A Short Story: The Re-Write (3320 words)

The basic idea for this one came from the nightmare of someone else. Of course in the course of writing this (last night and today) the idea has changed quite a bit but at its core it’s the same, and I’m very grateful for the original SPARK for this one (If you’re reading then thank you), it was an unusual one. Also I think this should be read with the EAST HASTINGS song by Godspeed YOU! Black Emperor on. Now I’ll just sit back and wait for someone to tell me I need to re-write it. -Enjoy!

THE RE-WRITE

The snow was heavy and kept pouring down. In the mornings the downpour subsided leaving a muted, cotton covered subsistence. The Wendigo moved slowly through the snow, its heavy steps long and certain. It walked the pathway towards the cabin where The Writer sat in front of her computer and stared at a screen full of words. The Wendigo stopped by the bridge that led over the creek and to the cabin. It looked at the writer’s car and then it started walking up the slope by the side of the cabin, occasionally looking back at the place where The Writer sat and tried to gather her thoughts unaware of the being outside.

It was a never ending project. It had started in this very cabin, during a cold autumn day and now over a year and a half later, here she was again trying to finish it. Of course, she’d been sure it was finished the last time she handed it in. She’d spent half a year re-writing the damned thing already, and it had turned out to be the project from hell. She’d decided to quit on several occasions, it was just too hard to make it work, and she decided she would join the postal service and deliver mail for the rest of her life.

She had never really wanted to do anything else though, didn’t know how. So on she trudged, dismantling the text she had been told to look into. This part of the work always puzzled her. It was hard enough to produce the text, pulling it apart and then putting it together again? It just seemed bizarre, like pulling a puzzle apart after you’ve finished it only to put it together again in a different way.  But she guessed her peers were right, there was no use in crying over it. So she had packed her bags and gone to the one place where she knew she’d be left alone to do her work. There was Internet access, she wasn’t completely mad, but there wasn’t much else. She had food for four weeks and she was going to keep at it until the novel was re-written. It was do or die and she knew what she needed to do. It was fitting that she do it there, where the idea for the book had been born.

The job, however, was getting to her. After only a week in the cabin she felt relaxed. She was sleeping, but she was dreaming strange, surreal dreams, that brought her into her novel, or brought the characters she had created out into her world. She often found herself disoriented when she woke up. It was stress, she knew, but she had to push through it.

The mornings where quiet and calm. She would brew herself some coffee and spend some of her time just staring at the view. It rarely snowed in the mornings and when the sun rose over the twin mountains in the distance she felt she was witnessing something spectacular. She never tired of watching it, wanting within herself to be able to see that for the rest of her life.

When the sun was up it was time for her to start working. She needed to push the pieces correctly together to make everybody happy. This novel was such a big part of her mind now that she lived it and breathed it and she was more tired of it than she had been of anything in her entire life before. She spent five hours on it, every day. The rest of the time in the cabin she tried to relax and think of something else, but it was hard and she often found she’d spent ten hours on it instead of five. She knew that if she spent too much time on it each day then the changes would become rushed and she would be sent home with it yet again, with her tail between her legs.

So she ate light lunches and took short walks near the cabin, if the weather allowed for it. She didn’t mind the snow, but she knew better than to head out if it was snowing too much. If you got lost in the mountains you weren’t likely to be found again.

When she got back from her walk, she always called her husband. He was usually at work, but he would pull out of his meetings to talk to her for a bit. She would tell him how it was going and he would tell her that he hoped she’d be back home soon. That they missed her.

She liked hearing that, and of course she missed them too, but this had to be done and it seemed that this was the place to finish it, once and for all. The part she was working on was eluding her however. She had written it twice already and nothing seemed right. Her heroine was running from a monster that wasn’t supposed to exist and she was trying to make the monster seem frightening at the same time that she wanted to plant the doubt about the monsters existence in the readers head. The editor had wanted a more certified heroine too, a woman who wouldn’t run but who would stop to fight the beast, but she had a hard time with that because who wouldn’t run from a monster like this?

But no matter how she tried, it just didn’t seem to turn out right. She’d spent so much time on it already and nothing she wrote seemed to make more sense than the original text. She decided to save it and spend some time on another problem area. She had to make corrections through the novel, so that a thing she’d already altered made sense. It was more of a handy work than anything else and she enjoyed that, it made her feel useful, like a carpenter or a shipwright, like her grandfather.

She had felt better than usually when she had put the final touches on this novel. Of course she had known that there would be re-writes to do, but she hadn’t expected this. The heroine in her novel had defeated her monster, but the thing was, apparently, cracking at the seams and it was her job to sow these together.

