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Truth in Fiction
My life’s work. I hold it in front of me—a brand-new hardcover book, exactly 337 pages of my words. It is a dream I have had since I was young, now finally staring me in the face. Fans clamor for autographs and interviews, trying to gain a little more insight into the story I have so painstakingly written out.
It is classified as fiction. Technically it is, I suppose. But I’m the only one who knows how loudly the truth rings out in every word I write.
It started one day as I sat in the barn behind my house. I had only the barn cats and a particularly bad case of writer’s block to keep me company. I could picture my main character, Luke, as clear as daylight in my head, but for some reason I couldn’t get him down on paper in the way I saw him.
And then he was sitting right next to me.
Being someone who has read many novels where a similar thing happens, I had always had my reaction planned out. Surprised, but calm and collected. It had never occurred to me that I would ever have to make use of my advance planning.
But, at the moment, I couldn’t think at all. I stared in shock while Luke grinned lopsidedly at me. Exactly how I imagined.
I finally found my voice. “You aren’t real.”
He tilted his head, still grinning. “Aren’t I?”
“I made you up.”
I said nothing.
“I’m real to you, aren’t I?” he continued. “Even if I am just a figment of your imagination.”
It occurred to me that I was considerably less freaked out than I should have been, but I didn’t care. I was experiencing the dream of all writers; there was no way I was going to miss this perfect opportunity. Writer’s block: cured.
Opening my notebook, I started writing. My pencil was no more than a blur in a fury of eraser dust. Opposite of a few minutes ago, there was simply too much to write. I couldn’t take it all in.
Every detail of Luke was suddenly put down on paper. He had sandy hair that hinted a fiery red, and nothing could ever dim the spark in his hazel-green eyes. He had an unsatisfiable hunger for adventure, but he knew when to use caution. He was opinionated and tended to use the same phrase multiple times in a conversation that bored him.
He was far from perfect, but I loved him for it. A writer must love her characters, otherwise they just won’t be the same. Every time he smiled in his crooked way, I was reminded of that.
Luke peeked at my notebook. He gave a small “hmpf” when he read the part about him being imperfect, making me smile.
I looked down again to write another sentence. Staring wistfully at the blank half of the page, I thought of how I’d just love to sit there and interview Luke for hours. We had so much to talk about—or at least I did. It isn’t every day that you meet someone that you personally wrote into life. “Luke—” I began.
But when I looked up, Luke was gone, as if the breeze had carried him away.
Third period, the next day, I was bouncing an eraser up and down on the desk. I wished I was at home writing. I groaned inwardly at the thought of waiting through four more periods until I would have the chance to take out my notebook.
And then, as suddenly as it had happened before, he was there.
The odd thing was, nobody seemed to notice him. They were all staring at me; I had just jumped five inches in surprise.
“I’m going to the bathroom. I feel sick.”
By the time the teacher nodded at me I was already halfway out the door. I quickly scanned the hallway. After checking the coast was clear, I sprinted down the hall and into the bathroom. Luke hadn’t spoken yet; his footsteps were the only indication that he was still with me.
I knew it was dumb, but I felt the need to say it anyway. “Luke, you’re in the girls’ bathroom.”
“I am a figment of your imagination. I can go in whatever bathroom I want, thank you very much.”
It wasn’t until I had locked myself in the largest stall that I noticed it wasn’t Luke following me.
This time it was Melissa.
I had all but forgotten her. I had started her story years ago and never finished. It had been a simple story about a typical rags-to-riches heroine (Melissa) against an evil sorcerer trying to take over the kingdom.
Melissa was very different from Luke. She was laid-back and level-headed, with whitish blond hair. Her favorite place in the world was on the back of her horse, bow in hand.
“I see you’ve met Luke.” Melissa was all about business first, everything else later.
I was slightly offended. “I know Luke better than he will ever know himself.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Wait…how do you know Luke?”
She shrugged, arms crossed, leaning against the wall. “We all come form the same imagination, the same words. We’re unfinished stories; our paths are bound to cross sooner or later.”
“So you’re all just kind of bouncing around in my head?”
I made a mental note to make any future characters more willing to explain things. “I wish I had brought a notebook.”
That night, long after I fell asleep, I began to understand Melissa’s words. I had a dream. Not a nightmare, but not a good dream either.
I woke up confused. Pulling the covers tighter around me, I turned on my lamp to clear my head.
I’ve never quite been able to tell what happened in that dream. All I know is that my characters were in it. Not all of them, I noticed. Just the ones whose stories were unfinished. The dream was a story in itself, with many twists and turns. But then, as if by some unnamable force, it was twisted into—well, into something I definitely did NOT make up.
And then Luke appeared again, sitting on my desk. There was no smoke, no blinding flash—he was simply not here one minute, here the next.
I groaned, half asleep. “Luke, go away.”
“Don’t you want to talk to me?” He tried to look hurt but failed. He settled for a half-smile instead.
I turned off the light. “Not in the middle of the night.” Hoping he would get the message, I turned on my radio. That proved to be a great choice when I heard my doorknob turn.
My dad peeked in, rubbing his eyes. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” I muttered. “Just the radio.”
As soon as the door closed again I looked around for Luke. Lucky for him, he had conveniently disappeared. So he wouldn’t get to hear how annoyed I was. Oh well.
I tried to go back to sleep, but I couldn’t stop thinking. Was this going to become a regular thing with Luke and Melissa and all the others? When I’m alone in the barn is fine, during class is manageable, but during the night?
Maybe I should have written more considerate characters.
I dismissed that thought immediately. But it sparked an idea that just might help…
The next morning was, thankfully, Saturday. I woke up early, took out my notebook, and started to write. Words poured out of me like a waterfall, constantly falling over the edge but always being replaced by a rushing river.
I wrote all day, only stopping to eat and to sharpen my pencil.
First I finished Melissa’s story. Then I worked on another. And another.
Eventually I finished every one of my unfinished stories, though it took much longer than a day. And I had learned to finish what I started.
So here I am, staring at the cover of my book. “It’s beautiful,” I murmured.
Luke peered over my shoulder. “I look great,” he agreed. I had started the sequel, so he was back again. Although I had gotten used to my characters from unfinished stories following me around, it always gave me a special thrill to see them acting exactly as I had written.
I started to reply, but I saw that he had disappeared.
Or maybe he had never really been there at all. I would never know. He was a figment of my imagination, after all…