We found Sid hungry. Sitting at his desk, his notebook lay open with hardly a scribble. He eyed the small picture of his wife he had taken on their honeymoon. Fran’s smile was once all the inspiration he needed. His gaze drifted through the window to a wilting garden.
At first, we only buzzed in his ears. Sid’s stories showed skill, but lacked taste. We fed him ideas, first a little, then many. We were his muse. He woke early and worked late, eating up our inspiring voices and spilling words onto the glowing screen.
Fran paced the floor. “You’re wasting away,” she’d complain. We put words in his mouth: you just don’t understand the creative process. “You need rest,” she would cry. I have to write while the images are fresh. “You’re losing your mind.” All great writers hear voices, their characters speak to them.
Sid knew his work was improving. He chewed his nails when he put the stories in the mailbox. He wondered what his agent would think. This work was grittier, more intense than anything he had sent before. He kept working, revising. Fran would creep up to read over his shoulder. Go away, we would yell. Leave me alone.
One particularly grey evening, Fran came to him holding a letter. “Sid, listen.” Her eyes were wet. “What if we talked to someone? There are people who can help you.”
No, we said. I’m fine. I’ve finally got some ideas I can sink my teeth into. Why can’t you appreciate that?
“I’ve always been your biggest fan, babe. You know that. But you’re working too hard. You need to slow down.” She paused, then held out the letter. “I got this a couple days ago.”
Let me see that. Sid snatched the letter from her hand. He noticed where her tears had smeared the type. He read the words in flashes: Brilliant, Surprising, Possible Best-Seller. He looked into his wife’s blue eyes, smiling. I’ve written him something with flavor. Something to chew on, to roll around on your tongue.
Fran trembled. “It’s time to take a break. You deserve it. You’ve earned it.” She reached for him, but he turned away. She took the picture of their honeymoon and set it in front of him. “For me,” she said, “please. We can get through this, together.”
By we, you mean you. Or you and some doctors. You don’t mean we. You want me to be some sort of experiment. That’s not working together Fran.
“Sid, I love you, but I can’t live like this. Please consider what I’m asking.”
Sid hurled the picture across the room. This is what we were waiting for. Maybe it’s better if you go.
That was the beginning of a long silence, a silence filled with waiting and watching. Filled with her packing and his drifting off into dreams of solitude and success.
Fran pauses at the door. She doesn’t look back, but waits for Sid to stop her. He cannot. We will not let him. He belongs to us now.
Fran steps over the threshold, leaving Sid alone with us.
We devour him, savoring each tasty morsel.
Note on the Collaboration from Reggie Carlisle
Lauren and I had been tossing around the idea of working on some collaborations, and we worked up the ideas about 1) Collaborations that fall apart and 2) collaborations with those little voices in our heads. The resulting flash fiction piece and illustration are the results not only of our work, but also of a workshop session with one of my classes at Weber State.