You spend the better part of your life wishing for something, knowing it will never happen. Then one day…
My wish…more time. Yes, we all wish we had more time, but I really need more time. Not so I can have more free time, or more time to get the work done I need to at work. Nor do I need more time to check items off the honey do list. I manage to accomplish all those thing in the time I already have available. In fact, nine times out of ten, I get my seven hours of sleep, and manage to get a work out in.
The issue is, all those things get in the way of me accomplishing that one elusive dream. Becoming a full-time science fiction writer. A dream I have held close to my heart since I was twelve years of age.
Now I am almost thirty and still work a full-time job to pay the bills. With all the things I mentioned earlier, my backlog of writing projects just continues to grow. Two novella’s, a serialized story I try to maintain on my blog, and a trilogy that is two thirds done, well maybe a quarter done.
I desperately need more time, the rarest of all commodities in my life. At least when it comes to writing.
Though I lament about the lack of time I can dedicate to my craft, there are times when I just need time away. That is how I found more time, while taking time away.
On nice days, when all the other tasks are complete, I like to clear my head by hiking along the Minnesota River, not far from historic, though not legendary, Fort Snelling (the pile of rocks never fired a shot in anger.) One day, while on said hike, my shoe came untied, and I paused by some briar bushes to remedy the situation.
While bent over, hands mindlessly looping one lace over, under, and through the other I noticed something I never saw before. Through the thorns, I see what appears to be a cave. Anyone familiar with the bluffs of the Minnesota River know it is legendary for its caves, especially in the neighborhood of St. Paul, but this cave looked undiscovered…until now.
Even if someone before me did discover the cave, the bramble offered a fierce obstacle to all but the toughest of hides. Even so, I was not going to let my curiosity go unsated. I jabbed and parried, looking for a passable gap along the edges of the brush that allowed passage without sacrificing to much tender flesh.
Alas, with only a mere trickle of life’s blood coming from multiple linear wounds, I stood at the mouth of the cave. Before entering, I check my watch to gauge how much exploration time is available, then crouch slightly and walk into the enveloping darkness. Just as the light from the caves mouth becomes to wan for safe navigation, I pull out my smartphone intending to activate its flashlight app.
Just as my phone clears my pocket, my foot snags a hefty stone stealing me of my balance, and I lurch forward. Pain explodes across my pate, just above my right eye, and then there is nothing.
Darkness gives away to painful awareness as I find myself face down in loose cool sand. My hand closes around my phone, and out of habit, I thumb the screen, checking the time.
“I have been out a while.”
I turn my head to look over my shoulder and see there is still daylight at the mouth of the cave. The light is different, much like the sky seen just before a summer sunset. My head aches, and touching the point of impact sends renewed flashes of agony across my skull. Unsteadily I rise to my feet, and shamble back to the caves entrance.
Standing with the briar patch between me, and a warm Minnesota afternoon I check my watch. The sun is way too high, and my watch agrees. Hours should have passed, but the timepiece shows mere minutes since my excursion into the caves shadows. Once again, I pull my smartphone from my pocket, touch the screen, and the time displayed agrees with my watch.
“What the hell, it just said…”
For the moment, my brain is a fog. I decide it is my rattled grey matter that is malfunctioning.
“I must have hit my head harder than I thought,” I say as my hand goes back to the throbbing knob. I expect to pull away blood-stained fingers, but they are clean.
Yet, on my way home, as my head clears, I begin to doubt my earlier conclusion.
Reviewing recently stored mental images, they reaffirm what I saw when I looked over my shoulder to the mouth of the cave. Said memories also confirm the time displayed on my phone in those moments just after regaining consciousness.
Then my overactive imagination takes me in another direction. After giving it considerable thought, almost to the point of shoving aside all other concerns, I return to the cave. I half expected to find solid limestone behind the bramble, the caves entrance a phantom, a magical moment offered, then taken away by whatever force controls this chaos known as life.
This time I bring a LED pen light, and once again, with only minor blood loss, I wiggle my way into the cave. With pen light in hand, I go deeper into the cave than my previous excursion. Taking a moment to study the impressions left in the sand of my fortuitous face plant.
I find a large boulder and sit facing the caves entrance. Mentally I check off the fact that when I entered the cave, the sun was at its apex. Once I settle in, I thumb my phone and start a game app to pass the time, occasionally peering out to the caves mouth to gauge the suns angle. Satisfied that I wasted better than half the day, I follow the beam of the small penlight back out of the cave.
I checked my watch several times while sitting there, and it appeared to function properly. Yet, as I clear the scrum of thorns, new lesions pearling red, I check my time piece once again. It, in agreement with my phone, display the passage of mere minutes.
I feel elation build as the dawning of my discovery awakens in my mind.
“I found time,” I say, my voice choked to a whisper for fear of giving away my new-found secret, “I found time.”
I hurry home, clean myself up, and go to bed with little hope for any chance of sleep. Possibilities a plenty swim about my head, but even and endless stream of ideas cannot prevent my active mind from succumbing to fatigue.
