The Mark Redwood Series, Chapter 6- Origins, Part One: Incrimination

While this is the sixth chapter of the Series, you can read this standing alone without any context. As one might assume, it’s an origin story.

Representative Patterson hit the ground running. Dashing desperately past the many darkened offices, he seemed haunted despite the cheery, brightly lit white hallway. The shadows from all the dark rooms seemed to reach out for the light- to extinguish it. His chubby form hid a strength, a stamina that allowed him to speed towards the exit.

As Patterson sprinted towards the intersection, away from what had spooked- driven him out of his inner sanctum of an office, he remained unaware of who was hidden in the shadows ahead of him, from a darkened room with a solid view of all four corners.

His golden sweater had no sheen, and thus it was easy for the light to be obscured in the darkness. He maintained his silence so that the Representative wouldn’t notice his emergence until the very last second.

“Evening, Mr. Patterson. You’re in a bit of a rush, aren’t you?”

The Representative skidded and slipped to a stop as Mark Redwood stepped out of the intersection, sky-blue jacket swishing behind him.

“Redwood. I should have known you would be the one to call the police on me.”

“I didn’t call the police.” Mark’s face was impassive, unreadable, but his voice seemed honest enough. It held true, and his eyes did not betray any crinkling of silent laughter at his ruse, or any sign of a sharp edge- of plotting, of manipulating. “Nooo, I just wanted to talk with you about a few things. The records I found,” He pulled a folder out of his coat and threw it to the Representative’s knees. “You can keep those, by the way, those are your originals. My copies are back at home.”

His eyes bulged open in disbelief, like great white plates as he nearly leaped forward, scooping up the records, the spreadsheets that leaked out his corruption, his crimes in big black tears made of ink- all of the money, all of the lies, there at his feet.

“How did you get these? The vault-”

“was as far away from the capital as it could be, yes, but I figured, man of your nature, if you didn’t like something, you would keep it in the corner of your eye, in the back of your mind- suppressed but ready. Not to mention, the hidden safe with the hidden location? Come on, that’s such an old trope, of course I would search your office. You would think of something.”

“But the security-”

“17 locks, 13 alarms and guards. It was impressive, I’ll give you that. A bit much for secrets like these, to be honest. Understandable, considering that I could hack your computer and your email. But the thing is, all those rumors about me getting to your secrets, into your computer- they’re all lies. I’m no hacker. Face it, Mr. Patterson. Your secrets are out. The fact that you took bribes from all those private interest groups, the fact that you paid off hush money and covered your ass with those interest groups when you had to do something drastic, the private research money-”

“What?” He looked up, his mouth agape and staring up at Mark, who had started pacing about in circles around him.

He stopped, looked him in the eye- “The money you used to fund those weapons engineers and those scientists. Keep up, man.”

“No, I didn’t.”

He turned at that, glared at him. “…What? Excuse me?”

“Yeah, all that other stuff is on the files. But I never did anything like funding um… Why would I fund them? What reason would I have? You’re kidding, right?”

Mark considered this for a minute. The Representative saw him bring his fist to his chin, in brief thought, almost going to massage his temples before moving to the lapel of his coat, pulling out a small clipon mic, saying, “I got a confession out of him- yeah, on the camera on my pocket.”

With that, the police ran in and Mark watched as they dragged the screaming politician away, listening to them gab on about rights.

He had to wonder though- Patterson had seemed honest enough. So what was up with those funds that had went to the scientists? Perhaps someone else on the inside?

He had to look further…

Brief Status Update: On the Future, and the Project

Hey, guys. How are you all doing?

I’m afraid I had a bit of a rough day today. It was just a day where I kept arguing with and doubting myself.

First order of business, an issue brought up by Jason Cushman/Opinionated Man (who you can find writing fascinating posts like this one here. It’s actually not the one that prompted me to address this first order of business, but it’s still exemplary).

In the post, OM mentioned how he disliked posts in which bloggers would apologize after returning from long hiatuses. While I don’t mind such posts, he does have a point.

I shouldn’t have to apologize for going on hiatus, whether it be for schoolwork or for projects like the one I’ve wrapped myself in now. And that’s because I shouldn’t be on hiatus. I love this blog and I wish I had more time to devote to making work that you will enjoy. So, while I can’t promise a continuous flow of content, I can promise that I will do everything I can to ensure that you get your follow’s worth, that your time here won’t be wasted.

Now, as for the Charlotte story- I’ve finally whipped the first two chapters into shape. Now I begin to delve into less familiar territory, and I can’t wait. I’m throwing everything I have and learned into this work, and I’m terrified, praying that what I write will do this story justice.

