[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.]
Hello all, Melanie here.
Welp. I did it. I emailed her again to remind Writer X that Gladys doesn’t know to get her curling iron because Gladys isn’t receiving her emails, I am.
My only expectation was for her to understand that her curling iron wouldn’t be coming. I can see now that I expected far too much from the whole thing.
Before I get to her big news, here’s the results of that attempt…
Subject: Re: I’m in Room 771
Thanks for keeping us informed of your latest progress with your writing! Whatever way you prefer to approach the page, finding the heart of your story is the most important part of writing a draft. Sometimes it’s right in front of you. Sometimes it’s elusive. But if it were easy to put into words in any meaningful way, maybe we wouldn’t need a whole story to explore it? Dunno, jury’s still out on that one.
The House of Nine Gables sounds like a fascinating place. Friendly reminder: my name is Melanie and I’ve been receiving your emails likely due to a typo in the email account you’re addressing. Gladys hasn’t been getting your emails this entire time and she likely does not know you need a curling iron (unless she’s a highly talented psychic?) You may want to check the email address and reach out to her directly.
Subject: Re: Re: I’m in Room 771
Did you forget that I’m NOW A CLAIRVOYANT????!!! Did you think that one was going to work on me??? I know how you work and I don’t care that your great Uncle Neptune was eaten by the House of Nine Gables, when a soon-to-be-famous-writer friend asks you to bring her her curling iron, you BRING IT.
Timeshare entity or not, if I need to exorcise Melanie from your body, so help me, I will!! I will enroll in an online course and get a certificate for that TOOO!!!
P.S. Seeing as you sent this only five minutes ago, you should still be sitting in front of your screen which means I expect you to be battling your way to my room in less than half an hour.
P.P.S. ALL KNEW LOW W FOR YOU GLAdYS!!!!
So. I decided to just leave that one alone. Wasn’t sure if I’d get a flurry of angry emails a half hour later, but X went silent.
Four days later, I received this.
Subject: DREAMGAIMaN CAMETO SEEME DOYOUHAVE PEANUTbUTTERCOOKIES?
The inn is holding me HOSTAGE. This place is worse than a prison. No vending machines, no ice machines, and Marjory keeps telling me they have a selective menu here of locally sourced food but I DON’T SEE WHY THEY CAN’T MAKE ME A CHEESEBURGER or a PEANUT BUTTER AND BANANA SANDWICH. So I’m on a hunger strike until they make me one and I told them if I die it THEIR fault. You’ll serve as my witness.
If there is one thing that is positive about all this, it’s that I managed to get hold of my credit card company and reversed the charges for the Writing Coach. Of course, his minions have been calling me every other hour telling me that my soul is now forfeit and I told them they can get. in. line.
That was a very satisfactory way to hang up a phone call even if I did feel strangely ill after, like someone had reached down into my lowest belly and stirred their finger around. But it passed and I feel somehow lighter but that’s probably ALL THE STARVATION I’M GOING THROUGH.
Then my contractor called and said all of the electricians have quit because of the lady in my closet. Cowards. So now they’re calling in some electricians all the way up from Arkham. To make matters worse I’m not getting optimum beauty sleep with the ways these godsforsaken halls keep moving.
Anyway, I should probably share with you the latest developments on my story. I’ve taken the advice of that two-bit hack, the Wandering Wizard of Writing, and have decided to take some time to journal about the heart of my story. And then I thought, what is a heart of a story? Obviously I have to be very careful picking it because this story is really about me making lots of money.
Between you and me, I can’t get it to work and I’m about to throw it all out. Worse, when I think about the heart of the story, all I can think about is C___ and how having this story to write is the only thing getting me through him being gone. BUT THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MODERN CITY FANTASY STORIES SO HOW IS THAT RELEVANT. I’m beginning to think that Wizard was a TOTAL scam.
I fell asleep because I’m still not recovered from having ZERO CALORIES with the COACH and am half comatose all the time and I started to dream only I didn’t know I was dreaming at first because I was just laying in bed, or watching myself lay in bed in the very same hotel room with my laptop still open on my lap and my foam curlers still in.
And then Neil Gaiman appeared. He seemed to come through the wall opposite my bed, through a circular stain of boiling shadows. Only he didn’t look quite like him. He was very tall and very thin and very pale and I couldn’t see his eyes. And he looked like he was about to speak but I cut him off because that’s what you have to do, Gladys, remember, it’s a power move!!!
I asaid: “I saw you in the mail truck. Why do you keep following me?”
And he looked sort of surprised and said, “That isn’t me.”
“Sure looks like you.”
And the very thin, very pale, tall man with messy black hair said, “Who do think I am?”
And he looked down at his arms and legs as though he were seeing them for the first time and said, “Ah, well, I see how you got there. The reason I’ve come—”
Anyway, Gladys, we went around in circles until I finally dragged out of him that the very Real Gaiman that is following me isn’t him but I think he’s bluffing and is just after my modern city fantasy idea!! To prove he was lying I said: “So you’re telling me you are NOT Neil Gaiman.”
“I suppose I am something like Neil Gaiman.”
