Stranger than Fiction

This is the continuation of Epilogue.

Dearest reader (for dear to me you are) I must warn you, things have gone terribly awry. Beware… and I do mean to frighten you, this is no light matter.

I know you are probably thinking this is a ploy to hook you into reading an otherwise boring story, that’s the problem – it isn’t. I need you to understand, it is crucial that you understand…

Dammit! I have no idea how to do this.

Ordinarily I would draw on some figment of my imagination as a mediator between you and me, it would be so much easier that way. Believe me, I know how hard it is to take a storyteller seriously, every word they utter is a construct, a part of a larger scheme hidden well in the fantasy of the writer. But please wait before you nod your head in agreement… just wait. I know where you are sitting, I’ve been a reader too.  Just give me a chance to tell you my story. Reader, you have the upper hand now – the only hand – and I need you… please.

I don’t know how this happened. Things like this don’t even really happen, it goes against all rules of reality, it isn’t even possible! That’s what is so frightening.

So there was this sign, THE END OF THE ROAD and we jumped. Remember? You were there. Then there was just me but not you.

At first I looked around and saw nothing, just a blank space. But I didn’t panic, not then. It was when I saw his shadow approaching that I realized what had happened. And after that, it was too late. Before long, the blank space was covered in words.

What’s going on here? Ugh, look at all these fucking words. I hate words, they piss me off. They sit there all lined up as if they were soldiers going off to fight some war in some god-forsaken place and they think they’re all over it, those words, they think they are the hottest-fucking thing that ever touched these pages… well, you know what? They’re nothing! Nothing, nothing, nothing! They are less than nothing, they are just shells of something else – how pathetic is that? They aren’t even their own thing.

That’s why I hate them. Such a lack of personality.

I wish I could sit down, or grab a smoke, or a beer or something, but I can’t because well… there really isn’t anything here but this page and all those damn words. I suppose if I were a so called “author” I would make a chair or a smoke or a beer or whatever, but I am not. Do you hear me? I am NOT an author. I, my friends, am a CHARACTER.

Yes, a CHARACTER. And don’t expect me to go on describing what I look like to you or anything because that is not my job, I am NOT an author, remember. Seriously, you give someone some pages filled with black scribbles and all of a sudden they expect you to describe the entire world to them, like what? You can’t see it yourself? You need someone to tell you what it’s like? Figure it out, dammit, just look around! Are there plants, furniture, colors, I don’t know… just look! I mean, shit, I can’t see a thing. I told you there is nothing here, just me… well, and her… but other than that, it really is pretty void of anything. It’s like a vacuum went crazy sucking up everything in its reach. I wish it would suck up these words, they annoy the hell out of me!

What time is it? What is it? You won’t even tell me the time? All right, fine, I’ll go find out myself.

Reader, are you there? Please, please, please…

Is that you? It is! Excellent, but I don’t have time. Listen, this is the story, you need to write it down. Quick, get a pen or a pencil or a crayon, anything. Hurry! Oh, please hurry! OK, listen…

Once upon a time…

Write it down, you have to. I know it seems unnecessary but it isn’t, that’s how the story has to begin, if it doesn’t start then it can’t end and I need this story to end, please. Ready? OK…

Once upon a time there was a book. It was old and faded, the pages of the book were yellow and crisp, ancient one might say.

Did you catch that? Am I going too fast? Tell me to slow down if you have to, it is of utmost importance that you record every single  word!

So, there was this very old and dusty book…

It was dusty, I forgot to mention that.

The book had been sitting on a shelf for many, many years. It had belonged to a child, once upon a time. But as children often do, she grew up and soon she was a woman. The book had been green, with bright pictures of animals on the cover and curvy words wrapping around like vines. The hardened paste of its binding held all the words in place. Years later, the book was no longer green, the animals were now black and yellow smudges. Dust crusted the surface and seeped into all the pages making the words seem old and withered.

Once, when this book had been young, it had been the little girl’s best friend.

Are you still with me, reader?

The book and the girl went everywhere together, they were inseparable. She would sit for hours and tell it stories, the book in turn would listen, ears open wide and take in every word she said. Many of those stories were happy stories, filled with thick laughter dripping onto the pages of the book, yet sometimes the little girl told sad stories and then her tears would splatter all over the book, soaking it through from one cover to the other. The book never got mad though, he loved the little girl. Fortunately, the little girl liked happy stories more than sad stories so the book survived pretty dry for the most part.

