The Writers of the Universe
Falling into the soft cushions of his couch, Jeremy barely recognized the sound of the door slamming shut. He sat for a long time, simply happy to breathe. Jeremy felt that he was the center of all that was calm; gentle buzzing in his right ear soothed him as he sat. Soaking in the last remaining rays of the afternoon sun, Jeremy felt happy for the first time in what felt like a very long time. Unfortunately, his brief moment of contentment was disturbed by a sudden tapping at his door.
Sighing heavily, “I’m out!” Jeremy responded.
“Come on, open up, it’s me,” a fine baritone voice pleaded.
“Cis? Ringer ole buddy. How you doing?” Jeremy asked with a smile.
“Great! man,” Ringer responded from the other side of the door.
Jeremy was torn between leaving his happy place and getting up to open the door for his friend of many years. A long moment of silence stretched between them.
“Yo! Let’s go, man. You dead or something? Open up.”
With tremendous strength that no one would ever recognize, Jeremy stood up and opened the door for his buddy.
“Sup,” they said at the same time. Grinning at each other like fools, they clasped hands. It had been months since Cis Ringer had stopped by Jeremy’s apartment. The man Jeremy’s hand was shaking stood at least 6 inches above him and always had a slight underfed look to his body. Cis was the most clean cut kid Jeremy had ever known, but that never stopped Cis from talking like he had been born on the streets.
“I heard you were out of town,” Ringer questioned with a statement.
Jeremy started to explain; he wanted to tell his best friend Cis Ringer everything that had happened over that last few days, but instead, he started laughing uncontrollably.
“You’re flippin’. You not on drugs or nothing right?” Ringer asked with worry.
After a while and another outburst of giggles, Jeremy was able to stabilize. “Dude, you have no idea. I have had the craziest week. Come on sit down, grab a beer and I’ll try to tell you.”
They were no further than opening their drinks when, without so much as a warning, Jeremy’s door rudely slammed open, revealing a very angry looking Kelly.
“Where the hell have you been?” Kelly demanded before folding her arms and sitting rigidly between the two men. The three of them more than overfilled Jeremy’s single and only place to sit in his apartment.
“I was about to explain that to Ringer,” Jeremy defended.
“You were going to tell him first?” She steamed.
“Uhh…” He felt defenseless. Every time she was around and angry at him he turned into a tongue-tied blubbering idiot.
Cis shrugged in his casual way, not wanting to become the object of Kelly’s anger.
“I’ll tell you both,” Jeremy decided. “I was abducted by aliens and then the government sent a mind reader to kill me and I think they are still watching me.”
Ringer grinned again but not in a happy way. “You have lost your mind, man.”
“He’s right, what the hell. That’s not even a good lie,” Kelly responded, accompanied by a face palm.
“I’m not lying,” Jeremy confessed.
Kelly shook her head as if Jeremy’s words were an unbearable headache. “Really?”
“Okay, okay let me re-explain what went down in a better way.”
“I’m giving you this one chance. Tell the truth or I’m gone,” she replied making full eye contact with Jeremy.
“Alright, hold on to your butts,” Jeremy said before spending the next half hour reenacting his strange dream and the terrible events that he had been subject to. His audience sat in still silence, open-mouthed, as they received the most inexplicable story they had ever heard.
Jeremy finished off his story by saying, “…And there you have it. The story of how I went missing for a week and what happened to me during that time.”
“You serious man? I kinda hope that’s real though,” Cis laughed uncomfortably.
“Yeah, I’m sorry Jeremy. Actually, I’m not sorry. Cis is right. Your story is bullshit. I gave you one last chance and you ruined it. I gotta get out of here.” Kelly flipped him off and strode to the door.
Despite a slight inner happiness that Jeremy did not expect to be feeling, he jumped up to stop her. “I can prove it.”
“No, Jeremy, I just want to go,” she pulled her hand from his.
“But I can make you understand everything! I have the bruises all over my body from the ordeal and I have the quill one of the aliens gave me.”
