The sun came through the window, lighting the room. On the wall opposite the door, a desk sat with bookcases lining every other wall. At the desk, a balding man sat with his face in his hands with a notebook covered in scribbling in front of him. Tears dropped to the notebook, blotching the ink that was on the page.
“FUCK!” Jack screamed as he moved, grabbing the pen and hurling it across the room where it bounced off a book and rolled under a bookcase.
A moment later, the door opened, and a man strolled in casually, a smile on his face. He wore a long coat with a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. His dark hair gave him the look of a man who dyes his hair, making his skin look too pale.
“Everything’s going well in here, I see,” he said, closing the door behind him. He walked to the desk and dropped into a chair.
“Fuck off, Michael,” Jack said. “I don’t have the patience for you right now.”
“What’s the problem, bud?” Michael replied, putting his hands up. “You know I’m only here to help you. What’s the problem?”
“The words aren’t coming, okay?” Jack said, feeling his anger boiling over once again. “They haven’t come in a long time. They won’t come. It’s over. Do you understand? You can leave now because you’re not going to get what you want from me.”
“You’re the only one that can write it, Jack,” Michael said, pulling a pack of cigarettes from inside his jacket. He took a moment to light one and blew a big cloud of smoke over Jack’s head.
“Why do you have to do that?” Jack asked. “You know that I hate smoking in my office.”
“What?” Michael said, looking at the cigarette. “It’s not like it’s real. I’m not here, remember?”
“Where did I go wrong with you,” Jack asked. “You were supposed to be the protagonist. You were the hero.”
“You brought me down a road I shouldn’t have been on, Jack. You know that,” Michael said. “I know it as well, but I don’t decide who I am.”
“The story focuses on you, though. I can’t write a story about an evil person,” Jack said.
“What do you mean? Of course, you can. People do it all the time,” Michael said.
“Alright, then I won’t write a story about an evil person. Good always triumphs over evil, that’s the story,” Jack said.
“Believe what you want, man. I’m not here to tell you to write anything. I like life at the moment. Did you know they give gelato samples down at the market for free?” Michael said.
“Get out of my office, please,” Jack said.
“Alright, man,” Michael said, lifting his hands as if surrendering. “Good luck with writing your book.”
Jack watched Michael walk out of the room, staring daggers into his back.
“I can’t write like this,” Jack muttered to himself as he grabbed his notebook and a fresh pen before getting up and walking out of the room.
Jack left the house, and Michael, behind, walking down the street, muttering under his breath about his characters and the story. When he started writing, he hadn’t thought it would be like this for this project. He had assumed it would be like every other project. He was very wrong.
Jack continued walking. His mind lost on things relating to the story—the characters and the elements that he wanted to include. Michael had become something of a monster for him and relished every opportunity to torture him. Jack had only just started writing about him when he arrived.
“Deep in thought again?” Dylan asked, walking up behind him.
Jack’s heart leapt to his throat. “Jesus, Dylan, don’t sneak up on people like that!”
“I’m sorry, Jack. I didn’t mean to scare you,” Dylan said, patting Jack on the back.
“You’re okay,” Jack replied, taking a deep breath. “How can I help you today?”
Before Jack stood, a man that shadows seemed to follow, his features lightly obscured from them, but his caring eyes were always visible. He stood a few inches taller than Jack and had the strength of a bull, but he was still gentle whenever Jack ran into him.
“I was going to ask you the same thing,” Dylan said, smiling at him as he fell in step with him. “Are we going to the coffee shop today?”
“I was thinking of the park. The ducks are calming for me, and I need to get away from Michael for a while,” Jack said.
“Is he being his usual terrible self?” Dylan asked.
“When is he not?” Jack replied as they rounded the corner revealing the small park across the street.
“That’s fair,” Dylan replied. “You’re sure he has to be the good guy in your story?”
“I can’t exactly use you, can I?” Jack replied as they crossed.
“I know. I’m supposed to be the antagonist, but I don’t feel like the antagonist. Did you bring your character biographies this time?” Dylan asked. “Maybe we can adjust those a little, and it’ll help. Maybe Michael’s is a little too self-important. If you want me to be the bad guy, maybe remove the compassion or something. Make me a sociopath or whatever.”
“No,” Jack shook his head. They stepped onto the path and walked for a few minutes in silence.
“Is it so necessary for me to be like this,” Dylan asked, motioning to himself. “To feel things the way I do?”
“Your backstory is important for you, Dylan. We’ve talked about this many times. I need you to have that seed of goodness in you so that you can be redeemed on the page. It’ll be a much more interesting story that way,” Jack said, sitting on his usual bench facing the pond.
“I get that, but shouldn’t I be cruel until Michael and I have a few run-ins throughout the story. I think it would be better than watching you torture yourself, or watching Michael torture you. I think you can get it with just a few tweaks to our stories,” Dylan said.
“I don’t know,” Jack said. “It’s not supposed to be easy, but I never imagined that it would be this difficult.”
“Would you like me to leave so you can work?” Dylan asked, pointing at Jack’s notebook. “I don’t want to be a bother.”
“No, you’re fine. I actually enjoy our conversations most of the time. I’m just getting tired of constantly being interrupted, you know?” Jack said. “I came out here more for the break than for the progress.”
“Well, I’ll just sit here and watch the ducks,” Dylan smiled. “If you need to talk, I’ll be here.”
Jack looked over to Dylan and felt a stab of guilt. The character that sat with him should have been the evil one. He should enjoy killing the ducks more than watching them. He should have been the one torturing him. He thought for a moment, and suddenly the idea hit him.
“Dylan, I’m going to make you the main character,” Jack said.
“What? You can’t write about evil people as the main character,” Dylan protested.
“You’re not evil, though,” he said. “I think I’m going to have Michael be your antagonist, but keep the focus on you. You have more growth potential than he does. He’s too full of himself as though he can’t do any wrong.”
“I don’t know, Jack. I don’t know that I’ll make for a good story. I’m supposed to be the bad guy. Do you really want to write about all the things I do? I mean, I kill that kid so cruelly even I shudder thinking about it,” Dylan said.
“I know you do a lot of bad things, but you’re the focus,” Jack said, opening his notebook. “I can feel it. The hard part is going to be getting the readers to fall in love with you by the end.”
Dylan shook his head. “You’re the author. So I’ll support you regardless of what you decide. I just don’t want to see you put in all this work and not see the praise you deserve,” he said.
“I don’t write for praise,” Jack replied, looking up. He was alone on the bench.
Jack smiled and looked back down at the notebook and began writing as fast as his hand would allow. He had finally had a breakthrough, and Dylan would be the one the readers loved in the end. They would see how the ‘hero’ of the story precisely as Michael was, cruel and stubborn in his handling of those that could be saved. Everyone would hate Michael for everything he was, and Jack relished in the fact that Michael wouldn’t get the story he wanted.