Word Count: 426
I sat there reading the words I typed the previous night. Another late evening into dawn weaving stories of people I don’t even know, maybe have passed for an instant on the street. Or buying fat German sausage and sampling the slivers of cheese at the butcher’s. But the words tell of lives I don’t remember.
This character, Jenny, I told of her sadness. She lost her lover to a woman he met at a diner. A woman he saw sitting in a back booth holding onto her coffee mug as if it was her entire world. She was crying and he went over to ask if she was okay. I left Jenny at her kitchen table, crying into her tea. But in the morning I read that she’d gotten a phone call. Her lover begged her to take him back and she did.
I’m savvy enough to know you don’t write happy endings. They don’t sell. Readers want to escape their own troubles by believing that someone else is worse off. Yes, there are still some people that want romance to last forever, even if it isn’t their own. But most people, most of them don’t.
Each day I’d wake around noon, read what I’d written. But by mid-story I was lost. It was my style of writing, my voice, my short sentences and wrong punctuation but the story, it wasn’t my own. Every day, the same thing would happen. Eddie got his job back, the Smith’s baby survived. Somehow while I was sleeping, their lives had been turned around.
I’d rewrite them, with the ending I knew I’d originally planned. By morning they’d changed back again. At the end of each night I’d backup onto a flash drive. The flash drive rewrote itself too.
Last night I wrote a personal story. About a writer whose characters took control of their own paths. Made their own choices. Lived, as cliched as it sounds, happily ever after. And he, the writer, me in fact, made more than a living off book sales. Was featured on talk shows, his stories carried to beaches on Kindles to read.
This morning I rush to the laptop, start reading, and am relieved to see all of my words are there as I remember them. Until the last paragraph and I’m reading in horror the end where the writer dies in his apartment as the building blazes in an impossible fire.
It hits me then, what’s happening, as the awful black smoke wisps in like a shadow under the door.