“Open Pit in the Sheets” by T. L. Loper
The night would no longer believe his lie, his pretending to sleep. The night was wiser, far older. The dark of the night had seen many frauds come and go before.
Daniel lay quietly on his side, facing away from his sleeping wife. His wife, nearly sixteen years of marriage, three children and now she slept fitfully on her side of the bed. She was a mess, listless, nerves abuzz. He figured she suspected that he knew what she had done, was doing with another man. He planned to gently confront her with that knowledge late that night. But for now, she slept, he pretended.
“I know what you were just thinking.”
The voice was unfamiliar, or was it? It was close, closer than the bed and she went on sleeping. It was in his head. Wonderful, he thought, now I’m finally cracking up. His writer’s brain kicked in gear, mused that he thought it was supposed to be bells that he heard, not voices. “Do you want to know what it was?” Daniel answered in the quiet hallway of his mind, “Sure, annoying voice in my head, what was I just thinking?” A slight smirk crossed his face as he fancied enjoying this close circuit conversation. What would he say to himself? “You were just wondering if she has orgasms with the other man, if her face bunches up with pleasure? If she ever thinks of you when they are having sex?” The smirk left his face instantly, he spoke back to the shadow voice, “Really? That’s what you know? Just who in the hell are you to hurt me, to hurt me even more than I’m already hurting inside?” A quiet sob, like some unexpected sneeze, racked his body gently. It came once then it went silently back to the place where weeping hides its messengers.
“Who are you?” Daniel whispered, not sure if it was out loud or only within the box of his mind. “Me? A representative of sorts. You know the village of characters, of imaginings that live in that active writer’s mind of yours? Well, I kind of work for them, we all work for you, even the ones who don’t know they do. It’s your village, we’re kind of like your employees, waiting for a chance to be useful in one of your stories.” Daniel fired back, “Fine. You’re fired. Now get out of my god damn head.”
The voice replied, ” Of course, that’s your progative. Still, maybe you should know that doing that never works out very well for writers. Also, you might want to know that none of us means you any harm. You are in a sense, our Creator. You made all of us – some with some pretty serious issues – and we think pretty highly of you. You happen to be in a bad way at the moment, but not all is lost. Anyway, I drew short straw on this and I’m here to see if you want to talk about it.” Daniel paused for moment, then said, “I don’t know that I do. Thanks anyway.” The voice said, ” Again, I understand but then again I’m in your mind, and we’re all linked to what you decide to do – which we all hope is not anything foolish.” “What do you mean, like kill myself?” Daniel whispered harshly.
“Well, it’s certainly been known to happen. You are a writer, often lonely, haunted by a search for truth, justice, misunderstood. It’s all part of the game. Besides, you are about to tell your wife that you know she’s getting into bed with somebody else.” “Shut up.” Daniel snapped hoarsely. “Look,” the voice replied, “I don’t mean to cause offense, I know, we all know you’re in pain. Hell, I got an ear full for the last two days from Mr. Tony over at the Lakeside Shores. By the way, he says you’ll get through this, your marriage is salvagable if you wife is willing to work at it.” “Daniel blinked in the darkness, replying more calmly, inside his own mind, “Mr. Tony? From the short story, The Elevator Man? I haven’t even fininshed writing that story. It’s still in draft.” “So? It doesn’t mean he’s not fully written. Maybe he is but you just have to discover him more fully,” the Voice calmly replied. “Look, I don’t need a writing critic, I already have my Editor, my readers. I get my ass chewed on plenty enough,” he said. “No, you don’t. Everybody is pretty gentle on you. They think you have the makings of a great writer. You just haven’t bled enough yet.” “Well, I’m bleeding now, you know?” said Daniel. “My wife is screwing somebody else. My heart feels like it’s breaking.”
“It is, Daniel. What you don’t see is that once it’s broken, it’s going to come back together again. It’ll be better than it was before, but you have to walk this hard path that’s ahead of you. So, you’re still going to tell her tonight that you know?” the Voice asked. “How did you know that? Oh right, you’re in my head, you know this stuff.” Daniel whispered. “Right, it’s a gift we all have. You should see what it does to that guy you wrote about in the office building last year. To say you make him nervous is an understatement.” Daniel almost smiled at that one. He was quiet for a moment, when the Voice said, “Look, we all think that you need to say something. This can’t continue. You’re a wreck, man. You’re in pretty bad shape, though you may not look it. People who love you know, even if you don’t want to admit it. You were always a little overwrought, but since your son was hurt you’ve tried to hide in this really dark corner of you mind. Lots of hidden sharp edges in there, not a good place to stay. Daniel cut in suddenly, “What the hell do you know about it? You’re a god damn piece of my imagination. What do you know about my son, the pain I’ve felt over his abuse? You don’t have any right to say anything!”
The voice waited a moment, then said softly, “Daniel, we are the children of your mind, we come in all shapes and sizes, from every different piece and part of your life. You wrote us, will write some more of us. We love you, we want you to be healed. You have a lot of writing, a lot of living to do ahead of you. Do what you need to do, then come out of the dark and dance with us again in the light.” With that, the Voice was gone.
Daniel wept into his pillow, the sobs gently racking his body while his wife slept near him. Moments past. He slipped into the arms of the night, into sleep. And in his dreams, he stepped into the lovely polished lobby of the Lake Shores apartment building, waved to Jennifer at the front desk who smiled back at him, then around the corner where he was surprised to find all the residents, their kids waiting in the dining room for him. They stood, applauded him, then with loving arms took him into their warm embraces.