Chapter 1 – Reality is Relative

She sat down on the desk and held its edge, the short red skirt draping over her thighs. Aya gently kicked her feet back and forth and gave a sideways glance to her friend. The coral red of her eyes glistened with mischief. Short platinum hair drooped toward her neck in thick strands. The silvery white curved upward and away from her collar and shoulders, but clumped in thin little daggers. Aya pointed her finger forward and grinned.

I stared at the computer screen, watching the text bar blink on and off in regular motion. It was the highlight of my apartment. A 17" widescreen 3gig processing monster of a laptop. At least, it was a great when I bought it. I had been staring for some twenty minutes now, glancing back and forth between what I had written, and what was on the television. My home—I use that term loosely—was in an apartment building at the corner of a gas station, a quickie mart, and café. I turned down the television, pretending it would help me concentrate. As an author, every bit of concentration available to me was absolutely needed. I heaved a sigh.

Yes, I admitted it. I was an author. But the rest of the world knew us as starving artists. And like some kind of sick joke by fate, my microwave beeped. My ramen was done. I stood up from the nice comfy leather computer chair—the second highlight of my apartment—and went to fetch my gourmet meal. After cradling the steaming cup of beef and noodles, I sat back down and returned to staring at the blinking cursor. I had no regrets though. I spent four years in college working my way up my Creative Writing major in hopes of being an artist; to have my name recognized, to have my own stories and books, but most of all, to have fans. Ah yes. I supposed I was lonely, not having a girlfriend or any real relationships of any kind. But I loved the idea of having fans. My very own entourage, groupies, or admirers who supported me in my times of need.

But reality was cruel, funny, but cruel. I landed a job as a librarian that paid enough money for me to barely support myself. A few indulgences here and there and I was good. The laptop and leather chair were college gifts from my parents. I didn't have a car, but then I didn't need one. God help me if I had to drive to the library and my ride broke down. I wouldn't have the excess funds to fix it. But the library job, which included errands, cataloguing, and lots and lots of free time, was perfect. I could spend all of it reading and writing. I heaved another sigh as I lifted a tangle of ramen into the air to let it drip back into its cup. Oh yes, life was great.

I ate a little as I stared at the story on the computer screen. I was stuck. It wasn't writer's block, but I couldn't decide how to go any further. Aya, my cute little creation, was supposed to point and say something shocking. But I didn't know what it was. One may ask if I were the writer how wouldn't I know. There lies the power of the writer. Half the time, I jot things down just to see where they end up. Hell, most of the time I couldn't tell what happens in the next paragraph.

I slid the ramen off to the side and brought up my messenger. After searching for my brother's name, I clicked and typed a greeting. A few slurps of noodles later, he answered back. I picked up my cell phone and flipped it open. I called his number and leaned back to relax.

"Hello?" his voice answered.

"Hey, Tim, I need your help again," I explained.

"Hah, alright bro, what's up?"

Tim. My older brother. He was one of my consultants for the stories I wrote. Whenever I wrote something and got stuck, he was there to offer suggestions with attempts to help me out. "Well, I got stuck with Aya in the classroom."

"Who?"

I was always specific with my problems. The fact was I had half a dozen ongoing stories and required his advice many a times. "Oh sorry, it's the one with the school setting."

"More specific."

"Ah, the one with Aya? The girl who'd do and say things that didn't make sense? The one that would go through moods like a never ending wheel?"

I heard a laugh from the other side of the receiver. "Oh, yeah, I liked her. She's funny. So what did you want help with?"

"Ok, so she's in the classroom and she's talking to one of her friends. They were just philosophizing about reality and fantasy. And then the other person accused Aya of being incompetent and naïve, but she totally needs to counter with something shocking."

"Bro, think about it."

I did. What do you think I'm calling you for?

"Aya doesn't sound like the person who would say something shocking. Would she really drop a bombshell like that?"

"I don't want her to be a complete idiot," I said. I slurped some more ramen.

"Ooh, ooh, what if she does something really shocking instead? Have her slap that other guy or girl instead."

I chukled. "Why would she do that?"

"It'll shock them right?"

"Why yes, it most certainly will." I casually frowned at the computer screen and ran a hand through my hair. It was a habit of mine when I wanted to disagree with someone but was too hesitant to come up with an excuse. "But I don't want her to be violent."

"She sounds like she would be. She's the giddy one right? If you made her mad, I would half expect her to throw one of those girly whiney punches."

"But there's more to her than giddiness. She's a very well rounded person and has deep emotional investments in her hopes and desires." At this point, I was trying to convince myself more than him. "I guess I can do that. I'll figure something out."

There was silence at the other end. Then I heard something in the background. It was probably the television. He laughed quietly and muttered under his breath. "So what have you been up to?"

"What else. Writing. I really wish I could finish a set of these stories. I've only got two manuscripts that are stand-alone. The others are part of series. What's the point of writing if you can't finish the whole thing from start to finish?"

