Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Dark Illusion

"They don't see it. They can't," Fear thinks, staring ahead, paralyzed. She can feel the softness of the couch, the warmth of Sadness and Joy sitting near her, but it doesn't register. Before her, like one of her beloved movies, unravels her deepest fear.

The scene is split, as if a mirror divides the world in two. On both sides, Brianna sits before a laptop. Beyond their positions, there are few similarities.

On the left, she is clothed in a white cable-knit sweater with black tights, socks thick and fuzzy. Outside, soft, fluffy snowflakes fall to adorn trees and shrubs alike. A candle burns and a cup of coffee steams at her side. A stack of papers sits at the top of her desk and a calendar full of scribbles flanks her.

Fear can tell that the image on the left is peaceful. There is an air of certainty and determination about the confident tapping on the computer. She smiles, her tension easing. But then she looks to the right and, inwardly, takes a step back.

The right is dark. A storm rages outside, rain streaking the window panes. Brianna is wearing a black hoodie and baggy sweatpants, palm to forehead as she scrolls through something on the screen. Mail is strewn about the surface of the desk, with a few crumpled pages at her feet.

Fear feels concern overtake her hesitancy. "Brianna is normally a very neat individual. To be so careless is unlike her."

She takes a mental step forward, closer, deeper into the scene.

A fourth wall descends around Fear, blocking out the opposite scene so she is ensconced in the stormy room. A tremble begins at her hands and a shiver tip-toes its way down her back. "This feels like a horror movie," she thinks, turning in a small circle, taking in the room.

She stops her rotation when she hears a painful groan from the dark corner. Fear turns and finds Brianna, forehead pressed into the keypad of the laptop, hands clenching the back of her neck.

Fear creeps closer, so she can look at the illuminated screen. "We regret to inform you..." the missive begins. She looks to the side panel of the email page and sees multiple emails, full of the same short description. Rejection letters.

Fear jumps back, gasping, heart racing. She takes a closer look at the litter on the table and the floor. These have intricate letterheads and collegiate insignias. They're short, polite replies. The consensus is a resounding no, like a gong that clangs in an abandoned monastery, empty and eerie.

A door opens to Fear's left and she looks over her shoulder to find the husband has come home, soaked from the raging storm. His expression tightens when it lands on Brianna, his shoulders tensing. He shrugs off his coat before coming to stand before her prostrated form.

"Another 'No'?" he mumbles.

A small shake of her head as affirmation issues against the computer keyboard.

He sighs, backing up and sitting on the nearby couch. "Maybe it's time to give up."

Both Fear and Brianna start at his words, a knife in an already tender wound.

"We agreed I would give you time to try to make a profession of your work. But it's been a year with no progress. You struggle over your words to your novel, rejection letters flood the mailbox and you've not a had a new story idea in months. It's time to face it: You're not going to be a writer."

She snaps up her head, startled at his words. "But, maybe if I..." she attempts.

Fear's bottom lip quivers, her hands unsteady.

He sighs again. "Another writing book or course isn't going to fix it. You've tried that avenue, remember?"

She dips her head in a shallow nod.

"I'll give you a few days to..." he swallows, "to grieve. Then, I think it's time to start looking for a full-time job."

Brianna's head jerks up again. "I did that! You know I did! But there wasn't anything I was qualified for besides retail or management, and you know I've hated both those positions."

Another long heaving sigh escapes his mouth. "I know, but it's something," he says, resigned. He pushes up from the couch and moves away into the darkness of the bedroom.

Fear watches as Brianna turns back to the glaring screen. A shaky breath fills the silence as she closes all tabs and shuts the laptop. Fear watches as she leans back hugging her arms around her knees, the light from the window casting shadows under Brianna's eyes. Her expression is bland, like a stone pummeled too many times by incessant waves, all sharpness rounded out to leave a smooth surface.

"She's giving up," Fear gasps, watching as Brianna pushes away from the desk and slouches into the darkness.  "She's never going create again."

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