The Written Word

by Stefine K. Pitzer

 

Idyllwild. She and the mirror were one. Every character, every plot, and every scene that boiled to fruition; the mirror captured it all. Nothing could escape from its terrible gaze.

Somehow, she had been walled in as she sat at her high desk. All around her the results of her scribbling and the consequences of her apathy played out on the mirror’s all-seeing gaze. She looked down and found a roll of parchment on the desk, but it was blank. A discarded quill lay forlornly on the floor.

She turned her attention back to the mirror and watched dispassionately as images played across its surface. Time was racing away, but there was nothing she could do except drown in the depths of the mirror and its grim reality. It was almost too much to bear, and finally, she forced herself to close her eyes and lose herself in her own black thoughts.She hopped down from her stool and fumbled in her pocket to find her last remaining fag and a lighter. She struggled to light up.

“May I light your cigarette?” The soft, familiar voice brushed her ears, raising hackles on the back of her neck. She opened her eyes. The mirror had gone dark, but at its center stood a man who watched her with penetrating eyes. He smiled, amused, and with a simple gesture pulled a Zippo from the air, holding the flame down for her. Unconsciously, she leaned forward to light the cigarette and took a long pull, watching as the ring of smoke she released faded into the night before returning her gaze to the man.

He was handsome, she had seen to that. Jet-black hair spilled over his pale face. He was tall, dressed in black velvet that emphasized his muscular frame and accentuated each feature with seductive allure, but when she looked in his eyes she found them dark. Even the feral eyes of the red man were not this dark. This man’s eyes bored a window into her soul, and there was nothing she could do to prevent it.

“Why are you so bitter? You used to dream of Idyllwild,” the man murmured, a slightly amused smile passing his lips.

“My dream was so different from what you have made it. Now, all I can do is watch as my words are twisted, and my dream is lost in your reality.”

“You gave us leave to write ourselves. I believe I have taken your instructions to heart,” returned the man sinisterly. She took another drag for courage as she let him know she was sizing him up before she recalled her voice.

“I created you innocent. Now look what you have become.”

He smiled at her predatorily, increasing her discomfort.

“There is no story without conflict. There is no innocence without guile, and there is no good without evil. You gave us free will. I chose darkness for myself while others chose a more mediocre path. This is the story we have written. This is what you wanted.”

She turned away from him unable to stop the rush of tears that pricked her eyes.

“I dreamed of a land of goodness and beauty; an arbor for all those who were lonely and oppressed. You are everything I stand against, and yet, how did I come to create you?”

He laughed softly.

“That, my dear, even I cannot answer. Some human weakness, perhaps, but I’m here, and you must deal with the consequences.”

“I could erase you, delete you from existence, just as I did the lady in another story. She had as much power as you, yet all it took was a few rubs from my eraser,” she replied.

“I am not so easy to get rid of. You and she were one and the same, you could delete her influence by changing yourself, but I am the product of your imagination and your pen. I will always remain, immortalized by your midnight ink.”

Silence enveloped them. She took another long drag, closing her eyes with the rush of nicotine. There seemed to be no way out of this maze. She looked at the mirror. Even the most noble of her characters were faltering under the control of this dark angel.

“I came to offer you a bargain, my dear, an offer you couldn’t possibly refuse.”

She arched an eyebrow.

“Yeah, like what?”

“Immortality… you only have to come away with me, drop your pen, wash the ink from your hands, forget your meddling in this truly lost world, and immortality is yours forever,” he whispered seductively.

She nearly burst out laughing.

“Do I look like an idiot? Immortality is something that gets offered to ambitious peasants or mad scientists in books and movies, and it always goes wrong in the end. They always end up dead, so no thanks, buddy.”

The man stiffened, his feathers ruffled at this uncouth refusal, but he maintained his composure.

“Why do you think you started writing in the first place? Was it not for immortality? Your words on paper preserved forever, your soul free to influence anyone who reads the marks of your pen? You wanted to go on living even after your death.”

She looked up, her eyes dark with anger.

“I admit that’s how this all started. Each of my characters was a small aspect of myself, a piece to last forever, but they all broke free of my influence. They began to live their own lives, and I no longer need the immortality of my words to preserve myself.”

He shook his head, completely disgusted with her.

“I vow to help this land any way I can, even doing without your foolish immortality. You’ll make no bargain with me,” she returned, “I will do what I can to right the wrongs that have been written. It may take more than my scribbling, but I will find a way, and you will be removed from Idyllwild, you and your influence.”

“Really? You are content to banish me? Surely, you understand the implications? What is good without evil? What is truth without lies? Surely, Idyllwild in all its disgusting righteousness would cease to exist with my demise. You would cease to be,” he answered her sincerely, but his words fell flat on her ears.

“I am ready to live, grow old, and die with the consequences of my words,” she murmured as she dropped the spent butt and ground it into the floor where she stood, “This is my story, and it will end my way.” She reached down and picked up the discarded quill before she hopped back up on her stool.

“So be it,” murmured the dark man as he faded back into the mirror.

She dipped the quill in her inkpot and began to write.

 

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