The blank page mocked Christian Cartwright, pulling him into the empty chasm of writer's block. He'd been sitting there for hours, days, months, yet still the words danced around his head in cacophonous nonsense.
Slamming his hands on the desk in frustration, he stood in anger, his chair tipping over backwards.
"That's it! I quit! Screw this writing career, I suck!" he yelled inside the small space of his apartment.
Looking around at the empty walls, the threadbare furniture from various thrift stores, he snorted in disgust.
"Thirty-four years and this is it?" he yelled, spreading his arms out. "This is all I have to show for it?"
A soft rapping on his door shut him up. Now who was this? He never had visitors, ever. No one in this god-forsaken apartment building was social.
Peeking through the tiny peephole, he saw nothing but a long, dark hallway and a set of stairs. He undid the lock, and peered out.
"Hello? Is someone there?" he said loudly.
Shutting the door, he wondered if he was hearing things.
A small card slipped underneath the door. He bent to retrieve it, once again looking out through the peephole. No one was there. Then how? He shook his head. Someone was playing games.
Shrugging his shoulders, he looked at the business card in his hand. It read: "Writer's Block? Attend the Hypnotic Dream Workshop on September fifth, 2015 at eight am sharp! Go to 1222 Washington Street, Suite 333. Check email for further instructions."
That was tomorrow! But how did they? How could they have? He shook his head in denial. No, it was just a coincidence. That was all. They probably hacked into his computer and read all of the rejection emails he'd received over the years. Probably felt sorry for him, too. Shit, he did. He was a writer, dammit! What was he doing wrong? He should have his own house by now, a new car, fans waiting to read his next book. The stories were in there! He just knew it. The ideas sounded so good in his head, but then, somewhere between the opening lines and the middle, something happened. The story just died. Fizzled out. The words wouldn't come. He would go to this hypnosis session, why not? He had nothing to lose. Before bed, he checked his emails, as instructed, and found just three requirements:
1. No eating or drinking eight hours prior
2. No medications
3. No personal belongings
Sounds easy enough, he thought as crawled into bed. Piece of cake. He didn't really believe in being hypnotized, but what the hell, he'd give it a shot.
Christian woke with a good feeling. He had one hour before the session, so he hurriedly showered, shaved, and dressed, putting on a pair of comfortable jeans, a white tee shirt, and a pair of Levi's Loafers. Checking himself in the mirror, hazel eyes stared back at him. Unruly, dirty-blonde hair framed a not so handsome face, until he smiled. He had to admit, his smile was killer.
The drive to Washington Street was surprisingly easy, no more than ten minutes from home. He pulled into the parking lot, amazed to see it almost empty. The four story building was run down unkempt and he could have sworn this was the same one that was ready for demolition last year. Someone must have bought it, he thought, perhaps as rental property. He pulled the glass door open, surprised to see that it was run down on the inside as well as out. Little red flags tickled the pit of his belly as he surveyed his surroundings. No pictures adorned the faded walls, no receptionist greeted him at the desk, only a sign with an arrow that pointed him in the right direction. The elevator was out of order so he walked up to the third floor, huffing and puffing by the time he made it up the long, stuffy stairwell. The door to the third floor was loud, whining angrily as he pushed it open. Shockingly, the third floor was as different from the rest of the building as night and day. The black tiled floor, so shiny it looked as if he would fall into inky liquid. The strangest thing, was the fact that there was only one door. 333. A wooden door with four carved panels that gave it texture and depth. He knocked, and the door swung open immediately, as if expecting him.
Christian gasped at the sight before him. A library! But one so grand and majestic, he could only hold his breath as he gazed at books upon books sitting on mahogany shelves. Books in panoramic view, end to end and floor to ceiling. Leather bound volumes of Shakespeare, Dickens, Faulkner, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Twain, too many authors to name on two hands alone.
"My God," he breathed in reverence, "What is this place?"
"Welcome, Mr. Cartwright!"
Christian spun around towards the voice. He didn't even see the desk at the far side of the room when he entered. There stood small, elderly man, his smile disappearing in a myriad of wrinkles and creases. Eyes glittering with amusement at Christian's awe.
"We've been expecting you, my good man, please, come and sit with me!" the man invited him, "Welcome to my little library, my office."
Christian was speechless as he approached the desk, the man's snow white hair like a beacon in the night.
"This is amazing, unbelievable!" he managed to say, "Are they all yours?"
"Yes, a collection I've been adding to over the years," the old man said, "Let me introduce myself, my name is Dr. Julius Byrd. I specialize in helping writers regain control of the written language."
Christian shook the man's outstretched hand, feeling its dry frailness as it disappeared within his. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Byrd, but how did you know?"
"Ahh, trade secret, and call me Julius," he answered, eyes twinkling, "Please, be seated. I'll give you a brief history."
