The Blank Page.
by Joe Foster.
*NOTE: Italics indicate stage directions. I am not Henrik Ibsen obsessed with them, but due to the nature of the story, I feel the detail is necessary to better understand what is in fact going on.
INT: Inside a dingy apartment a man sits in front of a computer, opened to a word processor document that reads: "Untitled: A Novel By Henry Lewis. Chapter One;" then is completely blank.
Henry stares at the blank page.
Henry begins writing.
NARRATOR: Once upon a time...
HENRY: (sighs) What is this a freaking fairy tale?
Henry deletes what he has written.
NARRATOR: It was a bleak - gloomy evening, rain tepidly poured down from the heavens. An elderly man stood, forlornly absorbing the downpour...
HENRY: No - wait
NARRATOR: A young boy frolicked in the rain, his golden locks gleaming like (pause)
Henry deletes what he has written.
NARRATOR: Two men stood in a dark hallway, awkwardly surveying one another. There they stood... awkwardly... it was all very awkward.
MAN1: Boy, this sure is awkward.
MAN2: Yes, very awkward indeed. Say, have you ever noticed how awkward the word awkward is?
NARRATOR: the second man inquired. Then suddenly, the entire universe collapsed in on itself. The end.
Henry again deletes what he has written.
NARRATOR: Charlie was a lonely chap. It had been eight long years, since he had last known the pleasures of a woman.
CHARLIE: EIGHT YEARS!? Come on man, cut me a break!
NARRATOR: It had been far too long, since Charlie had last known the pleasures of a woman - not since the accident, in which he lost the use of both arms.
CHARLIE: No, not my arms!
HENRY: Quiet you. It will be your legs next, if you don't stop interrupting me. Damn fictional characters.
NARRATOR: The armless Charlie, had not felt companionship in far too long, he wreaked of desperation and booze.
CHARLIE: I'm lonely, I'm pathetic, I think they get it - do you really have to belabor this point?
NARRATOR: Unfortunately for Charlie, he had recently and inexplicably been struck mute.
Charlie attempts to protest, but cannot speak.
HENRY: That's better.
NARRATOR: Tonight, all of Charlie's problems were to dissipate. Susie, a local farmer's daughter had agreed to come home with him. As she stood in the moonlight, her large muscles shown; they were well toned from... bench-pressing cattle and performing other farmly... err farmish... err hard-man related activities. Susie approached Charlie's bed cautiously.
SUSIE: Want to feel my biceps?
NARRATOR: She asked, flirtatiously.
Charlie shakes his head, furiously attempting to squirm away.
NARRATOR: Oh yes baby, he would have said, had he still the power of speech. Susie reached to remove her square plaid dress...
The phone rings interrupting the segment
HENRY: Hello? Oh, hi. Yes, it's coming along just fine. No - no problems at all, the words are just flowing right out of me. What's that? No sir. Absolutely no sexual content involving manly-farm girls, I know how much you didn't like that... the last couple times. Yes, thank you sir, bye.
Henry sighs and erases what he has written.
NARRATOR: So a guy walks into a bar - Ouch! Ha-ha.
Henry swings around in his chair, before starting over.
HENRY: I'VE GOT IT!
NARRATOR: Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail...
ISHMAEL: Pssst.... Hey buddy, this is uh... Moby Dick.
HENRY: No it isn't.
Ishmael nods that it is; Henry runs to his bookshelf and flips quickly through 'Moby Dick', comes back grumbling again forced to face the blank page.
HENRY: Hmmm, I know what the kids will like!
NARRATOR: Larry Porter, a wizard, who enjoyed UFC fighting, drinking straight whiskey, and listening to Lady Gaga was trolling internet forums on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Little did Harry Potter, I mean - Larry Porter, know he was about to be ambushed by... (pauses to think)
NARRATOR: ambushed by a blue, avatar-like, sparkling vampire - who was secretly a gay cowboy. And also a ninja; everybody loves ninjas.
BLUE-COWBOY-NINJA-VAMPIRE: My name is Kanye East and I am the greatest warrior of all time. OF ALL TIME. We must kung fu fight.
LARRY PORTER: Yes, let us, kung fu fight.