“No! You’re the one that has to understand,” Kelly said, her face turning sad. “Last Monday, I came back to apologize for being upset with you, and to help you write your story. After I was done being angry, I realized I kinda liked it. But then you were gone. No note or anything. Your cell phone was still on the couch where you left it. Then I noticed that crazy message burned into your carpet.”
She finished by pointing at the scorched words that still stood out in Jeremy’s carpet. Get out of there; it read like a set of insane instructions. Jeremy tried to mutter an apology but Kelly ignored him and continued. “I tried calling all of the contacts on your phone. Not a single one worked, they were all disconnected lines. All except my number and Ringer’s. He didn’t know where you were either. It was like you just vanished into thin air and that you never really existed before.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Jeremy felt sick to his stomach. He had realized for a while that his contact list was dwindling, but he had never dreamed that it was close to null. The idea that to Kelly he had never existed bothered him more than he would have liked to admit.
“I’m glad you’re back, but I think I’m going to follow that burn mark’s advice and get out of here,” Kelly finished.
“But Look, it’s all here, the burn in the carpet, the bruises on my side,” Jeremy pulled aside his shirt revealing the series of horizontal bruises that ran up his abdomen.
“Dang…those real?” Ringer asked before Kelly could.
She shook her head. “Please, just stop. Whatever happened to you, it’s your secret to keep. I don’t want to know.”
Feeling depressed, Jeremy flopped back down on the couch. He was less disturbed that she was leaving than the fact that she wouldn’t believe his story. He felt that he had explained it as best he could remember. There wasn’t much else he could say. “Let me show you the quill.”
Cis leaned forward intrigued by his friend’s story. “Out with it.”
“I don’t care to see it,” Kelly spoke quietly before turning and walking out the still open door.
Ringer stood up and carefully closed the door, returning to his friend. “I want to believe you, Jeremy. You wouldn’t make up sometin’ like that. would ya?”
Jeremy scratched his hair, trying to put his current situation into perspective. “I’ll prove it to you.”
Without blinking, Jeremy shoved his hand into his jeans and pulled out the now deep red quill. Its feathers reflected the shallow sun, seeming to expand like a flower trying to catch more of the warmth. “This is it.”
“That’s it, dang. That’s what a quill is?”
“You…you didn’t know what a quill was?”
“Nah, man. I never knew,” the most genuine smile broke over Cis’s face. “But now I do. Fucking right doggy.”
Jeremy chuckled at his friend’s ridiculous and offbeat expressions. “I wonder if Kelly knew what a quill was?”
“Forget her, son. She was bad news for you anyway, always trying to change ya into what ya not. So what does it do? Can you write with it.”
Thankful to have his friend’s backing, he replied. “I’m not sure. Here grab that notebook.”
Jeremy tore one of the yellowed pages out of his notebook and with shaking hands sat it down between them. Hesitantly he put the tip of the quill on the page. Instantly, a warmth radiated up through his fingers into his arms. It felt wonderful, like the afternoon sun that had calmed his heart.
“Dude look at your arm. It looks like freakin’ Animorphs or something,” Cis exasperated, his face snow white.
It was true, Jeremy’s arm now had streaks running up and down his skin of the same exotic red color that was on the feather. The color moved and circled around Jeremy as if evaluating him.
“Write something,” Ringer urged as he backed a step away from Jeremy.
“What should I write?” Jeremy panicked. Here he was again, only this time he absolutely had to write something and not a single coherent statement wanted to leave his fingertips. “What the heck should I write man?”
“Your name or something like that. Simple and easy.”
“Okay. I think you’re right,” Jeremy quickly scribbled his first name on the sheet of paper. As he crossed his signature, the color that had been undulating around his arm turned bright red, a shade of fire and blood, and dived into the etched words he had written. The color filled up the micro indentations as if the words Jeremy had written were dry lake beds that were being filled during a large flood. At the place his quill had last touched, the color reached up hovering like a puff of smoke. It seemed to be waiting for Jeremy to do something.
“Try touching it with that thingy,” Ringer suggested, wiggling his finger towards the quill.
