Monday, June 14, 2010

magpie tales: one red pencil

My bloodshot eyes burn, lack of sleep pressed like a matchstick in the corners, as I stare at the red flecked pencil shavings, piled in the center of my writing desk, wondering if this could be it. A rattling laugh erupts from deep within my chest, sending spittle arching through the heavy air, could this be it...

There are things you should know, I was not always like this, it started though in this same spot, my head resting on the desk, pushing the wood grain into my forehead, probing for the next big story. The blank pages of my writing journal mocking me from beside the cup of yellow No. 2 pencils, each one sharpened to a fine point, so that when the flow began I would not have to stop for anything. For the last month, nothing has come and I am starting to think I am done.

Let me help you...

Syrupy sweet and sultry, the voice whispered, startling me from my apathy. At first I thought it was my wife, but remember she has taken the kids to gramma's house to give me space to work through this mental constipation.

I know what you are hungry for, let me...

Dragging my knuckles through my eyes, I let them wander slowly around the sparse room, from my desk along the barren walls, passed the curtained window to the still closed door. Shaking my head, I chuckle over the thuds of my own heart beating. Stupid, been in here far too long...

If you are really a writer, why do you produce this drivel? Why haven't you made it? All you do is take up space in the bookstore, until someone realises you ineptitude and removes them...I can change that...

A single tear rolls down my sullen cheek, as I realise I have finally cracked, my sanity sold for a dream. In this, my darkest hour, I notice the one red pencil among the forest of yellow, and it whispers...

If you do what I tell you, I will give you all that you desire...

I wish I could say I put up a fight, or even tried to escape and think it over, but I let the madness of the moment take me. The next thing I knew, my wife was waking me, still in the chair, a weeks growth of beard scratching at my face and a complete manuscript sitting neatly in the middle of the desk, crowned by one red pencil.

That night I feverishly read what I had written, abhorred by the vivid violence to the point of souring my stomach. The meager contents of my stomach, rushed across my lips in waves, and once empty, I called my agent and submitted it.

This was the beginning...what few readers I had disappeared, unwilling to take the changes in my style, only to be replaced by hordes of bloodthirsty followers, eager for the next book. We moved into a modern mansion complete with pool and circular drive, though I never got to enjoy it, always on the road, promoting the next book, talk shows, book signings. My family was happy enough, every need taken care of and each month we would spend a weekend in an exotic locale. All provided by my one red pencil, all it asked for was blood and I willingly sacrificed any character on its altar.

Things changed though, as they always do, the day I filed my taxes. It was not until the news reported the massacre at the IRS office that I realised I had filled them out with my one red pencil. By this time, I had signed birthday cards, contracts for appearances, notes to my kids school...all with my one red pencil. All that it asked for was...

So now, I sit here, having broken the pencil, thrown it away, buried it, burned it and even reduced it to a pile of shavings...heh hehe...but every time I find it once more, hiding among the yellow pencils that used to bring life in my writing. What scares me the most, dear reader, is that as I draw my confession to a close, I find I have the red pencil once again in my hand, and I am afraid, for you...

This is a Magpie Tale.

126 comments:

Brian Miller said...

this one is a bit long...i cut it way back from a much longer story i wrote over the weekend and hope i have not lost too much...it is fiction, so dont worry too much...smiles.

Tabor said...

I really think you have crawled inside Stephen King's mind. I wonder if he every wants to break out?

Daniel said...

So freakin' cool man. I loved this one. Now you have passed it onto me!

The Bug said...

I agree with Tabor - now I want to check Stephen King's desk for a red pencil!

Raven said...

What an awesome tale!

Bonnie said...

One red pencil probably has some creepy name and powers yet to be discovered - just don't let it come through my computer screen!

It is King-esque - creepy, riveting, too close to reality to be totally dismissed....

Magpie said...

You are so talented, it's spooky!! This was amazing...really. Great take on the prompt.

5thsister said...

disturbing. i can see a screenplay in your future!

kkrige said...

Ha! Creepy and fun Brian. I hear the squeaky scratch of it across the desk.

ModernMom said...

Oh I agree with the other commenter's. Very Kingish!

