Self-aware- A Short Story

Mike stretched in his computer chair with a yawn after a hard days writing. Powering his laptop off, he stepped away from the desk to begin his nightly ritual of bourbon, neat, with a Parliament at his bedroom window. The ritual began as a reminder that his first successful novel, When the Tree Falls, was a stroke of luck. The market wasn’t fine tuned for that type of historical romance but somehow it became a runaway hit. Mike’s latest novel, Downward Spiral, is unlike anything he’s ever done before. Even he couldn’t describe it. His agent may frown upon that considering a hundred pages have been typed.

Finishing the bourbon and stamping out the cigarette in his ceramic ashtray, Mike climbed into bed dreaming about all the possible plot points he was considering adding to the manuscript.

Mike’s morning ritual consisted of two sunny side up eggs, two toasted pieces of bread with butter and jam (mom’s favorite) with a black coffee in his blue World’s Best Writer 18oz cup his daughter got him when he became a best selling writer. At his computer working on a second cup, the computer fully booted up, Mike clicked on the saved file and blinked along with the cursor as he stared at the screen.

Somehow an additional one hundred and ten pages had been added to the manuscript. Did I sleepwalk last night, or rather sleep write? Is that even a thing?

Mike read the new material flabbergasted that such a thing took place when at the halfway point realized the characters began living hypothetical lives based on the direction their lives were heading. His protagonist, a married man with a daughter modeled after himself, was presented with the option to have an affair with the buxom secretary from the office below him. Unlike Mike, presented with the same scenario several years prior, knew throwing his marriage away for a night of fun was just stupid. Sure Mike had his fun growing up and maybe, if the option had been there during his youth, may have taken the chance. But the protagonist chose to revert to Mike’s old self. So to speak. It read like a detailed blueprint on how to get away with infidelity since the protagonist had done just that.

This…self aware version of Mike’s protagonist even did something he himself had always wanted to do- sucker punch his old boss. It subsequently led to his being fired but that set off a chain reaction of adventures Mike had always wanted to go on. Snorkeling with dolphins, skydiving, using recreational drugs. Things Mike knew in his heart he should do but something always came up. Or maybe they were just excuses…

At the bottom of the newly written manuscript was a sentence in italics: this is how things should have been.

Mike typed under the sentence “what do you mean?” The cursor, after blinking idly for several seconds, began moving. “We’ve been watching you for some time. We know you better than you know yourself, or your wife. If you’re going to write about your life at least make it glamorous. Don’t sell yourself short.”

We’ve been watching you for some time…

He was quickly reminded of Phillip K Dick’s novel Valis; sentient-like beings communicating via radio waves and such. It that what happened here?… Mike decided to keep the new work. After all, there were no grammatical errors. Not to mention its new format made things sleeker. Why waste the effort?

He got to work.


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