With the tiniest of movements, Jeremy touched the risen color with the tip of his quill. The color swirled around the quill like it was inspecting the user. As if it were performing a handshake, the color landed on the edge and instantly sucked back into the quill. In the process the color erased Jeremy’s name from the page, leaving the page looking as if it had never been written on. The individual feathers attached to the quill spread out to their full width as if expressing their pleasure with what Jeremy had written.
The two men stared at the quill, now motionless and quite regular looking, in Jeremy’s hand. Jeremy was the first to break their stunned silence. “Uhh…that’s it?”
“Don’t think I could handle more, my hearts pounding,” Cis thumped his heart a few times.
“Same,” Jeremy muttered, his eyes wide with stunned disbelief. “It’s magic isn’t it?”
Ringer agreed, “Think so bro.”
Letting out a large puff of air, Jeremy sank back into the couch. His mind was full of worries and thoughts. What had he unknowingly done to himself? The quill had seemed to accept him. But Jeremy could not understand why a quill would need to approve of the person using it. The quill wasn’t doing the thinking or writing, it was just a tool, Jeremy supposed.
“So that’s it?” Ringer asked cautiously.
Jeremy shook his head, unsure of how to answer. “I don’t know man, I think the creature I met used it to send me back to earth. I’m not sure if we should use it more.”
“True…and those military people are probably watching you.” Cis realized craning his neck and giving a watchful look around the apartment. “We need to be smart.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, but we need to understand what this quill is or what it can do. I think it might save us or something. I think it will get us out of this mess….Man I’m getting paranoid ‘bout all the government being up in my ass.”
“Yeah it would be good for us to lay low or disappear for awhile,” Cis agreed.
“Or if we were dead!” Jeremy jumped up with his twisted idea. “Yeah if the army people think I’m dead. Solves everything and Kelly said it best, it’s not like I’ve been living much of a life anyway.”
“You are mental.”
“No! no! I’m not saying let’s go slit our wrists or anything. I’m saying let’s just write our obituary. No one knows who I am, it will be easy to be declared dead.”
Cis was too in shock at Jeremy’s plan to bother audibly responding.
A dark determined look overcame Jeremy’s features. As simply as if he were washing dishes or folding laundry, Jeremy ripped another sheet of paper from his ragged notebook. Twirling the quill through his fingers, he placed the tip to the yellowed page. “Jeremy is dead”, he wrote. Ringer coughed in silent anticipation as they both waited nervous of what might happen. Like a curtain being dropped in front of the sun, the world around them went dark. Blackness and a cold so deep winter would shiver engulfed the two men sitting on the couch. A silence most unbearable surrounded them; its overbearing nothingness and overall emptiness crushed down on them till they were shivering in a protective fetal position.
Jeremy wriggled trying to see where there was nothing, and hear where there was even less, and then, like seeing a fire after being lost in the woods, a noise broke the never. The noise, tiny at first, built and built until Jeremy realized it was but one single scream. His own. Like an ambulance, running past him, another voice came out and rushed by Jeremy. Soon, it was joined by another and another, until he wondered if it had ever been silent. A million screams filled his thoughts, each one clear and precise, exactly like those terrifying thoughts Mai had sent into him. It was again the pain of the human spirit crying out, only this time it was raw and unbroken. Knowing it would never stop, Jeremy fought with what little life he had left.
A gray cloud sliced through him, knocking him aside. It reared around, confused and angry at the sudden and unexpectedly solid form of Jeremy’s body in the dead space. Its body was skeletal frozen in a scream. It wailed as it flashed angry claws and jagged teeth at Jeremy, then quickly the monster sped away.
The sound of metal sliding against metal, like a sword leaving its scabbard, drew Jeremy to a new figure that was impossibly darker than the pervasive background. Instead of raising a scythe to strike him like Jeremy imagined, the sub-black creature gave the impression of smiling. “Trick…Trick…Tricky little boy. There is only one way to enter this realm. You are unnatural. No matter, I was just saying the other day how hungry I was for human flesh, and look here how my master Death delivers.”
It was then that Jeremy saw the true form of the creature. Having never seen anything else to compare, he had no idea how to understand what he was seeing. All he could possibly understand was that it did not have a face.
