The Writer

The writer hid in his words because he could not bear to face the world. The outside world, that is, for within the pages marked by his pen entire new worlds rose up, providing more than enough room in which to comfortably reside. He did not think that the world was going to bother him, molest him, or otherwise attack him, but he was afraid that it might because he knew that it could. The only thing the writer was certain of was how much uncertainty existed in the world all around him. Far better than trying to survive that uncertainty was to create a world with some order, a world with rules that could be defined and changed according to his creative whims. These worlds were created at the tip of his pen and he eagerly dived in them, reveling in the sanctuary of certainty he had created. Let it be clear that it was only the certainty that attracted him to create new worlds. Many despots have turned to creating their own worlds when their attempts to control the real one prove futile; they desire power above all else, the power to dictate and control. The writer felt no such desire.  He wanted to control nothing except his own destiny. Holding power over someone else, as the writer did when he resided inside the worlds which he created, did not fill him with the pleasure of a megalomaniacal master but merely mollified him with the assurance that he knew exactly how everyone else would react. He had escaped uncertainty.

Because all he sought from the world within his words was stability, the writer was able to let his creativity flow. No world that he created could be too strange, or scary, or fantastical, for they all came from the pen in his hand and therefore were fully under his control. He could let his imagination explore bizarre scenarios and create amazing settings, could give life to terrible people and others that were too pure to ever exist in a world above the paper. Awful truths could be uttered and new realities created; anything was possible! The worlds would expand with each new character and scene; they would change without any need to consult the rulebooks of physics or biology or morality, and if things got out of hand—if the worlds started spinning wildly off into the infinite realm of imagination, where the darkness of uncertainty reigned—then the writer could put an end to all of it with the stroke of a pen. It was all a dream. That character had only imagined such absurdities. It was a metaphor, nothing more. And if the world ever did become too much—too real, too scary, too uncertain—then it could be burned. The paper could be set to light and burned to ash so that no shred of it existed; so no shred of that world existed. To dispel the lingering memories of that blighted old world the writer would hurry to create a new one—always a happier one, with more order—in which he could hide.

Sometimes the worlds were not complete, at least not in the sense of the world that the rest of us know. Some of the writer’s worlds had no people and places or things; no planets, no cities, no characters that spoke to one another or interacted with their surroundings. They were simply worlds of words. Words such as these ones, strung together by the rules of grammar, that comforted the writer by simply existing. They were his words, but again, it was not the dominion that he craved; he did not care about controlling the words himself, only that they were being controlled. Organized words that followed rules guaranteed certainty, and that was all he needed. Sometimes he would write so fast that his pen would race ahead of his thoughts and the words that would stream across the paper would come as a surprise to him, but the writer was never afraid because his subconscious was well trained in the rules of writing sentences and it could create them without going beyond the boundaries of what was known and accepted, what was certain.

There was one great problem for the writer hiding within his writing, and that was that only his mind could fit into the page. He had not become so adept at world creating so as to be able to make one that could house his corporeal form; his body was still confined to the real world, filled with all its dark uncertainty. No matter how complex and beautiful of a world he created under the tip of his pen, at some point he was forced to put down his writing implement, stretch out the sore fingers on his hand and lift his head up from the paper. This was always the worst moment of the day, this transition from his worlds to the real one. The writer worked in front of a window and on many days would write for so long that it was completely dark outside when he had finished for the day. The writer did not regret the loss of daylight, but he disliked being faced with his own reflection immediately after emerging from his written worlds, meeting his own gaze over sunken cheeks; it was the last thing he wanted to see. His body was evidence of his ineptitude as a creator of worlds. No matter how realistic these worlds seemed to be, how caught up in them he became, the truth was that they would never ascend to the level of reality like the world he was trying desperately to escape. This was painfully obvious every time he looked up into the mirrored pane of the window and saw his own frightened face staring back at him, supported by his frail body. Escape was only temporary. Like waking from a delightful dream, he was faced with the painful reality of accepting that the good feelings would quickly fade into distant memories, untethered to his consciousness by physical experience and therefore so much harder to hold on to.

