She couldn't capture it.

It was there, she could tell—just beyond her reach. That in-between zone, the words that said what she wanted them to say, the letters that formed the perfect sounds. Sounds that echoed off the walls of her mind, sounds that resonated—no, that wasn't the right word. Sounds that lived between the folds of death. Words that built worlds with their transformation.

She had the feeling she was using the wrong tools to create her words. A computer was too small. Not only that, it was too external. She needed something inside her to bring the words out. She shouldn't be working in her office, she should be working nestled in the fabric that her dreams were woven through. To create that in-between zone, she needed to be inside it.

She hid her face in her hands. Every letter she typed seemed inadequate; it looked wrong on the page. She typed her name. The letters clashed, and when she whispered it, the sounds separated like oil and water. Incongruent.

Charlotte McLaren was a writer.

The story wasn't important. The plot was nothing. The readers were nothing, as were the press, the critics, and her publishing company. She barely paid attention to the characters, the setting, or the development and escalation of the series of events that composed her novel. The words were everything. The story was meaningless without the words she used to tell it. She was a construction worker: the bare frame of the building was already in place, she knew how it was going to turn out, she just had to fill it in. So everyone could see it and marvel.

Kaleidoscope and chrysalis and zephyr were good words, she thought. They were words that flowed off of the page like honey, but they wouldn't fit in her story. She had crammed "chrysalis" in there once, and it had lit up the page. When she scrolled through her document she could always see the perfect word flashing by. The word right after it, though, was "hung." How could just an ugly, unsuitable word simply hang near the chrysalis, desecrating it? It wasn't right.

When had her writing stopped being adequate? When had the words stopped jumping off the page? Charlotte groaned in protest against the inadequacy of it all. This wasn't what she had meant to say. It wasn't enough. It would never be enough.

She deleted the document that held her 130-page book. There was no use for it anymore. It would never be enough. There would always be that incongruency, that abominable "hung" on the page.

Charlotte clutched at her mousy brown hair. The words were there, in her head, but they would never get out. She would have to go in there to get them, and she didn't want to. She wanted to, but she knew she shouldn't. There was something holding her back, something she would lose if she retreated into those depths. What was it? What was that thing she would lose if she searched her own mind for the words? Not a good word. Not hung, but not a good word. What does it start with, Charlotte? It starts with an s, Charlotte.


Yes, Charlotte thought triumphantly, raising the head of her external body. She would lose her sanity if she went there to look for the words. She would lose everything…but she would have the words.

She didn't bother to retrieve the document. She wouldn't need it where she was going.

An iridescent kaleidoscope of sapphire synchroneity in pure crystalline opalescence. How perfect it all was. It finally didn't make sense. She had the feeling that this was what she had been waiting for her entire life, although of course that wasn't true. She had been waiting for it longer. The world seemed a silly, trivial thing compared to what she had discovered. She had found the words to sustain her half-life, and that was all she needed. The book wasn't the end, it was a means to get her to this end. She had left everything behind to follow the words.

Charlotte McLaren would never write another book in her life. She spent the vast majority of it on a bed in an advanced psychiatric hospital, sometimes humming quietly to herself, sometimes muttering long, beautiful words never heard in the English language. Sometimes she slept. Attempts to get a response from her to worldly stimuli invariably failed. Her husband moved away, devastated and without hope. The world soon forgot about her. The document containing her book was never found. She had lost everything. Some say, when the name of Charlotte McLaren comes up, that what she found was worth it, that it was better than the life she lost. Some say she's happy now. Maybe we'll never know. Maybe we will.