Charlie had been staring at his computer screen for exactly one hour, forty-three minutes and seventeen seconds. In this time he had averaged two blinks every thirty minutes, and had only turned away from the computer three and a half times. Two of those times were so he could flip the novelty hourglass he kept next to his desk. The third time was in response to a bird that had flown directly into his window, but was largely uninjured and went on it’s way nine seconds later. And the half-glance occurred when Charlie briefly considered grabbing his Advil and putting a stop to his massive headache. But he only managed to turn his head two degrees to the right before he was sucked back in by the hypnotizing allure of the blindingly white screen that sat in front of him. After twenty-one minutes of staring he had tried counting how many times the cursor blinked off and on. This was a fruitless effort that lasted eight agonizing and hyper-focused minutes. Charlie had been staring at the screen for so long that he began to imagine that he was trapped within the screen. He kept picturing a tiny version of himself wandering through the wordless void, screaming and begging to be released from the never-ending swirl of nothing. Tiny Charlie would try to escape to a different app or tab, but he was just as trapped in his white box as Charlie was. This idea was obviously quite disturbing to linger on, so he did his best to push it out of his head. He decided his new strategy would be to not think at all. Perhaps clearing the mind of each and every random and meaningless piece of cerebral detritus would allow a new thought to form and put an end to his writer’s block. So Charlie took a deep breath and, for the first time in almost two hours, fully closed his eyes. He continued to focus on his breathing, and after a few moments, he thought, “Good. I’ve stopped thinking.” He continued to think about how he wasn’t thinking for a good thirty seconds before he realized what was happening and let out a loud sigh in frustration.
“Alright, that’s it.” Charlie slammed his computer screen shut and grabbed his keys and jacket. “I need to walk.”
Writing is an extremely noble profession that has been around for literal centuries. It’s also an extremely easy thing to do. Every day people write simply by living their lives. Billions of stories are being written right now, even by people who lack the ability to express that story on paper. The only thing that differentiates those who choose to express these stories in the written word from those who don’t is patience. Quality control never really matters because boring and terrible stories that go on forever are written all the time without anyone ever making a move to change that. There’s one being written right now! But it’s patience that makes all the difference. The ability to spend days waiting for your words to come to you. The ability to survive the agony of writer’s block. And Charlie was quickly losing his patience.
One would assume that writer’s block doesn’t require an explanation. But then I wouldn’t be able to do my favorite thing, which is writing unnecessary metaphors and similes to describe very simple and easy to grasp concepts. So I will. Writer’s block is like when you go to say something and then immediately forget what it was you were going to say. Or when you have a song stuck in your head and you can’t remember the rest of the lyrics or who sang it or what it was called, and SoundHound(An app that’s meant to tell you what song you’re thinking of based on you humming a few chords but it never actually works) can’t help you because it seems to hate you. Or when you know you need to sneeze but your body won’t sneeze. There are many ways to try and get rid of writer’s block. Charlie’s method was to bang his head into the wall that his bed was up against. Of course this was just lessening the chances of him ever being able to write again. But neither this, nor the expenses he would most assuredly have to pay for damages to his apartment wall, seemed to trouble him all that much.
This was a particularly windy fall day, and each strand of Charlie’s well-manicured and carefully combed curly hair was thrown into disarray. He attempted to fix this with the comb he kept on him at all times, but his efforts were deemed futile by the uncaring weather god watching over him. After a few minutes he finally gave up and set off on his walk, his feet grinding against the concrete with each irritable step. You would think that the ground was stopping him from coming up with ideas. The sky was a swirl of blue with not a cloud in sight. Each tree glowed with warm, autumnal colors. The leaves beneath Charlie’s feet burst apart in a crisp cacophony of sound when met with the slightest touch. You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day. Charlie noticed none of this, of course. He kept picturing the computer screen. That infernal computer screen with that stupid cursor that NEVER STOPS BLINKING! STOP TAUNTING ME! I KNOW I CAN’T THINK OF WHAT TO SAY! JUST LEAVE ME BE! Charlie was suddenly distracted from his unnecessary self-destructive rant by the sight of his reflection in an unnaturally still puddle. He looked at himself and saw a twisted scowl, a furrowed brow, and clenched fists standing in front of a picturesque and stunning sky. He suddenly stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, causing the cyclist behind him to swerve into the grass. He’d left the apartment to calm down and take a breath. To get away from his computer and relax. But he was so intent on being in a bad mood that he’d brought it with him.
