[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]
FREE FLOATING GUILT (PIMP MY HOUSE PT. 2)
Hello All, Melanie here!
Writer X wants her boyfriend Tod to move in as she finds she’s in the mood to write more often when he’s around. But she’s afraid he’ll reject the offer; sure, her small cape cod with the abyss in the basement is enough room for her, Tryxy, and #bestkitten to live comfortably, but it might be close quarters for a guy accustomed to writing in a house to himself.
Which poses the question: how much room does a writer need? Virginia Woolf famously said that a woman needs a room of her own. Isaac Asimov was a notorious lover of close quarters and advised writers to get themselves a place with a view of a brick wall. Vold-her-mort has an entire cottage where she goes to write, although she started in cafes (and should have stayed there?)
Fortunately for X, a cargo van full of renegade gnomes paid her a visit and offered to “pimp her house.” Also, the Mysterious Complex they’re building in town was tunneled into and possibly robbed. I’m sure the two events have nothing to do with each other.
Tryxy, however, is still on probation after burning down the ancient city of Ninevah 4,000 years ago (not to be confused with Nineveh.) He fears their new furnishings could land him back in the Void of Asheput.
Without further ado…
Subject: Strange things are happening!!!!!
I need you to do an exorcism.
I would have written you earlier this week, but as you know, I had to work Monday, Tuesday, AND Wednesday. Thursday, I was busy overseeing the installation of a new writing wing. There were over 100 gnomes running helter-skelter with hammers and someone had to keep them under control!!!!
Then I had to calm Tryxy down. He’s loving his bedroom and music studio, but he thinks our new furniture will get him sent back to the Void of Asheput. He wakes up in cold sweats. This is because all of the new furniture decorating our new, pimped-out house has these mysterious tags fastened to the back that read:
PROPERTY OF MANAHEE MOTION PICTURES
Anyhoo, I’m sure you’re dying to know how my writing is going.
Well, I haven’t convinced my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, to move in with Tryxy and me YET…but once he becomes capable of saying something other than “cream of wheat,” and once the writing wing is complete… I am POSITIVE he will make the suggestion himself!!!!
After all, every single day this week I have found myself IN THE MOOD TO WRITE and that’s because my boyfriend is my lucky rabbit foot of writing mood!!!!!
As soon as he’s recovered from Second Book Syndrome and agrees to make our living arrangements permanent, I’m am CERTAIN that I will FINALLY be sending you pages of my epic fantasy saga.
What’s that I hear you say, Gladys??? “Enough of the normal stuff?” CALM DOWN< GLADYS, BE PAITENT!!
You’re wondering about the subject line of this email. Well, it wasn’t a typo. Strange things ARE happening Galdsy, and they have EVERYTHING to do with why I am not sending you pages this week.
Every day, after I have laid out all of my Brandon Sanderson books, and prayed to the malevolent leopard for good writing mojo, and made myself four or five pots of coffee, and have fallen down a Pinterest hole looking at costumes my characters are wearing, and lighting nine or ten candles, and re-arranging my pillows, and suddenly remembering that I wanted to clean out my cupboards, and watching some YouTube shorts in which people deep fry peanut butter and jelly, and watching some other YouTube shorts in which people adopt ducks and dress them up in frilly frocks, I sit down and get to writing right away!!!! After all, this epic fantasy saga won’t write itself!!! I already tried it that way!!!!
And then, something STRANGE happens. Something that fills me with UNSPEAKABLE ANXIETY. I think something in my writing paraphernalia needs to be EXORCISED. It’s the ONLY explanation for what’s happening.
I start to write, and then something comes over me and FOGS MY MIND. Something starts whispering to me that I need to be writing a DIFFERENT story, a story that will sell right away. Something starts telling me that I’m wasting my talents writing about magic swords and flying ships, when I should be writing “real literature” about middle-aged crises and divorce. And then I realize I don’t have any flying ships in my story!!!! So I begin writing about flying ships and then something whispers “but what do the flying ships have to do with your THEME?”
What is this voice, Gladys???? I don’t have A THEME!!!! I try telling that to this voice and you know what it says???? “You should know better. Didn’t your English teacher teach you better???”