It’s a fusion of what I started working on with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the readers who might not know what that is) and a bit of the Year of Metafiction (also known as the Mark Redwood Series). While the frame might be science fiction, on the inside, it appears to be a story about the evolution of my protagonist. But then again, aren’t all good stories about evolution in some way?

There are plenty of bloopers and lines that I’ve cut out already. I’ll leave one or two below:

Until tomorrow, everyone! You’ll probably be seeing a poem called “Tired of the Act”.

Status Update: The Interludes- And Some Encouragement for You.

I have a few stories worked out- one is the Mark Redwood interlude- there may actually be two- I’d love to tell the story of how Mark and KURT encountered each other- try and create more character development between the two. I’d love for it to be a dialogue, but I might just have KURT monologue instead- he has so little page time, and in my head, he’s a rather entertaining character. He’s become the “analytical jerk”- but he has a heart. An electronic, metaphorical heart. It also helps that there are safeguards programmed into him to ensure that he does not cause harm to other human beings, but that’s another story.

As for the Charlotte story… I’m honestly taking my time with this story. I’m exploring the characters, and recalling the life experiences and messages that I wanted to share which led to this story’s genesis. The way I’m going about this is in fact the exact antithesis of how I wrote A Creation’s Trial– where I scribbled out a draft and then completely rewrote it, redesigned the characters and the storylines. I want to try and rectify the fact that many of my characters thus far have been self inserts, Mark’s story being one of the first where I tried to write people who were different- the mourner, the analytical, sarcastic person (computer, in this case), and the incompetent deity figure.

While Charlotte and my other unnamed protagonists aren’t self-inserts, they represent the issues that I face right now. Whether or not that’s a failure on my part as a writer I’ll decide based on how well this story actually works out.

Thanks for your support, everyone. I truly appreciate it- and thank you for creating content that makes me smile whenever I log in to WordPress. Wish me luck.

-Daniel

The Story of a Story

Hey guys,

I know I promised that I would have Interlude: Charlotte, the next part of the Mark Redwood series, out before, but I am afraid that I will not be able to release it for awhile.

When I first came up with this idea, I didn’t expect for the idea to evolve as much as it did, and it has begun to become something of its own- something that I would really love to try and get published.

So I’m sorry that I let you guys down, but I need to keep working on this- it’s something that feels close to my heart and I hope that you will understand as I work towards bringing this story towards its full potential.

I will be releasing a new interlude, and I think I’ll be releasing it via Twitter. See you then!

The Mark Redwood Series, Chapter 5: Guilt

Enough! The Author nearly screamed. Had he a corporeal form, he probably would have used an enormous hand to sweep the hologram projection (had it also been tangible) off the table.

But that invisible voice seemed to stop- shake, as if in fear, but not quite…

That is enough…

Mark listened on uneasily, looking at the red machine in his hand. KURT had paused the hologram, but the image still hovered in his field of view.

“What’s wrong? There literally was nothing that…”

Why? The Author interjected. It was as if he were holding his hands up to his head in an attempt to drive away a migraine, his elbows pointed like arrows. Why would you show me this? Are you trying to rub my failures in my face? 

“…I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Mark leaned back to listen to the trembling voice of his creator, who seemed almost to be stuck somewhere between breaking down sobbing and smashing something with a hammer until the remains were unrecognizable.

Auuuggghhh. Guilt! I’m guilty! I thought you were written to comprehend emotions!

“But why are you guilty? Because you killed my brother?”

No, because- because… The Author struggled to get the words out, as they lodged into his throat between sobs. He began coughing as if he would fall to his knees.

It was at this point that KURT broke in. “My analysis seems to indicate that he’s dealing with a repressed memory.”

“What?” Mark looked down at his friend. “How do you figure? You can’t even see the guy.”

“Mark, you know that…”

“Yeah, yeah, you have scanners and that technically you can’t ‘see’ anything, I know, I know, but how can you sense it from a few voice patterns?”

“It’s not a matter of sense, it’s a matter of logic and conjecture after analyzing the relevant data.”

“…So why didn’t you say that you weren’t sure?”

“Instinct.”

“…You were the one who was talking about how machines like you don’t have instincts.”

“But like I said, it is not remotely funny to trap me in a logic loop that led to a memory leak. Do you know how painful that is? I have a subroutine to break the loops and simulators to query in emergencies now. Anyways… he’s struggling to speak, obviously a result of some sort of trauma, sounds emotional, he’d probably be screaming in agony if it were physical.”

