I think I was the only person who was so happy to see her. And I was so happy. So eager.
I was tired, you see. But I wasn’t tired from a life of too much work. I was a writer: a story-maker. Every time I got the chance, I’d sit down in the early morning or late at night and write about the things that mattered to me. I admit, most of the stories I wrote were purely for my own self-gratification: because they were stories I wanted to read and I was the only one who could write them the way I saw them. I’ll also admit that many of them were very personal stories or based on my own experiences.
And–more often than not–the main protagonist was always me.
But whenever I finished what I did, letting the gross black weight drain from the interior of my skull onto paper and screen, I knew I couldn’t go any farther than that. It wasn’t the blank page that stopped me, or the scribbled out words, or even the spectre of a deadline. It was never even the pressure to live up to the shoulders I barely tottered on. I told her, in the end, that my fear was the rejection of the work that is myself.
And so I stopped.
I crawled away from the meta-fictional eyes of the audience. I showed my work to fewer and fewer people and of these people, some of them even turned on me: taking offence to something I could deny no more than my own name.
I was guilty of a very thin skin, and if writers are liars then failed writers are cowards.
Then, after I got a good, real, and sensible job the stories finally died. But the thin skin stretched too far over the moment I crept away from and the ghosts of ideas screamed silently behind my eyes: unrequited and hungry.
So when she came, I was relieved. I was so relieved to finally make the pain stop. I hated myself. I asked her for oblivion. She said no, of course, but this should not have surprised me. I know that she knows that there is somewhere for everyone. I took her pale hand. It was surprisingly warm. She told me there was someone I needed to meet.
I found myself in a great and familiar hall. She was gone and at first I thought I was alone in this great ornate emptiness.
Then, I saw him.
It was horrible. I found myself shaking on the floor in shame. He asked me — if “asking” was the right verb to describe any words that came from his mouth — what I wanted of him. I knew who he was. I wished for death and realized the irony of my thoughts. I asked again for oblivion.
He looked down at me with those terrible, beautifully infinite dark eyes and told me not to lie to him again. People who pass through the Gate of Horn are not allowed to tell lies, he told me.
I remember opening my mouth to speak again when suddenly images, symbols and ideas themselves seemed to burst out from the back of my mind instead. I didn’t understand their language — which was more song than words — yet at the same time I did. He looked at me for a long time. He told me that I was a vessel of the stories and that I had denied them. There was no forgiveness in his tone, but neither was it an angry one. The sheer disappointment in his glittering eye was worse than any fury he was capable of.
Underneath that gaze, I wanted to die again forever.
But he refused me. It was not his place, he said. However, even though my potential in the conscious world was over, my words — if that is what they are in dreams — expressed my wish: my real wish. He compelled me to follow his eyes to … a large series of bookcases ascending into the sky.
I am allowed to stay here indefinitely. Sometimes, I read the books from those shelves. An older thin man with a long nose and spectacles occasionally keeps me company. But most of the time, I am at a desk: writing on thin dream-paper with the black of a raven’s wing. When I’m done, the crane-like man takes my finished papers and stacks them into books that he puts on the shelves: though sometimes he will take the time to make a fine point of correcting my grammar.
Occasionally, he will stop in, look at my “progress,” listen to the ideas singing themselves into the paper, then nod to himself and leave. Sometimes, she comes back and tells me that everything I make is beautiful. I know she has nothing but good things to say about anyone, but coming from her those words are no less special.
Then, sometimes in my room, another woman with golden hair comes to hold me at night and I cry into her arms. Aside from the one who brought me here, she understands me and forgives me the most.
But mostly, I write my stories for a library that doesn’t exist with its shelves sometimes floating in the sky and always filled with imaginary books. It reminds me so much of what I did when I was alive. Sometimes dreamers find their way here and read my books, only to disappear and forget all about them again.
None of them know my name and I continue to write my stories in books of air: happily.