by Eric J. Krause
He sat down and stared at the blank page. No ideas flooded his mind, but he didn't worry. Inspiration would come; it always did. Besides, he could dig up a writing prompt on the web, listen to a song, or simply freewrite. He'd been through this before. The words would come.
A minute. Two. Five. Ten.
Fine. He stood and headed to his computer, ready to bring in the big guns. A writing prompt. This mini-bout of writer's block wouldn't stand a chance. He had a few sites bookmarked that had served him well in the past, and a few keystrokes later, he'd printed out a dozen prompts that were sure to get him through.
He dove into the first, finished a paragraph, and stopped. No, this one was a good freewriting exercise, but it wasn't leading to a story. The next one proved the same. And the next. And the next. And the next.
The pen smacked onto his desk when he dropped it. This was no good. It wasn't a traditional writing prompt night, or, for that matter, a freewriting type of night. Maybe a song would jar a story out of him.
The iPod went to random, and he stared at the display. The name of the first song would be the title of his story. "The Price of Pain." Perfect. That could go in a hundred different directions.
Except it didn't. The page remained blank, and his pen stayed silent. He started to get up to take a mind-clearing walk when the pain hit. His chest burned and his arm tingled. He plopped back into his chair and took a deep breath. After a few seconds, everything went back to normal. Damn heartburn.
As he picked up his pen, something about it caught his eye. For the first time, he examined the writing instrument. It was clear plastic, the kind where you can see right to the ink. Except that wasn't ink in there. Ink didn't move like that, not any kind he'd ever seen. It swirled and bubbled and dripped and rose and changed from black to blue to green to yellow to red and back to black to start it all over again.
Where had this pen come from? He couldn't remember. Had it been a gift, part of a pack he'd purchased, or had he grabbed it as a freebie somewhere? No matter how much he thought about it, the answer wouldn't come.
He dipped the tip onto the paper. He'd done it plenty of times in the past hour in his attempts at the writing prompts, but this time the ink came out different. It swirled on the page as it had inside the pen. Hypnotic. Multi-colored. Moving where no movement should be possible. And it wasn't just the ink. Now his words flowed, given new life by the dancing print.
He filled one blank page. Then another. And another. He had no idea how much time had passed, but it felt like mere seconds. And these words were gold. He hadn't gone over them yet, but he knew. He'd sell this story and plenty of subsequent ones based on it. This was his key to success in the business, and it was all due to whatever was in this strange pen.
Four more pages in, he finally jotted those two magic words: The End. As fast and furious as his pen had travelled over the paper, he couldn't believe his hands hadn't cramped up. As he set it down, he massaged his fingers, but it was unnecessary. They didn't even tingle. He stood up, intent on heading to the kitchen for a bottle of celebratory beer, and had to stifle a scream.
He hadn't actually written anything at all. His dead body lay slumped over the still blank pages, and the pen, which proved to be one of those plain, run-of-the-mill jobs from an office supply store, had rolled off the desk and bounced a few feet away. The ink was clearly black and definitely not swirling.
Cries of sorrow, frustration, and downright anger stopped in his throat. A bright light behind him melted away those negative emotions and left only a peaceful aura around him. What else could he do? There was nothing here for him anymore. He turned and stepped into the light.