A Writer's Note
When a writer begins a story, he most often has some sort of motivation. He throws his heart out on the blank page in front of him, his final product and goal vary each and every time. There is no common story. Three stories that talk about one subject can all come from different perspectives, different experiences. Stories can share common elements, but this does not necessarily make them the same story.
As for my story, I can tell you that I die. I lived a life, and I died. Everyone dies, that’s no surprise. I’m sitting here, by myself. I cannot tell you where I am, for I do not know myself, but I will say that the air is fresh and the silence is relaxing.
I may or may not speak for many writers when I say that the single biggest thing for an author is to be heard. Writers just want to be heard. They want to share their experiences, their wisdom. They want to see men in crisp suits reading their title on the way to work. They want to see stressed housewives wrapped in the plot at midnight, waiting for the next time the baby wakes up. They want to see students learning how words are crafted to assert a message, groaning about the night’s reading assignment. They want to see teachers actively engaging the text with their students, groaning about the countless papers to grade.
They just want to be heard.
So, what I ask from you, is that you listen to what I have to say. You may not find it valuable, or even interesting. But as you sit squinting into a cracked iPhone screen or a dusty monitor, just know that you may be able to take something away from it. If not, I’m glad you listened. For that’s all an author cares for. He wants to be heard.
A Writer's Struggle
This story begins with me, forty-six years old, sitting in my office lit by the brightness from my laptop screen. A blank document sits in front of me, a tiny black line flashing on and off. There was no motivation for me to write anything. Writer’s block. I crave to write something, to lash out on the page in front of me, but nothing is coming to mind.
What do people find interesting? People crave blood and gore. They love when fictional characters grasp at knife slashes, bleeding out on the pavement. When arms are twisted in terrible angles, when fire melts one’s flesh and creates a sweaty scent. They like to be shocked. Shock factor. But it can’t only be the shock; there has to be some kind of plot that keeps people wrapped in.
Audiences love a good mystery. It keeps them reading until the very end, until the twist at the very end that keeps them thinking about the book hours after they put it down. Yes. Blood and mystery. The two go hand in hand. Like peanut butter and jelly.
What it lacks is motivation. There is nothing to inspire me. Fuck it. Slamming the laptop closed, I creep out of my office, pass by my daughter’s room, and climb into bed next to my wife, who was already fast asleep. The television is still on, displaying another rerun of Seinfeld. I switch the television off, causing the room to go pitch black, and struggle to work my way under a tangle of cool sheets.
The Shining. What a genius plot. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Line gives me the chills every time. The essence of insanity is captured so accurately, so realistically. A man’s decline into eternal darkness, unable to tell the difference from reality and imagination. Maybe I should shoot for a horror or thriller. A bloody horror thriller mystery. Is that too much? I might be trying too hard.
After trying to fall asleep for about half an hour, I shoot out of bed, realizing I have too much on my mind to fall asleep. I decide to peek into my daughter’s room, just to catch a glimpse of her peaceful slumber. I creak the door open just a crack, and I’m instantly hit by the scent of perfume and plastic and markers. She’s asleep, looking just like her mother, her mouth slightly agape and her eyes lightly shut. I can’t help but smile, shutting the door with extreme care. I shuffle past the living room, where the cat lies by a windowsill, visible in the moonlight. Her yellow eyes glare back at me, flickering like a dying candle. Quickly, it scampers off into the darkness of the living room.
I unlock the front door of the house, the cool air instantly slapping me in the face. The slight rustle of leaves is easily audible in the silence of the night. I move swiftly across the groaning porch, and lean against the wobbly wooden railing. The lawn twinkles in the moonlight, damp with tiny water droplets. The night is nothing special, and I won’t try to sound poetic and abstractly describe it. It is just an ordinary night. The man in the moon doesn't wave down on me, the clouds don't dance, the leaves don't sing. Leave this story, walk outside, and stand there. It’s probably similar to the night I’m currently describing.
I brainstorm ways to open the novel. The reader needs to be yanked in, instantly taken on a ride. Blood. I could start with a description of blood flowing. That sounds good, because there is still curiosity and ignorance about the whole situation. But how does blood flow? Does it flow freely like a river or is it thick, like a melting ice cream cone? Movies all interpret blood differently, different shades, different textures. No one can truly know how blood acts unless they examine it for themselves.
