THE MANUSCRIPT

It was near on three AM when he finally finished, his hands shaking and eyes burning from the kind of strain that only a serious bout of masochistic writing could give you. This was it: after all the time and effort, all the late nights and early mornings, all the coffee breaks and ideas spawned under the showerhead, he had reached the end; the manuscript was complete.

It seemed as if the room itself emptied of all sound, like it was expecting him to jump up and down or else scream and shout, partake in some sort of celebratory gesture that a normal human might do after an achievement like this.

But none of that was necessary right now. All he wanted to do was take a breather before coming back to print the thing out. The first draft was perfect as is, so he wouldn’t have to worry about the cost of paper; this would be the only time it was printed.

The printer sputtered and stopped as it went, jammed up and ran out of ink as if to send some sort of ominous warning his way. But this here writer had come prepared and knew his way around a printer; he wouldn’t let anything stop him from printing out this first (and final) draft.

After about a half hour of printing (his printer was a dinosaur from the Windows 98 days), a fat stack of paper greeted him, crisp and warm, with ink that had not yet dried and so glistened faintly in his office’s fluorescence. He couldn’t help but be reminded of childhood days waiting for cookies to cool down after coming out of the oven as he stood there, willing the paper to hurry up and dry faster with his eyes.

As he stood there staring intently at the stack, a faint rumbling echoed out from somewhere nearby. It was quiet at first, the kind of sound that makes you ask if others heard it too, just to make sure you’re not going crazy. But the rumble built until it began to shake the very room he stood in. The chairs rattled, tables quaked, and the manuscript he still stared directly at began to change right before his eyes.

Each page of the thing tangled and twisted around, some pages crumpled while others rolled into tubes, and still others folded into the kind of origami shapes that populated your childhood. When it was all said and done, a heaping monster made of paper stood before the man, a beast that looked the image of a dragon.

Most people would run at a sight like this, but our dear writer was the masochistic type (as previously stated), and so he decided to wait and see what would happen next. The monster that was his manuscript didn’t like this, it seemed, as it hurled scraps of paper from its mouth at incomprehensible speeds. The writer leapt over his desk just as his novel’s denouement was blasted his way.

The beast hurled up ink then, which formed into words as each projectile struck dangerously close to the writer. He caught glimpses of the words as they hit: “actually” whizzed past his ear. Another projectile: “even.” A trio of words smashed the wall near his head: “was,” were,” and “that.”

The writer looked for something, anything, with which to defend himself from his own manuscript. His trusty stapler sat on the floor next to him, since knocked over in all the commotion. He checked the line: just enough ammo to take the beast down.

He did the kind of roll you see cool cops do in TV shows, only his pants caught on the carpet and he slid face-first into the wall, giving himself rug burn of the face in the process. But it seemed the redness of his skin was an asset as the paper dragon retreated further into the depths of the room. The writer took his opportunity and fired off several shots the beast’s way. It returned the favor with a slew of words spewed from its mouth. Only after they hit, ricocheted, and fell harmlessly to the floor could the writer discern a pattern among them: each of the words ended in “ing.”

If the beast kept on, there’d be no story left by the end of the fight. The writer greedily scooped up words from the ground, stuffed them in his pockets so he could put them back in later. But the dragon had other plans.

It coughed up a wad of adverbs as it kindled a fire on its tail: it was preparing an “ly” flamethrower.

The writer looked to his wall. A detailed replica of Link’s Master Sword greeted him, an old ebay conquest. He looked back to the words that littered the floor–so many gerunds and adverbs, passive tense verbs and inappropriate adjectives. Maybe his first draft wasn’t as perfect as he thought it was.

Back to the Master Sword on the wall, then to the monster he faced. He knew what needed to be done. He leapt for the wall and wielded his blade. Turned to face the first draft beast.

“You’re under revision!”

The writer cringed at his cheesy one-liner as he hacked and slashed, sliced and diced, the shreds of paper collecting at his feet like pencil shavings.

After what seemed like hours, the battle was over. He’d won.

After he collected himself, the writer sat down and paged through the new draft that had been forged in battle. To his surprise, the prose was crisper, cleaner… it seemed to better match the image he’d had in his head all along.

The war was a just one after all.

He set the revised draft down on the wreckage of his desk and laid the Master Sword at his feet.

His house was a wreck, but hell… at least he found his process.

END

Or, to make a short story even shorter: I’ve finished my novel!!!

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