I went to the stories cemetery today. I had wrapped my latest story due for burial in a plastic cover, taking care that it would not wrinkle. I gave it a last gentle stroke with the palm of my hand before I carefully placed it in my bag.
It was one of those rainy, gloomy days, a perfect fit for my long overdue homage to all the stories that died a premature death. I walked down the unkempt lanes, weeds growing abundantly, partially covering some of the epitaphs. Some had been carved with great care, betraying the author’s ambivalence at having to let go. An ornamental gravestone read: ‘In loving memory of ‘the Crooked Warrior’. Died prematurely, due to lack of good diction.’ Another one, this one barely legible: ‘Here lies ‘the Missing Slippers ’. Died due to a lack of stamina’. ‘Died due to a bad plot’. ‘Died due to too many words’, etc. It was all so depressing, so I stopped reading.
I found our family plot, and looked for a good spot to lay my latest story to rest. The epitaph I had prepared read: ‘On this spot lies ‘the Weathervane’. Died prematurely at the tender age of 3 weeks, due to lack of inspiration.’ It took me a while to finish digging; my glasses began to fog up because of my tears, but I finally placed the plastic bag carefully in the grave and began to cover it with dirt.
I was about to pat down the earth, when I felt a small stirring under my hands. Did I bury a little creature together with my story by accident? I must have imagined it. So I kept going. Now, there was a distinct movement that I couldn’t ignore. The soil heaved and heaved, until I saw a small piece of plastic appear.
Then it hit me. Oh my God, did I just bury my story alive? What kind of writer am I!? I knelt down and with my bare hands, I frantically dug up the story. Sure enough, as I was holding up the plastic bag, I could see that the plastic had fogged over. The story was breathing!
I felt an indescribable sense of guilt and shame. I had almost committed story-cide. I was a story murderer. Because of my impatience, my fear of rejection, my laziness and impatience, I had condemned a perfectly healthy story-in-the make, with the potential of blooming into a full-fledged, upstanding member of the story society, to die an agonizing death!
I looked around, heart pounding, feeling so much guilt it was unbearable. A few gravestones to the right, it looked like an invisible hand was moving the weeds. Yes! There was another story giving distress signals. I hurried over and, like a dog digging for a bone, I unearthed ‘The Lost Hope’. The story didn’t look good. Its pages were shaking uncontrallably and many of the letters were faded beyond recognition. I found an empty hip flask lying in the dirt, explaining the story’s symptoms.
A few graves down, ‘the Children of the Night’ was also showing signs of life. It had been buried in a great hurry. Only the title page and the forward had been typed, followed by blank page after blank page. This must have been a crib death.
It took me a few hours to dig up several dozen stories, all buried at several stages of the creation process. Some were gasping for air, others just stared at me, expecting an immediate return to the land of the living. I considered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on ‘A Heartless Winter’, but I was at a loss on which part of the story I should glue my lips on.
Recuscitating all these stories was no guarantee of recovery. Some were so far gone, that they pulverized at the slightest touch. It was heart wrenching. But a few stories hopped out of their grave, nonchalantly shook the dirt off and did a few skips and turns, before hopping into my bag. They were full-fledged stories, discarded by some heartless lunatic who had obviously not seen any monetary value in them.
I stuffed all the rescued stories in my briefcase and went back home. I patted my Weathervane story dry and gently placed it on my desk, next to ‘A Touch of Fear’ and ‘Dying Embers’, naively thinking that rescuing them would generate such overwhelming positive energy, that I could easily transform each one into a masterpiece.
For days I tried every trick of the trade. I wrote the endings first, created scene hangers and downloaded mind mapping software. But of course, nothing happened.
As you might have guessed, I took the easy way out and started to blame the victim. Obviously, the stories deserved their fate. They had been born misshapen and had been buried for a reason. I became as heartless and hardened as the ones that had buried them.
I must make peace with their fate, I thought. Just like some seedlings must be tossed, so that others might grow stronger, lady Muze giveth and then taketh away. Besides, I have enough problems as it is. How on earth am I going to finish this darned cemetery story? Should I bury it and wait for another sucker to come and visit its grave, dig it up and try to rescuscitate it? Let me sleep on it.... leave comment here
Wednesday, May 17, 2017