And every single day, I haven’t been able to write. The only explanation for this mysterious voice is demonic possession!!! No offense, Tryxy!!!
So that’s why I need you to come over here RIGHT AWAY and exorcise my whole house of this evil entity. Can you be here in the next half hour???
Hang on, Gladys, a gnome is pulling at my sleeve. It seems to think we have a mysterious and terrifying visitor standing in our new marble vestibule and that I need to go see them right away.
ME IT’S NOT
I’m sure it’s nothing. See you as soon as you get here, Gladys!!! Bring your extra large crucifix!!!!
Subject: I HAVE SOMETHING FOR YOU
I just had the NICEST visitor!! And I think she’s going to help with my writing problem!!!! She appeared in a cloud of flames and sulphur that was still smoldering by the time I got down to our new vestibule (which is now under the porch due to some confusion on the part of the gnomes.)
She had black caverns for eyes with the faintest spark of flame where the pupils should be and a face covered with worts. Each of the worts had little horns growing out of them. She wore a gray uniform with the words “Void of Asheput Juvenile Detention Center for Demonic Boys” with a silver name tag that read “WARDEN” attached over her breast pocket.
My nose hairs shriveled from the sulphur fumes so I immediately had the gnomes install some windows so that we could air the place out. She explained that she was the Void Warden and had been summoned by an enormous amount of guilt in-and-around the demon EHPKTRYX (that’s Tryxy’s real name, Gladys) and was coming to evaluate the situation.
I explained that I was Tryxy’s best friend forever and that I’m also the next big epic fantasy writer of all time and that it was nice to meet her.
I invited her to sit down on a beautiful leather sofa the gnomes had just delivered when I noticed that the font on her name tag matched the font of the “PROPERTY OF MANAHEE MOTION PICTURES PROP DEPARTMENT” tag on the back of the sofa and pointed it out to her and said, “Isn’t that quaint?”
You have to focus on commonalities with demonic visitors, Gladsy, it’s how you win friend and influence people.
Anyhoo, the Void Warden screwed her cavernous eyes at the tag and then glared at me for a long time as though she were trying to nail me to the wall. Then she explained she wasn’t here to waste her time or mine and wanted to see Tryxy right away.
I had the gnomes bring us a litter and she and I climbed atop and then the gnomes carried us across the house to Tryxy’s new dance club where Tryxy and #bestkitten were dancing to a mix of Alicia Bridges’s “I Love the Nightlife” and Tom Jones’s “What’s New Pussy Cat?”
I immediately knew that something was eating at Tryxy. He only dances to those songs when he’s anxious!!!! The minute he saw the Void Warden enter on our be-gnomed litter, he shrunk no bigger than a toddler.
The Void Warden clapped her huge, meaty hands and the music turned off. You could hear the demonic sweat falling from Tryxy’s temples to the floor in all the silence!!!!
“EHPKTRYX, are you GUILTY OF SOMETHING????” she roared. “Well?????”
And Tryxy trembled and mewed, “Yes?”
“Have you violated the terms of your probation???” the Void Warden demanded.
“I don’t know?” said Tryxy.
The fire in the Void Warden’s eyes sockets flashed and every wort on her face burst into flames. She looked like she might explode. But the fires on her face died down and she said, “Well that’s strange.”
“What’s strange?” I asked.
“He is giving off a high amount of guilt as though he’s violated his probation…but he isn’t the source of the guilt.”
“Does this mean you’re not coming to take me away?” asked Tryxy.
“NOT SO FAST! You’re not out of this until I find the source of the guilt and confirm that you haven’t gone and burned down another human civilization and changed the course of human history AGAIN,” she bellowed.
Between you and me, Gladys, I wasn’t worried. After all, if the Void Warden hauled Tryxy back to the Void of Asheput, I would just summon him again back to our realm, but it mattered to Tryxy, so of course I couldn’t act like I wasn’t worried.
The Void Warden slipped a vial of powder from her breast pocket. She tapped it around Tryxy’s new dance club until the disco ball, parquet floors, and stereo system were coated in a light layer of opalescent dust.
