Unbeknownst to anyone, whenever someone on Earth creates a fictional world, that world suddenly appears in space somewhere. You are a young novelist working on the sequel to your best seller. You wake up one night to find the main character of that novel standing at the foot of your bed.
I rub my eyes tenderly, brushing the sleep sand out of them, and stifle a shriek when I see what appears to be a whisper-thin, two dimensional ghostlike apparition standing at the foot of my bed. Her crimson gown is familiar to me as it was my choice to have her wear it for my best-selling novella, Sara’s Keepsake Box.
Her voice is tremulous when she speaks. “Why did you take him from me?” she asks.
“Take him?” I reply, my voice breaking over the words.
“Johnny,” she reminds me, her eyes flooding with tears. “I truly loved him, you know.”
I cast my gaze downward. “I know,” I murmur as though I am ashamed, and perhaps I am ashamed, placing two lovers in different realms – different planes of existence – does seem an unnecessary cruelty.
“Did we wrong you somehow?” She draws near, brushing her dove-white hand against my own.
I lick my lower lip, the air feeling dry. “Sara, it was not about you. It’s a book. It’s fiction. People want to read about these things.”
“People wish to read about heartbreaking things?” she echoes, furrowing her brow. “What monsters you live among.”
“Sara,” I insist, her fingers crumpling in my grip, “he would have hurt you, you know.”
“I know,” she replies sadly, “I just would have liked to have that choice.”
“You came here to tell me that?” I ask as I gather my quilt around me.
“Time is a funny thing,” Sara admits, her eyes glassy. I’m not even fully sure she heard me until she adds, “It takes bravery to cross the River Styx, yet to come to you, I have been summoning this strength for years. That book, that novella you wrote, won so many accolades.”
I’m not one to boast, but I puff out my chest and smile. “It has.”
I remember writing her hair auburn and with waves like an untamed thing. I see brambles thatched in her upswept hair. I like Sara. As a character, she is strong, but as a human, I see where I let her down.
“Is this a dream?” I ask.
“Does it seem a dream?”
I, for a moment, feel lost. The four walls of my attic bedroom seem to collapse.
This is where everything begins to feel different. I am now garbed in a dress of midnight sky with a cloche over my face, protecting plants from frost and my face from blanching.
Sara tries to guide me in this strange world, a beach of gray sands and silver waters, but as she pulls me nearer to the man who sits on the beach with his face in his hands, I tell her I cannot follow.
“That’s Johnny,” she insists, “we need answers.” I notice the wilted dandelion knotted around her ring finger.
In Sara’s Keepsake Box, that weed stem tied into a knot was a promise ring. Johnny wasn’t the type to make promises, but even as he left her, he knew he’d want to find her again.
She has worn the ring for many years. It stains her pale skin green. It is a dying dandelion.
“Could you just give us a moment, Maman?” she asks, her eyes imploring.
“Maman?” I echo.
“You create us,” she reminds me, her French accent now thick, “and we are your children.”
She kneels on the sand beside Johnny. Though the two are murmuring, I can tell you what they say. They talk of love and marriage and death being only temporary. They talk of the bullet shrapnel in Johnny’s chest. They look at me with pleading eyes, but there is nothing I can do.
So it has been written.