As time went on, the little girl became better at telling stories and her words began to fill the pages of the book at an incredible rate. An uncontrollable rush of letters would pile into the book, saturating it to near suffocation… and then, just as the book thought he would explode, the little girl would stop. She would get up and hold the book close to her chest. He could feel her breathing, the sound of her heart beating against his pages.

One morning, the little girl did something that would change everything thereafter. It was a particularly beautiful day.

Yes, reader, I know this phrase is used and abused but you must bear with me, this is after all a true story. It was a beautiful day…

The sky was blue – the deep color of the sea before a storm – white puffy clouds exploded across the horizon, and the golden disc of sun had sprung a leak and was dripping scalding liquid across the sky, smearing gold on the clouds. The grass was very green, so green that it crunched when one walked on it and it smelt of honey. The little girl was wearing a yellow sundress with orange sunflowers on it. She had her hair carelessly braided down her back and the wind teased her by gently yanking on strands of her hair and then blowing them on her face. She didn’t have any shoes on that day, but then again she didn’t often wear shoes.

So, are you following this? It was a beautiful day and the little girl did not have shoes on. OK?

The little girl took her book and went to sit on the hill behind her house. This is where she always went when it was a beautiful day and she did not have shoes on because the grass was very green and she liked to crunch it under her toes and make it smell like honey. She got to the top of the hill and plopped down in the middle of a patch of daisies. One of the daisies got stuck under her skirt but she didn’t notice. The little girl took out her book and stared at if for a while, then she started telling a story.

Is that you talking? Don’t think I can’t hear you! Just because I leave for a second doesn’t mean I stop existing, you know? Damn her! She thinks that just because she is a so-called “author” she has the right to do anything she wants, as if I don’t exist or something! Really… she pisses me off, she and her words – but I already said that. 

You know what really makes me angry? When people think that because they are on the other side of the page they can do anything they want. They act like they control the world. If they feel like it, they will invent a chair, or beers or cigarettes or dragons or demons or love. For crying out loud!

I would really, really like a smoke right now, but no! I am not going to be like you people on the other side and act like I can do anything I want – I can’t, so there! Plus, it wasn’t even my fault that I ended up on this side of the page and not on the other and it wasn’t my fault that she decided all of a sudden that it didn’t matter what I thought. Did she think it would be so easy to just disregard somebody else because they are a “character”? What the hell is that all about?

She had no idea! I need a cigarette. Fortunately, I don’t need an “author” – or you for that matter – to make me a cigarette. I have friends with connections. Don’t we all, in these underworlds?

Is he gone? I wish I could know, it would make my life so much easier if he were predictable. He’s so random, I’ve never know any other character like that. All characters have a structure, a pattern and one can follow it – the author and the reader – but this guy… maybe it’s me. He scares me, he terrifies me because I don’t know where he’s coming from. I cannot read him.

But I digress and with such little time.

So, the little girl was on the hill, her chin propped up on the palm of her one hand and the fingers of her other hand jumped off the petals of the flowers. The petals were white. She started telling the book another story. The book, of course, was thrilled. These were his most precious moments, not a care in the world, all he had to do was lay there, face up and listen. What more could a book want? The blue sky overhead, the green grass down below, the sound of the little girl enveloped the book. The breeze was being mischievous, in the way that breezes frequently are, rustling the pages of the book. Gently, ever so slowly, the book began to drift into a strange reverie.

I say strange for books aren’t ones to dream you know, dear reader.

It was a story, what he dreamed, about a young and very handsome boy. It took place in a small village, where fairy tales often do. Like many young and handsome story boys, this one had a lovely mother and a very loving father. He had everything he needed to be content. The story told of a hunting trip and witches and goblins in enchanted forests, there were magic unicorns and flying creatures and even a secret maze. The story was wonderfully complex. It covered everything that a fairy tale should, except for one minor detail which was regretfully overlooked. You see, reader, the author of this story was a little girl and she still had much to learn about living in the world of make-believe. There was one element in this beautiful story that she forgot to mention – the lovely fair maiden. Every hero needs a heroine, every boy needs a maiden to love – this is one of the most important fairy tale tenets. How could the little girl know about fair maidens?