Then, the Void Warden took in a huge gulp of air until her chest puffed out like a blow fish, and she exhaled a hot stream of sulfurous wind. The gust swept up the powder and the particles were suspended in the air like fog.
Tryxy trembled and shrunk even smaller as though he were afraid the fog would touch him.
And then nothing happened.
“So, whatcha doing?” I asked the Void Warden.
“Dusting for guilt,” she grumbled.
The Void Warden evaluated the fog. She tapped her foot, she checked her wrist watch. Her frown grew deeper and deeper with each minute that passed until she resembled a thorny toad.
“…Is it going to do something?” I asked.
“It’s done what it’s supposed to do,” she snarled. Then she swiveled her fiery eyes on me. “There is an enormous amount of Unclaimed Guilt floating in the air here, Writer X! Tell me, is there any reason such a quantity of guilt is present?”
“Pardon me, one moment,” I said. And then I had to step away for a second. There was a quartet of gnomes passing by who were carrying a new dais that said PROPERTY OF MANAHEE MOTION PICTURES PROP DEPARTMENT.
They were going to install it in my new writing wing, but they were lifting with their back and not their legs!!! I wasn’t going to have a worker’s comp incident on my watch (which also says PROPERTY OF MANAHEE MOTION PICTURES PROP DEPARTMENT.)
Then I came back and asked the Void Warden to repeat her question.
“I SAID, is there any reason such a quantity of guilt is present? Look here! And there! And over here!” The Void Warden stabbed a claw at different points in the fog. “There’s free floating, Unclaimed Guilt polluting every square inch of the place!”
I told her I had no idea why we’d have so much unclaimed guilt cluttering up the place. I couldn’t imagine what could have prompted it all.
So it turns out, Gladys, that the free floating guilt levels in our house were eleven times higher than normal. The Void Warden kindly explained that when free floating guilt levels are that high, it’s usually because someone has unclaimed guilt. Unclaimed Guilt can cause a lot of problems. Everyone knows that if it weren’t for Unclaimed Guilt, King Charles the First would have never been beheaded, nor would have any of King Henry’s Wives. And Congress wouldn’t even exist!
The Void Warden says our Unclaimed Guilt levels are dangerously high. There’s always a certain amount of free floating guilt in the universe that roams around looking for Catholics, but this is something way beyond that!!! She said that if we can’t get to the bottom of the Unclaimed Guilt in the next 24 hours, she is going to have to take preventative measures and return Tryxy to the Void!!!
That’s when it occurred to me that the reason I can’t write IS BECAUSE OF THE UNCLAIMED GUILT!!!!! (Also, I don’t care how powerful she thinks she is, I’m never letting Tryxy return to the Void. Okay? Okay. Glad we sorted that out.) I can’t imagine where this guilt is coming from, but I DO know where it’s going!!!
So this is where you come in, Gladys. I have all this Unclaimed Guilt laying around and I was about to advertise it on Craigslist but I figured I’d give you first dibs.
Come and get it!!!! It’s yours for the taking!!!!! Free guilt!!!! Let me know when you’ll be here and I’ll have the gnomes help you load it into your car.
Subject: SOURCE OF GUILT FOUND
I’m still waiting for you to come pick up this guilt. It’s floating everywhere and I can hardly see!!!
I don’t know why you’re dragging your feet about it, you’re never going to get it for a price like this!!!! At any minute, that nice lady the Void Warden is going to come here and take Tryxy away (and then I’m totally summoning him back) and you wouldn’t want to waste that nice lady’s time, would you???
Anyhoo, things have gotten much more serious. As you know, I posted the guilt as available on Craigslist, but the only people who got back to me about it were two Russian brides with offers of marriage, and a man who said he would transfer the deed of an acre of land in Louisiana where pirate treasure is buried if I wired him $6000 right away.
After I finished the land grab, I received an email from a psychic tarot reader who said she could help me find the source of the Unclaimed Guilt. She wanted to charge me $150 for the service but I told her she could either have the $150 dollars ORRRR she could have half the gold I find once I locate the pirate treasure. She’s very smart so I don’t have to tell you which option she took!!!