“Okay, fine, let’s say that. It’s quite a leap from ’emotional trauma’ to ‘repressed memory.'”

KURT sighed. “This is where I begin speculating. The projection that I inadvertently triggered had two major events, and I feel that it is highly possible that if what I’ve understood is true, that these scenes were created from his version of reality, and reliving your memories has triggered some of his own.”

Meanwhile, the sobs continued, as the Author mumbled about trying to save him and failing, and before finally seemingly looking up. I look around my world, and I see darkness and corruption. I look for the light and I try to encapsulate it in my stories for others to see and enjoy. But there is no light for others to appreciate! No one would appreciate the light if it came up and slapped them in the face! 

“Then what does that make us, Author?” KURT turned his attention to the invisible entity. “Are we not considered successful characters? Were we not salvaged for a reason?”

Quite honestly, I honestly do not know how you are still alive. I’m quite frankly not even sure what to do now. My agent is excited for the first time in ages and it’s for a work that I created from a delusion.

“Hey, who are you calling a delusion?” Mark glared at the white ceiling. “We’re people. We have souls, as do you… probably. KURT, does he actually have a soul?”

“Well, he is crying.”

“Yeah, well he did try to erase our world from existence and repurpose me for a pretty penny.”

“Never mind that for a minute, Mark…” KURT suddenly lapsed into silence and began humming. A hologram popped out of the handheld that read “System Processing…” in large, friendly bubble letters.

“I think I’ve figured out why I survived.”

Tribulations of the Author, Part 1

Chapter 1

He winced in pain, groaned quietly in exasperation and in slight pain. He was pretty sure that he wasn’t hung over or freshly removed from an interrogation session.

“Ohh, my goddamn head…” As he uttered these words, he felt a very sore temptation to lie where he was for awhile longer.

“Wait a minute,” his mind screamed at him, “This isn’t your room. Wake up. NOW!” Leaping to his feet, he found himself standing on a  stark and empty stage. The worn out and well used boards, no longer gleamed as they must have in their prime, but they still glimmered slightly. The boards creaked under his weight.

Ah, hello. I’m sure at this point you’re a bit curious about where you are. 

The voice that he heard seemed familiar, and yet he had never heard it before in his life, he was sure of that. It was polite… for the moment. His kindness, his soothing alto voice seemed almost forced.

Well, let’s set some things straight, shall we? I am the Author. And you are here in order to help me understand. 

“Understand what?”

I seek to understand myself. I must identify the factors that led to my failure as a writer.

“Wait, wait, wait, how do you intend to do that? I’m not you.”

No. You’re not me. You are a clean slate, a sessile, pathetic disposable character that wouldn’t be too much of a loss. You will live through my memories and come to understand me. 

“Wait… you said character?”

Yes. You obviously missed the memo about THE FACT THAT I’M AN AUTHOR. Good God, did I pick a nitwit to act as an investigator for me? 

“Not that I’m calling myself a nitwit or anything, but… why would you pick a bad character to explore your memories?”

Not that I’m calling myself a bad writer or anything, the voice responded in a simpering, mocking tone, but I really don’t have much of a choice. Moreover, a three-dimensional character has a life of his or her own. I wouldn’t risk destroying that.

“So you’re implying that…”

You don’t have a life, yes. Because you’re right out of some rotten, B-movieish story I wrote God knows how long ago. I have nothing to lose, and neither do you, because you die in the end.

“What?!”

Anyways, I’ll just show you the first memory, won’t I?

“No no no no… hold up. Back up a second.”

You’re right. I should probably introduce the memory first, shouldn’t I? This is my brother. One of the happiest, bravest men I have had the privilege of meeting. We’re going to start… with an event that drove me to start writing.

“That’s not exactly what I meant-”  But he was drowned out by a deafening noise, that sounded rather like the cracking of bones, the amplified noise of snapping fingers… His eyes snapped shut as tightly as possible and his hands reflexively grabbed his ears- hard enough that it looked as if they could be twisted off, like a jar lid. And when he opened his eyes…

The Catalyst

This is the fourth chapter of the Mark Redwood series. To read Chapter 1: A Creation’s Trial, click here. To go to the previous chapter, click here. 

The projection unfolded, as a paper diorama would, and the image began playing, focusing in on a woman. Her long brown hair had been pulled into a ponytail two nights ago, and consumed in her concern, she had simply never let her hair down…

She had been sifting through Mark’s closet a month after he had disappeared when she came upon a large green folder full of papers. It only had one marking on its cover, and that was the stamp that read “LEAKED”.

