“You should be a writer.”
I have heard or read that phrase many times over the past two decades of letter writing. And no, not just from my mother. Actually I don’t think my mother has ever said that; what the hell, mom? It’s certainly flattering to hear from friends and family and it gives me a smidge of satisfaction that my letters are in fact being read and enjoyed. I’m just not sure it’s a well thought out sentiment.
I’d be lying if I said the thought hasn’t crossed my own mind. I just don’t know that I’m cut out to be a genuine writer. I don’t seem to possess the necessary passion to make a career of writing. Even a fervent writing hobby seems beyond me. All those “I just love to write and write all the time” or “I’ve been writing stories since I was six” quotes attributed to successful authors and community college night course addicts do not reflect my creative habits. I seem only driven to endlessly contemplate such pursuits and rationalize my unwillingness to try.
Despite my supporters’ best intentions, I think they underestimate the skill and commitment required to be a professional writer. It’s one thing to colourfully embellish little moments of my life; it’s quite another to create an entire series of them from the noxious vapours of my faltering imagination along with characters, settings, and an interesting plot.
I fear that what I write would not remotely approach the skill represented in the books I love to read. I don’t want to be a shit writer. There’s plenty of those already. Would a budding musician with a deep affection for The Beatles be content to write nothing but boy band tripe? Yes that’s an unrealistic and awfully smug stance to take; expecting to write like Dickens immediately. Not everyone can be a prodigy. I don’t think forty year olds are even allowed to be. And I did say I spend a lot of time rationalizing this nonsense.
In a meagre attempt to shake myself from this cowardly procrastination, or more likely shock my friends from ever uttering “you should be a writer” again, I thought it would be oodles of fun to go back in time and dig up a relic from my distant past; a bona fide piece of fiction written by yours truly back in 1991.
It was Grade 13 and we were required to write an original story for English class. Why would I keep such a creation? Well, at the time it meant a lot to me. Not because I believed it to be a masterpiece, though I’m sure at the time I figured I had knocked it out of the park. I kept it because it was the first English class assignment that I had genuinely put in the effort to do well. I had actually given a shit (and ironically produced just that).
This was a big deal because for most of my school career I abhorred English class. The books bored me, Shakespeare was unintelligible, and I felt foreshadowing and imagery were as legitimate as a Harlem Globetrotters game. I only read what I was forced to and even then only the bare minimum to bullshit my way to a passing grade.
Perhaps I was maturing, but by 1991 I’d developed the slightest interest in reading for pleasure. Yes it was Stephen King, so not exactly War and Peace or the more stereotypical teenage infatuation with Ayn Rand, but it was a meaningful change. I’d actually read Christine on purpose, every page, and enjoyed it. So I went about this particular assignment with the specific goal of writing a great horror story.
The result of my efforts, entitled Back For More, appears below transcribed faithfully from the original hand-written manuscript with all spelling and grammatical errors left as they appeared in the original (see the scan of the first page for confirmation). I even included the disclaimer I wrote at the end of the story imploring that my horror magnum opus was in no way a reflection of my mental state. I’d like to say that was a ridiculous addendum on my part but in retrospect I know full well why I did it.
Anyway, for your reading pleasure and a test of your patience and endurance I present the rediscovered 1991 non-masterpiece Back For More. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions as to the likelihood of a writing career for me. I consier it the worst short story ever written.
BACK FOR MORE
Killed what’s inside of you
– Eric Clapton (CREAM)
Allister J Twomen was a single man in his mid fourties. He lived by himself in a small bungalow on Maple Street in the east end of Hawkesbury a small town of 3500 people; but he was not alone.
A professor of English literature at a nearby University, Allister was the perfect stereotype of a University professor; almost perfect that is. He was a very proud man and was greatly respected throughout the area both as an accomplished professor and as a citizen. His long, boney face never showed much expresseon other than a slight smerk at the corners of his mouth when he was amused. A neatly trimmed beard and mustache, that were reddish in colour but showing signs of greying, covered his prominent chin. The hair on his head was much the same colour, cut short, and parted and combed to the side. There was a noticeable bald spot on the top of his head, almost like a door to his extraordinary mind he much kept to himself. Resting on the bridge of his large nose was a pair of gold steel-rimmed glasses with thick lenses which made his deep blue eyes appear large and penetrating. His voice was deep and bellowing with a sterness that sent shivers up and down one’s spine whenever he spoke; but it wasn’t always Allister talking.
