Writing A Story Is Easy.
I compare starting the narrative with taking the first step on a newly paved path through the woods in a park near your home. It’s comfortable, familiar. Planning ahead, you have covered yourself in bug spray, charged your phone, and even packed a few snacks and a compass in your backpack.
Rumor has it this robust, clearly marked path, leads directly to another park where writers gather to pat themselves on the back.
The sun is halfway to noon, shinning down through a cloudless sky illuminating the well-groomed foliage. Birds are chirping, a brook is babbling just out of sight, and one deep inhale reveals a fresh, pine scent upon the gentle breeze. You walk with gusto, arms pumping, and a bounce in your step.
Was it really just yesterday that you had dreaded getting started?
And then you come across a narrower path curving off to the right that you never noticed before.
Well, you did say you wanted mystery and adventure. You turn down the path.
The trees stand taller, the underbrush grows thicker, and instead of pavement, the path is a combination of dirt and pebbles. Gold, green, and faded brown leaves and twigs cover chunks of the path. The ground rises and falls, twists and turns, but you know you can follow the path backward if this one leads to nowhere.
As you go deeper in, a chilling wind picks up. At first the breeze brings relief from the bright sun, but when the first batch of light grey clouds float overhead, you wish you had brought something heavier to wear. You shiver, but press on with reckless abandon. Something about exploring the unknown has given you a boost. Your mind races and you attack the next hill.
And then you notice, down to your left, a narrower, steeper path. You figure, what the hell, right? If the going gets tough, I can find my way home no problem.
And boy does the going get tough.
The once smooth ground has a decidedly jagged feel. Your ankles twinge with each step as the path becomes littered with rocks and branches from the massive growth around you. Ever a person of caution, you tilt your body back to prevent falling forward, as the ground declines and wind smacks at you.
The rumbling of thunder, at first distant, now quakes the forest, sending pine needles and branches falling like a blizzard of green. You hear the rain falling up ahead. The droplets are big, lumbering, perfect size to cause the most chaos when they crash into whatever unlucky object has the gall the stand in their way. You turn, sizing up the darkening, hilly path.
You flex your calf. Yeah, it’s sore, but otherwise you feel great. Got a good sweat going.
‘Do I turn back?’
No, you’ve come this far, and…and well, the other side has to be close, right?
Straight into the storm you charge. A renewed vigor and more confidence than you had when you started the walk. Before long, the raindrops smash all around you. Upon first glance, your arms are dry and you wonder what magic is keeping the rain at bay.
Peering up overwhelms you. The tree cover grows so thick here the sky appears to be made of branches. Well, that explains why it got so dark. No biggie.
A nervous twitch, you grab for a snack. You try opening the package but just then, a raindrop hits the pack and your fingers making it too slippery. Well, the magic bubble is burst. Apparently you are beholden to the laws of nature.
You bite down on the package and rip it open, harder and faster than intended. The trail mix (how ironic) spills out onto the ground. You manage to catch a raisin and an m & m, both smushed in the process. Maybe it’s for the best, it was a generic m & m anyway.
A few more raindrops hit and your survival instinct kicks in. Crunching peanuts and freeze-dried banana underfoot you go forward.
Lighting slices down, hitting the ground a dozen or so feet away. Your entire body buzzes, the hair on your arms and (damn, I have that much hair on) your back stand up taller than the goosebumps pock-marking your body. You shiver out the tension just as thunder booms around you louder than the time you saw AC-DC back in their prime.
Ugh, okay, you think about your friend Damian and you just know he would argue he witnessed them in their prime, you just got a decent show from a band on the decline. As you roll your eyes at the memory you miss a path. Well, you almost miss it. You saw something out of the corner of your eye that looked different than the rest of the terrain.
You glance back. Yeah, that’s a path. Still dirt, but someone must’ve done some trimming recently as the bushes are held bay.
Now, do you go back or press on?
‘I took a left, then a right, then a left. I still must be fairly close to the original trail and soon I’ll meet back up with it, or better yet I’ll exit onto the street at the far end. Hell, maybe I’ll be close to that ice cream place I deserve a treat after putting myself out there like this, right?’ You think confidently.
You puff out your chest, emboldened by the mint chocolate chip you can now taste on your tongue, and make your way toward destiny. You still have a bounce in your step as you gallop in a half-walk half jog. The storm is fierce sure, but you’re brave and the forest itself, while menacing and foreign provides decent cover.
You curve left, and left, and left. You dip down, down, down.
Something bugs you about your original assessment to stay on the path. Did you go left first or right? And even if you had gone left, the second turn took so far around that maybe the partially groomed way might’ve taken you on a more direct path.
You stop, breath heavy. You turn just as a shadow races across the path, low to the ground. You’re heart skips a beat.
‘Squirrel, I bet.’
You search for more shadows.
‘Or a fox?’
You feel a breath across the back of your neck. You duck and rotate, but nothing’s there.
‘Probably just the wind, Spazz.’
So, going backward is out. You turn and start jogging full on now.
