Writer's block. No, everything block. It was something like drowning in opaque water. Not that Benjamin had ever tried that before, but still, he thought it was a good analogy.
It had all started with...
That was about how it went, over and over again.
Calestranov stood from the table with a start...
"Blue wing, break and engage!"...
It was a bright, blue-streaked sky that greeted the three as they emerged. On Polaris 2 it was morning. The beauty of the place was only matched by the cold. Even within their suits they would have frozen in a matter of seconds. Only the addition of heating...
He sighed. There was definitely not going to be any productive writing this evening.
Swords flashed for but a moment in the sunset; Cashalin was not one to toy with an enemy...
Well, at least not much writing that connected with anything else.
He had tried homework earlier. Physics had gotten him through Wednesday. Or, physics and all the things he got distracted by while he tried to finish his lab writeups. Now he was at a standstill on them. Linear Algebra had looked like way too much brainwork. He had talked to an answering machine. His parents were in Texas on vacation. There was very little left to do but try to write, and he had wanted to be able to for so long.
An update? No, he was not in the mood. It would be dry and boring, and some of the stories he could not bear to see written like that. They had been so funny at the time.
Like breakfast last Thursday. Everyone at the table had been tired. That was not at all unusual. The conversation had not been too memorable (at least he didn't remember a word of it). The table broke up around 7:55, and everyone headed for their classes. Benjamin accompanied Efad towards Sanderson, wondering at what point he should leave her to head back to his room. He was skipping class that day, but had gotten up to study, and Sanderson was on the way back to his room. He had a well formulated five-second-or-less explanation for bolting from the Sanderson doors (as if anyone needed one...) which he hoped would suffice to communicate a reason for his absence. Most of the time he wouldn't have doubted his ability to get his point across, but somehow pre-seven breakfasts with sleepy people led to a lot of dull stares and "Hmmm?"s
But he was the confused one when Efad said something and peeled off to the right, back towards Founders, just fifteen feet short of Sanderson. Benjamin, pre-occupied saying something about...something, and dodging the dripping water from the corner of a roof, spun about, brow creased.
"What are you doing!?" he asked.
"Going back to sleep," replied his walking companion.
He paused for a moment, and dredged up what she had said as she turned away. Something along the lines of "I don't have class."
"Well, I'm skipping!" he announced, and they parted ways.
Yes, thought Benjamin, tapping a pencil on the desk, that had been hilarious -- each of them walking to Sanderson to keep the other company.
Gregory turned to me, blade in his hand, gasping for breath.
"We'll need a safe place to hide, and quickly. But first we'll need supplies and our weapons. Back to their camp, swift and silent, for the other soldiers will abandon it to find out the cause of that racket," he jerked his head towards where we could hear our pursuers shouting and crying out as they rushed through the sewers.
He couldn't wait until he had enough imaginative energy, and time, to finish that one. It was one of his favorites.
He began to wonder why he never finished any of his stories. And no, he scolded, killing all the characters does not count as finishing. Perhaps it was because he had never seen a whole story before. After all, he lived in the big, grand, story arc that God was bringing about, and it had not yet reached its happy everafter. He hadn't lived to see anyone both born and die, not anyone close to him, at least. And he himself was quite young. Anyway, he would not get to be better writer by dying...well, not a better righter here on this Earth. Perhaps God would be pleased to have him write on the New Earth. That would be...oh, wow...indescribable. But he probably had a lot longer to live, and he had better figure out how to end stories. After all, people might judge a book by its cover when they first see it, but when they actually read it, the last page would do a lot to determine whether they like it or not. He didn't like books that got worse near the end, or just jerked from one point or setting or group of characters or goal or quest...to another.
The determinist smiled quietly.
"You do not understand," he whispered, "but that is not a problem..."
"Because you do?" cried Calente.
"No. I do not understand what is, either. But I can tell you exactly what what did, does, and will do. And, my dear boy, you are part of what."
A sly, mocking grin split Asren's face, "Did you predict this?" she asked, straightening up from where she had been slumped against the wall. Her hand flicked from her pouch, and a clear glass marble flew across the room, its clean blue light out of place amid the dark, brown and black dirt of the hold and the travelers' clothes. A rumble sounded through the room as the head of the determinist's staff blazed with ethereal fire. The marble turned into a spherical pool of ripples, emanating outwards, until with a great sigh that echoed through the walls and corridors of the transport, and made Calente think of sweet sleep after a day of frustration, the ripples froze and the sphere dropped to the floor, shattering with a soft tinkle into thousands of shards, each so light that they bounced nearly to the ceiling, and got into the folds of everyone's clothes.
"Yes," replied the Determinist, still smiling, "I expected you would use a weaker marble, but there was a fifteen percent chance it would be that one."
Yes, Benjamin couldn't stand books that changed their points or goals midway. That was why he didn't like having writer's block. If he didn't even like his own writing, when he knew without thinking exactly what everything and everyone looked and sounded like, why should anyone else like it?
Perhaps he ought to make another go at homework...