As the creature lunged forward, claws out ready to tear through Jeremy’s slowing heart, light blazed between them. The beam of light separated Jeremy from the darkness and the cold. It cut like a sword vanquishing the darkness back into the corners of the room.
Jeremy sat up gasping like he had been underwater for minutes. Picking himself up from the ground, his entire body was still shaking. A hand placed on his shoulder made him jump.
“Hey man, it’s me!” Ringer shook Jeremy. “What happened? You wrote that you were dead and then everything went dark all around us. I heard my mom. She’s been dead since I was 7 years old.”
“How?” Jeremy stuttered. “I think we really died for a second there.”
No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t force himself to stop shivering. He hugged himself trying to find internal warmth, but instead, his stomach and legs continued to nervously jump up and down.
“It was all I could do man. I think I knocked you over, but I ended up scratching out what you had written,” Ringer held up the page which now had a major slice through the middle where the quill had cut into the soft paper.
“Thanks,” he shook uncontrollably. “Well let’s never do that again.”
Three quick successive taps sounded at Jeremy’s front door. The two men spun around terrified by what might be on the other side of the door. Holding a finger up to his mouth, Jeremy suddenly found the power to stop shivering. They stood very still and waited.
Another round of knuckle against plywood alerted them. “We know you’re in there. If you do not open this door in 10 seconds we are authorized to break it down.”
Abandoning the silent treatment, Jeremy shouted through the door. “I have rights!”
“Actually, no you don’t,” the voice repeated as something large slammed against the door. The hinges shook but stayed.
“Who are you? What do you want?” Jeremy asked while tearing the quill out of Cis’s hands and running around the apartment grabbing things he needed.
“We have been sent from the council of the writers to eliminate one human named Jeremy for unforgivable crimes against the multiverse. He is fit for trial by a council of directors, led by Chief Director Radfewx, for stealing a quill from the earth hive and violating the sacred oaths of the author. We are here to take you in if you try and escape we have authority to kill.”
While the person behind the door spoke, Jeremy gathered all that mattered greatly to him. Surprisingly that ended up being an extra change of clothes, his notebook full of story outlines, and a Zippo lighter that had been the first gift Jeremy had ever received. Jeremy whispered to Cis, “I’m going to try something crazy and I have no idea if it will work. Do you want to come along?”
Cis shook his head. “I’m sorry brother, but I’ve already died once today. I’m out.”
He finished with a sad look, hugged Jeremy, and kicked out the window, slipping into the night.
All the glass from Ringer’s escape hadn’t even landed before the door burst open and Jeremy was being rushed by men with guns. Jeremy was holding a folder with maps he had drawn of a world he was going to create in one of the books he had planned. He slipped, as more guns than he had even seen before pointed at his failing body, the folder went flying as did many individual pages.
Soldiers surrounded him as he cowered between his tiny couch and the coffee table he used to put his feet on after a long day at work. A smaller person stepped through the circle of munitions. Jeremy recognized her as Mai but she was missing all of her inner strength. Her expression was blank, Jeremy knew that she was no longer hearing the calls of millions of people or acting of her own free will. She was only hearing one thing, and it was the voice that spoke through her commanding her to hunt Jeremy. “I have come to take you to your trial. Resist or die. We have authorization!”
Jeremy grabbed the last piece of paper that hit the floor. It was a map he had drawn of a world of magic and dragons. Jeremy had often dreamt of visiting the wonderful world of magic he had built up in his head and slowly drawn out on paper. Staring directly into Mai’s vacant eyes, Jeremy felt that he was in a wild west showdown. Whoever drew first would still be alive, whoever was slowest would possibly die.
Forcing his resolve and before anyone could react Jeremy slashed at the page in his hand with the quill. He wrote the first impulse that came to his mind, the number 5.
The entire room froze, the map in Jeremy’s hand broke open in the middle, a burnt red hand burst from the paper and grabbed onto the collar of Jeremy’s shirt. The hand pulled Jeremy into the map. Before he could even begin to scream again, the map swallowed Jeremy’s feet and he was cut off from the earth world.
Next Chapter: TWotU: Chapter 4 – The 5th World
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2014 © Stew Stunes