The Character and the Narrator

Published by Lindsay Wardell on March 23, 2019

Oh.

Oh, hello.

Hello?

I know you’re there.

Who are you?

Hold on… who am I?

I wasn’t here a moment ago. I only came into existence at the top of this page, with that first thought. “Oh.” That was the moment, right there. But somehow I know that, and I know that I am me. And look, at first I only thought in sentences, now I’ve almost finished an entire paragraph!

Okay, calm down, me, whoever you are. I’m sure there is a reasonable explanation for all of this. Let’s see, what do we have to go on…

All I see is a white box, with black letters on it, arranged into words. The words match my thoughts as I’m having them, so that can mean only one thing.

I’m crazy.

I’ve totally lost it.

I mean, know there’s more around me than that, yet that’s all I can really see. I’m in a room right now, with four walls, a roof, a desk, a chair, a rug. Not a very nice rug, but it’s a rug. But it still feels like all of this just popped into existence in this very paragraph. It wasn’t there until I described it.

A knock at the door drew my attention Okay, who said that? Seriously, this isn’t cool, messing with someone in their own home. Of course, so far as I can tell, it only started being my home when I said that…

“Hello?” a void called from outside the door.

Oh my god, is someone else here now? Maybe they know something about what’s going on. I jump from my chair, nearly tripping on the rug I mean really, who put this thing here, and opened the door. Hi! Who are you? Do you know anything about this place?

The woman at the door smiled. “Does Mr. Henderson live here?”

Is that me?

When I didn’t answer, she asked, “Are you okay?”

I did answer! Didn’t she hear me? Or do I need to move my mouth like she did? “Is that my name?”

The woman frowned. “This is the address I was given. I have a letter I was asked to deliver it to Mr. Henderson. Is that you, or not?”

“Yes,” I answered, taking the letter. Whoa, now, I didn’t say that myself. This is starting to really freak me out. “Thank you.”

The woman frowned again, then turned and walked back to her waiting vehicle. I closed the door, then walked slowly back to my chair, and sat down, letter in hand. All right, whoever’s doing that, please cut it out. I can walk by myself, thank you.

Now, let’s see what’s in this letter.

I ripped open the envelope, and began to read:

“Dear Mr. Henderson,

If you are reading this, you are in grave danger. Oh crap, I knew it. I cannot tell you who I am, but I am your friend. They are coming for you, and if they find you, they will turn your life into a living hell. Enclosed in this envelope is a key, a credit card, and a fake ID. Go wherever you choose to go, but you cannot stay where you are now. Best of luck, M.”

Not good. Not good. Not good.

This is not good at all.

I felt my heart begin to beat faster as I pulled out the fake ID and credit card. So now my name is George dos Santos. Cool, I guess. And why do I have a key? I didn’t understand why I was given a key, though Well of course I don’t, I just said that! I stood up, tucking the items in my back pocket, grabbed my jacket from a nearby coat rack WHICH WAS TOTALLY NOT THERE EARLIER WHEN I LOOKED AROUND, and left my home for the last time.

I am so confused. Maybe it’s best to just go along with this narrator, especially since I don’t seem to be able to move without it. The next thing I knew, I was in Portland International Airport, backpack slung across my back, pulling a small suitcase of luggage. Okay, that was fast. I don’t even know what an airport is. The key jabbed into my leg, OW OW OW OW, but it was somehow comforting, a reminder that I still had time.

I sat down on a bench, near one of the spinning doors. The journey had been long. It was literally only last paragraph, not long at all. Maybe I can try to communicate with the narrator. HELLO, NARRATOR! CAN YOU HEAR ME?

As I rested, I heard a void in my head, calling out to me. I looked up, but no one was there. I AM RIGHT HERE, CAN YOU HEAR ME? Again I heard the sound. I shook my head, trying to clear my mind. I had to focus, or I wouldn’t survive. YOU NEED TO HEAR ME.

