Writer's Block This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     There is nothing more terrifying than a blank page.Garland Campbell glared at the blinking cursor that mocked him from the left sideof the computer screen. His fingers drummed helplessly against the keys. Fiveminutes passed. He sat, hypnotized by the white pixels on his screen begging himto write just one word. He typed "word" smirked and deleted it."Happy now?" he asked.

The blank page scowled at him. "Somuch for your marvelous writing talent, Campbell," the screen seemed toquiver with sarcasm. "Just oh-so-gifted. Quite the genius youare."

Garland smashed his fist on his desk. "I just need sometime!"

The cynical response resonated through hishead.

"Yeah, time. Too bad your first draft was due two days ago. Imay be mistaken, but is it true that you have not written one wordyet?"

Garland furiously pounded the keyboard, only to be greeted witha loud beep and an error message. That did not stop the voice.

"Do Isense some writer's block?"

Garland frantically typed random keys andjiggled the mouse, but it was no use. The computer was frozen.

"Quitethe predicament you're in."

Garland yanked the cord and the cursedscreen shut off. He wiped his sweaty forehead and sighed before scurrying to thephone. His fevered gaze stumbled to the clock on his wall. But didn't Mr. Arkinalways tell him he could call whenever he wanted to?

After five rings, Mr.Arkin picked up. "Hello?" he rasped, in a noticeably crankyvoice.

"Mr. Arkin ..."

"Garland, what the hell doyou want? It's 2:30 in the morning, for God's sakes!

"But you said... "

"I know ... I know, I said you could call whenever youwant. Hold on a second." There was a pause, and Mr. Arkin returned with aclearer voice. "So how may I help you at this extremely earlyhour?"

"It won't stop! I can't suppress it! My novel is ... Imean, was due two days ago - my entire novel! First draft! For crying out loud,the whole thing! I haven't written one word! Not one bloody word! And..."

"So you're having writer's block. Big deal, it happens tothe best of us."

"This is not just writer's block, Mr.Arkin!" Garland cried. "Have you been listening to anything I've said?That voice! I'm talking about that voice, laughing in my skull, blocking mystream!"

"Just calm down ... what are you talkingabout?"

"My stream! No ... my entire ocean of thought! Thisemptiness ... this ... this drought of inspiration has lasted for weeks now! I'munraveling, Mr. Arkin ... and I don't know what to do. I'm just a writer ... butI'm unraveling, damn it! You can't tell me to calm down ... listen! I'm goinginsane."

"Garland, shut up! I am not your psychologist, I amsimply your old English professor, do you understand? I'm sorry, but I can't helpyou with your unraveling and those other poetic metaphors you are exploiting todescribe your mental state. That's just not my area."

"Can youhear me? I'm a train wreck!"

Mr. Arkin gruffly cleared his throat."Garland, listen to me. You are one of the most talented and truly giftedwriters I have had the honor to teach. Forget that imaginary voice or whatever'sbothering you and trust in your abilities! Just start writing! The characterswill come alive! The words will come alive, you'll see! Your success is due tothe fervor you imbue in your words and characters. You knowthat."

"Mr. Arkin, I am getting noinspiration."

"You are gifted enough that you don't needinspiration! You don't need a plot idea! Your talent will force the words out ofyour fingers."

The voice cackled in his mind, So much for yourmarvelous writing talent, Campbell. Garland shook his head in despair and ran ahand through his curly, matted hair.

"Look, Mr. Arkin, I'm running onempty right now ... just give me a plot idea and I'll write the thing tonight!All I need is an idea ... "

"Are you kidding, Garland? This isnot my book! I am not going to feed you ideas. This is yourstory."

Garland's voice lowered to a crazed, menacing tone. "No!I really, desperately, absolutely need a plot outlined in my mind before thisnight is over ... my career will be finished if I fail. You will give me anidea."

Mr. Arkin was rattled by Garland's tone, but concealed it bysighing in exasperation. "It's not like you are a mystery writer, Garland.You spin those fantasy novels, correct?"

Garland sounded slightlyembarrassed. "Well, yeah ... I guess fantasy is the majority of what Iwrite. I mean, that's not all I write, but ... "

"Whatever. Mypoint is, just write a story about dragons, elves, ogres, various mysticalcreatures, valiant heroes, magic - you know, a typical fantasy story of valor anddanger. Just sculpt it in your mind, see your characters. Perhaps it will not beyour best work, but that doesn't matter, the public will eat it up and you'llhave another bestseller. Then, you and I can sit down and discuss all this.