He had been doing well that semester. Day-long study periods, even over, no, especially over Easter break, had helped him stay on top of all the projects and tests. Perhaps the breakdown had started with the random poetry about the knight that he wrote during the last hour's cramming for a Calculus exam. He'd have to type that up later, but right now, he didn't have room in his notebook. He'd even gotten some fun work the weekend before -- clearing trails behind the visitor's center. Somehow, demolishing a forest to make it look nicer made him feel all warm and fuzzy. Maybe it was that he got to cut down trees with saw tooth knives. Now that he thought about it, he was almost sure that was why. Then he had gotten to sit in the lobby, eating icecream and pretending to work for Covenant's radio station, and listen to the Bakertree festival performers. After that had been a somewhat disgruntling walk through pouring rain back to Mac, but that had been all right as well. Still, it wasn't home. And later that afternoon he had had to plow through Linear Algebra homework.
And Tuesday hadn't been so bad. His mother had called at breakfast, to ask what he was wearing. That got the table laughing of course, until he explained that she wanted to know so his family could tell who he was when he walked past the webcam on the way to class (then they laughed harder). Dear Old Chap was there; he and Benjamin had kept each other company through deep conversations about the responsibility of the church to the community, the new 18 waffle record at the Anderson's Sunday night waffles get-together, and how they were going to build their space station, all over the weekend. Now, they formulated a most-excellent plan to surprise Benjamin's family. Arriving beneath the webcam, Dear Old Chap placed himself beneath Benjamin and lifted him to his shoulders. Everyone was most pleased, torque puns were made, pictures taken, and along with Benjamin were lifted several moods. The funny thing was his family couldn't figure out who he was anyway. When he informed them why his position should have made him obvious, they simply replied, "oh, you must have been the really tall one!" In their defense, the morning sun was lighting the background, and obscuring the shadowy foreground. They could not be blamed, and fun was had by all, at least until they had to go to class.
Now the semester was almost over. He was sure he would have plenty to do that summer, but it wouldn't be as busy as school. There would be variety to his work, as well, and time at home with his family and his dear friends. Good sleep, time to write! Benjamin sighed wistfully.
"Jonathan? Are you all right?" Martus leaned forward, wishing for the thousandth time that he didn't have the flat black of the suit's mask between him and everyone he cared about. It made it hard to sneeze, too.
Jonathan did not move. Instead, he stared harder and harder off over the plain. They were only a few feet from the edge of the cliff, the mesa spread out before them, clusters of trees and animals, insects buzzing, some happy and some eerie calls echoing up from the jungle. There were a few lights from nearby ranch houses, and the stars above were thick and bright. Martus shivered a little, not used to the drastic change in temperature. His suit-skin shivered with him. Jonathan was not shivering. His pulse was steady, his internal temperature still fearfully low, his core glowing slightly through Martus' infrared eyes.
Martus glanced back over his shoulder towards the city. She loomed up, Angelus Brasília indeed, lighting the darkness like a pillar of fire, ships slipping up and down through her roof like sparks dancing in a chimney.
"They'll be closing the doors soon, and then we'll have to get through the little airlocks. It will be crowded."
He counted to twenty, stamping his feet a little, sensing the grass remotely, and enjoying the feeling even as his patience waned. Poor Jonathan.
"Jonathan, can we go back?"
"Forgive me," replied the other.
Five minutes later Martus was sitting, cross-legged on the same plot of ground he had been standing on before. Jonathan still had not moved. His apology had apparently not indicated repentance from his goal. What was he doing, trying to melt into the landscape? It was his old home, so Martus decide to forgive his obstinance. He accessed his internal computer and sent more heat through to his hands and feet. He almost wanted to activate his suit completely, to feel the warmth of it wash over him. But then he would fall asleep and nothing short of a nuke could move him -- literally! He laughed at himself.
Then he noticed that Jonathan's vitals were changing. His heart rate began to fluctuate, but increased over time, and his temperature changed. Mark tried to recall his emotion diagrams, but found he only remembered fear and resolution -- they were the only two he needed to be able to see in combat. Davel wasn't there, so he couldn't use his memory download -- cheater that he was, it came in handy sometimes.
Then Jonathan moved for the first time. His back stiffened, and then jerked, again and again. Martus leapt to his feet, endless briefings about watching out for attacks and seizures storming their way into his head.
"Jonathan, what is it?"
His friend did not respond. Instead he sobbed harder, and Martus, embarrassed, took his hands off of his friend's armored shoulders and stepped back.
As he waited for Jonathan to stop crying, he truly sympathized with him for the first time. He had speculated before, with Davel and M'haile, how terrible it must be to be lost for so many years, but never before had he been able to put himself in Jonathan's own armor prison, and consider, no, feel, for just a moment the loneliness, emptiness, and strangeness that must come with three decades of absolutely nothing but oneself.
Benjamin smiled. That had made him a little happier.
He would get back to work now, and perhaps tomorrow he wouldn't be so distracted, and he could work hard, plowing through the oh-so-healthy but oh-so-dreary plate of vegetables before him so that the beans, meat, and desert of a weekend would taste all the sweeter.
And wasn't it that way with life? Wouldn't years of struggle, writer's block, and whatever else God was pleased to give him make the eternal main dish of heaven, the Bread of Life, his dear and awesome God, all the more sweet?
"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." -Martin Luther