Just a tiny cut. Enough to leak blood, but not too much. I hold the blade to my wife’s razor tightly between my thumb and my index finger, inches away from my veiny arm. It sounds stupid, yes, but the only way to retrieve an accurate description is to see it for yourself. I look for a spot where no veins were visible, and allow the blade to make contact. I drag the blade slowly across a small section of my arm, but realize I’m not pressing hard enough. It leaves a weak scrape, barely breaking the surface. It looks like a thin, red, piece of string. I restart, this time applying more pressure. I can feel a sharper pain this time, knowing I’m successful. The blade even sinks down a little bit into my skin. I drag it quicker and rougher this time, slashing the skin quite effectively this time. I slowly lift the blade off my arm, now stained with a little bit of red. Not quite as dark as ketchup, but not quite as vivid as Kool-Aid. I glance down at where I sliced, and see a modest amount of blood seep through the section. It doesn’t all come at once, but rather in random places until it all blends together. It delicately trickles down when I hold my arm vertically. I can’t describe it as a river, because it just doesn’t flow as naturally as one. Nor can I describe it as a melting ice cream cone, because it drips with much more ferocity. It drips like snot from a child’s unwiped nose. Like tears from a sobbing face.
I stay in the bathroom for about fifteen minutes, watching more and more blood slither down my arm and onto the white sink below me. It is one of the most interesting things I have ever seen. It makes me wonder how blood reacts under deeper, more violent cuts. Beheadings. Dismemberment. I guess you could say it motivates me.
I lightly dab a cotton ball on the cut, getting a slight burning sensation. I grit my teeth to suppress the pain, but in reality it does nothing. I toss cotton ball after cotton ball into the trash bin, turning fluffy snowballs into red clown noses. After the bleeding calms down a bit, I find a bandage to wrap the wound. There’s just enough to wrap around my arm twice around. Lastly, I rinse out out the blood that dripped into the sink, and exit the bathroom.
I could tell you that I went to sleep, woke up the next morning with some blood in the sheets, and the wife placed the sheets in the washer. That my daughter asked me about my bandaged arm, and I’d tell her that I had an accident. Then we’d talk about her perfect score on her multiplication tables, and the upcoming Spring Break. She’d keep staring at my arm, but she wouldn’t ask anymore questions because we raised her right. But that’s not what happened.
I leave the bathroom, switching off the light and entering the darkness of the hallway. I could tell you the story of gore and blood, how I grab a knife and stab my wife, daughter, and cat in the middle of the night. But I’m not going to do that. Yet.
A Writer’s Wife
I just put Kayley to bed, 9 o’clock sharp. She had Spring Break to look forward to in a few days, and not to mention she was already giddy because of her perfect score on her multiplication tables. I kiss her forehead, frazzle her hair, and turn off her bedroom light. After taking a quick shower and brushing my teeth, I switch on the television. The first thing that comes on is some Seinfeld marathon, a show my husband admires for its clever narrative. I never really took a liking to it, but since nothing else was on, I make the decision to give it a try.
Sometimes James got carried away with his writing. I never thought much of it, but his passion for writing was nothing like I’d ever seen. He’s an ambitious man, wants the best for his family. Sometimes this got in the way of family. That office was a second home of his; what happens behind those doors, I’ll never know. Strangest part is, for how much time he spends in there, he’s only released two full works. Neither of them were big sellers, but nonetheless I still wholeheartedly support what he does for a living. We have discussed working multiple jobs before, but he never got around to it.
I currently work as a nurse down at the local hospital, so it puts a good amount of bread on the table. What my main concern is how much it’ll cost to send Kayley to college. I can feed our family of three (four if you count Tigger!) and pay the bills, but I’m worried we won’t be able to send her when the time comes. It’s a scary thought, but luckily we still have a lot of time to think about it.
It’s 10:00, and James is still working away in his office. Commercials about insurance, fast food chains, and clothing flash by on the screen. Nothing too interesting. One of James’ books rests on the nightstand next to the bed, and I decide to skim through some of it. Of the two novels, this is my favorite. It's about how a homeless child joins an imaginary militia in a nameless country and his loss of innocence along the journey. There are some pretty deep moments, but it lacks … well, how do you put this? James doesn't have any firsthand experience with war, let alone firearms. I guess you could say it lacks some sort of motivation. Other than himself, I was James’ biggest critic. I don’t know, Maybe I was just too picky.
