The Word Serpent

It's humid and warm and the air is buzzing with mosquitos. A typical nighttime in Florida. The full moon looks really nice, at least.


I turn the lights off, sit at my desk and turn on my laptop, the hallmark of my creative genius. That's what I tell myself, at least. The brightness is turned up too high, but I don't mind. I smile a little when I see the 'E', 'A', 'S' and 'D' key; they've all worn away by how much I've been writing…but despite all of that work, I know I've plateaued.

I sit here for five minutes straight, unable to write. Writer's block. Maybe if I free-write a little, I can get the juices flowing.

I sit here for five minutes straight, unable to write. A torrential downpour of ideas storms around me and drowns every corner of my psyche with stories to tell. The screams of characters with tales untold haunt me to my very core; I reach for their stories, attempting to claw past the block that wedges between my fingers and those words that beg to be thrown and dripped upon the screen and I

I immediately highlight this and backspace it. Too pretentious. I told myself I wouldn't go House of Leaves on this shit, and yet I just did. I sigh, slowly close the laptop and crawl into bed, defeated.


Home again. The moon is now slightly less full, but still gorgeous. One quick shower and I'm right back at my keyboard. The brightness is still too high. Oh, well. I open the text document, fingers poised and at the ready, and now I can definitely, absolutely, one hundred percent—

Still nothing. Every writer has their dry season, yeah, but it's been about a week for me now. Surely, the harvest of the literature must be sowed really soon…or something.

I close my laptop even earlier this time. There are two age-old mindsets that any writer always contemplates whenever they write. The first one is, 'just write.' The second one is, 'don't force it.' Right now, the second one is definitely infinitely more appealing to me. I tuck my laptop away and face-plant into bed. Without looking, I reach over to my bedside table and grab the book I've been reading for the past three days, and then I frown when I feel my fingers close around something round and waxy. I don't remember putting an apple there.

It slips from my hands, but I don't hear a soft thud when it lands; there's a hiss instead. I shoot up in bed, reach for my phone and turn the flashlight on, shining it to the floor. Something that looks like a snake tail disappears under my door frame. I leap out of bed, grab a shoe or something, follow it into the living room, and turn the lights on. Nothing. I don't feel like dealing with this tonight.

I return to my room, toss the shoe in some random corner, shove a pair of jeans in the little space under the door so the snake has no chance of getting back in, and then I look for the thing I dropped. Nothing. I check under the bed. Nothing. Maybe it rolled to the other side? No. Nothing.

I hear the hiss again, but louder this time. I jump to my feet, and I swear it feels like the air got a little colder. Something thuds on my bedside table. It's not the book I've been keeping there. No, it's different. Text is dripping out of the sides and falling to the floor.

I don't care if I'm dreaming or not; I see a weird magic book, I'm opening it. The paper expands and stretches in all directions, knocking me off my feet. I land on the paper, which continues to stretch, pushing the walls away, pushing my honking car away, pushing my next-door neighbors away, pushing everything away and leaving me in a white void.

A tree of text rapidly rises from the empty white void, stretching into what seems like eternity. My skin turns to gooseflesh when I hear that hissing again. This time, the tail disappears around the tree. I follow it, even though I know I probably shouldn't.

I see an apple; an apple of pure text. I pick it up and look at its surface; it's white and papery and covered in endless swirling quotes and phrases from all the books I've ever read and all the stories I've ever written.

As well as all the stories I want to write.

I see the text for the story of a young man who hates himself. I see the text for the story of a woman who just wants to be a mother. I see the text for a story about a tree made of moon rock. All of these stories are stories I've abandoned in the past. The text rises from the papery fruit and slithers along my arm and skin, as though begging. An overwhelming longing fills me.

I admit it. I'm a crap writer. I'm unpublished. And I'm pretentious as hell. Where others express their ideas freely and with grace, I trudge with weights of inadequacy strapped to my back. I tremble at the little fruit of forbidden literary promises.

"Go on. Take a bite."

I whip around, nearly dropping the fruit.

"The stories won't tell themselves." The voice hisses in my ear.

I swat the air beside my head, expecting my hand to meet something, and yet, nothing.

"You have the ideas. You will express them. Eat."

It leans its weight on my shoulder, slowly coiling around my waist and arm, the arm with the apple. I turn around and crane my head back, mouth agape. It's a serpent, massive and easily towering over the tree.

"Eat."

I look at the apple again. The untold, unsung stories of thousands of heroes, villains, and morally gray characters have engulfed my arm and now lay siege to the rest of my torso, just underneath my night shirt.

It tickles.

"Don't you want to write? It's the only skill you truly have." The serpent lowers its building-sized head until one of its eyes peers deeply and directly into mine. Its socket contains a vortex of text, which parts and reveals a portal teeming with the souls of every literary mastermind that ever lived before me.

There's Stephen King, high off his ass on whatever it was he did when he wrote Cujo. There's Robert Louis Stephenson currently partaking in his other favorite profession, skiing, and I don't mean snow. Edgar Allen Poe, slumped over a table, with many glasses of drink scattered about his floor. Amontillado! I sarcastically think to myself.

And there, in the distance, I see an outline of…myself. Slumped over my table with a blank white text document. The features aren't solid, rather, they're just lines. I freeze when I realize what the fruit means, but would I really be willing…?

"Eat."

Crunch.

It tastes awful; it's paper and ink, after all. But the words, the words and the way they pour down my throat, clawing at my throat, gathering, coalescing, swirling, whirling, toiling, gestating in their new womb, the womb that shall be my mind, endlessly kicking and desperate for release, one day to be delivered to the screen by my fingers, but first, nursed and milked by the process known as ideation, a process once misery incarnate, but soon to be as carnal as the evil fire that burns in ones loins, and I—

I can see myself now, no longer an outline, no longer, no longer featureless, colors pouring into my outline, like water filling a bottle, filled, full, plump, and that document, that beautiful document is now swimming with the stories of heroes whose tales will now be told and I—


Home. Car beep. Front door. Shower. My room. My laptop. Harsh white glare. 40k words and counting.


Critters to thank

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