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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

The Haunted Author
by Durlabh Singh

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The author had been practicing his art for a long time; he tried to find a mirror of reality, so as to envisage reality better, when he penned his thoughts onto a blank sheet of paper. Nevertheless he found it a daunting task to express his thoughts in black and white on paper. Initially, this blank sheet had provided him with all sorts of problems. It seemed to him as if it was stretching miles and miles and to fill it was a daunting enterprise in itself.

His initial struggles were enormous, but once he had taken the first step and brooded over the structure and plot of his proposed novel, it was not so bad after all, and thus he took the second step of the process by starting to scribble. The business of writing possessed challenges, and he had to sort these out step by step in a spirit of calm certitude. He liked a medium length format for his novels. He found that novels of copious length were boring to read as their enormity become a drain on the readers' minds, and furthermore did not have much artistic or literary values. He thought that two hundred pages would be the required length and he would divide it into ten chapters.

He envisaged his main character to be an extrovert, a man of the world and a strong guy, though with limited sensibilities. This character would be full of self-confidence and would indulge in many adventures of living. He thought about him for days on end and then spent sleepless nights over it, creating unnecessary worries for himself. He started with these few lines of the first chapter.

'A tall well-dressed gentleman walked into an estate agent's and enquired about all the potential properties for sale in that smart part of the city. He spoke with a refined but authoritarian tone of voice, ordering the agent around in the manner of a schoolmaster. He boasted about his money and about his sophisticated tastes in all manner of things. He wanted a spacious house full of light and an airy presence with large landscaped gardens in front and rear of the house.

The agent brought him pictures and particulars of all manners of property which he did not like much, and he asked to be shown some structures of real grandeur and with artistic merits. The agent went to consult the managing director of the firm, came back and advised him that the 'boss' wanted to see him and tell him about a special property on sale - just came out on the register. He went into his office and, after initial pleasantries, the boss gave him the particulars of a grand property which he liked as it nearly met his expectations.

On the following morning his bell rang and estate agent's rep was ushered in. He let him wait in the lounge until his sumptuous breakfast was finished and afterwards he was driven to view his dream property.

It was a magnificent Edwardian style town house overlooking a host of green spaces, with a big lawn in front and a massive garden at the rear. It was generously proportioned too with an enormous ballroom and light-filled high-ceilinged rooms fitted with a high crystal-light system for atmospheric lighting. It had designer wall treatment with elegant drapes and lots of lush furniture.

Our character liked the property and agreed to pay the high asking price. The agent was getting a fat commission for the sale and so was generous with all the advice he could give about add-ons such as new alarm system, buying of works of art to decorate walls, other items of luxury and bric-a-bracs. At last the property deed was done and signed and he moved into the house.'

There was a knock on the author's door and when he opened it he found his main character waiting outside and trying to push his way in. As the author was waiting for a response, he simply made himself comfortable on a settee and asked for a hot cup of tea, to which the author had to oblige. After sipping the tea and without any formalities he began to question the author.

'How long have you been writing?' he asked the author.

'About twenty years or so.'

'Have you had much success?'

'I am afraid, not mu-much,' the author stumbled.

'What are your aims in this business?'

'My first aim is to express myself, and then look for a publisher, and if I can get published, I look for a good review and maybe for a modest sale.'

'You do not have much of an ambition; you must look for greater ambition and success. The greater your aims are, the greater will be your achievements. Take that from me.'

The author did not like to be advised by this character as what to do with his life.

'It is hard for me to change now after having practiced this art of writing for so many years,' answered the author in all his modesty.

'Let me take over then. You do not need to do any hard intellectual work like developing the characters and the plot. Leave it with me and I will do it for you. You only have to pen it down.'

The proposition was incredible to the author.

'Your look says that you do not fully believe me. You have been a sort of hermitic author without knowing any worldly wisdom. You have to keep up with the world and not live in an ivory tower of your own making. Nobody is going to take your writings seriously any way, however brilliant they may be,' the character arrogantly declared.

'What do you propose to do?' asked the author with hurt feelings and curiosity.

'People want the books that speak of common aspirations, none of your intellectual propositions of some soul searching truths. I will make you write about the body's desires, taste for riches and the celebrity culture. I will give you novels and stories that grab the mass public and publishers alike and from which these people could make lots of money, and once your reputation is established then sky is the limit. All sorts of prizes will be showered on you and you may even win the Nobel Prize.'

'But the public will see through it.'