Setting the book aside, my eyes start to droop. I dim the lights a bit, and eventually I give in to drowsiness.
In the midst of a dream about my old high school, I hear the familiar squeak of our bedroom door. James must’ve finally gave in. I pretend I’m still asleep, but I can see the silhouette of James glide towards his side of the bed. The television is still on, and I can hear faint laughs from a generic laugh track. I can feel the bed sink on the left side of the bed where James sleeps, and the squeaking of the bedsprings.
The room goes silent, other than the light breathing of James. There is no longer the eerie light emitting from the television screen. I assume he turned off the television. I squirm around a bit, and quickly doze off once again.
The next time I wake up, I realize I’m alone in the bedroom. James is not next to me. Underneath the crack of our door, I can see that the hallway lights are on. The alarm clock reads 3:34. I rub my eyes, and decide to check on James. Maybe he was feeling sick, or Kayley might’ve waken him up. For some reason she trusted him more than me, and had the habit of only waking James in the night when she had a nightmare or felt sick. Curious, I decide to climb out of bed and enter the hallway to check out what was happening.
The bedroom door was already a crack open, so all I did was slightly push it. The familiar creak bounces off the walls of the hallway. Our bedroom is at the very start of the hallway, followed by Kayley’s room, the bathroom, and finally, James’ office. The room was originally considered another bedroom, but James quickly turned it into an office for himself. The light inside James’ office is on.
I have only entered James’ office once. It was a few years ago, and I had intended to tell him that I was going to make a grocery run and ask if he needed anything from the store. I entered without knocking, and found James sitting behind his desk, deep in concentration. His eyes darted up from the computer screen.
“I was wondering if you wanted anything from the grocery store. Was gonna head down there …”
“What makes you think it’s okay to come in here?” He asked firmly. I was stunned by such a response; it was so out of character for him.
“I... Excuse me?” I stuttered out.
“This is my office. Where I work. I can’t have people coming in and out, alright? It’s distracting. It’s like … it’s like a doctor performing a surgery, and you just walk in. You’re a nurse, you probably understand that. It just doesn’t make sense. Have some common sense!”
“I can’t believe you, James. This is our house. Ours. We live in it together. You can’t tell me I can’t go somewhere in our own house.”
We went back and forth for awhile, though somewhere along the lines the argument expanded. It’s not something I really like to talk about. Kayley and I stayed with my mom for a week or so, and when we came back James was back to him old self. Ever since then, I’ve avoided that office at all costs. When I clean the house, it’s the only room I don’t go into. Not even Kayley is allowed in.
I tiptoe down the hallway and outside of James’ office. I put my ear up against the door, but I didn’t hear anything. I quietly knock to see if I'd receive any response. Nothing. I reluctantly rest my hand on the knob, and ultimately decide to twist it. I touch the door open and peek inside. James is nowhere to be found, but many books that once lived on the shelf in the corner are sprawled all over the ground. Some have pages torn out, others just sit untouched. I instantly think of robbers. My heart drops into my stomach. What if Kayley is hurt? What if James is dead?
“Jen…” I hear at the door. It’s James. I instantly feel relief.
“James… what happened h-” I look back and lose track of what I’m saying. James’ pajama shirt is splattered with blood, his arm sloppily bandaged. There’s a strange look in his eye, a mixture of confusion and anger. I realize I’m standing in the middle of his office, the one place where I was told not to go, the one place that shook this family to its core.
“I… I didn’t…” I was at a loss of words. I didn’t know what to feel at this moment. James moved closer to me, one hand behind his back. The other violently shook.
“It’s alright, Jen. It’s fine.”
A Writer’s Daughter
Well, I got an A on my multiplication tables just like I said I would! I told mommy about it, and she was so happy. I didn’t tell daddy yet because he has been working all day. I think I am going to tell him about it tomorrow during breakfast. We have Spring Break soon, and daddy said we might go to nana’s house. We might stay there and visit the city! I haven’t seen the city since I was really little, and I don’t even remember anything about it because I was so young. Mommy shows me the pictures sometimes. It looks so fun!
