A story about a storyteller, who’s all out of stories. When famous horror author, Stephen Wright is up against a print deadline, he hits the wall known as Writer’s Block. The ideas come into his head easily enough, but they leave with equal ease. The new crime thriller by MATTHEW SOLO is a layered experience of distraction, disillusionment and disaster. As professional imagination runs wild when his beloved dog goes missing, Stephen struggles to face reality, and instead, sinks into a world of fear and paranoia.
As Stephen stared blankly at the empty screen, his mind was filled with nothingness. He felt a combination of resigned defeat, and despair. He had nothing.
The second hand ticked clearly in the deafening silence. Like a hammer falling on a blacksmiths anvil, only lacking in any inspiration such as a spark that might fly from a red hot horseshoe. Just the sound of the strike and the inevitability of those that will follow.
The seconds seemed to slow as if he was in a dream. But a dream should have images. In his dream there were none to fill his creative void. It was as bland and uneventful as the story he was attempting to write. He tried to imagine the blacksmith, but all he saw was the black metal striking black metal.
It was going to be a long day he thought.
After several hours of leaning forward enthusiastically and realising that his energy bore no fruit at its climax, and so slumping back into his chair, he decided to break for lunch. Although to be fair, in the absence of any preceding meal, it was really a break for breakfast.
He stood motionless and emotionless, gazing at the kettle as it boiled. The whooshing sound was accompanied by clicks and bangs as the internal element heated the water until the crescendo was punctuated by a single click. The whoosh then dissipated like the escaping steam.
He watched as the haze of tiny droplets of water recombined above. Glazed with the freshly delivered moisture, the cupboard doors were no different from his computer. The white screen that he had stared as equally hard at in hope of something inside of him to stir with ideas.
He paused to watch the beads of water where they clung. Then with a rush of energy, he pulled the cupboards open.
Inside there was a chaotic range of coloured boxes, tins and jars. The cupboard was filled with items, infinity more interesting than the contents of his screen, and indeed his head.
It was going to be a long day indeed.
The week was lost on him. He had no idea was day it was. It was only the natural sun light outside the window that convinced him it was day at all. Time had disappeared a long time ago.
He always did his best writing at night. He knew that, and so did Harry. Setting such a tight schedule for completing this book was not Harrys best idea. But it was his fault for agreeing to it. And he thought that, as every tick of the clock was a another second closer to the submission time.
What was wrong? He thought.
He took a sip from the cup. It was too strong, and too sweet. He remembered reading an article about writers block that suggested an additional caffeine and sugar hit, might jar ones brain into action.
He paced from side to side, whilst looking beyond his garden. He tried to imagine his neighbours behind the trees. Drug barons; child murderers; corrupt politicians; international terrorists. Anyone but normal. Anything but who they were; rather boring, middle-aged accountants.
Just as an idea of conspiracy and conspirators began to form, the oven began to beep. The repeating electronic tone silenced any further development of his idea. His mind was once again… blank.
He sighed as his thoughts were no more visible than the breath he just expelled. He felt consigned to the tedium of mental inactivity. Confined in the contemptuous familiarity of his kitchen. Convinced of his failure as the “ideas man” that Harry had so often introduced him as. And concluded he should call Harry and explain.
But first he would eat.
No sooner had he sat down than the phone rang. “Great!” he grunted sarcastically, and slid his chair back disapprovingly from where it had so prematurely come to rest. The screeching of its feet against the cold stone floor only added to his frustration.
“Typical,” he mumbled approaching his study.
The room was small and clearly a converted pantry or such like. The walls were papered with photographs and magazine covers. Each one a trophy of sorts. Receiving an award; at a signing; swamped by fans at a book store.
The phone waited for his arrival. But it lacked the virtue of patience and stopped ringing as soon as he reached for it. Momentarily he froze before making a fist and raising it to the device.
He glanced at the computer and snatched the phone in disgust. Marching back to the kitchen, he pressed the button on the side to activate the screen.
1 missed call Harry Logan
“Well that’s no surprise,” he grumbled.
Sitting back down at the kitchen table, he inhaled deeply, and slid the chair beneath him slowly, avoiding the sound from before. Exhaling, he released his grip from the chair and took the smooth metal cutlery in each hand. They were cold to his touch.
Using the knife gently as if to hold the pie in it’s place on his plate, he pushed the fork through the crisp, brown pastry. The surface flaked away like plates of ice, breaking beneath a hapless skater on a frozen river.
Slowing his motion, he imagined the man falling into the water below. As he pressed further with the fork, the flakes became almost perpendicular to the pie. He could see the terror in the mans eyes, when suddenly, the phone rang again.
Just as quickly as the idea was formed, it was lost. Dashed, it cascaded through the broken pie crust to the oblivion below.
Incoming call Harry Logan
“Harry, how are you?” he said, feigning excitement.
“I’m good Steve. How are things going?” Harry responded.
“Good, good,” Stephen replied, lying.
“How’s the book coming?”
“Well, you know…?” Stephen started.
“I’m not disturbing you am I?” Harry asked abruptly.
“No, no, not at all. In fact I was just going to call you.”
“Really? Have you had another breakthrough?” Harry asked with the excitement clearly building in his voice.
“Actually…” Stephen started again before Harry once more interrupted.
“That’s great news! What’s the theme of the book going to be?”
Just as he prepared his answer, Harry interrupted again.
“How many words have you written?”
There was a pause as all the energy that Stephen had at the beginning of the call expired.
“None,” he confessed softly.
“Zero,” he said clearly and firmly. “I’ve written zero. Zilch, nil, nic, nada, niente, Harry. I’ve written nothing.”
“Is everything alright?” Harry asked with an instant change to his tone.
“No, everything is clearly not alright, Harry.”
“Nothing, Harry, absolutely nothing. That’s exactly the problem. I’m having a … blank phase.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean my get up and go, has got up and gone.”
“Right, stay there, I’m coming over.”
“Wait! No, Harry?” Stephen attempted, but Harry had hung up before he’d finished the first word.
“Oh great! That’s just what I need,” he grumbled to himself.
Sitting back hard into the chair, he stared at the pie’s broken crust. Trying to remember what had fascinated him about the flakes of broken pastry, his attention was stolen once more.
The black claws tapped on the charcoal grey stone tiles with each step as he approached. The series of clicks slowed as he neared. Stephen looked down to see two big eyes looking up at him.
“Good morning, Dexter. Please tell me you have an idea for me today?”
Dexter turned his head slightly before sitting down.
“I’m guessing that’s a no?”
Dexter opened his mouth impossibly wide and yawned. His tongue hung from his mouth and curled upwards at the end. Then, whilst keeping his eyes on Stephen’s, he collapsed, one paw at a time onto his front legs and into a lying position.
“Definitely a no then?”
Dexter frowned and fell to his side. Sprawled out in front of Stephen, he closed his eyes.
“Great. Mans best friend eh?”