She had a hard time falling asleep that night and when she did sleep she dreamt the monster, they were in the mountains above the cabin. The monster was stomping around, sniffing her up, except it couldn’t find her because she didn’t belong in his world.

When she woke up she was certain she’d heard a strange sound coming from outside the cabin. She looked, but it was already snowing so all she could see was the white whirls of snow going up and down in the wind and you couldn’t tell if it was actually snowing or if it was simply the wind blowing life in the snow that was already on the ground. She watched the spectacle for a while, before preparing breakfast and sitting down with her work.

She was desolate when she realised that the changes she had made the previous day were gone. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t saved them, the damned machine saved everything on its own, all the time, and she still went out of her way to make sure all her changes were saved. She also made backups, regularly, and sent them on to a safe server far away. But none of the work she had done the previous day was there.

She threw the computer into the couch beside her working desk by the window and paced back and forth around the cabin for a while. Then she pulled her coat off the hanger, put on her shoes and went outside.

The air was cold and brisk and although it was snowing she took the path beside the cabin and walked in a huff up the hill. Everything was against her, even technology that had worked so well for her in the past. She strode forward without much thinking where she was going. She just needed to clear her head, needed to find an inch of energy to put up with this.

When she had managed to calm herself she went back to the cabin and started working again. She made the changes to the chapter about the monster and the heroine. She re-wrote the chapter without making the heroine stop to face the monster. She did that at the end of the novel and it worked. She couldn’t find it in her to make her stop right there in the middle portion. It made no sense. She would have to make all the other changes and then stand up for herself against the critique. When she looked up again it was already dusk.

She was ravenous, but happy with her changes. The chapter was better, much better than before. She made sure she saved all her work, backed it up and then she made dinner.  She even had a little wine with her dinner. It felt like a big step forward.

The next day it was easier to do her work. She made her changes, some subtle that only mattered to her, really – like changing the color of the couch in the heroines home, but others bigger and more to the point of the work she was supposed to be doing.

The week passed, slowly but surely. The snow kept pouring down and now she started her days by shovelling a path from the cabin to the parking lot and then she drove the car to the main road to make sure she wouldn’t get stuck there. She had a jeep, but you could never be too careful and it was something else to focus on, something other than words.

When she came back form one of her efforts one morning she noticed something was different. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but something was different in the cabin. She sat down at her computer to continue her work, but the thing irritated her. She got up and paced around and that’s when she noticed.

The couch was a black leather couch.
She was almost certain it had been brown before.

The cabin was rented. She’d been there before. A friend of a friend owned it and he was rarely there, so he didn’t mind her staying there for longer periods of time, as long as she warned him up front. She went there sometimes when she needed to clear her head or really needed to focus hard on something.

But she was sure the couch had been brown and not black.

She shook her head, wrote it down as having to do with her perception and then she went back to work. Re-wrote the last of the chapter she had been working on and again forgot to keep the time so when she looked up it was already dark. Her monster was more vicious now, and it was real, no hints that it was something other than the monster it was. It was a change of pace with her, but she liked it, felt rejuvenated by it. No Scooby-do mask uncovering the thing at the end, just a pure monster.

It was snowing heavily, big white flakes her grandmother had called Dog Paws. She put on warm clothes and went outside with a flashlight. She didn’t use it however, but turned her head up towards the snow and opened her mouth, letting the big flakes enter her mouth.

She ventured just a bit up the slope, not too far from the cabin, still feeling safe from the light emanating from the back of the cabin and for a moment she thought she saw something in the snow. It couldn’t be a person, there were no people there, and this seemed bigger than a normal person anyway. But then it was gone.

She walked a little further, curious as to what could possibly be up here. An animal perhaps? She didn’t think there was anything dangerous in the mountains, but she had a flashlight and hopefully anything that could attack her would be afraid of the light, or she could use it as a weapon.

She walked further and that’s when she saw it again. Beside a large rock in the slope it stood and stared at her. A large creature with the horns of a deer, or an elk, a skeletal head but meaty, muscular body. She stared at it for a long time, not afraid because she was certain this couldn’t be happening.

It was exactly like the monster in her story. She continued to look at the thing, that looked at her. It seemed hungry, almost starving.

She pinched herself lightly in the arm, hoping that the old movie trick would wake her up but she was still standing there staring at the monster, wondering if that ever worked in real life, or in real dream-life.

When the thing started trudging towards her, its big feet lifting high in the air and hitting the ground with a thump she started to panic. She thought about running, but she didn’t, instead she stood there staring.

It was fascinating and you didn’t have dreams this vivid so often in your life. She just stood there and stared at it. It wasn’t until the monster was standing right before her, its head bent down to sniff her, that she realised that she was wide awake.

