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.
Or perhaps not.
I plunge my fingers into my ears, in hopes of blotting out Sara’s anguish, but the ensuing silence is frightening. I had closed my eyes without realizing it.
I open my eyes.
David-Michel seems to be walking in my direction. He is a bit bowlegged, and his ears are wide but only because I wrote him that way. As he approaches me, he seems to be saying something, but because of his gait, he looks like a drunk, and I cannot concentrate on his words.
Finally, he is near, and his voice is the equivalent of a child’s attempts at cursive. Perhaps that doesn’t make sense, but it wavers and wiggles. The sound of it is hesitant and falling over itself, and one has to strain to understand it. I listen to him speak, but the words sound as though they were spoken underwater.
I ask him to breathe and when he does, his eyes lock on mine as though he has seen me for the first time.
“What are you doing here?” he gasps. “You’re not meant to be here.”
Sara and Johnny and Noëlle look too. I feel my heart lurch into my throat. It is that uncomfortable moment in my dream where when I look down and discover I’m naked, but this is not a dream and I am clothed.
These characters I have created are fully formed. They are real, have souls, and Achilles’ heels, and passions, and dreams. But they come from my pen. They are composite characters. Noëlle has characteristics of my literature teacher who gave up on being a prima ballerina when she was too old. But she also takes after my nana who lost her sight when she developed cateracts.
“What do you mean, I’m not meant to be here?” I asked.
“You are Maman, the Creator,” Noëlle tells me in a voice that held hints of shame. It was as though I had dementia and had forgotten something very basic about myself, my own name or birthday perhaps. They all stare at me, mouths agape.
“B-b-but how am I here?” I stammer. “Among you?”
David-Michel does not speak to me, his eyes soft and illuminated.
I swear I can see the silver-blue patina on the barrel of a gun. It has oxidized over the years. I recognize the gun as the one that David-Michel’s roommate used to kill himself.
I try to protect David-Michel, but he is just a child on a beach.
Noëlle looks on as though she can see me through her gauzy blindness. “Do you not know?” She asks, her arms outstretched.
Sara reaches for me, her makeshift daisy crown slipping, her crimson gown trailing behind her like organza. She says my name, then she says louder, “Maman.”
I do not answer, but my heart hammers in my chest nonetheless.
“He brought you here, didn’t he?” Johnny murmurs, grains of sand sifting between his fingers. He glances up at me, his eyes mournful.
“Who?” I ask.
“The Great Novelist,” he says without moving his lips.
I begin to stand, but I fumble. I fall face-first, a mouthful of sand and words crumbling like bits of delicate cake. I try to look the Great Novelist in the eye, but a glow emanates from him.
He does not speak, but his accented voice ricochets through my skull. “Do you truly not know why you are here?” he asks, and though the question could sound cruel, I know it is not his intention.
“I do not,” I admit, scarcely lifting my gaze.
“You are my creation,” his voice echoes around us. Crows hop along the beaches, then fly away. Frightened starfish retreat back into the ocean waters. Phosphorus algae vanish as they scuttle under the curtain of dark waters. “You are my Noëlle or Sara. Perhaps in a different draft, on a different parchment, you could have been Johnny or David-Michel, but I created you.”
Tears flood my eyes. “Then, then, th-then,” I stammer, “I am not real.”
David-Michel bows his head and begins to weep.
Sara murmurs, “Nor am I.”
“Nor I.” Johnny barely lifts his head.
Noëlle does not speak.
“W-w-we are not real?” I whisper.
“None of us, mon coeur,” Johnny acknowledges.
The Great Novelist does not speak, but we watch in breathless anticipation as he pulls a soft India rubber eraser from a satchel. Wordlessly, he drags it through the air. I gasp as the landscape vanishes and as David-Michel evaporates piece by piece.
“But you, Maman,” the Novelist says as he approaches me, “I’d like to keep you. We can create universes and beings together. Worlds. Maman, we could be gods.”
I shudder like my veins are electrified, like lightning has come to rest along my bones.
This Novelist wishes to possess me. He wants me to be his. I wish more than anything I could return to my garret loft where everything was safe. And secure. Where I could be author and not the object of a great novelist.