(FIGHT ENSUES OR WHATEVER, DOESN'T REALLY MATTER)
Henry shakes his head and deletes the story.
NARRATOR: Henry sipped his coffee nervously, he was on the verge of tears, despite what tacit promises his shampoo and conditioner had made. Henry was in a battle for his life, or at least his sanity. His adversary was none other than the blank page itself - his witty musings and tight prose, the only weapons that could save him now. The prospect of failure haunted him even more than the impending release of yet another Twilight movie. This was Henry's last stand, his Troy. His entire life hinged on this paragraph, this very word standing for so much. The only barrier keeping Henry from a complete breakdown, that would likely end with him under a bridge somewhere, riddled with amphetamines and shame. It was a strange choice writing about his inability to write. They would probably say it was crazy, he was crazy. Hell, maybe it is crazy, but my god - it will be poetic.
Henry briefly contemplates erasing what he has written, then stops.
NARRATOR: Chapter Two.
Allegory of the Monster
There is perhaps nothing more tantalizing to the human mind than darkness. When left alone with it, the feeling can be comparable to isolation with a tangible adversary of flesh and bone. After prolonged exposure it becomes increasingly difficult to shake the feeling that a real force is present; someone or something, whose terrible power is limited only by the extents of one's own imagination.
After a certain period of time, I am quite unsure of the specifics required for this type of epiphany, the absence of light becomes somewhat refreshing. You no longer reminisce of your days as a diurnal creature and any former desires for the friendly embrace of blistering sunlight fades into oblivion. The pale, calm darkness continuously enshrouding you becomes the only comfort you could ever desire. There is no fear whilst in the clutches of your omnipresent master, darkness.
Come to think of it, even my chains have of late become somewhat symbolic of comfort and safety. These fatal bonds that were once the bane of my existence now serve to define it. How many hours had I spent fighting them? Grinding, scraping and bashing, until my wrists were bloody and raw. What could possibly have been gained from such a futile struggle? Only by embracing my shackles could I find freedom. What a strange and glorious freedom it was! Complete freedom of mind, amidst absolute containment of body.
Suddenly my eyes began to burn as if they had been seared directly by the intense fires of hell. Light! It was but a mere flicker, but surely there could be no mistake. What could have been the source of this, albeit temporary illumination? Had someone broken the seal? Was the tomb - MY tomb, opened? There was no doubt somebody was here, my many years of isolation had at last come to end. My mind began to race, contemplating all the possible scenarios that would lead someone here of all places. My concentration was quickly broken however. What was this; a noise perchance? It started as merely a faint echo, but unmistakably it was the sound of footsteps. There was definitely someone present, but who? Who would dare enter my home, my prison? I felt inexplicably outraged. I had come to terms that I was going to die here, alone with some semblance of dignity, in the face of everything that has transpired. Yet here was some trespassing interloper, trouncing all over my sacred ground, the only thing in the entire realm of existence that I could truly consider to be my own. What insolence! This unsought traveler will not escape unscathed.
Carefully I slunk downwards, pressing my torso to the ground, gaining the perfect vantage point to watch from. I am always watching, even when there is nothing to be seen. One must always stay vigilant. The footsteps grew louder; not even the tepid screeching of the rats could drown this noise from my ears. I felt the uncomfortable prickle of goose bumps spread across my now clammy, once glamorous body. My heart was pumping at a rate that I thought had been lost in the shrouds of time. I hadn't been this excited for ages. A grin grew swept unapologetically across my visage, in the same manor a vine slowly creeps further and further into unfamiliar territory. After all this time passed, one still never forgets the thrill of the hunt.
Upon entering the tomb, the smell was almost unbearable. A great deal of foul, wretched must permeated through the air. Air, that was so thick you could have sliced it with a cleaver. This was definitely a breed of stench that collects only when a place becomes completely desolate and forgotten; isolated in a corner of the world, the knowledge of its whereabouts stricken from everyone's' collective memory. Everyone's but mine. This cavern is seared into my mind hotter than if it were branded there by the finest of iron. Suddenly, I felt afraid. I knew not why I was afraid; what did I have left to fear? It was simply a feeling, fleeting and ethereal. The type of irrational feeling that is difficult to describe, yet quite assuredly equally impossible to ignore. As I reached in my breast pocket to draw out a 'cig', I realized my hand was shaking. My whole body seemed to have an involuntary tremble about it. After several attempts I managed to steady my hand long enough to successfully light and inhale. It was rather ironic that a habit intended to provide relaxation and calm my nerves, had just functioned to completely undermine any confidence I had left.
