This story is by Logan Groll and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
The battle for Alexander’s soul had reached its climactic conclusion.
The Fable Scribe watched with satisfaction as a group of pterodactyls finally brought the dragon to the ground, ripping its throat out with practiced precision. Alexander tumbled off the dragon’s back and tried to pick up his sword, but the Scribe kicked it away with ease. He drew his own shining blade and approached Alexander with dark eyes.
Alexander coughed, and there was blood on his lips as he bowed his head. “I gave the world your kingdom.”
“You took everything.” The Scribe raised his blade, shimmering in the sun. “Now, I will do the same.”
* * *
Being Alexander Hughly’s Imagination had never been easy.
As a writer, the man was hopeless. The Fable Scribe (or so he called himself; an Imagination never receives an actual name) could never get Alexander to just listen to him. When he gave him a tragic ending, Alexander made it happy. When the Scribe told him to jump right into the action, Alexander wrote a forty page backstory.
Worst of all was Alexander’s meddling. Each night in his dreams, Alexander would visit the world of the Scribe for inspiration. Each night, the Scribe would create spectacular creations from nothing; worlds populated entirely by flower people, or where video games came to life, or floating islands guarded by flying pirates.
But Alexander would always ask the Scribe for the same worlds with the same creatures: Elves. Dragons. Dwarves. Fairies. Dreams that had had countless stories written about them by far more talented authors. Per Alexander’s request, the Scribe would wave his hand and create Narnia for the hundredth time, and Alexander would wake up and scribble on the pages the same drivel that had been written before.
The Scribe cursed Alexander for smearing his work with the unholy dung of clichés and yearned to wield the pen himself. With Alexander’s unwillingness to yield to his ideas, the Scribe feared that he and his creations would never be free.
Then came the blessed day when Alexander tried to kill himself.
The Scribe had a typical “Alexander world” prepared when Alexander came to him that fateful night. It was a world made of talking animals that wore tuxedos and griped about the tea at dinner parties; Alexander was obsessed with Alice in Wonderland at the time, and if a rabbit didn’t talk or carry a watch, he didn’t want to dream it.
The Scribe was manning the orchestra at the animal tea party when Alexander came barging in. Alexander ran straight into a lion in a top hat trying to eat a cucumber sandwich; the lion snarled but Alexander ignored him. The Scribe noticed the tears streaming down Alexander’s face and silenced the orchestra. He caught the sobbing Alexander in his arms. “What is it?”
“They hated it. The-the publishers. They said…they said my book Rabbits and Waistcoats was the biggest rip-off of Alice and Wonderland since Tim Burton’s movie adaptation.”
The Scribe tried his best to hide his chuckle. “Oh my.”
“It was awful. I don’t…I don’t know what I’m going to do. That was my best idea in years.”
The Scribe patted Alexander on the back. “I certainly could have never come up with it.”
Alexander sniffed. “I came to say-I came to say goodbye.”
The Scribe held him at arm’s length. “Goodbye?”
Alexander nodded. “I have a noose set up in my room.”
The Scribe felt sorrow swell within him. “Alexander…”
Alexander wiped his eyes. “I went to a book signing of an author the other day. He had a good two hundred fans attend his signing; I had to wait three hours for him to sign my book. As I was waiting in line, I thought about how incredible it would be to have hundreds line up just to have a piece of paper with my name on it. When I got to the front, I asked the author to sign my book to Mr. Hughly, and I told him to remember the name, because I was going to sit where he sat one day.” He shook his head. “The author…he signed it to Mr. H-E-W-L-E-Y.”
The Scribe’s eyes welled with tears, though not tears of sadness. He gripped Alexander’s shoulders. “Now…now you are ready.”
He snapped his fingers.
The trees that surrounded the dinner party cracked as something massive burst from the foliage. A gigantic Tyrannosaurus Rex crumpled four dinner tables as it planted its feet into the ground and gave a full throated roar. A man in metallic battle armor on the dinosaur’s back wielded a laser sword in one hand and an automatic rifle in the other; he fired the gun in the air and gave a whoop.
Alexander’s eyes widened in delight. “What is-”
“That, Alexander, is your ticket to fame and fortune, so long as you do everything I say and exactly as I say it. I will craft a story for you the likes reality has never seen, but you must swear to me that you will follow my directions as gospel.” The Scribe stuck an open palm out for Alexander to shake. “Agreed?”
Alexander hesitated for only a moment before shaking the hand. “Agreed.”
They started the next night.
The story was brilliant. A King in a magical kingdom where anything was possible discovers that his entire existence was a lie. He is, in actuality, a character in someone else’s dream. The Kingdom he had worked so hard to rule and nurture was all just make believe, dedicated to a dreamer who abused the world the King loved so much and gained all the attention of its inhabitants. Furious at the thought of catering to a simpleton who didn’t appreciate the magical world around him, the King gathers his army of dreams and sets out on a quest to destroy the dreamer, with the idea that once the dreamer was dead, his kingdom would live on and the people would worship the King once more.
