I believe in alternate universes. Currently, I inhabit one. I’m in the middle of rewriting my novel Bitterwood. I spend a good deal of my waking life oblivious to the physical world where my body is located. My brain has taken residence in writer-space.
The landscape of writer-space changes with each visit. Sometimes I’ve gone there and spent my time weightless, stuck in a tin can on a journey between planets. Other times, writer-space is nearly identical to the world I ordinarily inhabit, but with some strange, dark twist. Creatures with mean eyes and jagged claws live beneath the floorboards of my house in writer-space. In writer-space, comets plunge toward the Earth, the ocean rises to swallow cities, and giants walk among skyscrapers.
Right now, I spend my time in writer-space watching the dragons that live there. These are marvelous beasts, half snake, half bird, with wingspans longer than school busses. I study their toothy grins. I note the way their ruby red, opalescent scales shimmer as wiry muscles coil and bunch beneath them. I watch them lick blood from their dagger-like claws in the aftermath of a hunt. I’ve gotten close enough to one to smell its carnivore breath, hot and humid. I’ve run my fingertips along its hide, hard and smooth and dry. The fine scales of the wings are light and long like feathers. I hold a feather-scale to the light; it’s translucent, with a hollow core. The beast’s serpentine tail twitches at the tip, like the tail of an anxious tiger. I look into its glowing, golden eyes. It stares back, inquisitive, bright, studying me studying it.
I feel quite small next to a dragon. But, that doesn’t stop me from seizing it by the nose and dragging it back home with me.
I am a hunter; a trapper. My job is to capture the beasts that inhabit writer-space and bring them back. I have to put them into the cage of a book, carving out a new habitat where they can survive, or even thrive. I build windows out of words to allow others to glimpse these creatures, so that anyone who wishes can appreciate them the way I do.
The journey back from writer-space is a treacherous one. There are many obstacles to be overcome. I must leap such pitfalls as phone calls and email. I must navigate the swamp of my day job, and swerve around unseen dangers like coming home to discover that a pipe has burst and flooded three rooms. I have to steel myself, drawing on every last ounce of will, to pull myself away from the siren call of computer solitaire.
Then, with the dangers avoided, I’m left with the long, hard slog of simply writing. One key is pressed, then the next, then the next, then the next, hour after hour, day after day. The pages fill slowly. Building a world a letter at a time is as tedious as building a beach by laying down each grain of sand individually. Yet, bit by bit, page by page, the writing gets done. A hundred words become a thousand. A thousand words grow to a chapter. The chapters multiply and grow, and, months later, a book is delivered from writer-space into the real world, pink and raw and still a bit gooey.
Later, I realize I left my wallet back in writer-space. Those damn dragons have my credit cards. But that’s another story.