Christian sat in the chair in front of the desk, eager to hear what the man had to say. This was going to be interesting.
"Writer's block has been the vexation of writers all through history," Julius said, "Some of the most prodigiously fluent authors of all time have suffered temporary cessations of text. Virginia Woolf, Leo Tolstoy, Joseph Conrad, all at one time or another lost the ability to carry on in their work."
Christian noticed a metronome on the desk was ticking and as Dr. Byrd spoke, he could hear it in the background as he focused on the man's words.
"Let's use Henry Roth as an example, famous for his book, Call It Sleep, in 1934" Julius continued," Try as he might to pen a second book, words failed him, and he went on to become a fire-fighter. It wasn't until the early sixties, when his book was rediscovered, did he write again."
"What causes writer's block?" Christian asked, "And why did you choose me?"
"Patience, dear man, patience," Julius said smiling, "Writer's block comes when you lose confidence that you have anything important to impart to the world, when in fact, your words could be the very thing that saves it!"
"I don't understand," Christian said, feeling suddenly sleepy. The soft ticking of the metronome was like a soft blanket on a cold day. Waves of relaxation rolled over him as his eyelids stood at half-mast. The doctor's voice had a musical quality that was both pleasant and soothing.
"History needs you, Christian Cartwright, and we can't let writer's block stop you from writing some of the greatest books of all time."
"I feel so tired, I apologize," Christian said, his head drooping down towards the desk. "I think you have the wrong person, Dr., I'm not even published yet."
Julius smiled as the man before him snoozed. Now his work could begin. He opened the big book before him, reading out-loud. This was going to take a while.
Christian woke feeling refreshed. Unbelievably so. His head was clear, his body tingling with energy, and he felt a hyper-awareness, a sensory perception of everything around him. But where did the Doctor go? He stood up quickly, noticing not only the old man gone, but everything else as well. The books, the desk, all gone. His heart beating quickly, mind racing, he ran out of the room and into the hallway. The inky tiled floor was replaced by normal, black and white office tiles, the walls an off-white. Running down the hall, he came to a working elevator and quickly pressed the down button. It opened, the music to 'Downtown' blaring from surround sound speakers. Pressing number one, the doors shut quickly, and in a flash, he was on the first floor.
"Damn, that was fast," he mumbled, his stomach still on the third floor.
Stepping out of the elevator was like stepping into the Twilight Zone. Nothing was as he remembered. Wasn't this building practically empty? Now, people were everywhere. Running outside, he looked up at name of the building, Geo Tower, and stopped dead as the enormity of his situation hit him. Not only was the building changed, the whole damn city was different! It was brilliantly lit in electronic billboards on every part of every building. Aimed towards thirtieth century consumers, they told people what to eat, drink and the latest headline news and fashion. The cars were different as well. They looked as if someone took every concept car ever dreamed of and made them into realities. By the looks of it, individuality was the focus, as no two cars were the same. Alert and fascinated, Conrad looked across the street and saw the Public Library in neon green, its fifty-five foot video screen announcing to the city the latest books for the newest e-readers. His heart stopped when he saw his name on one of the books advertised.
"What the....What's happening here?" he cried out, "Where am I?"
He ran across the street and entered the library, hurrying to the front desk.
"Please ma'am?" he said anxiously to the woman sitting there.
"Library to the left, paper only, e-reading to the right and take a number, we're swamped today." she said without looking up from her book.
It was at that moment he saw what she was reading. "Where Dreams Are Made", by Conrad Cartwright. His stomach did a back flip. If he had concrete in his mouth it couldn't have dropped open any faster. Snatching the book out of her hand, he read the inside of the sleeve, spotting the copyright date. 3015. He dropped the book like a hot potato, unable to comprehend what he just saw.
"That's impossible!" he said loudly, "I haven't written that book yet! It's just an idea in my head!"
"'Scuse me? Sir, I think you need to leave. Immediately!" the woman stood, face a mask of sternness and shock.
"Please, I'll leave, I promise. But before I go, could you tell me about the author of that book?" he asked her.
"Why, that's one of Conrad Cartwright's most famous books! Where have you been, under a rock?" she asked incredulously. "It's his tenth one, to be exact."
"Thank you," he said softly. "I'm leaving now."
Standing outside, mind spinning circles, Conrad tried to think back. What happened in that room today? Or no, not today; a hundred years ago. In between then and now, he became a famous author. Wildly famous, by the looks of it. He looked at the cover of the book, "Where Dreams Are Made", laughing out loud at the irony. It only took a hundred years. Now what? He couldn't go back, that much was certain. So what next?
He looked around at the future, liking what he saw. It was bright, he was famous, and he was a writer. The thirtieth century was looking exceptional. He was going to give it a go.