'My dear fellow! You make me laugh. Public have no taste and critics are full of vanity and pedestrian taste. Once you are established as a popular writer, even history will embrace you.'

It happened one day that the character was at home in his sumptuous residence. It was a sunny day with a gentle breeze and the marbled hall was designed as a place of comfort, flooded with warmth and sunshine. The long drapes had been pushed aside and the net curtains were fluttering, gently rocked by the billowing breeze. As you went through the long corridor to the main lounge, there was a pleasant sight to greet you. An enormous divan on which lay three draped figures of young girls, all motionless in the manner of a still life painted by a master artist, and all occupying the center of the lounge. Like some great painting of which every part formed an exquisite composition. Their tall silhouettes, rich in colour formed a perfect composition of a vibrant space. These three graces constituted the artistic taste of the owner, as he often stated.

'These are my three jewels, especially in lovemaking, and each has its own mannerisms.

'Josephine is the sporty type; she is very athletic in physique, and in lovemaking she normally takes the initiative and wants to be treated roughly by her man. She has the taste of a bittersweet lemon and you feel refreshed after tasting her.

'Elena is the artistic one both in body and emotions; she wants delicacy, slow rhythm and lots of foreplay. To her the foreplay is so important as a real process of lovemaking; she does not like rough handling and would like to spend hours in slow and dreamy lovemaking.

'The third girl, Sue, is of common intellect and physique. She is quite attractive with big boobs and long blonde hair. She always wants something in return while giving her body away. Candlelit dinners, new clothes and expensive cars are the norm with her. She does not have any preference in love making but would like to please her man.'

He went on and on about various kinds of women and their sexual desires and wants. He stated that he often made love to them by a way of a sort of rotational manner, and would spend weeks in contemplating the process of making love to each in turn. He was going to start a new cycle of lovemaking soon, at the end of which he would be exhausted both physically and mentally.

After a few weeks of such indulgences he was down bodily and in his bed, presumably with physical exhaustion, but he refused to admit it blaming his body for all the mishaps. He confided that it was all the fault of his body that refused to co-operate with him and which was such an ungrateful thing after all what he had done for it over the years. He had fed it, clothed it, given it a right place to live, and in return what did he get, only sickness and exhaustion.

Next he booked an expensive cruise on an ocean liner and wanted to sail in style. It was a celebrity cruise in a stunningly grand ship serving as a sort of hotel resort. The ship had two lobbies, a four deck high promenade, and a show lounge with Broadway style features including comedy shows, cabaret performance, and a lot of music to dance to. He was showering money and free drinks on all the pretty females on the ship and often found himself surrounded by beautiful babes either in the champagne bar or in jazzy lounges.

On the dance floor he became a hit with his dancing partners. The big hemisphere disco lounge with wide glass windows and ocean views was a romantic site to behold with slow waltzing against a sunset background. The mood became saturated with sensuality and high romance. but did not remain so for long. He began to drink more and more glasses of champagne which affected him with all their heady intoxications. He picked up girls and twirled them around against their wishes and was forcing the drinks down their throats. When the stewards tried to control his behaviour, he became abusive and began to shout aloud stating that he was worth more than all the people put together on the ship.

Suddenly the atmosphere in the dancing lounge became sordid and nasty.

'I am the grandest human being alive and I do not care about others and what they say,' he shouted. 'Furthermore I have a great artistic sense, a grand lifestyle with a great intellect to go with it. If you do not like that, clear out! All of you! Peasants, swindlers and vagabonds.'

People felt insulted and enraged and began to clear the dancing lounge, and strong complaints were lodged against him. The chief steward arrived and ordered him to clear out of the place, and when he refused, he was bundled out by four strong men from the ship's office and taken to his cabin. When he threatened to attack them he was locked into his cabin.

The author was getting more and more disgusted with the bad behaviour of his character and wanted to tear away from him and turn to his own less glamorous writing, constituting less bold characters but having more depths. He realized that his main character was too strong for him. He was controlling his mind and consequently his brain and fingers even if he tried to write another story or a piece of fiction. He had already wasted so much time in creating a big dossier of writing, full of his character's wiles and activities, constituting 'creative urges' as his character would like to call it. He had to do something drastic before he was driven crazy.

The only brave thing he could do was to destroy the whole draft of the novel and go back to his prosaic fiction again, work again in that literary obscurity to which he was so used.

One morning he made sure that his character was not around, made a bonfire and put all the manuscript page by page to the fire and watched the smoke billowing out of that literary funeral pyre.

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