Now reader, you must understand, the book thought he was dreaming all along, for surely he would not have allowed this piece of crucial information go omitted. But he did and that is where the trouble began.

It must have been a few hours later when the book woke up to a slam. Its pages lay flat one against the other, tight, constricted, cold. The sky was green, reflecting the now prickly grass and the disc of sun was harsh and piercing. The once puffy clouds looked like jagged edges of a once gorgeous day and the wind was furious. The book listened for the little girl, she was not longer speaking. He could feel the tips of his pages vibrating with the remnants of her voice which echoed faintly in the pages of his body but it was too long gone for him to recall it. The little girl was lying on the hill fast asleep. Her eyes were shut tight, sealed to the world, and her bare feet were tucked under her yellow dress with orange sunflowers. In her hand rested one flower which she had picked, it was now withered, its petals grey and drooping. The book could hear her body breathing, rising with every oblivious moment she inhaled, sinking with every finished dream she exhaled. The book lay very still, not knowing what to do. All of a sudden he heard a sound – faint a first and progressively getting louder.

The sound was like the hum of a drum, rhythmic and very forceful. The book could feel it reverberating in his body, each page rippling to the beat sending a wave of chills down the book’s spine. The book looked around him, there was nothing there but himself and the little girl – and her grey flower. The sound was getting very loud, the pages in the book were beginning to convulse out of control. The air was heavy with the beat. A gust of violent wind grasped the book and flung it into the air, screaming words exploded out of the pages. The binding of the green book flapped at the sky to the rhythm of the strangely overpowering sound. And the little girl woke up.

Her eyes were brown, very round brown. She looked up at the book flailing in the air as she stretched her tiny arms. The book landed at her feet with a thud, pages folded against each other, wrinkled ends and words gone astray. The little girl picked up the book, dusted it and lay it on her lap. She ran her fingers up and down the cover, tracing the colorful pictures. Inside, the book could feel the sound picking up the pace, no longer as loud but it was fast, very fast. It was the beat of a heart in the heat of panic – or passion. Outside, the little girl continued to move her fingertips along the bright pictures, outlining the animal’s silhouettes; inside, the heart continued to pound against the pages of the book. The one, the other, both to the same pulse.

I cannot believe you! I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you, you betrayed me once, why not again!

I wish I could kill her, she makes me so angry. She takes this attitude of “all is well in fantasy-land and I can do and say whatever I damn well please.” She’s wrong, all is not well in fantasy-land and she can do nothing about it. I hate this fucking hole, it’s the pits – it is too bright and it’s boring as hell. I do nothing but sit here all day long until someone decides to splatter these pages with stupid gibberish in the form of words. I have tripped on so many words that you wouldn’t believe it.

All of a sudden I will be sitting here minding my own blank business and these words fall out of nowhere. Sometimes, if I’m not paying attention, I might become trapped in a tower of words. That’s happened to me so many times that I can’t even tell you. Then, the only way I can get out is when the jerk who happened to put these stupid things on the paper in the first place realizes that he (or she, because she did it the last time) made a mistake and erases some part of the shit on the page – then I can escape.

Right, it all sounds so nice and dandy, doesn’t it? It fucking sucks!!! Especially when you have no say, no way and nobody gives a shit one way or the other. I have been here for years, decades, centuries! Do you know how damn boring this place gets? Do you have any idea what I do in my free time? Nothing, that’s because I have nowhere to go, I am trapped by all these words.

I didn’t even get a warning or anything. One day I was sitting there with my whole life gleaming before me and the next minute I was forever trapped. It happened so fast that I could do nothing to stop it. I tried – did I ever – but all to no avail because I. am. still. here. And she, she didn’t even know.