Dear Julie,

If you’re reading this, I expect that you’ve finally uncovered my little double life. It’s ridiculous, I’m aware, probably realistically shouldn’t even exist, but it does. And this is why.

You know me better than anyone else. You know how angry I get when I see the corruption and the world’s destitution, and how I always talk about how the world should be a better place, and how happy I was when Mark Redwood rose to prominence in the world. 

That’s because I’M Mark Redwood. I’m the unseen muckraker of the town. I know when you learned about him, learned that he was in our midst, you were fascinated with trying to figure out who it was. Hopefully, I did a good job of hiding this from you. Anyways, enclosed here is my leaked autobiography. I know you were so disappointed to hear it wasn’t going to be released… “I’ve lost so many clues with that memoir,” you said to me in that crestfallen tone… And I guess you were more disappointed when I apparently stopped my own attempts to write a memoir at the same time… Well, now you get both of those works… sorry that they’re one and the same. I hope that I didn’t rob you of anything…

I don’t know where I am now that you’re not with me, but I think as one of my closest associates, you have the right to know what’s going on. And I hope you understand that what I did here, how I began, it was never out of hatred. I know you fear it and the hatred, even my own of what’s wrong in the world saddens you. 

It’s why I- well, you know already.

I’m… just going to shut up now. 

-Mark

FROM MARK REDWOOD’S LEAKED MEMOIR MANUSCRIPT:

From a young age, I have always managed to see reality in a different light from the typical person. Although I wasn’t the type of child who could find magic within the imagination or find significance in the most trivial of actions and objects, my brother Alex was. He could see the woods as a beautiful place to just look at and appreciate. He was different, for while he loved to play in the woods, there were times and places where he would just want to sit and admire the view. Alex loved the hardcover books that our father had kept, and he could spend an hour just running his hands across the covers, admiring the well-made binding.  With Alex’s help, I was able to find magnificence and wonder in the world. This ability not only brought happiness to my childhood, but it also provided me with a consolation and a focus when Alex died.

That day, I was a devastated seven-year-old bawling his eyes out. At the funeral, among the several people attending, I felt like I was the only one who felt pure and inconsolable grief. I was so dejected over his death for some time, until one day, I stood up and made a promise to myself. I promised that I would always see the world as Alex had- in his memory and for his sake.

But as I matured, I began to see the negative and darker parts of my life. Corruption, unfairness, malevolence, and (to summarize it in one word) darkness invaded my view of life. I despaired for a time because I was certain that if Alex had lived on, he would have become disillusioned and his pure vision would have vanished. In high school, as my fellow students victimized one another, and as they started prematurely drinking and smoking, I felt helpless, like a single, fragile rock flung about in a tornado of madness. At times, my despair even began to appear in public. “What could I do?” I pondered to myself at one point. “I want to make this world a place that Alex would have been able to see the bright side of.”

I hadn’t realized that I had spoken aloud until Victor, a student sitting near by, turned to gaze at me curiously, asking, “What are you talking about?”

I did not know Victor so well; he was generally very solemn and silent, and he was often an unassuming presence in the school. Normally, I would have just made some evasive statement and changed the subject. But after having become so weary, I told Victor about Alex, and how he would have probably despaired in this school. I had been so happy to find a sympathetic ear that I began pouring my bottled-up grievances when a rather frustrated Victor burst out, as he shouted to get my attention.

“How do you plan to make a difference to anyone? Huh? You think they’ll listen to you? In the school’s eyes, you’re no one, Mark! I’m sorry that your brother is dead, but what the heck are we supposed to do? We can’t change the world.”

My face fell at this. Victor had just taken whatever hope I had left and thrown it to the ground. He was basically telling me that I could no longer defend Alex’s memory. But my sadness quickly turned to frustration.

“You’re telling me that none of the drug problems can be solved? None of the bullying problems can be solved? Don’t be such a pessimist, I can at least try to do something-”

But Victor was already emphatically shaking his head and vehemently arguing, “You think the school would risk its reputation and expel anyone like they’re supposed to? It would be all over the local news. You know all those party animals who push people like you around? Some of them are rich, some of them are jocks, and some are both. They’re never going to get in trouble because they’re on the top. You can’t win. They’d squash whatever voice you had and make sure you never spoke again.”

I couldn’t end this without some resistance, and I shot back, “You sound like a brainwashed propaganda machine. How would you know? Have you ever tried to resist at all?” As I spoke those words, I almost regretted them, for the first time, I saw Victor feel emotional pain. It was the first emotion I’d seen out of him- outside of frustration, that is.

