the Writer

That night, he sat by his open window and shook a match from the packet with a satisfying crack. It sparked briefly on the sandpaper, then burst into flame, shooting fireflies into the gloom. The candle sputtered at first, then drew light and began its solitary dance. The shadows cast shot high up the walls.

It was the twenty-ninth of September, he wrote, then paused. He put the pen down. The street was quiet – a passing street rather than a stopping street. A lame fox limped down the pavement, a straggly bone in its mouth. A motorbike roared a few streets off. Unremarkable, he thought, then pondered the paradox of his having remarked upon it. He picked up the half-burnt match and relit it on the candle. Reaching up to the shelf, he took another and held the lit match to the wick. There, he now had two candles. As the match burned, he came to an idea and reached for another. Lighting it, he eyed another on the shelf, but the match pricked at his fingers, so he dropped it into the third candle where it caught and burned bright.

Now, it may be a trick of the light, but it looks like a glint comes into our protagonist’s eye. He lays his hand, palm down, on a blank sheet of paper and unsheathes his pen. Now reader, if I tell you what happened next, you’ll scarcely believe me. Said writer raised the pen up to eye level and aimed it at his hand, still stationary upon the sheet. In a flourish, he brought the pen down, forcefully, piercing the skin of his hand and driving through onto the paper. As I watched, streams of characters began to flow forth. Unstoppably and building in force with every heartbeat, words and then whole sentences flowed from this gaping wound. Out poured sin, and beauty, out came art.

For two whole hours he sat there, transfixed by his own absurdity, while the candles coughed and shimmered in their glass cages. Reading over his shoulder I saw scenes of unspeakable beauty, of soaring eagles of stories, of mighty peaks of emotion. Reader, by now you’ll believe I never wanted this to end. But eventually the wound started to close around the intrusion, and the stream of words slowed to a trickle, less coherent now, less thick on the page, until it had become nothing more than a few letters clinging to the pen. It remained stuck in his hand, which he raised to shut the window.

Lying in bed a few minutes later, he chanced upon a patch on the sheet, when he realised his wound was still oozing. It would dry by the morning, he thought, as he reached to turn off the light. By the light of the candles still guarding his evening’s work, I could see, every now and then, another word slip out onto the pillow, lost to the night. Within minutes though, this came out as random single letters instead. His breathing, previously heavy, settled into a soothing rhythm. He rested, a happy writer.