The sides of path close in until your pumping arms are brushing the low hanging branches, or the tall rising bushes…or poison ivy growing wild, unchecked, choking all other growth until it submits. Who can tell, it’s so freaking dark now. For all you know the rain is dripping poison oak powder on top of you…and bugs, too. Yeah, what are those tiny bugs that live on leaves and burrows into your ear because it senses the warmth?
The name escapes you, but you certainly recall how they leave their baby eggs in patches of earwax to insulate them from the elements.
‘When was the last time I cleaned my ears?’ You don’t know 100%, but it was either during Clinton’s run or the first Bush’s lone term.
You kick a rock, toes screaming out in acute pain, but there’s no time to stop now. Each step hurts more than the last. And now you feel an itch or a tickle in your ear. Damn it. Come on.
You stick your pointer finger in the left one, but quickly realize it’s time to bring in the big guns…err, the littlest gun. Pinky to the rescue. You dig around. Yeah, there’s enough wax in here to give your mother a candle for mother’s day…if you hadn’t missed it already.
‘When is her birthday?’
The path opens up and you make your way into the center of a multi—path intersection. Doing a 360, you count seven ways to move forward. Wait, maybe eight, but damn if that tiny path walled in by pricker bushes and thorny trees doesn’t look like the most menacing place you’ve seen since the boiler room from Nightmare On Elm Street.
Just as you attempt to take a relaxing breath, a greasy giggle sounds from the bushes. You jerk your head toward the noise just as shaking branches sound to your right and a twig snaps behind you.
Trusting your instincts you dart forward, down the eight path. Thorns slash at your arms, prickers stick to your legs.
No looking back or to the side. Cramps ache in your legs as a stitch forms in your rib cage. And the unforgiving path quickly slants up, up, up. You find yourself bent over, using your hands to help you forward. Clawing at roots and rocks for purchase to keep your momentum going forward.
The ground dissolves from damp to muddy in a matter of moments. Behind you the forest is a commotion of rustling and doom.
You slip, falling face first into the steep hill. A rock slices your chin. Any fanciful thoughts of how a scar might give you a distinguished, Harrison Ford look, are pushed away the as you feel something slither onto your lower leg.
If that wasn’t enough to get you going, the whispering tongue tickling the back of your kneecap is.
You jolt up, pumping your legs forward. You crest the hill.
Ahead, you see a rat-sized point of bright light. You scream, in panic, in relief, in the slightest admission of hope.
You head toward the light not hearing anything behind you. Not because it’s not there, but because won’t allow anything to stop you now. Rain pelts your face. The trees are thinning. The path is level and smooth. The air, just a few moments ago had been stuffy, stagnant, old moldy decay, but now fresh and clear enough to aid your lungs as they heave full then empty, full then empty.
You burst out of the forest and into another well-lit park. It’s a clearing with a swing set, a few benches, and more importantly the only adverse thing you notice is a mist hanging just over the wet grass. The storm is over.
You type: THE END.
Laughter erupts, adrenaline, which you thought had been spent, rushes through your body. Your mind buzzes with happiness and pride.
From the opposite side of the park, three men and two women approach wearing green park employee shirts.
The first one, an imposing, athletically built man with a crew cut and a military-aire, asks, “You all right?”
You nod, still shaking.
The group pauses close to you, seemingly not believing your self-assessment. They remove their backpacks, and you decide when they offer a water or dry towel, you’ll accept with thanks.
‘Maybe they have coffee?’
The first guy, now on his knee unzipping his pack, asks, “What are you doing all the way out here?”
You hold up your tablet. “Just finished a story I’ve had jumbling around in my head for months now.”
“Congrats.” One of the females says.
Damn her teeth are white. Her curly dirty brown hair reminds you of that cute gal in your high school German class.
‘Whatever happened to her?’
Twenty-year reunion is coming up. Maybe she’ll show.
You steady your breathing and wipe the cooling sweat from your brow. “Thanks. It feels great to be finished. Writing a story is easy.”
They ALL burst out laughing.
You peer at the tablet as doubt and panic and embarrassment return. Right there, written in all caps, THE END. You exhale relief, grinning while you stare at those mesmerizing words.
“Well, hotshot,” The female says. “Now you’ve got to edit it.”
Your chest tightens. “And how do I do that?”
The first guy speaks again, his voice a booming bass. “Go back into the forest until you find where you started.”
Surprisingly, this doesn’t give you any anxiety at all. You stand, and find yourself ready. “I’ve already conquered this once, the second time should be even easier. Plus it stopped raining.”
“True,” the man says. “But this time we’re coming with you.”
Turning you notice the park employees are each wearing masks depicting the skulls of various predators and each of them is brandishing a machete.
You step back, fear returning. “Who are you guys?”
“Editors,” the man with the booming bass voice says, as he slices the air with his weapon. “We’ll give you a three second head start.”
and yes, i know this post needs to be edited. I ran out of time before hopping a plane (they gave me an hour head start this time 🙂 By the time i’m back from the UK i hope to have the rough draft and first edit done on a novella i’m writing. Please, wish me luck and i promise to send you good writing vibes as well.