“I’ve been able to get good grades and live quietly by leaving everything well alone. I have a good chance of going to one of the best colleges because the school likes me. I think, for your sake, that you should leave your brother’s little legacy to someone else.”  When I didn’t speak again, he stood up, having given up his appeal. But before he stalked off, he told me, “Don’t be bitter, Mark. You can’t change the world here, and that’s just a fact of life.”

My gaze wandered as I mulled over what he said until finally, my eyes rested upon my backpack, and more specifically, my journal, which was sticking out of the backpack. It was a thick green book, with a scarlet binding, and it stood out from the composition books and textbooks that I generally used for my classes. It was larger and thicker than a composition book, but it didn’t quite reach textbook size. Its dimensions seemed to be in limbo.

I had begun writing in the journal directly after Alex had died. As a child, I had held the (unrealistic) hope that Alex was still watching me, wherever he might have gone after his death. I had hoped that one day, whether I died first, or if Alex ever returned, he would be able to read the journal and live vicariously through me. Although I had long since abandoned that hope (mostly), I had kept writing out of habit.

But what if I could use these words to fight the problems in society? It was a fascinating idea, and I’d read several editorials myself when scouring the library for reading material in the periodicals section. I decided to give it a try, and as a teenager, I submitted an anonymous essay to the town newspaper about drug issues going on at the school.

My heart sank a few days later when I received a rejection letter from the editors.

I was leaning against my mailbox when I eagerly tore open the envelope like a ravenous animal. But once I had read the first few sentences, I was ready to give up completely and live a banal and utterly miserable life. But the next sentence I read lifted my spirits up as far as they had dropped over the past few years.

“Overall,” the letter stated, “Your story was not badly written, nor was it poorly researched. The only problem is that there is no proof to back up your statement. Without proof, the article would be a blind accusation to the people that the article discusses. However, we are willing to consider the essay for publication if you submit evidence of such wrongdoing.”

Plots and plans immediately began flowing through my head. With this article, I would be taking my first step towards making the world a place that my brother would have loved, a world that he would have embraced as enthusiastically as he had the woods that we played in.

The Next Day

(Author’s Note: This is my third attempt at writing a play script. The first attempt introduced Mark Redwood and the early prototype for the first chapter, the second attempt is still a work-in-progress… and this is #3. Hope you enjoy!)

Chapter 2: The Next Day

Previous Chapter: Chapter 1: A Creation’s Trial, click here.

Next Chapter: Chapter 3: Remnant, click here.

SCENE: The room was Spartan in furnishings and mostly bare. There was a small, ancient bed shoved into the back left corner like a neglected child, and it has obviously been slept in as it remains unmade for the God-knows-how-long-it’s-been days in a row. The floor is bare hardwood, which has long lost a honey colored sheen and instead taken on a paler, sickly yellow hue- and in the December morning, it is freezing cold. An easy chair, its cushions still somewhat comforting and soft, seems to relax right next to a coat rack and the door.

The AUTHOR sits at the frail card table, which is wobbling on its legs as it attempts to hold all the papers and books overflowing from the sides. Perhaps the load would be slightly more bearable if there wasn’t a big old computer sitting in the middle of the table, making it sag and groan, as it is right now while the AUTHOR sleeps at the computer’s keyboard- having fallen asleep mid-story.

The AGENT enters, and smiles in understanding and in slight exasperation. The AUTHOR has obviously been working hard on something… but will he have anything to share for this meeting?

AGENT: Asleep at the computer again?

AUTHOR: (bantering) But of course. You know how it is when I hit upon something good.

AGENT: (grinningPotentially good. Half the time, you’ve hit something and then nothing really came of it.

AUTHOR: Hey, I’m getting better at turning out content. You’re the one who’s getting better at rejecting me.

AGENT: Well, you know desperate old me. If there’s even a glimmer of hope, I’ll raise my standards. Especially given your reputation- sorry, what’s left of your reputation.

The AUTHOR gazes around his room and his eyes seem to glaze over as he reminiscences about days long since gone, and seems to be on the verge of sighing when…

AGENT: (clears his throat) So, what have you got for me this week? I’ve been looking forward to it.

