I wrote this piece last year as part of a 20-minute writing exercise. I thought it deserved to have a post as a short story.
Matthew couldn’t breathe. Well – no – that wasn’t right. He could breathe, but he felt as though he were being pushed through a very narrow tunnel, and it was squeezing the breath right out of him.
Whooooosh! Ah — now — now he could breathe normally again. But what had just happened? He looked around him.
“Holy cow! Where am I?” Surrounded by buildings taller than anything he could have imagined, with traffic rushing past him just to his left, he felt a little dizzy and disoriented. He shook his head to try to clear it, and that’s when he noticed the girl standing about four feet way from him.
“Hi.” she said, almost bashfully.
“Uh … hi yourself. Uh … do I know you?”
She giggled. “Not yet. But you will.”
“What does that mean?” He looked around in all directions as if trying to locate something. “And what on earth is that racket?”
“That incessant tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.”
She tilted her head to listen better, and a moment later she answered. “Oh, that. I’ve learned to just close it out after all these weeks. It’s the sound of the keys on the keyboard.”
“Melissa’s, silly. She’s the author.”
“What’s an author?”
“Oh, I forgot that you couldn’t know all that yet. It takes a while to figure things out once you get here, but I’ve been here so long that I’ve pretty well gotten acclimated to everything.”
Matthew tried clearing his head with a shake again. “Wait … what? … What are you talking about? What’s going on? Where am I anyway?”
The girl let out a huge sigh. “Okay. I’ll start from the beginning. Melissa Pendergast is an author, and she writes romance novels. She’s writing one now. I’m the heroine. My name’s Abigail, by the way,” she said, extending her hand to him.
He shook her hand but eyed her suspiciously. “And just what does that have to do with me?”
“Why you’re going to be the hero of the story.” She paused, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. “And … the love of my life.”
“You’re crazy! I don’t even know you.”
Abigail sighed again. “Of course you don’t — yet. You just got here. Melissa has just now decided who you will be. Well, just a couple of days ago anyway. I heard her talking to her best friend, so I know what the plan is now. She decided to call you Matthew because her very first boyfriend – in sixth grade – was named Matthew, and she did it in honor of him.”
“Whoa — wait — start over, will you?”
Abigail began to get a little irritated. “I don’t need to start over. You just need to pay attention. Melissa is writing a love story and you are my lover. We are supposed to meet on the street right in front of that store over there on the corner. I’m supposed to get my heel caught in a grate at the edge of the curb, and you come to my rescue before a horde of people practically mow me down in their hurry to cross the street in the short time the light says ‘Walk.’
“So I’m in a book?”
“That’s right. And I understand it’s supposed to get a little steamy.” She smiled broadly now. “But I have to say that I’m not at all sorry. You’re quite a hunk, you know.”
“Well … thanks … but … I’m not sure I want to be in somebody’s book – even this Melissa’s.”
“Oh, don’t worry. She’s a great writer, and thousands of people love her books. We’ll be two of the most popular people in the world before too long. At least … I hope it’s before too long. She had a hard time sticking with this story. That’s why I’ve been around so long – waiting for you. She hit a block of some kind, but now everything seems like a go, and I can hardly wait.”
“So, when I felt like the breath was being squeezed out of me, that’s when I was being birthed into this story, so to speak?”
“That’s right. That’s exactly how it feels! But you’re okay now, aren’t you?”
Matthew looked himself over, took a nice deep breath, relieved that he could, and answered. “Yeah, I think I’m okay. But what do we do now?”
“Just relax for a few minutes. I think Melissa just finished the second chapter, and she’s about to have us meet. This is so exciting. I think I’m falling in love with you already.”