I must be fucking crazy! Every fiber of my being was screaming for me to turn around and forget about this whole thing. I could reseal this horrific place and never speak of it again. All others who were once burdened with the knowledge of its whereabouts had long since drawn there last breath. Perhaps it was time for me to do the same, I don't know. I was sure however, that there was no going back. My foolish curiosity propelled me onwards, I had no choice.
I reached the end of the corridor, this was it. I paused for a moment and looked back; I could see the faint outline of my home far off in the distance. Would this be the last time I lay eyes on it? One last, long, hard drag; I allowed the smoke to gently penetrate my teeth's barrier. Tobacco is a beautiful thing sometimes. I was ready to face whatever lay before me.
The second I turned the corner I was hit by a blanketing wave of darkness. Nothing but the dim glow radiating from the tip of my smoke cast any illumination before me. I shuddered, a long deep sigh that felt as though it spanned the entire duration of a thousand winter nights; crisp and cool as can be. Was this the dread felt by a lonely soldier's wife, pondering her husband's potential fates? I had to calm to down. It's not healthy for a man my age to get this excited. After all, what choice was there but to come to terms with the circumstances of my existence? If you are going to face evil, you may as well do it with your dignity intact. If this was to be the site of my demise, then I would face it bravely like I had done everything in my long-spanning life. I stuck my chest outwards, making sure to stand as erect as possible and gingerly limped forward. If only my ma' could see me now; I had oft been chastised in youth for poor posture.
I had never been a man of God, but still under my breath I found myself muttering, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."
There is a more profound statement made by this psalm then I gathered on first hearing it. To know you are going to die, but not fear it, truly is a remarkable concept. The folly of dreading what absolutely cannot be changed had never been clearer to me. Unfortunately the wisdom ended there and I found its meaning ruined by the preceding words: "for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
What the fuck does that mean? Sounds like nothing but religious mumbo-jumbo to me. Why would I want to be comforted by God's rod? Where I come from any man who was comforted by another man's rod was certainly not offered any high praise.
I laughed, wholeheartedly. What silly things a man thinks of in the face of grave danger. I have no qualms about admitting I am in danger. If you believe the legends, then the creature whose presence I am currently in is nothing less than the immortal incarnation of evil. I know better than to believe the tales, I know that he is just a man, or at least once used to be. In fact, I know all too well.
I stood and peered into the darkness. He, or rather it; It was here, nearby. I struck a match, sending an echo reprocessing throughout the dank chamber. A hiss followed, accompanied by the clanking of rusted metal. There was the beast, the creature that was the cause of so many children's tears, father's screams and mother's berates. It crouched before me, chained to the far wall looking docile as can be, with a forlorn look of bewilderment etched on its face. It spoke not a word and made not a sound. It simply sat there watching me, always watching me. Its features were barely recognizable; it was hard to imagine that the figure standing before me was once human at all - was once my son.
This was the source of all the fear. Even to this day there are many villagers who dare not enter the forest directly to the East, scared to death that the legends were true and that he would return to mercilessly butcher them. This piteous, frail creature, rotting away before my eyes, ravaged by time to the extent that it could no longer lift itself completely off the ground without support from the confining shackles. This is what they feared. He was locked away for being a freak of nature; a dangerous hybrid creature, half-man and half beast, unable to control the animalistic urge to feed. So we deemed him a monster, a menace to society, and banished this once majestic creature here for eternal confinement. It was the easy way out, locking away and confining that which we don't understand, that which we don't wish to understand.
I had come here with the intention to do harm. Violently silence this creature... this man, to make amends for the many years of passive indifference I took to his being. Now I see that I should have come to passively make amends for the many years of brutal confinement. In the end, he was not the monster, I am the monster.
I Aint shook;
'Cause when the right hook
Like you get knocked out.
Don't be looking me in the eyes boy.
I ain't got no candy for you.
The Right Hook.