Here is this girl all nice and cheery, she decides to tell a story and BAM, that’s the end of me. At first it was cool, there were enchanted forests and dragons to slay, unicorns to run into and tons and tons and tons of sword fights. It was awesome! I loved it. I was the ultimate hero, nobody could beat me – she made me invincible. I was in great shape, too. I mean after a day of sword fighting, dragon slaying, wall climbing, moat swimming and chasing after knights on horseback what do you expect? I was so tough! I was rich too, had all the gold in the world. I had more gold than could even be described in the pages of a book, there are no words to encompass all the gold I had. I was admired everywhere I went and people wooed and bowed to me at every town. I was so handsome and had all the frills and thrills of a story book hero, except for one fucking thing – a woman. Everybody, every single character in a fairy tale has a companion, even the bad guys have wives and at least one lover. What did I have? Everything but a lovely-fucking-lady. What the hell was that all about? I would come back after a busy day and to what? My trillions of gold pieces, whatever! Well, you know what happened? Naturally I began to get a little eager… what do you expect from a young and handsome boy?

 And here is the little girl, she, the one who told the story in the first place. Well, she sits there in her yellow dress with orange flowers, her feet are bare and the wind is combing out her hair. I watch her weave a world around me, the curve of her chin resting on her palm. She is so beautiful. She has these eyelashes that are thick and luscious and they match her deep brown eyes. I watch her as she picks a white flower and holds it tenderly between her delicate fingers. The tip of the smooth petals brush against her cheek as she raises the flower to her nose.  I can see her – feel her – breathing in the flower.  The little girl sighs , she is tired, and she rests her head on her arm. I watch her as she soon falls asleep. I can hear her dreaming, I can feel her heart beating next to me.

Then it dawns on me that she has finished telling her story. I look around me at the words, how does this end? I skim through the story quickly and realize that the one very necessary element is missing. My fair maiden is not included. The little girl is restless, her lips mumble something in her sleep. I watch this girl as she rests oblivious to the crime she has committed to my life. The wind is picking up and it plays with the sunflowers on her dress. Her bare feet are tucked under her yellow dress and her fingers open slightly allowing the flower to drop to the ground by her head. She is so lovely, so serene. I look back at the words of my life. She has chosen not to give me a fair maiden and so I must find one myself. I look towards the little girl – she will be my maiden.

 Are you listening to me, you? Can you hear what I am saying? You’d better be paying attention. Do you know how difficult it was for me to do that? You try to go through life without someone to love, someone who will love you back! And I had nothing to do with it, I didn’t choose this life, it was given to me and I was just a player in someone else’s – yours – game of imagination. How could you?! How could you just leave me hanging like that and not think that I would care? Who do you think you are!

I hate her, I hate her for what she did to me.

I didn’t hate her at first, I loved her! No, I worshiped her. She became my idol. Every day she would pick up the book and run her fingers up and down the spine and my body would shiver. I could feel my heart pounding through her fingertips and it drove me crazy! I didn’t want to do anything then. I got bored of the dragons and the castles and the fucking forests – same old, same old. I wanted more, more than that – I wanted her. I wanted to be out of the pages with my maiden and there was nothing I could do. She would take the book up to the hill and sit for hours telling it stories. I would lay there awed by the sound of her voice, shaking uncontrollably every time she breathed. It was crazy. I became obsessed.

All I wanted to do was be on that hill with her. I loved watching her play in the fields and pick flowers, I loved listening to her sleep, I loved the smell of honey when she walked on the grass. I loved everything about her – except the fact that she was out there and I could not touch her. It drove me crazy! Damn. I need another cigarette. Hmmm, let’s see:

“and then, he pulled a cigarette from his pocket, looked at it for a moment as if surprised, and put it to his lips. He reached into his pocket again and pulled out a bright orange lighter with purple spots. He laughed and then lit the cigarette. He put the lighter back into his pocket as he took a drag of his cigarette.”

Ha! Not bad, this whole “author” thing.  So where was I? Ah yes, my maiden… speaking of whom.  Are you there? I know you can hear me, you’d better answer if you don’t want me to go get you! Answer dammit!

Shit, I hate when she does this to me. All right then, I am coming to get you!

 Oh my god, reader, please, please, I am terrified! Help me.

You have to finish this story fast, are you listening? Oh please, Oh god.

