I open my eyes and am surrounded by blackness. I look back; dark trees and mist. I look down: a rope coiled at my feet snakes its way up my legs and into a knot around my waist. I pull the rope up through dry hands and it suddenly stops short. The end looks frayed as if it had been hacked in a panic. I let the rope fall to the ground. I look around and slowly, as if for the first time, thoughts begin to materialize in my head.
How did I get here, I wonder. And where is this here, anyway? If my brain didn’t feel like it was made of smoke I suspect I might have felt a little concerned. At this point though, I resign myself to going through a checklist of possible knowns and un-knowns.
I don’t know what my name is. I don’t know why this rope is tied around my waist. I don’t know what the rope had been previously tied to or why it was cut off from itself. There seem to be two possible explanations to my strange situation: One; I was being held captive and I managed to escape, or two; I have gone walking in the woods and somehow lost the other end of my safety rope. The outcome of both scenarios seems to be the same, however; I am lost. Or at least I think I am.
I turn to my left, my feet crunching on black grass as I adjust my body, and watch an avenue of dead trees get swallowed up by the distance. I turn to the right, it’s the same. I’m standing in some kind of clearing, apparently the only one in a factory-line forest. This place really feels like its been made up by some writer who’s completely lost for ideas. The all-encompassing mist, black trees stretching endlessly into a grey sky? Jesus. I begin fumbling with the knot at my waist. Get your head out of those shitty mystery novels and give me a backstory here. The knot almost seems to grow tighter as I struggle with it, small sinews getting stuck beneath my nails, which I only notice now have been chewed down to the quick.
From the distance, or maybe from above, or even from below the very ground, there comes a rumbling. I stop what I’m doing and look around, up, down. The ground is trembling slightly. This is an earthquake. Stay calm, keep your eyes on a fixed point and it will be ok. My eyes scan the ground and find a burnt tree stump a couple of metres away from me. I stare at it, investing all of my safety into this black amputation. And then it simply vanishes.
The rumbling stops and the world is still again. But I am still frozen in place, staring. I get the feeling that I’m not alone, being watched even. Although I doubt that anybody would be interested in me – there doesn’t seem to be anything interesting to know. Nevertheless, the feeling of another presence is inescapable.
As expected, no one answers. My fingers are ice cold and clumsy as they become more panicked in untying the rope. I haven’t moved since I realized myself. Things crawl at my ankles. I think I’m being chased. Why can’t I remember anything, Jesus, I’m going to die here.
Stop. Calm down. I place one hand on my heart and click the fingers of my other hand until I feel my pulse slow and my brain deflate. I look up and hope that my calming ritual would manifest a blue sky, but it remains that over-dramatic grey –
It’s not overly-dramatic. It’s – nevermind. Maybe this isn’t working.
I stop dead, my fingers frozen and my eyes wide open. I’m aware that my mouth is slightly agape and is going dry from the cold air I’ve been inhaling whilst trying to calm myself.
“Hello?” I force my cracked voice to ask the dead space around me.
Christ! I’ve never written such a self-aware character – so many questions! Maybe I should just scrap this –
“No! No, no wait!” I spin around, looking up at the sky. The clouds are heavy with black and the grey sky is so brilliant that it hurts my eyes. “Hello?”
Only silence responds. My breathing has become rapid and I almost feel like crying. I wait a while longer and when it seems hopeless, I return to trying to untie the knot around my waist, even though it seems pointless. I am trapped, and now I’m crazy.
Listen, just calm down, alright? Look, I’m trying to write you. Well, a novel. Well maybe just a short story – I don’t know – but you won’t shut up.
“You’re a writer?” I can’t fully appreciate that the voice I’m hearing is real. It can’t be. I am going crazy, I knew it.
You see? Every time I add a new element you start up again. That’s why you don’t know anything – I’ve erased practically everything I’ve written and you’re still not happy. This time it’s the sky. I mean Jesus! I have a deadline, you know.
The voice boomed down at me, irate and trembling in my ears, shaking the very ground I stood on. I squint up into the sky and think about my next move.
“Look, I…. I understand your frustration”, I start tentatively, “Really, I do. But you have to admit, it’s a little confusing down here as well”. I pause, bracing myself for the retaliation. The silence eggs me on, “So, maybe we could work together. Because I’d like a name and it seems you’d like to give me one…”
“So I’ll… stop making snarky comments”, I said, even though I thought I was fully entitled to them, and –
Look, I’ve got the eraser end of a pencil right here and to be honest I’m a little tired of you. I could turn you into a self-conscious tampon if –
“No, no! I’m sorry!” I shout, my hands raised in the international sign for surrender. “Look, I’m sorry, I’m just a little shaken up here. It’s quite something to find out you’re a nothing and then a big voice in the sky tells you that it alone is responsible for your existence.” As the words leave my lips I start to hope that this isn’t going to be a story about finding God –
I wouldn’t worry about that. But if I’m being honest, I hadn’t thought about it that way. Must be pretty strange down there.
Alright. I’m sorry too.
Silence again. I wait.
And I didn’t mean what I said about the tampon. I’m just suffering from a serious case of writer’s block. I’ve got 12 hours and you don’t even have a name, I mean –
“Well, hold on now!” I interrupt before my creator erases me in a panic, “I’d be more than willing to help out”. I lower myself into a sitting position and cross my legs in the dewy grass. My legs creak as they fold underneath me. “Could you bring the sun out? It’s hard to think when it feels like death is imminent.”
The voice chortles and the sun comes up, warming my face and turning the grass green. The trees bloom around me and suddenly it’s beautiful out. I lay back, placing my hands behind my head, “So… what about Raymond? Maybe I’m a pilot.”