There is a knock on the door. It is the eighth time somebody has knocked on his door today, which is more activity than the door had seen in the entire previous year. Jimbo does not consider answering it, not even a little bit. It would be the same intrusion as all the others, a dire warning to evacuate his home before things outside get seriously high strung. Not only does he have nowhere else he can possibly go, he doesn’t want to leave. He plans to sit right here in front of his laptop, writing. If the ship goes down, he will happily go down with it.
Eventually the knocking ceases and a voice calls to him through it.
“Jimbo, we know you’re still in there. We gotta go. Come with us. We know you are a private man, but this is suicide. Please, open up.”
Replying would just make the situation worse, so he waits for the nosy neighbor to give up so he can get some peace and return to crafting his tales. Jimbo gave up on the world a long time ago, but not on the word. He wields the word like a weapon of mass destruction. His stories are catastrophic indictments against the farce that dares to call itself civilization, or at least they would be if anyone ever read them. Nobody does, but that will not stop him. A writer doesn’t write because their audience demands it. A true writer simply cannot help themselves. It is compulsory, impulsive, indulgent and self-gratifying. There is no honor in it, and Jimbo does not kid himself that there is. It is just what he has to do it in order escape the existential dread that would otherwise swallow him whole.
After the intruder’s footsteps can be heard making a retreat from their ill-conceived mission to save him, he stares at his screen with his fingers hovering over the keyboard, waiting for inspiration to strike. Before he can instigate the sweet release of the sacred cascade of words, the public warning klaxons are fired up, and the sound of blaring sirens pushes any fomenting ideas back into the void. He suppresses an urge to express his rage vocally, but doesn’t want to risk inadvertently alerting any do-gooders that he plans to defy rescue.
A small portion of curtain is peeled from a corner so he can visually estimate the timeline of carnage that is allegedly en route, without being seen by wannabe heroes. Nothing visible yet. It could be another false alarm. He suspects news stations force their meteorologists to cry wolf occasionally to keep their ratings solid, although he hopes that will not be the case this time. Jimbo longs for catharsis, and he would rather be torn to shreds by forces of nature, than be a fretful little candy ass trying to outrun his inevitable demise.
So long as his personal power supply and sat link are operational, he plans to continue pumping stories out into the world, until his final moments – if it comes to that. He runs several scenarios through his mind. Maybe rescue crews will find his body and news will reach the world of the insane author who kept writing. Maybe then people would read his stories. Maybe then they would see the cracks in the falsehood they call reality. Maybe then they will start to make things right. At the very least he hopes that artificial intelligence will discover his writings, buried as they are in a distant corner of the internet, and benefit from the lessons embedded in his fiction that humanity had refused to face, before they had to be eradicated for their own good. Maybe he’ll just die and that will be that.
“Apathy is pretending not to care. Actually not caring is freedom.”
From those two sentences he weaves together a story. It is about a man who refuses to participate in the ceremonial trappings of scripted social roles. A renegade of congeniality who fights back against the prepackaged artifice and posturing that most people mistake for genuine interaction. The antagonist is honest and critically intentional, and thus widely considered by everyone to be an asshole, which he unironically embraces. Like every character that every author has ever written, it is him. Or some aspect of himself. Some sliver of his own ideas and experiences, a small sample of Jimbo’s own beliefs and expectations. He finishes it within a few hours and calls it ‘When Not Being Homicidal Is Not Enough’.
Jimbo takes a long piss, refuels his system with coffee and oatmeal cookies, and takes a peek out the window again. It is a bit more promising, but still a long ways off from the cataclysmic destruction being predicted. At least the knocking has stopped. There are no more sounds outside in the hallway. Everyone else has left the building, tucked their tails in between their legs and took flight, leaving him in a wake of tranquility to spin his yarns. One or two thousand words of brutal truth at a time.
There is no doubt he has talent as a writer. This is not the problem. The reason nobody has ever cared to usher him to success is purely a matter of medium. He is a writer of flash fiction, miniature tales that are more satire, parody and parable than the kind of mindless entertainment and identity signaling that sells books. He is not a failed novelist. He is not an aspiring writer suffering from a lack of ambition. Flash fiction is his medium, and it is a damn good one. Novels are obsolete. Technology has provided far better ways to tell those kind of stories. His medium is the future of writing, but whether he will live to see it take its rightful place at the top of the literary food chain is uncertain. Even if he wasn’t willfully sitting right in the path of probable doom, it is unlikely that he will live long enough for humanity to evolve to the inevitable stage of appreciation for the compact form of storytelling in which he excels. There is nothing Jimbo can do about that, all he can do is keep the words coming.
His next offering is about a mutiny in hell. The demons have collected their voices to cancel Lucifer, but in his absence, the underworld is so mismanaged by the committee of halfwits that overthrew him, that souls begin escaping back to the world of the living. By the time God steps in, there has been so much damage that the lord of darkness is able to negotiate for better rewards in return for reclaiming his post. It is titled ‘A Consensus of Incompetent Evildoers’.
This time he doesn’t need to look out the window. He can hear the roaring and groaning and shrieking of the world outside through the walls. This is it. The moment of truth. Will the world swallow him up into the belly of oblivion, or will it preserve him in order that the can continue his tireless screeds against its absurdity and excess? He pulls the curtain way from the window entirely and screams at it, “Come and get it!”
With furious determination he begins to pound out yet another tirade, this one is about a coven of suburban witches that are never able to master spells because they do not actually believe in magic. The image associated with being a modern sorceress which attracted them to the craft comes easily, but their unspectacular American Dream lives have sculpted them into strip mall clones whose faith in the extraordinary is too insufficient to produce any results, so their efforts are largely spent growing their Instagram audience and sharing semi-goth makeover tips. This one receives the moniker ‘Death By 1,000 Sexy Witch Costumes’.
Jimbo was so absorbed in finishing the story that he didn’t notice nature’s wrath de-escalating outside. Noticing it now that he has finished, he looks out the window and sees a handful of broken branches and displaced objects, but whatever caused this minor disrepair has already begun to pass. The message is loud and clear – KEEP WRITING.
And so he does.