AUTHOR: (hesitates) I…ah… This is…

AGENT: (furrowed brow) What’s wrong with you? The manuscript can’t be that bad, can it? Come on… think about all the reject manuscripts you’ve cranked out over the years…

AUTHOR: No, no, it’s not that…

AGENT: Writer’s block? Nah, you’ve never been product-less or all weird. Depressed, maybe, but you’d at least crap a page out… (sees AUTHOR’s concerned expression, and, grinning playfully rips paper manuscript out of the printer) Just let me see what you have. (As he begins to read, his face is neutral, expecting nothing. As he throws the first page away, and another, and another, his face seems to be impressed, somewhat surprised) Huh. This has potential.

AUTHOR: Seriously?

AGENT: (dismissive of the AUTHOR’s disbelief) Yeah, yeah, definitely.  Rare too. I haven’t read a decent bit of metafiction since Stephen King wrote Misery a few years back. And then of course there’s those stupid blogs and fanfics on the Net.

AUTHOR: Oh… thanks. Although you still haven’t told me exactly how MUCH better than it is than that other stuff…

AGENT: If I told you, you’d flip your shit.

AUTHOR: (mulls this over) Would I flip in a good way or a bad way?

AGENT: (ignores the question, attempts to change the subject with a quick smile) Is this what you were working on when you went “I’m all inspired now” and went running off scribbling in that notepad of yours?

AUTHOR: (opens his mouth, closes, takes on an odious grin) Yup, sure is.

AGENT: You’re a terrible liar.

AUTHOR: I thought it was- (pauses, face contorts- should he tell the truth?) terrible, and that I couldn’t get it published. (thinks, places his chin on his fist) and there was some…weird stuff going on when I wrote this?

AGENT: Were you high?

AUTHOR: No.

AGENT: Hallucinating?

AUTHOR: (thinks harder, and AGENT laughs at this, as if it’s a joke) No….

AGENT: In that case, I could care less. But you do have a point, it’s difficult to do metafiction. There needs to be a bit of a balance, it needs to be realistic, it can’t be overly complex because you’ve already got two different worlds in your head to screw around with.

At any rate, it’s at LEAST a nice change from the idealist science fiction or the grit you’ve been turning out.

AUTHOR: The world was… so real to me, I guess it started jumping into life for its other…

AGENT: …Readers, right, exactly. (AUTHOR closes his mouth and looks relieved. He appears to berate himself for nearly looking insane while the AGENT returns his attention to the manuscript) The thing is though, you need to make sure this character grows, alright, You have a good setup, but it’s all in the direction you take the series. Anywho, feel free to keep developing this. I’ll take this copy, shop it around, see how people react…. (turns, sees AUTHOR looking crazy) Don’t go loony over one story. You’re not set yet.

(END OF SCENE)

Mark Redwood: A Creation’s Trial

A Creation’s Trial

“You’re awake then.”  Upon hearing that statement, Mark jolted awake and winced. His back ached from having slept on such a hard surface, which was odd, since the last memory he had was of falling asleep next to his future wife on the sofa after a particularly taxing day at work…

Mark had not changed out of his regular attire, and his blue frock coat looked all the worse for wear. It was caked in dry mud, and ripped in some areas. His golden-yellow sweater had not taken much damage, but it was wrinkled, and in the glaring white of his current environment, it seemed to be faded. His blue jeans were torn, and his sneakers were rather filthy. His black hair was smoothed out and not as spiked or coifed, as it normally was when he gelled it into his normal hairstyle. As he sat up, he didn’t really think about the voice or any of its possible sources. After years of waking up to his mother screaming at him to get out of bed, he was rather adept at ignoring people.

Come to think of it, he had not felt any mud on the ground, although he could see the damage his coat had taken. In fact, the ground had seemed a bit like a white tile floor, and in fact, the world had been rather blank and vague. As Mark looked up and began taking in his surroundings, he noticed that he had indeed been correct. The world was completely white, blank and (excluding Mark) uninhabited. Mist covered the ground and obscured it from view, but Mark could tell the ground was made of tile. But strangely enough, there was a mud puddle next to him. Mark had a feeling that it hadn’t been there previously. With that, his reveries, initial visions and thoughts were interrupted as the voice spoke again.

“Hello? Are you awake? Perhaps the transfer has damaged or disoriented him…” Mark jumped up at the statement and began paying attention to the voice again. As he looked around, there was literally nothing and no one in the world besides himself. How was anyone speaking without being detected?  There wasn’t exactly any physical obstruction to hide anyone with a microphone or a megaphone, and there weren’t any walls or PAs to indicate that he was in a room. The voice continued, “I’m sorry to startle you. I’m the Author of your story. I built this world.”

Mark was incredulous. How could he have an author writing his story? Was this voice referring to his life when he said “story”? Was it implying that he was a character in a story?