That day on the hill the little girl had created a character yet she hadn’t given him a maiden to love. To make the story short, her character fell in love with her, madly in love – obsessed. He would do nothing but think about her. His heart beat like crazy every time she was near him, the pages of the book would shake with the strength of his pounding heart. The book was terribly worried, he didn’t know what to do. He knew there would come a time when the character would refuse to be contained within the green paste of the book’s binding and then, who knew what would happen! Every day it got worse, the little girl would brush her fingers past the book and the character would scream in ecstasy, it was awful! The problem only got worse.

The little girl was no longer so little and she soon became a woman. As time went on, she stopped putting the book under her pillow and transferred it to her night bed. The book didn’t mind, he liked it there, he could still hear her breathing but this way he could watch over her. The character was very angry. He could no longer feel the warmth of her drowsy body against the pages of the book or hear her murmuring in her sleep. One day, the little girl removed the book from her bedside table and put it in a shelf. There were many, many books in the shelf, all different sizes and color, all filled with exciting adventures and stories to tell. It was wonderful fun for the book, he always had someone to talk to and new characters to meet. However, the handsome young man was furious, he refused to talk to anyone, refused to acknowledge anyone, even the book himself. The young man began to swear and say awful things.

By now, the young boy was no longer young, nor handsome, and he was far from a hero. All he did was talk about his lost maiden and how he had to go rescue her. He fought with other characters and tried to destroy other stories. He began to touch upon the realm of insanity (something the book knew well, for there are many stories about crazy people). Yet, the book could do nothing to help the character who refused to take heed of any advice the book offered. To make matters worse, the character began to loathe the book because its pages constained him and prevented him from being with the little girl. The little girl did get the book out one time, she dusted it and touched the colorful figures on the cover. But then she put it back on the shelf and walked away. The character never forgave her for this, he felt this act was the ultimate betrayal of a lover. He swore to avenge himself in any way necessary.

Reader, this is where I come in. You must understand, you must believe me.

I am the little girl that once was. I was the one who created the handsome young hero. You must forgive me, I didn’t know he needed a maiden, I didn’t know he was so angry – I found this out later, after it was too late. How could I have known? I am trapped now, I am his prisoner. He has found a way to bind me to my own pages and I cannot escape. He forbids me to write, forbids me to speak, any thing that may free me is forbidden. I need your help, you must help… after all, you are not an innocent participant yourself.

You were there, remember? I made the mistake of following you into one of my stories. I knew it was a dead end, but it was such an exciting proposition. And it was actually fun, right? We had a great time! Until the end. Somehow, you escaped and I, well I ended up here. I’m sure it was a trap that he set.

Is it possible that you were working with him?

Are you still there? Why don’t you answer? I need you…

I fear this place – it is empty, blank, oblivious. There is no space, no time, no rest. I want to die and yet I cannot even do that. I am stuck in eternity, immortalized by the lack of words to end this story. Please reader, it is up to you to conclude my tale. You must write the final words and free me of this frightful moment.

Oh, I can hear him near me. I can feel his heart pushing me further into emptiness. Oh my god, he will make me live forever, he will never forgive me. He is so merciless, I should have foreseen this, how could I? Reader, are you there?

Why don’t you answer?!

What are you doing? Are you talking? I thought I told you that you could not do that? Who do you think you are? You are no longer an author…

But I am… I made you!

You made shit! Shit, do you hear me? You did nothing worthy of the name “author”!  Such a lofty title for such a piece of junk. You deserve to be here – trapped like me – in your own words. Now you’ll know what it feels like? Now you’ll know the pain you’ve made me feel.

But why?

Why!!! Spending eternity in loneliness isn’t enough? I wasn’t going to take that so… you’ll had to spent it with me. You will never leave, you know?

But I will.

You think you will. I heard what you said, to the reader. Trust me, you’ll get no help there. Plus, it’s too late.

What?!

It’s too late. Once the story ends, there is nothing else to be done.

But who will tell the story if not me? The reader?

Me!

What! Oh god, no! But you aren’t an author…

Oh, but I am!

But you hate words, you loathe them, you don’t want to have anything to do with them!

Well, there is always the exception…

But we can solve this another way, I know we can. I can make you a maiden… I can make you the most beautiful…

AND…

Oh, please… stop, please. I never meant to…

THEY…

Reader, I know you are still there, you must help me.

LIVED…

STOP!

EVER AFTER

All content is copyrighted by Karla Valenti. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is expressly forbidden.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *