I got to the writing cabin late. I had a long work week, filled with difficult people, and slept in. So sue me.
It was about 10:00 when I stomped up the stairs to my office and booted up my word processor. I spent the first 90 minutes changing the last few things I wrote. I’m still not happy with it, but forged ahead.
I’m at a place where the mystery is taking a backseat to the character arch. Many of my stories are like this. The mystery is present, but the main story is the character arch.
Lisa* hovered outside my door. She took up a watch in the lobby, then pretended to have some important task near the doorway. Finally she lost all sense of subtlety and came in. She sat on the couch in her Daisy May polka dot top and short shorts. She crossed her tattooed leg over the other one and waited for me to notice.
It’s kind of hard not to notice a beautiful tattooed leg. I looked up and asked, “Do you want something?”
“How’s the story coming?” She asked.
“Fine. I’m just at a place that requires a lot of work.”
“It’s because you don’t have the right mood. Remember how I found you in the basement, writing over an old bucket?” She asked.
“Yeah, mood is important sometimes. I’m back upstairs now though. It might make it easier to go back down there.”
“That worries me. It’s cold and damp down there. And you’re old and fat. I don’t want you to catch a cold or anything.”
“I’m touched, Lisa. Wait, fat, what?”
She stood up and reached toward me with both hands. “Come, come,” she said.
I took her hand and she led me to the other bedroom. It’s just a large log bedroom; similar to my office, but unfurnished. She opened the door, and three stone steps led down into a room like I’d never seen before. Lisa turned on the lights using a switch like the one Frankenstein threw in his lab.
It had become a stone room with a vaulted ceiling. A copper pentagram had been poured, or hammered into the floor. The overhead light was a chandelier made of bones that looked human. Bookshelves held huge old leather bound tomes that had been shoved full of other loose papers. I half expected to spot the necronomicon.
An old pantry cabinet held wide mouthed apothecary jars full of things you wouldn’t want to imagine. Most of it looked like dried herbs, but some of it involved pickled creatures, and I swear one of them moved. A series of skulls lined the top of the cabinet, ranging from Australopithecus to Modern Man. I stuck my fingers into one of the eye sockets and wiggled them around.
“What are you doing?” She asked.
“Looking for Bob,” I said.
“That was someone else’s fiction,” she said.
A beautiful old roll top desk stood off to the side of the window. It had bankers boxes on the inside and plenty of file space in the side drawers. The brown leather seat was a wingback style, complete with rollers.
I turned and said, “Wait a minute–
I nearly fell over backward at the sight. A huge hippo head was on the opposite wall. It had it’s head tilted sideways at 45 degrees and its mouth was wide open to attack. “Is, is that real?”
Lisa rapped it with her fist and said, “Of course it is. It’s also genuine.”
There was a red leather couch with a wood framed insert in the middle. It stood upon four carved wooden legs with clawed feet. A matching high backed chair had wood carvings all around it. Since this one didn’t recline, it had a matching ottoman with gold tassels on each corner.
Cabinets along the remaining wall were shoved full of old scrolls. The top held a sequence of old boiling flasks and glass retorts. Liquid started out pink and evaporated over a candle. It changed to green in the next one, then blue, yellow, purple and red. “What are you making there?” I asked.
“It doesn’t do anything,” she said, “but if you turn this valve it smells like cotton candy.” She opened the valve to demonstrate. “Think of it like a water feature. You’ve seen those little office fountains.”
Everywhere I looked there was something different. A parchment hung above the desk with alchemy symbols. There was an ancient deck of tarot cards, a stone gargoyle, carved wooden end tables and a coffee table to match. An old broom that could be called a besom leaned against the corner of the desk.
I stumbled back into the big wingback chair. “Isn’t, but, isn’t that Patty’s desk?”
“But I just wrote about it. It’s at Patty’s house right now. How did you- Why did you-
Lisa sat on the ottoman in front of me. “I remember how you struggled during your Panama story. Your office is a good place for science fiction, and even fantasy. It just doesn’t have the vibe for your paranormal stuff. You weren’t using this room, and you said I could furnish it.”
“But how can the desk be here and there at the same time?”
“You said you had to figure out what importance it has. What better way than working at it?”
“How did you do all this?”
“eBay, Ghost Mart, castle estate auctions, and my own imagination,” she said.
“But you’re one of my imaginary characters.”
“So you used your imaginary, imagination to imagine this room full of stuff?”
She said, “I had to create a Word document and save it on three different cloud servers. I’m anal about that, since my own personality is backed up that way.”
“But how? Isn’t that like crossing my own time stream or something? There has to be about a million things wrong with this. My brain hurts.”
“That’s someone else’s fiction again. Remember writing my story? You decided you weren’t bound by the rules of robotics, because that was someone else’s fiction.”
“True, but this-
“Do you like it or not?”
“I, I love it. I really do. How did you get a stone room on here?”
“I just wrote it that way.”
I swooned slightly. Lisa whistled and one of the beer horns came running. Doubt** crow hopped down the steps, flew into the hippo’s mouth, and perched on a tusk. I hoisted the beer horn and took a deep drink. When I set it down, I asked, “Where’s the other one? They’re kind of friends.”
“He’s marching around out in the snow to keep your beer cold. I’ll let him in when you’re ready.”
I gurgled something like, “Blblblbl.”
Lisa said, “I tried to get you a Gandalf hat, but they were sold out.”
“That’s okay, I wouldn’t wear it anyway.”
“I bought you this though,” she slid a box out from under the couch.
“A lab coat? Really?” I slid my arms into the sleeves.
“It was my second choice after the hat. Now set up your iPad and get to writing.” She took the lid off the bell jar and let the Will ‘O the Wisp loose. It bounced from floor to ceiling and careened off Cro Magnon’s skull.
I looked out the window. It was night time and raining. Villagers carried torches toward a distant castle. “This isn’t right. What’s with the window?”
“It’s enchanted. It always has something creepy like that. It was an estate sale item.” The inventor was burned at the stake.
“It’ll take me years to figure all this stuff out,” I said.
“That’s okay too. Right now, just soak up the mood and write your story. I’ll go get your other beer.”
I buttoned up my lab coat and said, “And another log for the fire. It’s kind of cold in here.”
Lisa said, “You’ve got it, chief.” She headed up the steps and turned back, “I almost forgot. Stevie Nicks or Elvira?”
“What do you mean?”
“I bought some dresses to help set the mood. Which one do you prefer?”
“Surprise me. You’ve done good so far.”
She ran all the way back and hugged me, then went to change and get beer.
*Lisa is a robot from a previous story. She works as my assistant.
** Doubt is a raven. He was a gift from my Muse.