It was obvious from his first foray into writing as an escape that the relief was fleeting—for many years the writer did not even consider the possibility of a true escape. But as he wrote more and developed his ability to create more believable worlds—ones with greater complexity that exponentially grew into larger areas in which to lose himself—he was able to dig himself deeper into his hideaway. Rather than making it easier to exist in the imperfect world above, though, the closer he got to nirvana, the more he craved it; the more comfort he felt from inhabiting written realms the more he felt repelled by the terrifying uncertainties of the actual world. He threw himself into his writing, retreating farther from his physical surroundings, looking up from his paper less and less and restricting his view whenever he did. He never left his house, never spoke to anyone else, and never turned on the TV lest some news of the outside world invade his contrived privacy and unbalance his delicate disposition, but it was not enough; it was too little too late. He had experienced too much of the world in his younger years—when his naïve curiosity spurred him to talk and travel and discover and learn about the prodigious possibilities that the world offered and the utter lack of assurance that came along with them.

He had been excited, once, by the wonders of the world and the limitlessness of human experience. His mind had bulged with new knowledge and he greedily imbibed new experiences, gulping them down with an unquenchable thirst. Slowly, though, something had changed. Dark thoughts began to seep into his understanding and the excitement of new discoveries went away. The thrill of endless possibilities became confusion, which became discomfort, which settled into fear. The uncertainty of the world that once had so excited him now brought him only fear, and once the fear settled in there was no going back. The terrible repercussions of this connotation—new being frightening, uncertain being bad—seeped into every facet of his perception until it was not only new ideas that became terrifying, but older preconceptions as well. Uncertainties were everywhere; now fear was everywhere. Questions scared him. The writer’s very existence—what with the questions of purpose that it brought—became a concept too terrible to comprehend and so he removed himself from the company of others, for their existence reminded him of his own. Once left alone, however, he was still surrounded by his own thoughts, which proved to be a more raucous crowd than any group of peers had ever been. Human interaction may have broadened his perception but it also distracted his mind, and without it his philosophical misgivings grabbed even tighter hold on his consciousness.

That was when the writer had become the writer. Before then he was just a person who wrote, and he had no real way of defining himself. He became the writer to insert some purpose, and thus certainty, into his life. He was grateful for his writing and was more frightened than words could explain at the prospect of what would have transpired if he had not had a means for creating a sanctuary. His writing protected him from the uncertainty of the chaotic real world, and as his skills improved, the level of protection he was able to create was ever longer and stronger. Yet as the years went on his ability to create ordered worlds began to plateau, at an unsatisfying level below that of total nirvana-like transcendence, and this made him desire that ultimate level all the more. The nearness of total escape was so alluring that he had become nearly manic during the hours when he was awake and not writing. Nothing was more euphoric than building up his worlds of words and falling into them and sleep was always a sweet relief, but during the times in between he could hardly control his body, wracked with fear and uncertainty as it was.

So he came up with a plan. It was hard to develop, because to consider a solution outright would mean to consider the possibility of failure, and he was too far gone for that sort of uncertainty. Instead the plan had to be woven into the worlds he drew out on the paper. It had to be imagined by characters that he controlled and tested out in the manufactured environments that these characters inhabited. Sometimes the plan was drawn up explicitly by a conversation among characters, other times it was obscurely formed by metaphorical musings within the limitless plane of prose, but never was it allowed to manifest outside the bounds of his paper. Never could it apply to him. And so it was many years before the seed of necessity began to germinate into a fully formed means of relief. After more months of debate—by his characters—the writer could wait no longer. His conscious hours were torture and his created worlds could offer no more relief; there was no other option. He began to write.

The writer began his story by describing a character in great detail: drawing his physical form with illustrative phrases, sharing his fears and ambitions and greatest desires. He wrote of the character’s childhood and how each chapter of his life had brought him to be the person he was today. The character was created independently of any other, not tied to any location, occupation, or relationship; he simply existed as himself. As the pages filled with ink and the character took form, the writer began to see himself on the page, first as a blurry outline, and then as clear as his reflection in the window which surely waited him when he looked up from his page. But he did not look up. He kept writing, his head bent low over the paper, losing feeling of the hard chair he sat in and the soft carpet that his toes dragged on, and finally the burning ache of his cramped hand. Soon the writer had faded from existence almost entirely, having become nothing more than the fingers that clutched the pen, still writing, still giving life to the character on the page—sending him on adventures, letting him experience the world, having him face obstacles and overcome adversity—until the transformation was complete.

The writer ceased writing and so was no more. He had finally escaped, he was certain.


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