Buried in the this stern outer armour, however, hid a most kind and caring gentleman. Allister loved children and would play with them on his way home from the university each night. The children loved Allister just as much and would wait for him in the park each night shouting, “Come find us Mr. Twomen!”, as they hid from him as he walked down the sidewalk. The people of highly adored Allister for the joy he gave their children. Yet they did not really know Allister. He much rather enjoyed spending an evening at home reading than discussing politics or sports with his neighbours. His neighbours understood this and accepted it without letting it bother them; but there was someone, or something, that knew Allister intrinsically.
The university was Allister’s life and he spent a great deal of time and effort both with his lessons and the many committees he was involved with at the university. Everyday, Allister could be seen wearing a black pin stripe suit, white cotton shirt, with gold cufflinks, and a black silk bowtie. To top this attire off he had a pair of black Gucci loafers covering his argyle socks. At his side was a black leather briefcase in which he carried all his materials for work that day. Allister never, ever left his briefcase anywhere not even for a second; but one day he did.
This was pretty much how Allister J. Twomen had lived for the past twenty-two years. It never changed, continually following the schedule Allister had unintentually established for himself; but on October 31, 1986 Allister’s life changed for the first … and last time.
Friday, October 31, 1986 was a different day, at least for Allister Twomen. Sure there was still his three classes of English literature. There was still the black pin striped suit and white cotton shirt with gold cufflinks. There was still the black silk bowtie around his neck. There was still the black Gucci loafers and argyle socks. There was still the black leather briefcase at his side. But there was something different. Those deep lue eyes were no longer blue but rather grey and glossy. Allister no longer looked out from them either; someone or something else was in Allister’s place inside his own mind. Oh yes, this was a different day.
At four o’clock the bell rang ending Allister’s last class of English that fateful Friday, as it had every other Friday; but there was something different.
“Is there no assignment for the weekend, professor?” a student questioned as the class gathered their books.
Allister turned and looked at the student, staring at him with a confused look on his face.
“Are you all right, professor?” inquired the student felling a little nautious with the way Allister stared at him.
“Yes, I’m fine!” Allister blurted out in a sudden shudder. “God and enjoy the weekend. They might come back for you too.”
The student was frightened by what Allister had said, not expecting such an outrageous outburst from him. What he had meant the student did not know, but he did know that there had never been a weekend without English homework. Then again, this day was different.
When the students had all left, Allister sat back in his chair staring at the ceiling. His large hands were all sweaty and clammy. His face was white, almost like that of a corps at a funeral parlour. Allister just sat there, staring, for about ten minutes, never once blinking or twitching.
“Come with me, Allister. Come home.” a faint whisper whisped through the room, But Allister was the only one there.
As if awakened from a trance, Allister jumped to his feet, grabbed his black overcoat and umbrella and walked out of the classroom. His black leather briefcase lay open on his desk in the same place he had put it that morning. Something was definitely different.
Allister got off the bus at the corner of Oak Avenue, about two blocks from his house. It was raining quite hard now and Allister opened his umbrella and held it over his head. The wind blew briskly but wasn’t overly cold. In fact for the end of October the wind was quite warm. Nevertheless, Allister was shaking as he walked, like a young boy does while running his finger nails down the chalk board. The rain had chased everyone indoors, leaving Allister by himself on the street; but he was not alone.
“Allister, you will come with me! You know that, don’t you?” the same voice whispered again.
Allister stopped and looked around to see who was talking to him, but the street was empty.
“You must come home with me. You must!”
“No!” Allister screamed as he began running aimlessly down the street towards his house.
The shrill yell echoed through the empty streets, carried far into the town on the wings of the blowing wind. Today was different, very different.
When Allister got home, he slammed the door shut behind him and locked it. Throwing his coat and umbrella on a chair he ran to the bathroom, trembling violently. Running down the hall Allister looked like a drunkard, banging into the walls on either side of him. When he reached the bathroom, he put the plug in the sink and turned on the cold water. Cupping his hands, Allister filled them with the cold water and splashed his face. Grabbing a towel Allister dried his face and reached for the knob of the medicine cabinet. As his hand grabbed hold of the knob Allister stopped dead, staring into the mirror in front of him.
“Hello, Allister!” It’s me! I’ve come to take you home now! Are you ready?” It was the voice that Allister had heard at the university and on the street.
The reflection in the mirror was not Allister’s; at least not entirely. The beard and mustache were Allister’s and so was the parted hair. The suit and shirt was Allister’s, but they were torn and dirty. As Allister stared at the reflection, the skin on the face of the figure in the mirror shrivelled away, leaving only a skull. Two black holes were all that was left of Allister’s deep blue eyes. Allister screamed as the skull began to laugh; a hideous and gut renching laugh that caused Allister to vomit as he fell to his knees.