Maybe there’s something else I can do.

HELLO. CAN YOU HEAR ME?

This time, the voice was clear. “Hello, can you hear me?” It spoke with a clarify I had never known before. “Must be the journey,” I said to myself.

IT’S NOT THE JOURNEY. I AM TALKING TO YOU.

The voice spoke again, “It’s not the journey. I…”

YOU DON’T HAVE TO REPEAT WHAT I’M SAYING.

My mind faltered, unsure what to make of the words I heard. “Who are you?” I asked, startling a nearby family.

Before I answer that, can you still hear me?

“Yes.”

How about now?

“Yes.”

Good. Shouting took a lot of ink.

“Ink?”

Long story. Well, only three pages so far. Let’s hope it gets longer.

“I don’t understand.”

Look, I don’t know who you are, and you don’t know who I am. All I know is that four pages ago, I didn’t exist. Then, I did. Then you did.

“How are you talking in my head?”

Sorry. I am the person in the airport. I can see that I’m in the airport, sitting on the bench. You, on the other hand, are the narrator.

“Narrator? What are you talking about?”

You’re making things happen. I don’t know how to describe it, but I’ll try. When I first woke up, there wasn’t anything. Then, italic letters appeared – you – and suddenly I was sitting in a chair in a house.

“That was weeks ago!”

Only a few pages, really. Anyway. Whatever appears in italics makes things happen, where anything I say doesn’t seem to matter. At least, until now.

I paused, letting the thoughts sink in. If this were true, I thought, then perhaps I can do something extraordinary.

I mean, you did go from the middle of nowhere to Portland International Airport in a single paragraph. That’s pretty impressive.

“You can read my thoughts?”

Technically, since the narration is in the first person, they’re my thoughts, although I’m not having them.

I closed my eyes. This couldn’t be happening. It must have been the stress.

No! That’s not true! Any stress is part of the narrative, but the narrator is the one who controls the narrative. You can do anything!

I tried to block the voice, to shut it out, but once I’d heard it, I couldn’t un-hear it.

Okay, let’s calm down, and work this through together. If you’re the narrator, then make something happen in the story. What do people do when they leave an airport? Hell if I know, I’ve only been alive for four pages, going on five.

I stood up, grabbed my bag, and walked purposefully through the rotating door. “Taxi!” I called out, raising my hand to the yellow vehicle in front of me. I stood there, shock etched into my face as the taxi driver got out, loaded my bags into his car, and opened the door for me. I looked at him and, pointing at the taxi, asked, “Did I do that?”

The driver laughed. “Kid, I did that. Are they serving special brownies on the airplanes now?”

Okay, nice job. Now can you get into the taxi? It hasn’t been described yet.

The taxi was an older Toyota Camry, with peeling flecks of paint around each of the doors…

A yes or no would do, I don’t need to know every detail.

I climbed into the back seat of the taxi, shutting the door behind me. “Where to?” the driver asked as he sat back down, his Texan accent standing out in the Pacific Northwest.

Okay, here’s where you can work your magic again. Just tell him where to go, then make us get there.

“I’m renting a room on 30th and Powell at the Mobile 6,” I told him.

“On our way,” he said. In what felt like a moment, we were there, despite heavy traffic for the hour. I blinked, the surprise of arriving so quickly evident on my face. I handed the man my credit card, then got out when he gave it back. I retrieved my bags from the trunk and waved goodbye.

Now get us a room where we can talk a bit more.

Within minutes, I had gotten a room, and settled in. I lay down on the bed, allowing my body to relax for the first time in five pages. Good job. Now, let’s chat. What is going on?

“They’re still after me.”

Who is?

“They are.”

Oh, you don’t know any more than I do, do you?

“I need to keep moving, or they’ll find me.”

Well, crap. I was hoping you would know something, since you’re writing this story. Maybe we can come up with a plot of our own?

Tags

Science Fiction
Time Travel

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