It might be a hallucination, but it was certainly no dream.

And she could feel the warmth coming from the creature.

The Wendigo sniffed her, it rose up again and let out a wild, hoarse scream, flailing with its arms to each side.

She wanted to run now, like her heroine had, but she couldn’t move. She recalled the scene were the heroine ran and noticed there was only one difference between this monster and the way she had written it. This one didn’t have any clothes on. She pulled her flashlight out of the pocket of her coat and lit it. The light from the back of the cabin was still lit, making her able to see the monster, but when the flashlight shone on it she saw it in all its grotesque glory. The giant muscles, the flesh hanging from the visible bones, the skeletal face, the teeth and the eye sockets. She started to shiver.

She flashed the light into its face and started to back off towards the cabin. The monster didn’t follow her, it just stood there sniffing the air. When she came to the cabin wall she started to slowly move towards the door, still with the flashlight in the monsters face.

The Wendigo just looked at her until she vanished into the cabin.

When she woke up the next day she started her work again. Her premise for the story had changed and there was a lot of work to be done. She worked from morning to night, hardly remembering to eat or sleep but the work went smoothly. She knew exactly what she needed to do and how she should do it. The heroine changed, she was no longer a family woman but a loner who lived in the country. And she stood up to the monster when it first attacked her, a monster that was, within the frames of the story, very real. She hardly ventured outside, didn’t notice The Wendigo sometimes looking into her windows, while the snow was pouring down, waiting. She hardly noticed the kitchen table changing, or the curtains and she didn’t notice that the phone had gone quiet. There was no husband to call anymore, no “they” on the other side of the long road waiting for her. She didn’t shovel the path to the car, and then there was no car. She just wrote, and wrote and it wasn’t until she came to the final confrontation that she started to hesitate.

She looked out the window and saw it standing there. It was waiting for her and now she knew it was. The man-eating monster that had somehow dropped out of her own creation. She stared into the empty eye sockets of the monster lurking at her window and she continued writing. The magic happened always without her noticing. Things whirled away and other things came in place instead. The teacup on her table changed to a beer can, the jeans she wore became leather pants and the umbrella by the door turned into a shotgun and the beast became hungrier and hungrier, scratching at the window, longing for some flesh, longing to meet it’s maker, to eat her meat.

And then suddenly she was standing right in front of it with the snow twirling around them, like small stars in an eternal universe. The cabin was unlit, the flashlight was no longer in her jacket pocket, in fact her jacket wasn’t the same, there were no pockets, but by her waist she had a bullet-belt.

Her hair was shorter, and she had forgotten that she’d ever let it grow long. Her hand was steady and her nerves calm.

“What do you want from me?” she asked the beast, but she knew it had no voice. Knew that if there was a longing anywhere, it was within herself, a deep, dark longing to be out of this world that she was so tired of. A deep longing to go back to whatever it was she had been doing before all this started and another longing, never to be let out at all.

The Wendigo came closer, sniffed her and growled. She saw the hesitation in its eyes, saw it as a failure on her part. She would have to write some ruthlessness into the beast. Who is afraid of monsters that hesitate? Monsters that shed a tear for their prey? But it did shed a tear from its empty sockets.

Then it attacked with all its might. Its muscles pounding, its claws ripping at her, the leather in her pants tore, the blood oozed out of her but she didn’t run. She raised the shotgun and started firing, but the bullets didn’t stop the beast. They went into its flesh and only seemed to aggravate it, make it hungrier.

She fired again, the shots hitting its face this time, a part of the jaws shattered, the teeth lost in the snow, but it still kept scratching at her, wounding her flesh, making her bleed. She hit it with the shotgun, but it didn’t make a difference. The beast clawed at her. She fell to the ground, only saw the snow painted red beneath her, felt as the beast started tearing at her back, gnawing at her bones.

Until she felt nothing.

When The Wendigo was finished with her, leaving only bare bones in the snow it rose up again. Its jaw had healed. There was meat on its bones, even in the face and there was no sign of hunger in its visage. She would have liked seeing that.

Her bones morphed into the beast, as it stood there howling at the wind and the snow, making it even taller than before and it gained eyes, her bright blue eyes. It opened its giant jaw and caught snowflakes in its mouth before it trudged up the mountain again.

The book was found later and published. A gruesome tale of a battle and of a defeat, someone called it, another one called it a masterpiece of existential dread, and a refreshing change of pace. She would have liked to hear that her efforts turned out well, but she was never found again.

She was soon hungry again though, waiting for new pray. Waiting for new magic to change the color of her white, cold world.

It would come in time.

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