Martha told me today that my hair was really pretty. She is so nice. I said thank you and then I told her I liked her dress. I feel bad, because I think it is the only dress she has. Maybe mommy can take me and Martha shopping during Spring Break.
I am feeling tired, so I will write more tomorrow. Later!
A Writer’s Motivation
Blood is truly a magnificent thing. Its texture is that of a tear, the way it glides so smoothly down pale skin. But it has the thickness of mucus dripping down the upper lip of a child. One would have to be poetic to say it looks beautiful, but if you look at if for long enough, you can really learn to appreciate its beauty. It stains like spilt fruit punch on carpet, not even the most efficient of housewives able to bleach it away.
The introduction to my story is almost complete. Maybe it could use some fine-tuning, but so far I have a great opener to such a mysterious story. I dangle the kitchen knife over the shivering, pulsing, pile of meat my wife has transformed into. Her white nightgown is not quite the color of ketchup, nor quite as vivid as Kool Aid. It stuck to her bare skin as though she had been sweating. I hate the way blood looks in hair, especially with the hair type my wife has. It just makes me feel uncomfortable, like it needs a good lather with shampoo. It has such a filthy appearance.
Her eyes are wide open, focused on one point of the ceiling. Maybe the light fixture. Her breathing is more of a wheeze, like she has asthma or something. I can’t focus… I can’t focus with this! I thrust the knife down near her belly button. It’s a strange sensation, like pushing a paperclip through an eraser. There’s no better way to describe it. Pulling the knife out is twice as satisfying. I’ll take note of that. This time she didn’t even have the strength to reach her arms out, but I’m pretty sure she’s still alive because she still flinched that time.
A sharp pain comes from my arm, and I realize my bandages are soaked in blood. I can’t tell if it’s mine or Jen’s. I remove the bandage carefully, seeing that my wound is producing a good amount of blood. Maybe it’s just from the excitement. Eh, who knows.
Jen isn’t shivering anymore. She’s still as a rock, but her eyes are focusing on something farther away than the light. Who knows what she’s looking at. Blood is still leaking everywhere, making a crazy mess. But it’s a majestic kind of mess. A poetic mess.
A Writer’s Pet
The cat purrs at the doorway, eyeballing the still body of Jen. It reluctantly creeps over, stalking her. It’s confused.
For my whole life, pets have earned my pity. They live in such innocence, such carelessness. A day passes by, all they have to worry about is sleep and food. A simple life. If they aren’t alone, they depend on someone to care for them their whole lives. When alone, they don’t make it far. A cat can only eat so many dying rodents in a dark alleyway, and a dog can only whimper for so many leftovers from pedestrians. As domesticated pets, they live in a world where the choices they make have very little influence on the future. Us humans, the choices we make as well as the decisions we choose have a countless number of consequences.
The problem is, you should never depend on someone for too long. You never know when they’ll leave, or when they’ll cut you off. In this case, you’ll never know when they will put a knife to your furry back and skin you alive.
The strange part is, I find letting the cat go was harder than my own wife. It’s funny; we see humans dying in gruesome ways in the films, their arms being torn off or their faces being ripped open. As soon as we see a dog or cat go, even in the most peaceful of ways, no one can contain themselves. I guess it just comes back to the innocence of a pet. To me, the cries and yelps of pets are so much more disturbing. They make for so much better of a description. To compare one’s cries to that of a dying cat, it shows innocence and franticness and helplessness and pain. It hits you right where it hurts. I find a few tears coming down my blood-stained cheeks, but it’s not sadness or shock I feel. It’s relief. The once orange pelt of Tigger was now sloppily resting on the ground next to a twist of muscles and blood. Tigger eventually passes on, though it is a much slower process than I anticipate.
A Writer’s Love
She’s under her bed. I can see the glistening of her eyes, the way the hallway light slightly illuminates her. The smell of perfume and plastic and markers and urine hit me when I walk into the dark room. I switch on the light, my hands uncontrollably shaking. I pass by the pink shag carpet, a few Barbies and markers here and there. I pass by the drawings poorly pinned on a bulletin board up on the wall, drawings of mommy and daddy and Tigger, drawings of the beach, drawings of friends. I pass by the closet, a huge mass of pink clothing and glitter. I stop at the bed, the covers thrown back, the sheets damp with urine. I gently set myself down on the edge of the bed, taking in the rest of the room. On her nightstand, I see her pink journal.
