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.
Read Part I here and continue reading tomorrow for the final installment of “The Great Novelist”.
A shuddering cold slips down my spine as though someone slid an ice cube down my shirt collar. Watching Sara and Johnny has created an uncomfortable feeling in me. Probably because I know what they are destined for.
Johnny is distraught and Sara is inconsolable, and honestly, I feel as though my heart is paper torn. I struggle to watch them as her scarlet dress whips around her in the dying sunlight.
I hear her whisper, “Perhaps this time could be different, non?” Johnny’s face is blank. I am certain he is thinking about the bullet, nonetheless, he takes her into his embrace. I can see the tears that stain her cheeks in the setting sun.
The lovers murmur to themselves, Sara fidgeting with her dandelion ring.
It feels intimate.
Like a last goodbye.
As I stroll farther up the sands, I see an elderly woman shrouded in a veil. Even before she turns to acknowledge me, I know her eyes will be milky. She has dealt with her lack of vision since she was twelve. Noëlle Skye – she is beyond time, yet her greatest dreams will never be realized.
She wants to be a ballet dancer, but even when she was young and heard the cues, even when she watched her instructor’s every footfall (before her sight was robbed from her), Noëlle could not manage the steps without fumbling.
She is old now.
She does not turn at my footsteps, though her expression freezes as she hears me approach. She is one of my earliest characters. I wrote a short story about Noëlle when I was twenty-three. Four years later, I developed it and sold it to a literary journal. Noëlle lifts her gaze toward me. “Please tell me something,” she asks, her voice lilting, “why do you make us all so sad? Is it that you are sad?” Her eyes are gentle and curious, though I know she is not capable of seeing me.
“I have forgotten my grandchild’s name,” she admits, her voice broken with defeat. “My hands are arthritic, so I cannot lace my ballerina slippers, even if I wanted to. I do not see the point much longer.”
“Noëlle,” My voice is soft. I am hesitant. “Why am I here? Is it to face my crimes and be hanged like a common criminal?”
She laughs. “You are not to be punished. We all understand there is a little bit of you in each of us. You give most of us the broken bits like a chipped tea set, but some, you give your joy.” Noëlle glances farther up the beach as though she can see him, a young boy dragging a stick in the sand.
“Go,” she urges me, “I’m sure you recognize him.”
Of course I recognize him, but that does not make the approach any easier. These fictional characters I’ve crafted – even the happiest ones like David-Michel – are imbued with some sense of lingering sadness.
David-Michel is clinging to a red balloon, and his face is lit up in a broad grin. It is his seventh birthday. He went to the zoo and saw a white Siberian tiger. His mother has baked him shortbread cookies, and he is eating his favorite supper tonight.
I remember writing David-Michel. Life is very, very good for him for many years until his suite mate shoots himself in the face with a gun. He is distraught, as one would expect, and withdraws from university. He falls into the bottle as a means of coping, but at this exact moment, he is a happy seven-year-old boy, watching the waves.
He does not see me. It is probably for the best.
This is beginning to feel like one of those books where the Angel of Death shows you the reaches of your life, but these are fictional characters, and I don’t feel like I’m going to wake up soon.
The silence is harrowing. Finally, I ask, “Why am I here? Do I hold the cosmic pen that can rewrite fate?”
I rummage around in my pockets, seeking some answer to this riddle but only find candy wrappers and cigarette lighters. As I search, I form my pointer finger and thumb into a pincher and squeeze my thigh.
Lo and behold, I feel it. I am no ghost nor am I dreaming, though everything feels unreal in a way.
I inhale deeply. Sara and Johnny are observing each other as though for the first time in centuries, showing one another various scars and cuts. Surely Johnny is telling Sara about the bullet. I watch her eyes widen as he splays her fingers onto the site where the shrapnel entered. She might scream or fall into hysterics, but right now, I hear nothing but muffled sounds and a tinny ringing in my ear. The hopeful part of my brain thinks it’s an alarm, and like Ebeneezer, I can go back to the world reformed.
But I know that’s not it at all. I’m here to bear witness.