"You've got at least two that are stand alone. You should go find a publisher or something."

"Man, like I said, I'd have to be really lucky. Writing novels and getting a literary agent to sell them is like being a singer and getting a contract with a record label. You have to be luckier than talented. Think of all the people who want to be famous rock stars. Think of all the people who want to be novelist."

There was another pause of silence between us. I heard him laugh at the other end. Dammit, he wasn't even listening. "Hey, so how's that job working out for you?" he asked.

"It's alright. I have tons of free time so I don't do much. I've spent the last month cataloging books and doing little errands here and there. But most of it's been records on the computer." I finished my ramen and wiped my mouth. "What about you, still going to meet those bible people or whatever?"

"Yeah, the pastor is having a meeting out of town. I'm going out there to drive and have service at the church."

I made a blanch expression and shivered uncomfortably. "You and Mom are so alike. Why did you have to become a Bible freak?"

"Hey, she was right. There's more to Christianity than just the Bible. It's a way of life. It helps me live better."

I shivered again. "Uhg, damn, you've passed the point of no return."

"Quite cursing, what did I tell you about that?"

He had told me he didn't like it when I cursed. But really, I thought it was such a stupid thing to complain about. "Sorry," I said. "Thanks for the tips, but I need to go."

"Alright, talk to you later."

"Yeah, 'till next time."

I flipped the phone down. After tossing my empty ramen cup, I wandered the quaint apartment. The door had its own tiny hall which branched out in three directions. To the right was the kitchen. To the left was the living room. And last, across from the door toward the end of the apartment was my room, populated by my bed, my computer desk, a bookshelf, and a small television. Just off to the side of the hall was the bathroom. I got off my chair and washed my fork in the sink. Setting it in a plastic rack, I decided to take a shower. It was one of the few things that relaxed me. It gave me time to think about what's happened, where things were going, what I had been doing, blah blah, yadda yadda. I sighed. And I was supposed to be relaxing. I guess the worst part of it was realizing that I'd never be a famous writer, I'd never publish great works of fiction, and I'd never have my own fans. Curse you shower time, why must you bombard me with depression during me time. Me time is supposed to be happy.

I turned the handles and stood in silence, letting the water drip. I got out of the shower and dried myself. After putting on short pants and a shirt, I clenched my fists and stared menacingly at my face in the mirror. I looked tired. My short black hair was shiny and clingy. My face was still shaven, but I'd probably have to shave again tomorrow. I pointed at the reflection.

"You need to write that story." The man in the mirror copied me, also eyeing me with discontent.

I quickly relaxed and smiled. "Don't ask for the impossible."

"Touché."

I left the bathroom, still patting the towel against my hair. Regardless of everything tumbling in my head, I really had high hopes for this story. It was going to be my first try at something that was more romance and drama than action and adventure. I had to do well. I was counting on me. And just maybe, so were my fans. I opened the door to my room and turned.

There was a girl sitting on my desk.

No, that can't be right.

The girl was kicking her feet back and forth. She turned her head with a giddy smile. Her coral eyes glittered crimson in the low light of my desk lamp. Falling waves of ash silver covered her head. The strands looked platinum in the light.

I took a step back and closed the door. As I stared at the soft white frame, letting my hand hesitate against the gold handle, I swallowed. Then I smiled. And then I frowned. I thought real hard about what I think I just saw. Because, there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell a girl was sitting on my desk. Where did she come from? Who was she? What was she doing there? And why did she look so familiar?

I wrapped my head in the towel and groaned. After turning the handle and opening the door, I wandered to my chair and plopped on the plushy leather seat. I then took a deep breath and exhaled. But what if? What if it was real? I pulled the towel off my head and looked forward. My eyes were staring at the blinking cursor of the word document. It pulsed in a steady rhythm at the end of the last sentence. Like it had always been doing. I drilled my palms into the sides of my head and let out a loud groan. As I tilted my chair backward, I fully expected a distant square tiled ceiling to meet my gaze. Instead, something was obstructing it. A girl's face, I think. Honestly, I had never been that close to one. Her skin was light tan. Her lips were velvet pink. And her large eyes were filled with excited coral. Or maybe it was crimson topaz? Tangerine rubies? She blinked and tilted her head. I lost balance.

My chair hit the ground with a crashing thud. It felt like running a bike backwards into a wall. My body shuddered and I slid off the seat. My legs flipped to one side as I continued to tumble. When I righted myself, I sat and rubbed the back of my head. But the image of the girl quickly flashed in my mind. I looked up and let my mouth hang.

She stood with her hands on her hips and then pointed a finger at me. She reminded me of the lawyers in court about to unveil their biggest evidence yet. But she was smiling. I heard a mischievous giggle and then felt my skin crawl.

"I bet this is a shock, isn't it?" she said.