The Great Novelist: Part III

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.

Don’t forget to read Part I The Great Novelist: Part I and Part II here.


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.

PS: Interested in reading a different take on this prompt? Something that has a familiar feel but also throws you into a weird world of multiverses that you’ve never experienced? Read Dlvan’s version here.

The Great Novelist: Part II

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.

Private.

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.

The Great Novelist: Part I

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.

To be continued…