I am sorry, Garland, but I am extremely tired and must wake up early. Soif you would kindly let me go, I will talk to you tomorrow." And with that,Mr. Arkin hung up.

Garland let the phone slip from his hand. He sat backin his chair trembling with anxiety. He leaped up and paced through his study,knocking chairs and papers out of the way. He gnawed into his already chewednails and wracked his brain, which yielded nothing, as usual. He would do whatMr. Arkin said, Garland decided. How hard could it be? There is a warrior namedTalin Stormguard - hah, perfect fantasy name - and, uh, of course! His homelandis destroyed by ogres, along with his wife and child! Classic! He is driven bypain and anger to take revenge. The perfect anti-hero! And now a sidekick, an elfnamed ... what's a good elf name? Riven. Good mysterious name.

Garlandbegan to pace again, babbling to himself and grinning with elation at hisnewfound inspiration. He twitched toward the computer, raced to the power switchand ...

The computer would not turn on.

Garland's eyes grew widewith panic as he repeatedly tried the switch, then slammed it with his fist. Heshook the computer screen, turned it upside down, and almost flung it to theground when he remembered he had unplugged it. Before any precious thoughtsescaped, Garland shoved the plug in and turned it on. The warm, vibrant sound ofthe computer coming to life soothed Garland; he sat back, cracked his knucklesand waited, Mr. Arkin's words echoing in his ears. Just start writing! The wordswill come alive, you'll see! Then Garland saw that familiar, ominousimage.

The blank page.

A tidal wave of stress crashed down onGarland, but he furiously typed one sentence before anything bad couldhappen.

Talin Stormguard stared stoically at his burnt, pillaged homelandfrom the western hill.

Garland imagined a once-peaceful farmlanddestroyed, with roofs ablaze and sparks flying. He could feel the heat searinghis skin, and smell the smoke as his fingers danced along the keyboard. Oneparagraph written, just like that. Two paragraphs. A good beginning, atmosphereand setting described in lush detail. Garland typed in inspired fervor, not evenglancing at the keys as he finished page three. The dam that had blocked hisstream was lifted. He turned his head and smiled at Talin Stormguard, standing infull regalia at the other side of the study, his scarred handsome face staringinto the distance.

Close behind him was Riven, pointed elven ears juttingthrough long, windblown hair. Riven winked roguishly at Garland and saluted withhis rapier. Start your story at the end, then place flashbacks to build characterdevelopment.

Garland's computer screen scrolled down at a rapid pace. Hetransitioned to his flashback scene without a thought. He tapped his feet on adirt floor covered in hay, and heard farm animals squabbling. A stone fireplacewas tended by goblin servants, smoke billowing from the chimney. That is, untilthe ogres arrived. Sentences sprinted across the screen at an inhuman pace;Garland was trapped in his own fantasy world, a state of mind key to hissuccesses in writing.

The ogres were mercilessly cutting down thedefenseless villagers like wheat, plundering any riches they could find. Hottears poured down Talin's cheeks as he lunged for his beloved home, only to berestrained by Riven ...

Garland was jerked back to reality by a shriek.Startled, he turned, but saw only his bookcase. He was turning back when he heardanother screech, a horrible, piercing sound. An ominous silence ensued. Garlandshrugged, more for his own reassurance than anything else, and gingerly continuedwriting.

In the middle of a sentence, he was interrupted by a chorusof high-pitched sounds that he did not think any earthly creature could make. Hecovered his ears and flung himself to the ground amidst strange sounds of turmoiland chaos. He leaped to his feet and spun toward the window, and the meleeceased. He stared, breathing hard for a long minute before concluding it was hisstressed-out mind playing tricks on him. But he could not ignore thesmell.

The choking stench of smoke - and something unidentifiable butputrid - wafted through his room. He shook his head, knowing in his soul that itwas an illusion, but fearing for his sanity. He turned back to his computerscreen, and it was then that he knew something was terribly wrong.

Heblinked twice, slapped himself, and looked again, but it remained. There werepages and pages he had not consciously written. He read them, and terror brewedin his stomach.

Talin struggled against Riven's hold, but he knew therewas nothing he could do to prevent his fate. He hung his head as he saw hisfamily dragged out and slaughtered. His daughter, Ethel, his son Garland ...