Her name was Vivienne and she smelled like patchouli and oatmeal cookies. So Vivienne came over, slipped her Birkenstocks off her feet, AND IDENTIFIED THE SOURCE OF THE GUILT.
I need you to sit down Gladys. But not too long. Because you need to get over here and get this guilt!!! Do you want to know the source of the guilt???
It’s my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins.
I didn’t want it to be him, but Vivienne has a FAIL PROOF way of discovering the source of Unclaimed Guilt.
First, she asked me if I had a crystal ball. Of course I did, but the gnomes are still working on my writing wing and so I had to go and find it myself. It had a PROPERTY OF MANAHEE MOTION PICTURES PROP DEPARTMENT sticker on its face, but Vivienne was able to work around it.
She gazed into the crystal ball and then asked me if I possibly had something I had done recently, something I should feel guilty about, but that I lacked a conscience over. I told her that I haven’t done anything except look after my sick boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, for the last few weeks while he recovers from Second Book Syndrome. All of my other energies have been taken up with getting these gnomes to finishing pimping my house, which I have paid $100 fair and square!!!!
Vivienne wiggled her nose like a rabbit. She says that’s what happens when she gets psychic messages. She asked me to describe my boyfriend, so I did.
“And he’s a writer, you say?” she said.
“Yes. He’s award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins.”
“And he’s been sick with Second Book Syndrome?”
“Yes. He’s been unable to talk, or read, or write ever since he began therapy.”
“This boyfriend of yours, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, is he the kind of writer who has daily word counts?”
“Yes!” I replied.
“And does he wring his hands over whether his theme is coming through in his draft?” I nodded my head. “And does he outline?” Vivienne asked.
“HOW DID YOU KNOW????” I said.
“And have you found yourself willing but suddenly unable to write?” she asked.
“YOU ARE DESCRIBING MY LIFE!!!!!” I clasped my hands to either side of my head.
“I hate to break it to you, next-big-epic-fantasy-writer-of-all-time Writer X, but this Unclaimed Guilt is caused by Secondhand Second Book Syndrome. If you want the Unclaimed Guilt to disappear, you’ll need to send your boyfriend someplace else to convalesce. It’s too dangerous for him to remain here.”
GLADYS!!!! If you don’t get over here right now and figure out what to do with this guilt, I’m going to pack it up in my car and bring it—
Oh hang on. My boyfriend is stirring.
He looks lucid!!!!
He looks like he’s going to say something, Gladys!!!! He’s opening his mouth!!!!
He’s taking a breath!!!!
He’s gonna talk!!!
“If I don’t get back to writing, I’m going to go crazy,” he says.
Gladys!!!! My boyfriend is better!!! He’s talking!!! And just like that, all the guilt disappeared out of the air!!! The Void Warden won’t take Tryxy!!! I don’t have to say goodbye to my boyfriend!!! I CAN WRITE AGAIN!!!!!
Meet me in Tryxy’s dance club, Gladys!!! We’ve got to celebrate!!!
Pages next week!!!
I’m reminded of a story Dorothy Parker told, about how a contemporary of Ernest Hemingway built himself a perfect writer’s retreat, and how Hemingway reacted to the news:-
Oh, that’s a good one! I hadn’t known this story until now. Thanks for sharing that, Steve!
No appreciable guilt where I live, but there’s a giant pile of gravel where the guys laying pipe across the street keep dumping it, just where I like to drift a skateboard around the curve after launching down the driveway. They’ve actually finished here and moved on but the pile remains, and this morning a dump truck came by and dropped another load. Could use some gnomes to come haul it away.
Brian Clevinger has some sensible thoughts on outlines.
What a way to ruin a perfectly good skateboard route! If you see any gnomes around, I’m sure they’d love the chance to earn a fiver.
That’s a great share on outlines, Jim! Thanks for posting that.
Catholics do guilt very well (says the voice of experience) but by observation I’d say Lutherans can get a good guilt going too.
That’s a great point, Anne! Come to think of it, I’ve seen some pretty good Baptist guilt, too, in these parts. But it’s second to their talent for sprinting to lunchtime diners the second Sunday service gets out.