This story is by HUBERT DU and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Her eyes popped out. She thought that she saw the sky colored red momentarily, as though the sun absentmindedly flashed the dawn.
She then looked through the windows and felt a little uncomfortable despite the coziness of her room. It was dark outside although she remembered that it was still afternoon. Again, the sky thundered –– sudden and loud, literarily throwing her out off the bed. The streaks of lightning that came in succession seemed ominous. It must have been half an hour that all these happened – what was happening?
Since she was in the most expensive private suite in the hospital, she had the room to herself and all the freedom: free from intrusive eyes, to do things by herself – or to herself, even the freedom to do her own thoughts. As a writer, the last part was important to her. Thinking was almost compulsive as she depended upon it for her living. Pictures formed in her mind while in deep thoughts could be transformed into words to sell. The more vivid those pictures were formed, the more intense could be the expression in words: readers like their minds to be fed with opiates – the more intense the effects of such, the more effective it is for the thick and sweet syrup of mind infiltration to work.
She is thrifty because money does not come easily from writing. Profligacy in the use of expenses and all other manner of resources is undesirable and luxuries should come from donors (if they exist), just as fringe benefits for employed workers only arise when profits are perceived – not necessarily experienced.
However, she had just been commissioned as a ghost writer for a rich autobiographer. So, things must be done differently in every aspect of the current project. She had to feel good and up to the task. It was even needed to create a temporary and different lifestyle. Her environment was her makeup to give her confidence. She needed the peace of the environment of the hospital too, so that she could meditate be healed faster. The preparation was also needed to control, first, the ego of the autobiographer before she needed to subdue the ghosts and monsters in the mind of the readers. But the conquest of a big person’s ego was more difficult, she thought.
“Cathy, your hair is turning white since you first started on this autobiography. Is it coincidental that the doctor found this tumour in your brain barely hours after you decided to write the autobiography for Barbara Streisand?”
“But – not only will it be my biggest task, this will challenge my potential and bring out the best part of me. It is the dream of every writer to be associated with somebody rich and famous, right? Besides – if I complete the task, I will become a millionaire, many times over,” she replied.
“Oh really? Are not looks important to you?” her partner prompted her, “You have slogged on this for only about 2 months. Let us not mention the bottles of chicken essence you have taken. How about the bottles of whisky you have filled yourself with – those “petrol” you said would fire up your engines? The changes in you are almost palpable. Your face has wrinkled to reveal your alcohol-soaked soul that is burning inside of you. Is it worth the price?”
“I would trade with the Devil”, she retorted in great defiance, “……So that I could get near to God or to assume any semblance of immortality thereof – even if the God Almighty doesn’t allow it.”
Her thoughts grew uncontrollable inside her, engineered by the partner in this discourse: her alter ego, the writer.
Then came the bombshell: a strand of hair that she unwittingly pulled out of her head as she agonized. It looked defiantly at her, smiling with an evil glint of wicked whiteness.
“Yeeeeee…” Cathy screamed and a nurse knocked on her door.
When her tumour was detected at her annual health checkup just after she got her writing project, Cathy did not think much of it, for three reasons:
1. Her assignment was a God-given (nothing less than a miracle), so nothing could go wrong
2. The tumor was benign, meaning no long stays in the hospital was required
3. Due to her thriftiness, her diet has always been careful – and possibly the tumour would go off the way it came, as do most fearful things.
On that afternoon, however, there was indeed a deluge after a brief period of thunderstorm. The news reported that it was the most devastating rainfall in the country’s history. It did not look good. Her suspicion of the bad state of affairs was then confirmed. She was informed that no doctors could attend to her till late evening due to the hospital’s flood of inpatients.
To her chagrin, she then remembered that she had to meet Mdm Barbara at Hotel Hyatt three hours later, for an interview that was arranged a couple of months ago. How was she to inform her coordinator about a possible cancellation? In her rush here on the day before she had picked up the wrong mobile phone. She regretted to be here, but surely she would not have sought medical attention if the migraine did not affect her so badly. And little would she have expected to be hospitalized for even a single day, with or without a phone.
Obviously she could not leave the hospital as the doctor had yet to discharge her. Besides, the migraine was still there teasing her agony: it needed more attention than the interview which can always be re-arranged. Provided Mdm Barbara would not pick offence at the impertinence of any potential MIA (missing in action) especially in a big chance, like this interview.
Luckily, her guardian angel came.
“Hi Cathy, how are you feeling?”
“Bad, very bad,” she muttered in what remained of her voice, consumed by thoughts of great despair. It was the opportunity of a lifetime – and she could now only let it slip away being unable to meet with Madam Barbara
“Don’t worry, darling. You can cry aloud. It makes you feel better,” said Jane, her BFF.
“I’m done! I’m devastated. There is this most important thing in my life and I have to miss it. It is the worst thing that can ever happen in my life. I may never come this way again.”
“Nothing can be as bad as life,” replied Jane, in her wicked humour.
“You don’t understand, do you? You are not a writer. I have to miss an important appointment with Barbara Streisand – can you imagine?”
“Oh, it’s OK. I’m also her fan. How do you know she is in town?”
“Inner sanctum. She is going to bear her soul with me. And I’m going to delve into her inner thoughts and bring the best of her life to the world. Can you imagine that?….”
“Yes, I understand. You will become filthy rich.”
“I feel filthy already.”
“Not the way I had understood it…why? What happened? You are not going to share your wealth with me?”
“I blew it,” Cathy cried over Jane’s shoulders, “I’m warded here because of the accursed tumour. Now it is hindering me from getting the essential first interview with the first mega star in my life. This monster!…. I hate myself.”
Jane, her best friend since school days, could not bear to see her so sad. The day before admission to the hospital, they had agreed to meet in Cathy’s house for dinner. But she was un-contactable before Cathy left. In a rare presence of mind, Cathy took a piece of paper and put up a message on her destination but forgot about it.
Jane started to work. There was still enough time to travel to Cathy’s house and retrieve all the contact numbers; do whatever coordination required for that job of the century, as most people they know would probably call it.
“I love you, Jane,” Cathy was full of tears of appreciation, “ You help me remove all the monsters that torture me in the worst moments of my life.”
Cathy went back to her writing desk and made some notes in her journal:
“These were monsters I overcame:
2. The fear of failure
3. A harmless tumour
Life is full of such monsters. As somebody once said, “The best way to conquer fear to approach it, head-on”
She stood in front of her mirror while Jane cooked the Thanksgiving Dinner to celebrate her homecoming. As she fondly recall the help of her BFF, guardian angel and best “comrade-in-war” she pulled out her comb, as she preened herself.
“Yeee…,” she screamed, “Monster! Monster!”
Jane rushed in panicking, with the cooking ladle, and her dirtied kitchen apron still on her body.
On Cathy’s comb was a strand of white hair, getting bigger before her eyes.