His son, Garland? As he read, the sounds of turmoil returned to anunbearable volume. Garland could not fathom the events that were happening; whatmental state was he in? What psychological energy, born under stress andinsomnia, had he infused in this story? He darted to the window to view ahorrific scene - his neighbor's houses ablaze, people being dragged out by ...what the heck were those things?

He stood entranced as people layslaughtered in his backyard, the stench of burning flesh stinging every nerve inhis body. But it was those green creatures that cut the last thread of sanityremaining within Garland. They were more grotesque than Garland could have everconjured his ogres to be, with blind milky white eyes and screeching, cacklingvoices. He faintly heard his name called and strained to see the tiny figure ofTalin crying to him, "Garland! Garland! No!"

Then Garland felt aheat wave blast him against the bookcase, and he gaped at the sight of his entirewall ablaze. He stood frozen, the computer in the bottom right corner showing newparagraphs upon paragraphs of writing displayed on the warped screen.

Atorch plunged through the open window and landed near Garland's feet, setting hisleft leg ablaze. He screamed in shock, feverish eyes popping from his skull inpain, and he spun to meet another pair of eyes, giant milky pools of dread,jutting out from wrinkly green skin, gaping mouth twisted into a snarling, ogregrin.

Garland stopped in his tracks, his jaw dropped in utter paralysis,ignoring the flames licking up his left leg as he was dragged from the study anddown the stairs. Arkin's words flitted through his mind: The characters will comealive! The words will come alive - you will see! It dawned on him and sunk likean anchor in the pit of his stomach. This is the stream the dam had blocked. Whatin God's name has my mind brought to life this time, he wondered.

Garlandglanced up in time to see green, gnarled fingers clutching a rusty axe handle ...and see the axe blade slice down on his throat.

***

John Arkinwaited patiently in a beige office overlooking the city. After several minutes, atall, lanky man with hair neatly combed briskly walked in.

"Iapologize for the delay, Mr. Arkin. I am extremely busy this week with all thenew drafts coming in. I hope this wasn't an inconvenience foryou."

John Arkin shook his head. "No, do not worry, Mr.Schumacher."

Mr. Schumacher nodded. "Alright then. So let meguess ... you are dying to know if it's any good, am Icorrect?"

"Well, I guess that question has been plaguing my mindfor a year now."

Mr. Schumacher smiled dryly and folded his hands."Let me put this as simply as I can. This story is pure genius! I have neverread any book, let alone a fantasy book, with such passion and rage behind thewords! I can hardly make one change to this first draft. It's just an amazingpiece of literature!"

John smiled and nodded, "Tell me, Mr.Schumacher, what took you so long to get a hold of it?"

"Therewere complications. I mean when an author suddenly dies, just minutes afterfinishing the piece ... well, you can understand. It was a miracle that the filewas intact - luckily, only the computer screen was damaged by the flames. Just amarvelous read ... no title, though."

John shook his head inamazement. "I still can't believe it. I was aware that Garland was perhapspsychologically unbalanced, but he did not come off as suicidal ... " Johnsighed.

Mr. Schumacher smirked. "Well, I know he was your friend andall, but ... Mr. Arkin - they found him lying downstairs, throat slashed, with ablade in one hand and used matches all around him! On top of that, they concludedthat with the slant and poor quality of the cut, he had to have done ithimself."

John continued to have doubts. "How can they believethat one match started an entire apartment complexablaze?"

"Well, you've heard of those incidents, of candlesburning down houses. It happens." Mr. Schumacher glanced at his watch."I'm sorry, but I have an appointment."

Distracted, John slowlynodded. "Uh, ... yes. That's all. Thank you very much."

Mr.Schumacher stood. "Good to see you again, Mr. Arkin. I'll mail you a copyonce we finish the printing and everything. It's the least I cando."

John Arkin nodded and left.

The words will come alive -you will see.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






Join the Discussion

This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Krikette This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm
Great emotion and action. The internal and external dialogue are also quite masterful. The plot was creative and exciting.
 
Schubster said...
Jun. 21, 2009 at 8:12 pm
OMG.....I am honored to be the first post! That story was AMAZING! But have you ever considered actually writing the story that Garland wrote before he died? If so, I know tons of ppl who would like to read it. Great story! :) (once again)
 
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