(first published in Scribble, No. 86, June 2020)
White walls, white floor, white light… Fully awake now, I realise I’m wearing a white suit and white shoes. Just like John Lennon in the ‘Imagine’ video, except there’s no white piano. Baffling.
It’s been two years now since I washed up on the empty shore of Authorship Down – two daunting, but exhilarating, years. I joined in the Great Literary Agent Hunt (indeed, I found one, but she was dead – smothered under a pile of stamped, addressed envelopes). I went on no less than Five Post-Colonial Guilt Trips. I was vaccinated against all Mother-And-Daughter Stories and I took The Authorship Down Solemn Oath never to end a story with the suicide of the narrator. I’ve grown a beard and shaved my head, I’m a hardened veteran. And now, finally, I think I’m starting to get it: this is A Blank Space – the toughest authorship test yet!
I relish the challenge. I sit cross-legged on the floor, close my eyes, cross my arms, take a deep breath and wait for the creative juices to flow.
The floor is hard: better to pace up and down.
After five minutes pacing, I reckon I’ll escape instead: do the test another time. When I’m wearing my walking boots and my thick socks.
I scan the ceiling for a trapdoor and then set about tapping the walls, listening for that tell-tale hollow sound. Alas, nothing.
I try a few magic words, starting with the Authorship Down Chant: ‘Ooo Aahh Derrida, Ooo Aahh Derrida.’ No joy there either. Shamefacedly, though I know old jokes carry a one-month Writers’ Workshop fixed penalty, I even try the magic words from the Popeye cartoons: ‘Open Sez Me!’
I remember a tip from the 2018 Authorship Down Magic Realism Festival, and try gliding through the wall, sustaining facial bruising and a bent finger.
If only I’d got my Swiss Army knife. Or a lathe, to manufacture a Swiss Army knife. I rifle through my pockets, but all I can find is a half a block of chocolate, white of course. On the white wrapper is the embossed legend, Writers’ Block. I bite off more than I can chew.
As I choke, I find myself wondering why stories never end with the accidental death (as opposed to suicide) of the narrator – a possible plot-line there?? Working Title: Conceived in Sin, Born in Pain, a Life of Toil, and Inevitable Death. Now I’m getting somewhere…