I never should have taken this up for a hobby. If I had known what was in for me, I would have stuck to being bored. Definitely.
These are my thoughts as I stare at the mess surrounding me. Empty tins of Fantazade – melon, goldberry and dewroot flavour – litter the floor, someone has spilled tea all over my newly drawn map of Aieda, and someone – I have a feeling I know exactly who – has pinned sheets labelled "Lani's Unhelpful Hint for the Day: If you're stuck on the story, just use less glue!" wherever she has found space. One of the neon lights up on the ceiling is flickering, on and off, on and off, on and off. I notice a stain on the mirror along the opposite wall, and my Swiss blood gives me a compulsion to rub it off, even though I know how pointless it is. A styrofoam box full of someone's unfinished, by now cold lunch is lying in the middle of all the rest of the chaos.
No wonder I've been feeling clogged up for weeks. How can anyone not get writer's block from such clutter?
I press a button in the wall and the bell rings, long and hard. I wander behind my long-unused desk and brush away the thick layer of dust, crumbs, dead spiders and the droppings of some random animal I must have invented sometime during my writing career. The air smells faintly of burnt soya pasties and heavily of Elvish deer stew.
Suddenly, the door at the other end of the room bangs open. Before I know it, something large and dark-haired and vaguely blue is hurtling towards me. "Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! You're heeeeeeeeere!" Laniria manages to just not collide with me, coming to a stop straight in front of my nose. She grabs the stack of papers in my hands and starts to leaf through it. "Anything for me?" she asks expectantly.
"No, just Ruhan this time," I say, snatching the papers back.
Lani looks at me sulkily. "But you've been writing her story since… since I don't know when! It's high time you write ours again! Ours is so much cooler!"
"I heard that!" Ruhan says, passing by. She snatches her instructions for the day and goes off to read them through.
"Well," Lani says, straightening her blue dress and brushing some strands of hair behind a pointed ear, "I can't help it if she's jealous!"
I go around the room handing out instruction sheets to all the other characters involved, Lani following me like a dog. "Please, this time, promise me to only bash in when it's an absolute emergency!" I tell her.
"Emergency? Like what?"
"You're not to disturb the scene when you're in the middle of thinking Merina and Theo are going to hold hands next!"
"But they're so cute together! You've never even seen…"
"Trust me, Lani. I've been writing their story and yours for years. I've seen them do more than that."
"Ooh, really?" she exclaims, eyes going wide and begging.
"Wait for the story to get written," I mutter, rolling my eyes and trying to shoo her away. "L F people! Get over here, we need to get started!" I yell over the rising chatter about story character wages, dragon breeds and, probably, how to get rid of that pesky annoying writer who is just never happy.
"What's L F?" Lani asks, standing on tiptoe and trying to take another peek at my clipboard full of notes.
"Short for The Last will be First," I say quickly. "Now shoo; you can watch, but don't disturb."
"Fair enough," she sighs, and lumbers over to one of the doors along the side of the room, the one labelled As yet Untitled (aka. T-story).
I sit down behind my desk, then notice that the mess is still there. "Someone get rid of that pile of rubbish, please," I exclaim, exasperated, "or I'll give you all tragic endings!" Stupid threat, since I'm not too keen on ruining carefully planned plots.
The handful of characters look at each other; Ferran is an Elvish crown prince, his face is already saying She definitely can't mean me; Ruhan looks like she's just going to stay put and watch him do it; Sylvia's rheumatism-excuse is just waiting on the tip of her tongue; in the end it's poor long-suffering Katarina who stomps over and starts piling all the rubbish into her arms. And of course her beloved Cirion has to come and help her. How sweet! I really should think of writing another story just about their married life, they're far too cute together… (not to mention far more co-operative than the rest of the lot!)
"Thank you," I say, with another glare at Ruhan, who really has been giving me more trouble than she can imagine. "Now get ready." I extract a pile of fresh paper from one of the many drawers, then fix it inside the Typer on the desk. Hopefully the ink hasn't dried up again, else I'll really throw a fit this time. I press a button and the room disappears, replaced by the background just as I imagined it. The Typer begins moving, and words appear on the first sheet of paper.
The characters do nothing. I give them a significant look. They still do nothing.
I tear the page out of the Typer and crumple it up, throwing it behind me. "You're not even in your right positions! Get moving! Ferran – bed! Ruhan – where are your flowers? Everyone else is supposed to be out so I don't even know what you're doing here! Move it!" And at last they seem to have discovered that they are not supposed to be statues, and all of them rush around to where they're supposed to be. Ruhan rushes past me to retrieve the bunch of limp flowers she's supposed to be holding, and which she must have forgotten behind the Love your Enemies Series door. She sticks out her tongue at me as she runs back. "Oy! Do that again and I'll make your future nastier than it is already!" I snap. Then I adjust the Typer once more, and wait until it's through with the background description before giving Ruhan the look that means "Start. Now!"
