her situation from different angles. She thought that maybe, the whole concept of “The Writer” was her way of accepting God. She was not the most religious person growing up, but she was far from an atheist. This, however, could be her spirituality speaking to her. It was never too late to be touched by God. She went on pilgrimages and followed the advice of sages. She searched for inner peace relentlessly. But to no avail. She was no closer to understanding anything. Her grip on reality waned. She grew more and more distant with herself, recognising less every time she looked in the mirror. She feared she was growing insane, or that The Writer was writing her insane. She woke up each day, fearing the worst, but functioning perfectly, to the outside eye. Inside, she was the epitome of chaos. Her mind, likened to the aftermath of a tornado.
Then, one day, it stopped. All of it. One day, she had no idea where she was, how she got there, and why she was there. She remembered everything, and yet, she was lost. The Writer had abandoned her. She felt it. And she was not sure whether The Writer had decided to pursue other storylines, grown tired of her character, or if he killed off the concept entirely. The prospects were all terrifying. But she could not find any solace at all. She needed answers, and the only way to get them was to confront The Writer and demand he tell her why he abandoned her. Why after so long, so many years, did he leave her alone. And what was she to do now? She yearned to meet him, more than ever. This was unlike her wishes before. Every fibre of her body and mind wished it. Some nights, when sleep finally took over (these nights were rare as sleep never seemed to visit her anymore, perhaps The Writer conjured up sleep for her as well) she had incomprehensible dreams in which a figure would always appear. The face was always hidden away, but when she woke, she was often sure she had seen him.
The days became a burden. She kept a brave face, but she had no idea what life she was living anymore. It was a precarious situation. It was still her life, undoubtedly, she recognised many aspects of it. And yet, she was not in control of her mind and soul when much of her life played out. She simply exists. For what she is experiencing cannot be described as living, but existing. A ghost of her former self. Or maybe her former self was the ghost, and this was her awakening.
One night, as she lay in bed, allowing herself to be consumed by her thoughts, praying for sleep to rescue her, she felt a strange sensation, a tingling of her brain, and sparks behind her eyes. She felt herself drift off to sleep, but not the sleep she had become accustomed to, the few hours to reset her body clock and rejuvenate her slightly for the following day. No, this was something else. As she fell into this deep sleep, it was almost as though she was falling though an endless black hole. The darkness around her was immense, it was a shade of pitch black she had never even been able to imagine. Pure, unfiltered darkness. As she fell, the sensation resumed, and goosebumps appeared on her skin. She tried to swivel around during her fall so that she may see where she was falling to. The destination was a pinprick of blue light that grew in size as she got closer to it. It seemed like a hole but it was projecting light directly into her eyes rendering her unable to see what was inside this hole. She shut her eyes firmly and braced herself for impact. But the impact never came. Instead, she felt the firm ground beneath her feet and took this as the signal to open her eyes.
It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the bright lights, but when her surroundings became clearer, she let out a slight gasp as her pupils dilated. She was in a room. Not any ordinary room, but a writer’s room. A typical writer’s room with numerous shelves filled with thick books. From the musings of Plato and Aristotle, to the most recent edition of “American Gods.” Collected works of Shakespeare, Poe, Chaucer and Pepys. Her eyes followed the walls. Hanging on the wall opposite the door was a large rendition of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Above the large, oakwood table, hung a small, frame containing Munch’s “The Scream.” The table itself, was neatly kept, with a small pile of papers near the centre with a Mont Blanc fountain pen resting on top. There was a MacBook on one side, open, playing one of Beethoven’s Symphonies. The soft piano music calmed her down, and decreased her frantic heartbeat. She knew exactly where she was. A sense of relief flooded over her, at least she wasn’t insane. And yet, part of her told her that this version was worse. She really was the figment of someone’s imagination. Created from nothing, for the purpose of furthering the storyline, nothing more. She began to cry. Her entire life had no real purpose anymore. It never had any real purpose. She never even existed in the real world, until now. This, she knew, was real. Painfully real.
On a side table sat a bowl of apples along with a knife, which she assumed was to cut up the apples. She picked it up and tested the sharpness against her index finger. It bled almost on contact. As she twirled the knife in her hands, she contemplated where she wanted to stab herself. Living, clearly, was no longer an option. She looked at her wrists, but it would be too slow, painful and messy. Despite her hatred towards The Writer, she could not bring herself to destroying such a beautiful room. Her blood would almost certainly stain the Persian carpet she was standing on, beyond repair. She moved closer to the door where the carpet no longer covered the white marble floor.
She finally decided on slitting her own throat. It would be messy, sure, but it was much quicker and more painless than her wrists. As she took a moment to compose herself and breathe, she heard the door open behind her. There was a slight creak which threw her off. She turned around, spinning on the balls of her feet, glad she would at least meet her maker before the end. Her eyes met The Writer’s, and both let out a gasp. Their eyes bulged in disbelief, and their jaws dropped in awe. They both stood their ground, unable to move or speak. The only acknowledgment that the other was present, was the unending eye contact.
It was her. She was The Writer. Or at least, she was another version of her. Physically they were the same. Carbon copies of one another. She could not believe her eyes. This was impossible. How was this possible? If she was The Writer, then…..
Her mind refused to comprehend, and her body refused to cooperate. The Writer, standing opposite her, moved her gaze to the knife, and sensing some sort of danger, lunged at her to knock it out of her hand. She gripped the handle of the weapon harder, and lunged back. The two versions began to fight, clawing and tearing at each other. She realised that The Writer was trying to kill her. This was it. She could get what she had been craving. Death. But in that moment, the will to survive, overtook her wish for death, and she found extra strength to push The Writer against one of the shelves, knocking the wind out of her. She stabbed The Writer repeatedly, as blood sprayed on her. She did not know where the willpower came from, but she utilised it.
She stepped back from the mangled body on the floor, and watched a pool of deep crimson liquid form around it. She felt conflicted. On one side, she was relived and glad to have killed the person behind her life. The person who had denied her right to live normally. On the other hand, she felt like a sadist, taking pleasure in death and gore. She felt sick at the sight of all the blood that had suddenly appeared. She slowly opened the door and looked outside, it was a hallway leading to the kitchen, and it brought back memories. This was the exact house of her dreams. This was the life she had always wanted to live. Reading and writing, enjoying her life. She realised that maybe this was her second chance. She brought back black garbage bags to the writing room to dispose of the body. The hole that brought her here seemed to have vanished.
She smiled as she wiped the blood off her face. Maybe her story had a happy ending after all.
For my Aunty, Saraswati, for the concept and intellectual stimulation that allowed me to write this. May your story have a happy ending.