Short Story by Rachel Sorensen
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t breathing the same dense air I have been breathing for the past months. But now, as I’m being dragged away from the slimy cell I have been trapped in, the hope of breaking free is sparked inside of my chest. With no clear explanation as to why the queen is asking for my presence, a twinge of fear enters my brain. I steel myself as the massive wooden doors to the throne room grow closer. The shriek of their hinges causes me to cringe, and I’m thrown to the ground. I try to stare down the queen, smirking on her throne, but my eyes shift towards what must be another prisoner beside me. I scowl as my nose is filled with the scent of fresh coffee—
I scrunch my eyebrows in confusion. No, that’s not right.
“Coffee for Emily!”
Torn away from the world I’m creating, I sigh and set down my pencil.
“Emily? Coffee for Emily?”
I stand up from my table, my chair scraping against the floor. The unpleasant noise must have alerted the barista of my presence, and the yelling of my name finally ends. I grab my latte with an annoyed smile and quickly go back to my usual table in the corner. She must be new around here. I take a sip of my coffee and grimace as the liquid burns my tongue. After a quick stretch, I attempt to return to my writing.
I scowl as my nose is filled with the scent of mold mixed with what I could only guess to be blood.
My grip on my pencil tightens before I’m forced to set it down once again. Despite my best efforts, the sight of my favorite barista and new-found best friend, Max, standing next to me forces a smile onto my face.
“May I sit?” she grins.
I chuckle, “Do I have a choice?”
With little grace, Max settles herself into the chair across from me. “So, how’s your book going?”
Ever since I spent my first day here two weeks ago, she has always had an interest in my story. Unfortunately, I haven’t had many details to share with her.
“I still haven’t found any inspiration on my characters yet, but I think my setting is starting to come to me.”
“Did you see that guy that walked in about 20 minutes ago? He would’ve been the perfect warrior. Strong, tan, blue eyes, dreamy smile…”
I giggled. “Okay Max, I think you’ve had a little too much espresso.”
“Oh, whatever!” With a roll of her eyes, she stands up and stumbles out of her chair. “Oh, by the way, sorry about that new girl. She’s a little oblivious and doesn’t know about your ‘no distractions’ rule. I’ll talk to her.” With a wink, she leaves me with my notebook.
Taking a deep breath, I pick up my pencil yet again. I turn my thoughts away from reality and begin to write.
The queen sneers and motions to the person still on the ground next to me.
“Whoever wins gets to leave.”
My eyes widen.
“Let the fight begin.” She commands.
With the ideas in my head finally making their way onto paper, I quickly flip my page and sharpen my pencil. I start at the top of a beautifully blank paper just waiting to be filled, my pencil poised.
Nothing. Absolutely no ideas come to mind. My brain has become utterly quiet for the first time in my entire life. The only sounds to be heard are the ones of the café: the clinking of glasses, the mindless chatter of random customers, and the clanging of the bell as the door is thrown open. I repeatedly knock my head against my fist and try to jostle my thoughts back into existence.
My elbows are suddenly jerked out from under me as the table is shoved from its perfect position. Left without a support, my head bashes into the solid wooden surface that is now a foot away from me. Ow…
As I’m trying to clear away the spots in my eyes, I faintly hear the ding as the door is opened and slammed closed for the second time this minute.
“Jeez Em, are you okay?”
Blinking away the pain, I look up to see Max picking up my journal and pencil that apparently were thrown to the floor amidst the commotion.
“Who exactly was that?’”
“Kathy Emwatt. She’s this quote unquote ‘entrepreneur’ who is apparently incredibly busy and has no time in her day for manners.” Max huffs and crosses her arms before wandering
back to her place behind the counter.
As I massage my throbbing temple, an idea suddenly pops into my head. I flip open to the first blank page I can find and scrawl down words before my brain goes dark.
“Let the fight begin,” she commands.
I curl my fists and lunge for the first punch.
My hands meet the air, and I stumble forward in shock as the woman dodges my blow and slams my head to the ground. I stand alone with the queen, head throbbing, as my opponent evades the guards, shoves the creaking doors open, and sprints to her freedom…
“Well, thank you Kathy Emwatt for your inspiring qualities…” I tear out the page in frustration and throw it, crumpled, onto the floor. Back to square one.
Dismayed, I look to find Max. Surprisingly, I find her pointing to the new customer entering the café. I follow her finger and raise my eyebrows in surprise as a man twice my size lumbers towards the counter. With his muscles clearly present for all to see, he seems very out of place. I look back at Max, immediately shaking my head. I laugh out loud as she flexes and grunts, clearly thinking this man is exactly what I’ve been looking for.
Purely out of curiosity, I allow myself to drift off to my fantastical world.
“Let the fight beg—”
Before the queen even finishes her sentence, I feel a searing pain as I’m pummeled to the ground.
Nope, definitely not. I mentally cross the idea of a character such as him off my list.
More amused than irritated, I turn to a new page and look back out at the hubbub of the café. As a boy walks toward me on his way out, I study his mannerisms, searching for my new character. Before I can do anything to stop it, I watch in horror as he trips over his shoelace and collapses against my table. My mouth falls open at the sight of my once-white pages now stained by coffee. My gaze floats over to the empty cup in the hand of the boy scrambling to his feet.
“I-I’m so sorry! I can clean it up, just wait here-”
I interrupt. “Don’t. Just go. Please.”
I see his chest fall and the regret in his eyes, but I’m too upset to care. As he sulks away, I slump back into my chair and bring my legs into my chest. With my paper ruined, I play out the scenario in my mind.
“Let the fight begin,” she commands.
The scrawny boy attempts to spring towards me, but his foot gets in the way of his attack. He lands face first on the ground, knocked unconscious.
I glance back at the queen, interested to see if this turn of events was the entertainment she was looking for.
I imagine the queen in a similar position as me; slumped in her throne and clearly disappointed in how the plot is unfolding.
Defeated, I trudge over to the stools at the counter, shove my soaking journal as far away from me as I can, and bury my head in my hands. Through a gap in my fingers, I notice a pair of eccentric Converse stop in front of me.
“I can’t do it, Max. I— am a terrible writer.”
BANG! My head flies up, and my eyes spring open as she slams my journal on the counter in front of me.
“Stop it right now. You’re unbelievable! The Emily I know wouldn’t let one stupid case of writer’s block get in her way. You just need to sort out the jumble of ideas in that brain of yours. Look from a new perspective. You never know; what you’re searching for could be right in front of you.”
“Ugh Max, it’s just not that simple- wait, wait! I’ve got an idea! Can I have my journal back now?”
She holds it away from me warily, worried I might put it through more torture than it already has been.
“I promise I’ll be good to it. Please?”
“Okay, fine.” She hands it back to me with a smile and gets back to work.
I tear it open and search for the driest page I can. I settle for a small corner near the back and let my thoughts flow.
“Whoever wins gets to leave…”
I lock eyes with Max and smirk, instantly understanding what her mischievous grin is conveying to me. Unfortunately for the queen, we were not the strangers she believed us to be. We simultaneously turn towards the throne.
I can feel my eyes glint with the same excitement as my character; everything is falling into place. She’s perfect.
Max makes a show of bowing low while holding eye contact with our captor. “Your highness.”
As my hand practically shakes with anticipation, I scratch down the villain’s words for the final time, this time said by the hero.
“Let the fight begin.”
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