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[It is a lovely day. Sunshine filters through the open window and covers Natalie's desk with golden warmth. Natalie sits at her desk, one cheek pressed against the cold wooden surface. Her disheveled hair is pinned back with two broken pens. Balls of crumpled paper surround her, as well as several new, empty spirals, a handful of snapped pencils, and some drinking glasses with mold growing at the bottoms.]
Natalie: <sighing in frustration> Where are all the delicious plots that once filled my imagination? They seem to have disappeared. There are no words to catch, no stories to tell! I feel hollow. I feel my existence crumbling away to nothingness! What will I do? <throws her pencil down>
[It begins to rain. Dark clouds hide the sun, and heavy droplets infiltrate the meshed window and begin to soak Natalie's work. Gasping, she quickly leans forward to close the window. She glances out the window and freezes.
A young man across the street is gazing at her. It's hard for her to tell -- the sheets of rain are making everything seem surreal -- but he seems to be smiling at her, waving at her, taking a picture of her with a camera that hangs around his neck. She squints. He seems to have a ghost-like appearance, dark feathery hair, and swampy eyes. But she can't tell.]
Natalie: What a beautiful person! A paper phantom, a ghost man! But what is he doing? Am I dreaming? <blinking>
[Later, Natalie runs out of the house to buy groceries, unfurling a black umbrella as she goes. She slows to a walk and strolls out of the neighborhood, entering the heart of the city. She observes those who hurry and push past her, desperate for ideas. The streets are full of bright umbrellas, slippery coats, and heavy rain. She pauses at an intersection to catch her breath.She has caught sight of a young, thin man with feathery hair and swampy eyes. He leans against an adjacent sign post, arms crossed, staring at the sky, his lips singing the melody of a pleasant smile.]
[She pushes her way through the crowds of people that separate her from the Paper Phantom, as she has subconsciously begun calling him.]
Natalie: Hello. <extending one arm> Would you like my umbrella?
'Paper Phantom': No need, my dear. <lifts up his camera to the sky> I'm alright. My name is Vincent. What is yours?
Natalie: <bewildered> I'm Natalie. But that's beside the point -- you'll catch a cold if you stand in the rain like that!
Vincent: <laughing> Sometimes, my friend, the greatest inspirations for art are right under one's nose. Petty objects like umbrellas or hats can obscure one's view of these miracles. <snaps another photo> You should know that, Natalie. You're an author, after all.
[He leaves her in the rain.]
[Natalie is working again, writing stories, being an author. But she is distracted. She nervously dials the number of her close friend Emma.]
Emma: Hello? Natalie?
Natalie: Emma, do assist me. I feel so very confused.
Emma: Hmm? What is it?
Natalie: I have dreams --
Natalie: Dreams. Strange dreams, about a young, thin man with dark feathery hair and swampy eyes.
Emma: Go on.
Natalie: It's the same dream every night. This man is like a paper phantom, an evanescent bird of distorted beauty, so transparent and surreal. In my dream, he smiles at me, then morphs into a raven, so sleek and beautiful. And then I'm among the star-swirled clouds...
Emma: Natalie, Natalie! How are you confused? You're clearly in love.
Emma: <giggling> Definitely. Oh -- I need to go now. Good luck with your endeavors! <hangs up>
Natalie: Love...? What in the world does Emma mean? But yes, I do feel strangely warm inside, as though a fire were burning in my heart. But what had been the kindling?
[The rain is pouring again, like the tears of a poet. Natalie is in the city again, same black trench coat, same black umbrella. She sees Vincent, still leaning against the same sign post.]
Vincent: Hello, Natalie.
Natalie: Vincent...please show me your pictures.
Vincent: <startled> Why... <hesitates> ...of course.
[She peers over his shoulder as he begins to slowly flip through each photo. The images are breathtaking. One is a monochrome shot of a young man, playful and teasing, taking a picture of a crow that had landed on his lens. Another is of a child and his father, curled up together, eyes closed, on the subway. A sailboat skims across the water in a photo of exquisite greens and blues. An elderly gentleman gazes eagle-eyed into the camera, full of pride and grandeur.
Then there are the photos of Natalie, sitting at the kitchen drinking coffee with her stringy red hair twisted into a messy bun; Natalie at her desk, icy blue eyes fierce with perseverance; Natalie slamming the window shut as rain splattered her desk; Natalie, relaxed, reading a book out on the lawn.]
Natalie: <whispering> Thank you so very much.
[Vincent glances at her curiously. She blushes, roses blooming in each cheek. Vincent's eyes widen; he seems to see her for the first time. He raises his camera and takes a photo of her, rain-kissed and love-drenched. Suddenly he seizes her hand and kisses it, his eyelashes brushing against her wrist. Then he turns, and leaves her among the rushing crowds of the city.]