Instantly I knew that I had to use his weak position to get him to help me become a famous writer by December but because I’m SO LOW ON BLOOD SUGAR EVEN IN MY DREAMS, I could think of a witty comeback. All I could say was: “And if you’re Neil Gaiman but you show up in dreams—” and then I just drifted off and stared at a small fruit fly climbing the wall over his shoulder.
“You can call me Dream…Gaiman.”
My stomach growled and when it did, Dream Gaiman got dimmer. “Alright, if you’re Dream Gaiman, then who is the real Gaiman I ran into outside of the BAM bathrooms?”
“We’re almost out of time. You’re waking up. You are in danger, X and everyone you know and love is in danger. It is nearly too late. You must act now.”
That’s when I snapped out of it. “Wait-a-minute. If we’re out of time then I should get to ask some more questions. If you’re going to just waltz into my dreams like you own the place then you need to give me your email address so that you can help me get my books done before December.”
I think Dream Gaiman had to sneeze because he closed the eyes-I-couldn’t-see for several long moments while pinching the bridge of his nose but then it passed.
When he spoke again, his voice was a far away, echoey whisper. “The walls are moving. A door is coming that will lead you to the heart of the house. Go through the door, X, follow the path to the end. Get the heart and save yourself. It can be used to set things right. Save us all.”
I thought on everything he said for a moment. A clock that wasn’t there ticked away the seconds. “Still not seeing what this has to do with me becoming a famous writer.”
Then Dream Gaiman got very big. Big, big, big. He expanded, bending over as though he could not fit in the room but he was bigger than the room, I think he was bigger than the whole inn and the stripes of his long white arms became the streaks of star clusters. Two bright, burning stars looked out from the darkness of the universe. His voice came from all around this time: “Look for me in a moon and a fortnight. Save yourself.”
Totally underwhelming. What am I, his therapist? I’m not here to listen to his worries. Not one piece of advice on writing my famous novels to thank for it!!
The whole room went dark. Only it wasn’t the room, it was the universe and I was right in the center of it. But then everything was shrinking, collapsing. I was shrinking, you were shrinking, your cousin Blanche was shrinking, the Society was shrinking, the forest around Cradensburg was shrinking, Elmer’s Gas & Guzzle was shrinking, and so was that big rock behind my house. What I mean to say was that we were all shrinking and it felt like the air was being sucked right out of everything and just when you think it was all gone and it’s gotten as bad as it can get, it gets worse. We were crumpling up but didn’t feel crumpled, just smaller. Diminished.
Then I was here. In this little hotel room. And I began to feel like it was very loud, clattering, clunking, and that ungodly creaking you hear when the halls move.
There was a little weathered door in the wall at the end of my bed. No bigger than a broom cupboard. I really wanted to go through that door but the door felt like it really shouldn’t be there. Like it’s not meant for people to pass through. They’re just supposed to see the door and know that it’s there but not go through it. That’s when I realized I was dreaming. So I quit it and woke up.
But the door was still there. Looking impossibly large for something so small. It seemed like a smug little door. So I got up, straightened my curlers and went through it.
It was pretty boring. It was just a long dark passageway that curved down down down and was big at first, but got smaller and smaller until it was about the size of my body. After about twenty minutes of walking I saw a faint red light at the end of the tunnel. The passageway emptied out into a large cold room with giant, empty fireplaces. Bigger than any fireplaces you or I may have seen. THey were like the size you’d imagine a house of giants needs. But they were like kitchen fireplaces for making giant feasts and there were large tables that were impossibly tall until I got closer to them and they became my size but the fireplaces stayed enormous.
I kept feeling like someone as big as those fireplaces had just left the room and at any moment they would come back and I should definitely be out of here before they returned.
At the center of the room was the source of the light, a red crystalline heart made of glass that pulsed to the rhythm of a freshly wound clock. It was no bigger than two fists pressed together but I saw dark pathways like veins moving through it, and something like a thousand tiny ants marching through them.
Then I noticed a giant, triple decker sandwich on the table next to the heart complete with salt and vinegar kettle chips and a crisp pickle spear.
THAT MUST BE WHY THE DOOR OPENEDUP!!!!
Needless to say, I took the sandwich platter and poked around for a glass of milk but instead found a cupboard full of things like jarred eyes and fingers of fantastic beasts and bunch of musty, minty herbs with glowing fruits drying and lashed to the walls and in the center a large leather bound tome that read “The Demonic Grimoire.”
I took that, set my sandwich platter on top of it and a mug of something I found in the cupboard that looked sort of like milk. I went back to the tunnel but paused, feeling like I was forgetting something. I felt like I should turn off the light but the light was coming from the heart so I shrugged and went back up the tunnel.
This time the tunnel let out on the landing outside my room. I knew it was the right floor from all the noise coming out of my neighbor’s room. I started to tip toe past when the door of room 770 banged open and a dark silhouette of a bearded man appeared with a knee-high earworm coiled by his feet. He was surrounded by pixelated light and he flung out a scroll the way you might fling out a carpet runner. The scroll floated along the air, unrolling itself in a path of light. There were all sorts of windows in that scroll, Gladys, more windows than you could ever imagine and each looked into a world of its own. The man cast the scroll, farther and farther out.
I cleared my throat, stepped over it, and went to my room.
P.S. My journalling still counts as writing and I am DEFINITELY winning NaNOMomO, Gladys!!!