She enters the shack, on tiptoes, just as it says in her instructions. But her face expression! "Ruhan! You're supposed to be feeling very shy! Not trying to keep from laughing! This is a very serious business! Start again."
And once more she opens the door, and it creaks just right, and the corrugated-iron walls of the shack shake just the way they should, and the Typer is happily describing away. She's even managed to blush this time – everything is going nice and smoothly. Now she's by Ferran's bed; at least he's doing his job well.
But now what is she doing?
"Ruhan! Do something!"
"Haven't you read your lines? You want me to get those defrosting thingies again? You're making your own story stuck; you want to languish in boredom like Lani and the rest of them?"
Ruhan glares at me. "It's not me, it's him!"
Ferran looks up as though he's been asleep. Most likely he has. "Wha-what? What have I done now?"
Ruhan immediately goes red. (Mark of a good writer – your characters actually feel what you want them to feel. Yayness, at least that is working!) "Nothing," she says quickly.
"Can I know what's going on here?" he asks, looking at me.
"Nothing, that's just what," I mumble, burying my head in my hands.
"Well sorry, you haven't given me my lines yet!"
"What, seriously?" I think I'm losing my brain. I dig through the pile of papers I brought today, but all of them are only old notes and some lines for in case these characters don't co-operate and others work better. No, Ferran's lines must be lying back home on my desk. "I think I've lost them."
And just when IA'm thinking it can't get any worse, it does. In flounces Merina, a deadly look on her face and one of my notebooks – no idea how she managed to steal it – in her hands. "Dee. What is this?" and she points at a detailed plan of one of my recent ideas to turn her life into a tragedy (not for punishment, just because I like the story idea, seriously). "Is this another 'just for fun' thing or were you seriously thinking of giving me the arranged marriage treatment this time?"
"Guess," is all I feel like saying just now.
"Be glad I don't assassinate you," she mutters, tears in her voice.
"Well, if you do, you die too. So now shoo, go and learn your lines."
"Well, at least I do learn my lines, not like some people!" she huffs.
"Are you hinting?" Ferran asks.
"Maybe I am," she says with a haughty look in his direction.
"Merina, calm it, he's not your fiancé, he just has a similar name."
Merina gives him another glare, only to receive a glare from Ruhan (poor lovesick child). "What are you glaring at me for, glare at her!" Merina exclaims, pointing at me.
This is a madhouse. I feel sorely tempted to bang my head three times against the wall. Just when I want to do so, the Love your Enemies Series door opens, and Ferran's wife-to-be-in-a-few-chapters, Anaia, comes in, all frail and fragile beauty. "When am I going to die? I'm feeling kind of bored at the moment," she says.
This is it. I bang my head on the desk. "Either you're lazy, stupid, demanding, suicidal, whatever – you're just never co-operative!"
"How about you? You're never writing our story!" Lani says, pouting. "When will you be writing our story again?"
"Please don't," Merina says through clenched teeth.
"I'm feeling kind of ignored at the moment," Ruhan mutters, staring blankly at the shack ceiling, which isn't a very pleasant sight especially with the cockroaches crawling over it.
Just in time, the break-bell rings, loud and long. Everyone cheers. Feeling defeated by figments of my own imagination, I press a button to get the background back to normal. Again I can't help wondering why I'm doing this to myself. Lani rushes through the T-story doorway and comes back with a little lunch box. "You can have mine if you like," she says, "Anaia is on a diet so she's giving me hers. It's really cool what elves in other worlds eat, it's so different!" And she speeds off again, almost running over poor Ruhan. Somewhere in the middle of the whole racket, Ruhan's baby brother is crying at the top of his lungs.
I open Lani's lunch box to find a row of neat little rolls – leaves wrapped around some kind of meat. Better than being forced by my orc character Githnark to eat cockroach crackers. At the other end of the room, Lani is digging into Anaia's big helping of roast some-sort-of-bird-thing. It's no wonder Anaia is so weak and fragile; she should eat more! But it's not really worth feeding her up, she's going to die in chapter 9 anyway.
Bell rings again, and everyone groans – including me. Here we go back to hell… now I know why I have permanent writer's block.
"Not true! Writer's block is all your own fault!" Merina makes sure to yell at me before she closes the T-story door. Dang, why did I ever give her mind-reading qualities?