She writes about her multiplication tables, her excitement to see nana, Martha’s dress. I smirk, proud of my daughter. She’s so smart and talented. Could’ve been a writer when she grew up.
I congratulate her on the multiplication tables, that I’m so proud of her. She doesn’t respond, because she’s afraid of her own father. Afraid of her father’s ankles, her father’s feet, the only things she can see from underneath the bed besides the pink shag carpet and a few Barbies and markers here and there. I sit in silence for awhile. At this point, it wasn’t even for the good of the story anymore. I just didn’t want my daughter to have a life without her mother, without Tigger, without her father. It was out of mercy. That’s why I made it quick. Quicker than Tigger, quicker than Jen. She knows it's out of mercy, too, because she comes out from under the bed on her own. Fluffy pink pajamas, a bunch of tiny red hearts.
She’s asleep, looking just like her mother, her mouth slightly agape and her eyes wide open. A bit of blood coming down from her nose, but it has the thickness of mucus dripping down the upper lip of a child much like herself. The pink shag carpet turns a certain shade of red where Kayley sleeps. I turn the light off, gently shut the door, and head off to my office. Sweet dreams, kiddo.
A Writer’s Tragedy
A perfect story is written, but it can’t be finished until a certain tragedy happens to the author. Every great writer has dealt with tragedy. It’s their motivation, most of the time. Tim O’Brien with his wartime experiences. Shakespeare and Poe with their childhoods. The list goes on. And in the house with the corpses of my wife, daughter, and cat, I feel there’s plenty of tragedy. Plenty of motivation. When the people will read my transcript saved to my laptop, it’ll be passed from scholars to researchers to people all over the world.
So as I sit in my leather chair, in front of my open laptop, blood smeared across the screen, I feel as though I am successful. James did good. I created a name for myself, for the author who had two flops but nailed it the third time. The grip on my knife tightens, and I realize it’s also time for me to go. A lot of people call it the coward’s way out, but I think it makes a great conclusion to a story. But we all have different tastes. It’s someone’s way of saying they’ve done everything they wanted to do, there’s nothing left for them in this life. Or maybe it’s cut too short to finish everything they had intended. It leaves the sense of dissatisfaction, because they can never return to interact with others, or say that funny catchphrase they always had. It’s perfect.
I must admit, it takes a lot of willpower to bring the knife to your own neck. But after the initial sting and the shocking amount of blood that spurts, you become desensitized to the whole thing. But much like falling asleep, I can’t tell you what happens, as it has left my memory.
A Writer’s Conclusion
So here I sit, by myself. I cannot tell you where I am, for I do not know myself, but I will say that the air is fresh and the silence is relaxing. You may be confused as to why I killed my loved ones for the sake of a story, or why many pieces are missing. You may be curious if I ever get to see my wife and child and pet, or if they ever forgave me. We could discuss this, but you’d be here for awhile. That’s my way of telling you that I don’t want to share.
These words may be shocking coming from an author, but whatever I say goes around here. I’m the one who places the words on the page, so I can share and hide what I want. I can create whatever details or descriptions I want. I can blend reality and fantasy, I can shape how things turn out. As long as you read along with what I have to say, you have no way of knowing what occurred actually happened or not unless you go off and do your own research. My wife and child could be sitting at home, Kayley all happy about her multiplication tables and my wife planning a trip to the mall to shop for dresses. Or they could be lying dead in their graves along with me. See if you find anything. Or if you can find my novel. I’m not even sure if they published it or not. Now that I’m here, there’s nothing I can really do.
I’m just glad you stayed to listen. You listened to what I had to say. There may not be an ultimate takeaway from this story, but you’ll have to determine that for yourself. No one ever said there had to be a message. I just said that authors liked for their stories to be heard. It was your decision to read this far, to trust what I had to say. Innocence, I could say. Readers pick up a book and expect there to be a definite and clear ending with a message to take away. Life doesn’t always work like that, unfortunately. So, reader, I leave you here. Sorry. You’re just going to have to work out things for yourself this time.