Since it’s NaNoWriMo build up month, or NaNoPlaMo, as well as planning my novel, I figured it would be a good idea to work my way out of this block I’ve been in. What follows is a result of that. It’s pretty short, it’s fun and lightweight, and I have no real indication of its quality. It’s just me blowing the dust off the top shelf and exercising the old writing muscles with an idea that would probably have gone otherwise unused, ready for November 1st. With that said, please enjoy, and feel free to leave a comment, or tell your friends.
It all started with the tapping from the inside of the box. I was sat at my desk, trying to work my way through the general haze and frustrated confusion of writer’s block when I heard it. At first, I thought it was an anomaly on the song I was listening to, a piece of click track that had been overlooked by the producer. When I heard it again, I switched off the music. Then it happened another time.
By all accounts, it was just a normal box. A little dirty from the years it had spent in the attic, but otherwise undamaged. Unable to ignore the taps any more, I opened the lid. Nothing. Well, nothing that was capable of knocking on the lid anyway. On the top sat an old school writing book with “Christopher Mansell, age 7” emblazoned across the cover.
I flipped it open to page one, which featured a short story starring one of my first creations, Cowboy Todd. I read over it and felt a pang of nostalgia. The story was nothing special, of course. Just something hastily scribbled down after seeing a western film. The next story was about a small dinosaur called Dinosaurus Wrecks, written after seeing Jurassic Park. Finally there was a story starring Cosmonaut Chekhov who, in a rather dark twist for a seven year old’s story, died of oxygen deprivation in space after saving Russia from alien attack.
Cowboy Todd walked, as he always did, into the saloon.
“Hello,” he said to the barmaid, “I would like a drink please.”
“Of course, here you go,” she said.
A man came running in from the street. “Cowboy Todd, the bad people have come into town!” he said.
“Oh no!” said Cowboy Todd, “I have to go defeat the bad people!”
He walked outside. The bad people were there. “Leave this town!” he said.
“No,” said the bad people. Cowboy Todd took out his gun and shot them.
“The bad people are dead. The town is safe.”
The world returned, as it always did, to darkness. Cowboy Todd wandered the void. Why now? They had been left alone here for so many years, why were they now being thrust back into their asinine narratives?
As if on cue, his train of thought was stalled by the reappearance of Dinosaurus Wrecks. Wrecks was tiny, coming up to slightly below Todd’s waist. Since he couldn’t speak, Todd had no idea what Wrecks’s story was, but given how dejected the dinosaur was, he imagined it couldn’t be much better than his own. He gave Wrecks a reassuring stroke, and waited for the third member of their trifecta to return.
It didn’t take long. Cosmonaut Chekhov materialised alongside them, his comically large gun hanging off his space suit. He removed his helmet to reveal his rugged face. His beard was grown out, but clipped precisely, and greying with the onset of middle age. Not that any of them really aged in this place. Chekhov had already been middle aged when Todd first met him all those years ago.
“Died again?” asked Todd.
“Yes,” replied Chekhov with a sigh, “After all this time, I thought we might be left alone, but the torture continues once more.”
“Come on,” said Todd, “Let’s go take a look at the barrier.”
Chekhov floated in space. His air supply was almost empty. “I am not afraid,” he said.
I closed the book and smiled to myself. It had been years since I, or anyone else, had read these stories. There was little else of interest in the box, and certainly nothing capable of producing a knocking sound. Putting earphones back in, I sat back at my desk and resumed working, doing my best to ignore the sound when it resumed.
The barrier extended into infinity in all directions, and aside from the three of them, seemed to be the only other thing that existed in the void. Since they had found it, they had worked tirelessly to break it, but to little avail. To Todd’s surprise however, when they arrived this time, their work seemed to have progressed a lot further. There were miniscule cracks with light shining in from the other side, and some bricks had fallen to the floor.
“Come on, I think we can break through!” said Todd.
Chekhov was clutching at his head, as if in the throes of a terrible migraine.
“Are you okay?” asked Todd.
“I’m fine,” Chekhov said after a few seconds, “I know what this is now. It’s something He calls the fourth wall.”
Todd instinctively knew he was right, but wasn’t sure how he knew. Even Wrecks seemed to be nodding in agreement.
“It doesn’t matter what He calls it,” said Todd, “What matters is that we might be able to break it.”
They focused their efforts on the cracks, further weakening the wall’s integrity. After hours of exertion, it had crumbled away enough that there was a gap large enough to squeeze through.
“I guess I’m going first,” said Todd.
As I succumbed to the siren call of exhaustion, I resolved tomorrow to either find out what was causing the tapping, or at least remove the box from my room. Right now, I was too tired to care, and I allowed the rhythmic sound to lull me into a dreamless sleep.
I was unceremoniously awoken just a few hours later by the loudest sound I had heard from the box yet. It was less a knock and more like a building being demolished. I had to remove it, this was getting too much. When I turned on the light, I saw the air above the box shimmering and distorting. I had to still be drowsy. I rubbed at my eyes to wake myself up, and when I opened them again, it took all I had to not scream. There was a cowboy stood in my room.
Part two can be found here.