“Yes, you’re one of my characters. No, you are not real, not in my plane of existence, at least.Once he had heard this, Mark was rather disturbed. How had the Author known what he was thinking? Could this ridiculous story he was telling actually be real?

“Yes, it can. Why do you doubt me, Redwood?”

No, this couldn’t be right. This person or voice was reading his mind now… was this a prank? Or was it…

“You’re not God, by any chance, are you?”

At this, the voice started laughing… in a rather spiteful manner, as if Mark had said something incredibly stupid. “No,” the Author replied, “I do believe the big man is a few realities away. I’m definitely not God.” 

“So then…” Mark contemplated for a bit, while sitting cross-legged on the ground before asking, “Okay, who drugged me? What drug is creating this state? I need to find out what it is so that I never take it again.

“You’re not being drugged. I’m not even going to argue with you anymore. I’m just going to SIT here until you realize that there’s no other solution to what’s going on.”

“Well, then, this must be some sort of virtual reality then.” Mark began to relax, glad to have found a reasonable (and actually possible) explanation this time. His computerized friend KURT must have been messing with him again, creating a virtual world and using some sort of algorithm to second guess what he was thinking.  He glanced up at the “sky” and shouted, in a good-natured manner, “Very funny, KURT! Let me out now! This isn’t so cool anymore.”

I’m not your artificially intelligent friend. Last time I checked, I was too organic to be a computer. Skin and bones- computers don’t have those where I’m from, and I don’t think they do in your world, either.  I am the Author, and you are in disbelief. Why?”  

“Because it’s absolutely ridiculous!” Mark blurted out. “You expect me to believe that I was created by some person in another dimension or something? What am I even doing here? This can’t be my life, or story, or whatever! I have a life to get back to!”

“Well, that’s too bad. You’re here because I want you to be present for your world’s destruction.”

“Say what now?”

“I’m scrapping your story. I’ve given up on it. I’ve decided, however, that you’re too good to be disposed of, so I’m going to place you into this new story. This new world is not fully developed yet, but it will grow.”

“I can’t believe this. I’m stuck in a room with a megalomaniac who thinks he’s creator of reality. How did everything come to this?” Mark groaned to himself. After pacing about, trying to restrain himself, his pride finally got the better of him as he blurted out, “What was wrong with my world, anyway? It wasn’t so bad!”

“Your world is as ridiculous to me as my explanation is to you. Some of your friends were flat and unrealistic.”

“My new friends, family and life would not be as real to me as the people I knew originally. This is not my home.”

“You’d sacrifice yourself in order to be with your family again?”

“Wouldn’t you?”

“I honestly don’t know, Mark, but I’m giving you an opportunity for a better life. You are my creation. I have the right to use you as I please. I’d advise that you accept my offer before I force you to accept.”

Mark considered the possibility for a moment, but he had felt a tugging need to find his fiancé and his friends ever since he had woken up. He could not- would not- allow his creator to force him away from them. “I must decline.”

“I will gladly include some other characters from your story for you. But they must undergo some… improvement first.”

“They don’t need improvement, Author. We might have seemed flat in your writing, but you don’t know anything about us and our lives beyond the story you wrote.” Mark was resolute now, his face stony and certain of what was going on and what he had to do. “Send me back, now.”

“But Mark, do tell me, what’s stopping me from just forcibly keeping you here?”

“I could just become as flat and monotonous as this world is now. Would you be willing to risk destroying a perfectly good character?”

“No, but I am also unwilling to waste a character on an irrational world with flat characters and science fiction clichés.” In his current state, Mark felt like he could smash through the dimensions back to his world with a sledgehammer. He realized, as the Author realized, that they had reached a stalemate.

“I would like to believe that you’re a fair and reasonable Author,” Mark stated. He had an idea, but it really depended on whether the Author was willing to go through with his idea.

“I am reasonable. You, by declining the opportunity at a better life, are not.”

“Then, be reasonable, and give your characters a chance to prove themselves. You shouldn’t be able to sentence someone to his or her doom without a trial.”

“…You expect me to corrupt this new world with those nonexistent beings?”

“If they don’t exist, then why do I exist? I come from the same place as them. I’m not so radically different from them all.” Out of ideas, at a point where he normally would throw his hands up and quit trying, Mark had no idea what to say or do. If the Author refused to witness the evolution that had taken place by returning him, then there really was nothing else to say, and perhaps there was nothing Mark could do but remain stranded in this world. Unless… “As a fellow writer, I ask that you bring one thing here that might help me make an argument for my world.”