When I awake the next day, the sun still low in the eastern horizon, I quickly formulate a plan. I gather up my tablet, a wireless keyboard, and a small folding table I often use when time allows me to write in the park. With backpack stuffed, I head to the hole where time seems to stand still.
Under the best of conditions, when my mind is the sharpest, the most words I ever cranked out was somewhere in the six-thousand-word neighborhood. It was a marathon writing session, lasting a whole workday at a job I no longer have.
Hindsight being what it is, I probably should have clung to that job with everything I had.
However, that was before I found this hole in time. I setup my writing station, pour piping hot coffee from a thermos, and commanded my fingers to start tapping. And tap they do. Words fly across the pages, and pages zip up the screen. Though the hands on my watch march around the face, in my mind, time stands still. All I see is the screen, as it fills with the words that translate the world unfolding from my imagination.
I don’t know how many hours, or days pass before I type, The End, but it does not matter, because in here, time is without end. I look down at the word count displayed in the lower left corner, and take enormous satisfaction in what I see. Nearly thirty-thousand words now fill the digital pages of a novella I never hoped to write.
My mind foggy, this time with fatigue, fingers burning from the valiant effort, I stretch my shoulders, and looked towards the bright light at the caves end. The possibilities unfold in my weary mind. I can finish editing that novella I finished a year ago, resume the trilogy I started a decade ago, write dozens of entries for the serialized story on my blog, all within a matter of days.
After packing up my things, I give my watch a careful study. Just over twenty hours have passed since I setup shop.
“No wonder I am so stiff and tired,” I say, my voice echoing back at me.
I stretch, and groan, relishing in the snaps and pops my joints offer in complaint. With a satisfied grunt, I reach down and in one fluid motion sling my pack onto my back. Carefully following the penlight, I make my way out of the cave. On the other side of the briar patch, I check my watch and smile with satisfaction at the nonexistent passage of time.
I marvel at the endless array of possibilities, “Finally, life has smiled my way.”
That evening, the kids put to bed, my wife watching one of her favorite television shows, I head to my office, giddy with excitement. I power on my laptop, log into my cloud account, and open the folder I saved my most recent work. My lungs stop mid breath, liquid replaces my innards, as I see only those files that have languished undisturbed for months and years. For a moment, I am too shocked to do anything but stare at my screen.
Eventually I shake my mind lose enough to act. I sort the files by creation date, but find nothing useful, then by save date, still nothing I can use. I back out one level, and sort for last modified date, nothing with a date that aligns with today. Finally, I search for the name I was sure I gave the file…nothing. One more search of the entire directory for anything saved between yesterday and today returns the same big fat zero.
Then it dawns on me, maybe the tablet did not have a cellular signal, I was in a cave after all. The thought gives me hope, even though another part of my mind calls up the image of three bars for the cellular signal before I hit the Save As button. I retrieve the tablet from my backpack, power it on, and with a series of taps and swipes, I reaffirm what my mind already knows.
There is no document on the local storage, no recent files in the word processing program, no history of any new files anywhere. Nearly thirty-thousand words gone. I recall some of the passages, and note that if they existed, it would be some of my best writing ever!
I slump back in my chair at a loss for what to do next. Sickened at the forfeiture of so many words. Twenty hours of writing gone. Impossible to duplicate since no two writing session ever result in the same work. Stories take on a life of their own. Characters make decisions. What starts out as a course of action in a writer’s mind is often contradicted by the characters within the story.
They have ideas of their own, and seldom follow the script.
“What happened,” I whisper, “where do I go from here?”
I think about the problem, turning ideas over in my mind. Sifting through possible reasons as to why my story did not survive the light of day. Why it never appeared to exist. Why would the higher power that lords over this mess give me such a wonderful tool and not allow me to use it.
“That is the same deity who put calories in beer,” I remark, my voice heavy with dread.
I know I can go back to that cave. I can bring my laptop this time, and write a thousand words, or one hundred thousand words, the results will be the same. What happens in that time void will remain in that time void. I can save it to the cloud, I can store it on a thumb drive, hell, I could print it onto reams of paper, and the pages will be as white as snow when I leave that cave.
I look over at stacks of printed-out manuscripts from days gone by. Printed for my beta readers, printed before the laptop, some, with rejection letters paperclipped to the first few pages. Some of those paperclips rusty with age.
“For a moment, you had a future,” I tell the stacks of paper.
I then think through all the projects sitting on the hard drive of the laptop in front of me. Many transferred from one computer to the next as I upgraded my hardware. Long before I started saving them to my cloud account. Then there is that stash of projects. An electronic pile of books, short stories, blog entries, and novellas, all in various states of finished. So many, but so little time.
Time so precious, its often difficult to figure out which one to work on when time does present itself. Too often, other distractions stealing my attention before I open the first page.
I lean back in my chair, place my hands behind my head, and arch my back, chair squeaking in protest. No, the problem isn’t time, I have plenty of time, I decide. I just need to make better use of the time I already have.
Then an idea dawns on me. I click on the word processing program icon on my taskbar opening a blank page. I crack stiff fingers, still sore from the last writing marathon that never took place and start typing.
You spend the better part of your life wishing for something, knowing it will never happen