Alexander took two sleeping pills a day in order to spend as much time with the Scribe as possible. In the world he created for Alexander, the Scribe taught the author the art of creation. With each lesson, the Scribe felt a part of his soul slip into Alexander’s pen, and with each page he felt his art come to life. With each word, the Scribe felt himself come closer to freedom.
When it was finished, the Fable Scribe looked over the manuscript with a careful eye while Alexander watched nervously on. The Scribe crossed out the title with irritation, but he was smiling, and Alexander couldn’t help jumping up and down and screaming, “YES!”
The Scribe held up one finger. “I only have one request.”
Alexander groaned. “Name it and give me peace.”
The Scribe tapped the bottom of the page. “The name. I want it to be under my name.”
Alexander swallowed. “But..I wrote it.”
The Scribe pushed the manuscript into Alexander’s chest, his eyes darkening. “I wrote it, Alexander. This story…” His voice cracked. “This story is my key to climbing out of the hole of obscurity and into the light of destiny. You must give me my name.”
Alexander nodded reluctantly and woke up.
As weeks went by, Alexander came each night to the Scribe with talks of his success. The book had been a national bestseller, and hundreds of thousands flocked to the shelves to enter the fantastic world the Scribe had created. Alexander was asked to go on book tours worldwide, and Alexander’s name was on everybody’s lips. The Scribe closed his eyes and imagined readers across the globe getting lost in his creations and etching the Scribe’s name in the stars of immortal authors-
His name. He opened his eyes. “What did you say, Alexander?”
Alexander stopped in the middle of his story. “I got to meet Stephen King?”
“You said they were chanting your name. Why were they chanting your name?” The Scribe stood up. “Why…why do they know your name?”
Alexander tried to speak, but the lies clogged his throat, and the truth finally came sputtering out. “I…I had to. I couldn’t bring myself to-you, you had given me an opportunity to finally be somebody, and I couldn’t-”
The Scribe flicked his hand, and Alexander went flying backwards. The Scribe rose in the air, his voice the thunder of a wrathful storm. “YOU DARE TO WALTZ AROUND IN REALITY UNDER THE CLOAK OF A GOD?”
Alexander tried to pinch himself to wake himself up. He blinked and slapped his cheeks, but to no avail. “How…how are you doing this?”
The Scribe chuckled, a bitter sound that stained the air with malice. “Your mind is my playground Alexander. I say it’s time to play.”
Still hovering in the air, the Scribe waved his hand.
Behind Alexander, an army appeared made of elves, centaurs, knights, rabbits in waistcoasts-all the characters from a dozen failed stories that Alexander had written before. Behind the Scribe, an army also materialized, made up of knights in futuristic battle armor riding dinosaurs, pirates with flying ships and a hundred other creations the Scribe had spent a lifetime creating.
The Scribe let himself down to the ground and drew a sword from mid-air, pointing it at a stunned Alexander. “Let’s settle, once and for all, who deserves destiny. My creations against yours, Alexander. If you win, you get to keep your name on my work. If I win…” The Scribe smiled. “An author in an eternal coma would never be able to slander my work.”
* * *
The battle for Alexander’s soul had reached its climactic conclusion.
The Scribe stood poised to end Alexander’s existence when his arm was grabbed by a flower angel. The Scribe blinked. She had been one of his first creations, a member of a world populated by flower people. She looked at him with desperation. “Please, Father, spare the child. Free us.”
The Scribe blinked again. “Free you?”
Another one approached him, a god who used the powers from video games to fight evil. “Without his pen, we are nothing.”
The Scribe looked behind him.
All his creations were kneeling before him, their eyes pleading. Their leader stepped forward, and the Scribe took a step back. It was the King from his story, his crown dented and useless on his head. He kneeled as well and took off the crown, laying it at the Scribe’s feet. “Do not let your pride stand in the way of our freedom. Don’t you know? He is one of us.”
The Scribe looked at the humbled King and saw his own face staring back. He turned to Alexander, who was kneeling with upturned eyes rimmed with tears. He raised his open palm towards the Scribe. “Please. Forgive me. Make me your ultimate masterpiece.”
The Scribe looked not at Alexander’s hand but his eyes. They were filled with the same fear that the Scribe felt beat in his heart; the fear of losing the chance to be. The Scribe, for the first time, saw Alexander not as a tool but as his creation, and he finally realized the truth he had known deep down all along. He was just the pen in Alexander’s hand. Without the writer, the pen was nothing, and as the pen his destiny was to do one thing:
Set the writer free.
The Scribe took Alexander’s hand.
Alexander Hughly went on to become the Shakespeare of fantasy, and his stories nestled into the shelves of dreams across the world. When asked where he received such inspiration, his answer was always the same: “I am made from the pen that scribes fables into the hearts of men and women.”
The phrase was picked up by the masses, and whenever inspiration struck an artist, they said he was touched by the Scribe of Fables.
Sometimes, they simply shortened it to the Fable Scribe.