Julian had the distinct impression that he was nothing more than a fictional character in a story. The protagonist maybe, an important character at that, but a character. No more, no less. He had no psychological makeup other than what the writer had given him already. His story was fifty-one words long. Now fifty-five. He had the deep-seated feeling that he’d existed before this story of now currently seventy words, had a childhood, adolescence, and the like, but the story just started now for some reason, like some celestial camera that decided to only now start recording.
But if he’d had thirty-five years of life up to this point, why did the story start right at this precise moment? And why the hell did he know about it? He woke up this morning, sleepily guided his feet into their moccasins, and was immediately jolted with the impression that he was simultaneously being written and read, there for someone else’s entertainment and nothing more. But who was writing him? He tapped into his subconscious mind, what he suspected had been responsible for his revelation of being in a story in the first place. The title… “Title.” How original. Julian was the protagonist of a story that had a placeholder for its title. For some reason, that thought made Julian feel even worse than he already had.
He concentrated, focusing all his mental energy on remembering where he was from- or rather, where his story was from. It was saved in a folder. That made enough sense. But what was the folder called? Ni… Nick… Nick’s Fics. That was it. He’d never heard of it before in his life, but he knew with complete certainty that he was the protagonist of a story called “Title” that was buried in a computer folder, which was for whatever reason called “Nick’s Fics.” Julian wasn’t a detective by any means, but he was sleuth enough to realize that his creator was likely named Nick, given the context clues. Nick what? But to be completely honest, what did it matter? He could’ve been written by this Nick character or William Shakespeare. At the end of the day he was still nothing more than a construction born of someone else’s imagination, fated to live out a life in a world of someone else’s choosing. A world that for Julian was as tangible as the air he breathed, but to the outside observer had only existed in written form for four hundred fourteen words. Now four hundred eighteen.
Julian sat in bed sleepless that night, turning over the metaphysical questions that had just been posed by the discovery he’d made. He tried to forget it, to just get some sleep, but he couldn’t. He didn’t go to work the next day. Or the day after. He just sat at home, trying his hardest to somehow tap into his racial memory, to figure out who made him. Even as he told himself it didn’t matter, that he should just move on with his life, the other half of his brain worked overtime, trying to make sense of the information it was receiving.
He lost his job. It didn’t come as much of a surprise to Julian, but it was a bit inconvenient. But the more Julian thought about it, the more it seemed to not be inconvenient at all. If he was just some fictional character after all, what did it matter that he had lost his job? That was likely just some obstacle the writer had hatched to place in his path, to trip him up as he fought to achieve his ultimate goal. That’s how stories work, right? A character has a goal, obstacles get in the way of said goal, and the character overcomes the obstacles to achieve his ultimate goal. Simple enough. But what in God’s name was Julian’s goal?
Did the writer not know? Or was Julian simply unaware himself? And was that the intention, to make a character who wasn’t aware of his ultimate goal, or was it just a blank on Julian’s part at the moment? Well, if this story was ultimately to have a happy (or at least somewhat pleasant) ending, then Julian had nothing to worry about. He could lose his job, his house, his car, but it would all end up okay in the end. And so Julian resigned himself to not doing anything, to letting the great cosmic writer decide how his life was to play out. He sat slouched on his couch for days on end, eating junk food and watching TV. He didn’t bathe, or really do much of anything else for that matter. Things would work out in the end, Julian decided. They always do in stories. Days passed. Then weeks. But still nothing changed.
Depression was creeping into the heart of Julian. His life meant nothing. He wasn’t doing anything of use. He just sat there, like some sort of lump, waiting for the writer to do what was necessary. And then it hit him. What would the difference have been if he were born a “normal” person, unfettered by a story? He’d still have the laws of nature to hold him back, still be born in a time and place he had no control over. Still have an ultimate goal and obstacles to overcome. Like a story whose beginning was set in stone but whose conclusion was to be decided. Julian went outside. He ran. He came back, began to eat healthy. The color returned to his life, in shades. He went out, got a job. But still something nagged at him. An urge, a strong desire. He wanted to write. He booted up his computer, not knowing what story he was to create. He just started writing. The protagonist? A man he had never met, but knew well. A man named Nick.