Istare at my screen and it stares back at me. We are used to this scenario, Screen and I, because I’m a writer. During the week, I write speeches and articles for a big company and, at the weekend, I work on volume two of my fantasy saga, Hallindale — The Chronicle of Wind. But today, a Sunday, I have to write a speech for the company chairman. On Monday, he’s making a presentation to the supervisory board about a company reorganization he wants to carry out.
The idea does not motivate me and so far, I have only two sentences, neither of which is any good: P&P is in sync with market trends, and this restructuring means we remain in touch with market leaders.
P&P is in tune with its markets and in step with its needs.
I delete both lines, but then I think of something else and I switch to my novel: “Stay in tune with my needs…,” whispered Prince Borridor as he pulled the lovely Amanjia on to the bed beside him, “…and in step with my desires, sweet dove!”
Ping! A text message from the chairman pops up on my mobile, asking how I’m doing. Super, I answer, switching back to his speech. Nearly finished, I add, trying to sound optimistic.
I stare unhappily at Screen again. When we started this morning, we were both filled with energy. But now, I need a drink and Screen needs a charger. Though I’m not even sure electricity will be enough to stop it dying of boredom. An idea for a gravestone inscription comes to me and I type it in.
“Here lies a little Apple Mac,
Of bits and bytes there was no lack, And juice was in its power pack, But all its owner’s text was…”
“Not funny,” interrupts Screen. “And your last word isn’t going to rhyme properly. Delete.”
My cursor travels quickly backwards and cleans Screen till it’s shiny and white again. Back to square one.
“What exactly,” Screen asks, “is blocking you?” Partly, it’s because I have to write this corporate nonsense on a Sunday instead of continuing with The Chronicle of Wind, but it’s also because I don’t like the chairman. Among his many faults, he has hairy ears. Remembering this, I start pulling out the hairs on my own ears. It doesn’t help write my speech, but I hate hairy ears and the pain stops me thinking about being blocked.
“STOP!” cries Screen. “That’s a terrible habit. Go and look at something green!”
Sometimes, when I’m blocked, I go outside, smoke, look at plants for a while and then ideas come to me. But today — after staring at a bush so hard that it starts losing leaves in embarrassment — I sit down in front of Screen again with as many ideas as I had before. Zero, zilch, nada, nix.
“STAY IN TUNE WITH MY NEEDS,” WHISPERED PRINCE BORRIDOR
Ping! The chairman wants to know whether his speech is ready. He wants to practise it this evening. I can tell he’s losing patience. “With you in a second,” I reply, and try again:
With these measures, P&P finances will be out of the red and in the black by the end of this quarter. P&P must remain within reach of our clients, but out of reach of the competition.
“What?” writes Screen. “That second sentence — what does it even mean?”
I delete both. But then I realize I like the combination “in and out”. It’s powerful, flexible. I think about similar combinations. You can be in and out of love, time, pocket, favour, play, tune, touch, sync, step. I switch over to the Chronicle again: “No, my lord,” protested Amanjia, struggling to free herself from Borridor’s arms as the thin silk dress that barely covered her firm bosom stretched to protect her modesty. “My body may be within your reach, but my love is forever out of your grasp if you force yourself on me…”
“What care I for love,” cried Borridor, his eyes burning with lust. “I…”
Ping! The chairman reminds me that I said the speech would be ready “in a second” 30 minutes ago. I don’t reply. He can’t know if I’ve read his message. In and out, in and out, in and out. I realize that in a moment or two, I won’t be in work any more: I’m going to be out of a job. I’m desperate. Isn’t there anything I can send him?
“PRINCE BORRIDOR!” writes Screen. “His speech to the barons on page 766 of volume one after he defeated the Great Goblin Army at Dor’thrax. It’s just the sort of motivational nonsense all leaders talk!”
I read the passage he’s talking about: “My friends,” said Borridor, opening his arms wide. “You may ask why in the hour of our triumph over the evil goblins we should now change the way our great kingdom is governed. I would say to you, now above all is the time for change! With our enemies weak and scattered, we can…”
Screen could be right. With a few changes to the vocabulary, this could work. I start writing: “…the results of the final quarter exceeded all analysts’ predictions, while at the same time our competitors made huge losses. Colleagues, you may ask in this hour of triumph why we need to consider restructuring our operations. I would say to you, now above all is the time for change!”
Twenty minutes later, I send it out, switch off my mobile and spend the rest of the evening happily back in Hallindale. With difficulty, Amanjia persuades Borridor to treat her with more respect. They combine her witchcraft skills with his warrior power to battle Ephluent, the evil wizard of Nocando.
It isn’t until the next morning that I turn on my mobile again and realize something terrible has happened. Instead of sending him a two-page speech about company restructuring, I’ve sent him the complete first volume of Hallindale — The Chronicle of Wind. All 1,245 pages of it.
I print out the text I meant to send and hurry to the chairman’s office. There’s no way I will keep my present job. The best I can hope for is that they’ll put me in the social media team. I knock and the door is thrown open by an unshaven, tired, but smiling chairman. Pages from the Chronicle are scattered all over the floor. He pulls me inside and hugs me.
“Brilliant!” he says. “Bloody brilliant! And Prince Borridor, he’s based on me, isn’t he?”
I TURN ON MY MOBILE AND REALIZE SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAS HAPPENED