Allister lay on the floor, the front of his body covered in vomit. Slowly he got to his feet and headed toward his bedroom. He didn’t look in the mirror as he staggered out of the bathroom in a daze. When Allister got into the bedroom he shut the door and shoved the large oak dresser in front of it, almost passing out from the strain. Completely exhausted and horrified Allister fell into his bed and began to cry.
“Don’t cry Allister, it’s time to come home. Don’t be so stubborn. You have to come now.”
Allister raised his head and looked across the room at the full length mirror on the door to his closet. Staring back at him was the reflection form the bathroom mirror. The figure wore a tattered black suit, white cotton shirt and black silk bowtie all torn and dirty. At its side was a beat up old black briefcase grasped in the skeletal bones that remained as hands. In the other hand was a gun, pointing at Allister.
“Get out of my house!” Allister shrieked as he grabbed an alarm clock from the night table beside him and threw it at the mirror. As the clock hi the mirror, the mirror cracked, leaving a collage of small mirrors. In each section of mirror was the full figure, the gun still point at Allister. Allister stood up and ran to the corner of the room.
“It is time Allister!” the voice thundered through the room, shattering the windows. “You will come with me … now!”
A single shot echoed through the room and Allister J. Twomen fell to the floor. A puddle of blood formed around Allister’s head. Allister lay there motionless. The figure in the mirror vanished as a loud evil laughter bellowed through the room.
Allister has come home; to my world. In my world the dead live, thriving for eternity. Feeding on the lives of the true living until they are brought home. Then, they too will live and thrive on the other living, always returning for more. Those few that escape are lucky, for they will rest. Those that don’t escape, they will continue to live, here, never resting. Caught in this infernal damnation; only leaving to bring others home; Others like Allister Twomen. But Allister is not the last, perhaps your father will be next, or your sister, or even you. I am hell and in my world the dead live —– forever!
I’ve got my bell,
I’m going to take you to hell.
I’m going to get you,
Satan’ll get you,
Oh Hells Bells.
The sole purpose of this story is for the enjoyment of horror that so many of us enjoy. There is no reason to become worried. In no way or manner is the author insane, possessed, or otherwise mentally sick. In fact he is probably the sanest person around.
If you (cough) liked that you might enjoy more of my fiction here.
I’m also one who has dreams of writing, of being a writer, and I’ve been told by others to “do it!” as though it’s something you can just seize in one grasping motion. But I’m also realistic enough to know that I’ve got to do something different with my efforts, with my dedication, with my ego, if I’m ever going to reach completion on anything. I find myself thinking, “of course I’ll publish a book. But, not right now. Maybe in five years. Or ten. Maybe a little after that.”
Maybe once all the kids are in school. Or maybe I just need to accept my lack of motivation and choose a different path. It’s something I think about a lot.
Anyway, I could relate to this. And I’ve got stories of my own from gradeschool and highschool, with similar pre-occupations with sanity/insanity, as though that’s something I even had any understanding of. But it’s a fun read to go back and know that I’ve grown up a bit.
I can write. Creating stories is a whole other matter. :o)
Oh, I didn’t mean you can’t write; your post here is itself proof you write well. I guess I meant it more in “completing big projects as a writer” sort of way. And really, I’m mostly talking about myself.
ha. guess my attempt at something deep/witty didn’t translate properly.
your first post was very reflective of my own thoughts on writing. we’re not alone, i’m afraid.
Ion P says
Hey! Just curious, since I’m submitting this to reddit.com/r/cringewriting as a self-cringe (great that you’re so honest! I’m preparing a list of gems from my own past writing), are you now surprised by how much you scored on this?
Honestly, it’s not really all that bad for a school essay. Slipshod, yes, but not all that bad.
Looking at it now I am surprised by the mark. I’m sure at the time I wrote it I was ticked off that it wasn’t higher. LOL
I imagine the teacher was somewhat generous simply because of the effort I made. So many writing assignments get only the bare minimum of effort put to them this must have come across as an opus.
Sarthak Das says
This is surely not a masterpiece or something “so bad that it’s good” but it definitely is cute and has a certain charm. My brain says that this is outright nonsense but my heart somehow refuses to register that. Just discovered your blog a few days ago and I must say that you really write well- although producing fiction is a different thing. And trust me, I can write worse! 🙂
Lots of love. Keep penning.