Charlie let out a loud and maniacal laugh that startled and worried an eight year old girl who was playing with her dog in the yard directly next to him. Charlie gave her an apologetic glance as if to say “Sorry, I promise I’m not crazy” and indicated to the AirPod in his right ear. He always kept at least one in whenever he left the apartment for situations just like this. When you have the tendency to talk to yourself and process information out loud, it’s good to make it look like you might conceivably be speaking to someone on the phone, and not crazy. He kept on walking, so as not to make a weird situation weirder, but this time he had a skip in his step.
It’s all too easy sometimes to get caught up in a bad mood because things don’t go the way we want them to. And when this happens we tend to forget that this planet has been around forever. And we have not. On a universal scale, each of us will be alive for about five seconds. And fifteen seconds after that, the Earth will probably implode in on itself or the sun will go out or the moon will crash onto the Earth or aliens will show up or some other dramatic sci-fi movie plotline will occur, and that will be that. So there’s really no use in getting down on yourself, or, I don’t know, other people just because they look, dress or act differently than you, are part of a different meaningless political party than you, date other people than you think they should date, or do things to their bodies that you don’t think they should do. All of this is going to be gone in about twenty seconds, and when that happens literally nothing that any of us have done will remain. And yeah, we’ve all been stuck within these messed-up and outdated societal structures that were designed years ago by old guys that wanted to be in charge, and are now overseen by other old guys that want to be in charge. But at the end of the day, everything that we’re all stressed out about and yelling at each other about is meaningless. So maybe just shut up, live your life in a way that you consider to be meaningful and fulfilling(But still don’t do the things mentioned above), and don’t be a dick. There’s really no point in being a dick. (Cough).
So anyway, Charlie had just remembered all of this, which is the only reason I mentioned it, and it all left him feeling much happier. And after two hours of being in a bad mood he was suddenly extremely hungry. So he set off towards the grocery store to find something frozen and edible. Now that he was no longer surrounded by a cloud of angst, he was able to fully appreciate the world around him once again.
As the eight year old girl led her dog back into her house, she was distracted by a weird noise. She closed the front door and walked to the edge of her yard. When she looked to her right, she saw what could only be the crazy man from before. And he appeared to be running and jumping onto piles of dead leaves while giggling. The girl shook her head, took a long sip of her coffee, and went back inside to finish doing her parents’ taxes.
The grocery store was cold. Grocery stores are always cold, but this one was especially cold. The season had reached the point where it was well past time for stores to turn their air conditioning off, but pressing a button is a lot of work. And each of the twenty-three employees at the local grocery store were locked in a game of chicken. This went mostly unnoticed by Charlie, who was focused on getting back to writing. He wandered through the store with purpose but no specific direction in mind. He was headed to the frozen aisle when he happened to trip over a box of wheaties lying on the floor. The second Charlie’s head hit the ground, he knew exactly what he wanted to write. Charlie raced for the door, and after a brief conversation with the grocery store employees where he explained that he was not, in fact, trying to steal anything, he ran the rest of the way back to his apartment. He arrived at his desk, extremely out of breath and without food, but it didn’t matter anymore. Charlie sat down, triumphantly opened his computer, and began to write.
“John Joseph Skrip had been staring at his computer screen and trying to come up with an idea for a blog post for exactly one hour, forty-three minutes and…”
What a twist!!! Did you see that twist coming?! Of course you didn’t! You thought it was just gonna be a regular, basically autobiographical short story with no real point to it. And it was, but then you get the reveal. You think I’m writing about Charlie and then it turns out Charlie’s writing about me! Who’s real, me or him? Are any of us real? What is reality?! Are we all Charlie? Or is Charlie each and every one of us? Anyway, I hope this didn’t get too monotonous and confusing and weirdly aggressive. I’m trying new things and hopefully someone enjoys it. Thank you for reading this weird short story thingy.