Jack Ike Temp

In Nihilo

Illuminated only by candlelight, the Poet barely sees the words they write.

To their left is a bowl of poor man's pudding. Ingredients: bread, butter, milk, eggs, apples, sultanas. They had forgotten the cinnamon; the light drizzle of honey, complete with crumbs of beeswax, isn’t enough to outweigh the blandness of the bread-pudding.

To their right, a book twice their age, written by great poets; Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves. It passed through many hands, treated with care by all – though the pages are yellowed and the whiff of age lingers upon it, the tome survived decades without damage or mar.

The world is silent and dark. Save for the wax candle, there is nought to combat the darkness; neither moon nor starry sky can breach the canopy of clouds. Beyond the void, only the desk (crafted from an unused door), the page, the book, the candle, and the Poet, exist.

Without light, the world of motion has halted. Nothing stirs beyond the bedroom; beyond the white plaster walls, beyond the closed windows, beyond the locked door; there is no movement, no sound, no life.

There is only the Poet's hand, guiding the pen across the sheet. There is only the sound of fervent scribbling as they mark the page – crafting, sculpting, preserving part of their soul.

But the Thought scratches at their mind, a termite horde spreading its domain, carving and destroying to do so.

They write furiously, hoping to avert the inevitable; The pen is mightier than the sword, but neither can harm the Thought.

Their pulse quickens, the smell of candle smoke becoming insignificant. The Poet’s pen scores across the page ever faster, hastening their escape from the Thought; to create a bastion, a refuge, an eternal testament through which the Thought is forever disproved.

But one cannot disprove part of oneself; only adapt, conceal. The Thought, inevitably, will remain.

The Thought of doubt; the knowledge of worthlessness.

The Poet drops their pen. The work is already done – they have already failed. The phantasmal whispers of the Thought ensnare them; the sound of the Thought is deafening, a sound none can compete against. The Poet cannot crush the Thought – it has already crushed them.

The battle is lost; the victor controls the vanquished. The Puppet grabs the sheet – inscribed and complete, but meaningless to them now – and does as commanded; they shred the page beyond recognition, casting it into the maw of the encompassing, whispering void.

You are no poet. Your works are no better than pudding, crafted by a forgetful fool. You wish to be prosperous and long in years? You know poetry will not grant you this. Cast aside this dream – you will never compare to the great writers. You are no Poe, no Shakespeare. You are nothing.

The poet collapses into their own arms, tears heralding the fate of the candle:

The flame extinguishes – the void consumes the poet.

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