“…Very well. An object would probably minimize the vandalism that would have been created with the presence of your companions. What would you like?”

Mark gritted his teeth and stopped himself from spitting out an objection about how his friends were not incompetent or useless, and steeled himself as he requested, “I want you to bring my journal here. And then I want you to read it. See all the descriptions I placed in there of the world around me, and then let’s see if you can still say my old home is worthless.

When the Author finally spoke again, after a long moment of silence, he seemed slightly confused. “You had a journal?”

Mark was equally confused as he responded, “Yes, how could you not know?”

“I do not ever recall writing that detail about you.”

“I started writing it after Alex died when I was a kid. You remember him, don’t you?”

The Author’s voice acknowledged,  “Yes, I remember that about your development. You were supposed to be the hero who rose from tragedy.

“There was a reason that I became a journalist for some time, Author. I wrote that journal for Alex, and I wrote very well, for his sake. I became a journalist to utilize my talent and help the world. Bring it in, and read it, and see if you can bring yourself to destroy the world after you finish.”

The Author summoned the journal up. It was a thick green tome with a scarlet binding and onionskin pages full of writing. He skimmed briefly through Mark’s account of his childhood and early life before and after Alex’s death. He noted the great amount of devastation, determination and happiness with those entries, and found pride in the fact that he had created such a multifaceted character. He read all the descriptions of Mark’s world, which still seemed too fantastical, but the Author could see why Mark loved the place as he described it, and realization set in for the first time. This was his character’s home.

Perhaps the world was worth keeping, the Author contemplated to himself, but I am not so sure the residents are worthy of preservation. He began to focus on descriptions of people, and events involving those people. He saw Mark meet each of his creations- the artificial intelligence, the future fiancé, and his best friends. Although they initially seemed a bit shallow and empty, they began to grow and change as Mark learned more about them, and as he even began affecting them. His fiancé had proven to become an absolutely fantastic person, and a voracious learner when she was released upon the world. In the more recent entries, even the artificial intelligence took on human qualities at times, displaying true emotions and sarcasm that he previously had not known before. All the emotions real people felt, the other characters seemed to feel as well. Shyness, fear, happiness, devastation, they were all there within one book, laid out for the Author to read. But the journal showed that everyone dealt with the obstacles of everyday life with creative methods that brought a true contentment to life, which was unbelievable in itself.

I suppose, the Author thought with resignation, that I have lost. Mark’s journal provided a solid argument with its description and displayed that his world had, indeed, expanded and elaborated. He was about to concede defeat and send Mark home reluctantly with a strong breeze that would throw the journal into his face as the transport took place. But then he remembered something and flipped back to a few pages, resting on one certain passage and reading it voraciously. Here, here was an absolute inaccuracy, which could not have been created by the world’s evolution. He could now keep Mark to complete his will…

“I’ve decided that I can’t trust your journal, Mark. You are biased in favor of your world, and it, by extension, is biased and has the potential of being inaccurate. Your world will die, and a new one will take its place.” The journal, which had been floating in the air for sometime as the Author had read the book, was tossed down at Mark’s feet, precariously close to the mud puddle. Speaking in a tone overflowing with victory and joy, the Author proclaimed, “You argued well, and you entertained me for some time, Mark. But now, it’s time for you to leave your old life behind and embrace the new one I have readied for you.” Mark fell to his knees in pain as his connections to all the people he had met and places he had seen was gradually cut away…

But to Mark’s horror, his memories began to fade away as well. All the descriptions of the world he had seen- the glittering (almost utopian) cities, the beautiful forest that he and Alex had explored… were disappearing, melting like snow. Tears flowed as he silently begged his creator to stop. And then the people he had met slowly appeared and dissolved before him until there were only three people that he could still remember.

There was Kurt, the artificial intelligence. Since Kurt’s only physical form was that of a gleaming, smooth scarlet rectangular prism that could be easily held in the hand, Mark chose to focus on Kurt’s mellifluous voice, which sounded like that of a radio announcer- a very sarcastic and witty radio announcer. He saw his own brother, Alex, who had inspired him to see the world as a beautiful place, through a child’s eyes… and his fiancé, perhaps one of his closest confidantes, with her flowing dirty-blonde hair. Mark saw them… surrounding him- almost supporting him with their presence through the unmerciful pain. Mark’s eyes began to close as a windstorm began to pick up and transform the landscape. As the world around him began to change, Mark’s eyelids closed as he surrendered to the pain. He lost consciousness and began to dream…

 

The story continues here.