Nessa said...

Excellent. I am looking over my shoulder.

TechnoBabe said...

Ooh, a devilish red pencil. It is so fun reading about inanimate objects with certain powers.

Tina said...

Amazingly creepy and totally engrossing. Any chance of getting the longer version??? Although the story was a complete tale, I find myself wanting more. You did save a shaving of that pencil, right?

The Crooked Tongue said...

This is awesome Brian. I'm gonna read it again, just for the chills!

Mrsupole said...

You do know that you could probably turn this one into a book and truly give King a run for his money. Just think about it. Never put the details and just let the imagination run with it.

Seriously, I am not kidding, go for it. The Red Pencil. So many options and ways to go with it. Just give it a try and we will say that we knew you way back when.

Oh and please never write about us. Just keep us out of the story. And make sure that the red pen knows nothing about all of your blogging pals. Seriously, keep us out of it, I mean it, we do not need to be anywhere in there.

God bless.

Zuzana said...

I thought it was fiction, but was not sure.;)
Only you can find inspiration to produce a masterpiece such as this, by simply looking at a picture of pencils.
;)
xo

Eva Gallant said...

This comes from some creepy space between King and Coontz (sp.?) Eerie and excellent!

Bernie said...

Brian this is brilliant...:-)Hugs

willow said...

Okay, I'm throwing out that one red pencil.

Lena said...

Brian - that was one great story! I, too, will now look at red pencils in a different light.....or curtsey to them or something!

Titanium said...

If you can do this with one red pencil, somebody hide the crayon box.

This is freaky-good. Love it!

Cheryl said...

This was one great story. I kept thinking about Stephen King. Wonder if he had to sell his soul to become the writer he once was.

drybottomgirl said...

I'm a believer that genius borders on insanity. A mind that quivers on that fine line is often imaginative and creative. I also believe that if we set ourselves up to be a writer, artist, musician ect. we have a good chance of failing. If we let it happen naturally it should just flow, and I like the fact that you touch on addiction. So many creative people I know are often addicted to their craft....as an alcoholic I tend to addict myself to certain hobbies/crafts. But like most things in life we need to strike the balance.....

Monkey Man said...

gripping.

Steven Anthony said...

this seems to be different from others Ive read of yours...I would love to read the "long" version sometime...brilliant my friend

Pat said...

I loved this! It does, indeed,have a "Stephen King" feel to it. It grabbed me from the get go!

JRM said...

Brilliant!

JStar said...

Brian, this was a bit creepy...But intriguing....I love the pic of the one red pencil too lol

Cloudia said...

You create an atmosphere...






Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

Jennifer said...

I'm hearing the "Twilight Zone" tune in my head... Marvellously creepy. But also a fun metaphor for the heartless professor or editor who hacks away with a red pencil!

TALON said...

I didn't find it long at all. I found it mesmerizing.

And I'll NEVER look at pencils in quite the same way again!!

Tumblewords: said...

Ah, that dreaded red pencil. A wild tale - eerie and chilling. Maybe you could create a multitude of reds by planting the shavings.

Maureen Newman said...

Success sought after is not always the success we choose to embrace. Write on!

AmyLK said...

very disturbing and messmerizing at the same time. Pretty cool!

Jill said...

GET OUT BRIAN! Love that!!! That red pencil...it has always had a "reputation" in my minds eye...since the red pencil "F" found its way to my math paper in 3rd grade...I have known it to be PURE evil!!!!
Murder and mayhem as well...not too far fetched huh?
;)

Ed Pilolla said...

dig the darkness. love stories about writers. don't all we writers?:)

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, the dread red pencil...

Nice one, Brian -- I feel your pain.

The Turning Point said...

Beautifully done.
Long version-short version Can't see how a longer version could be any better.

Jim

Baino said...

I wish you would flesh it out Brian, horror isn't something you often write, it would be nice to see this fully formed in detail. Nice twist.

william said...

creepy story mate, great as always.

Angie Muresan said...

Wow! And what a story it is! I love the creepiness of it.

California Girl said...

bit of a mix of Poe & Rod Serling.

JeffScape said...

Scare us, Brian! Do it!

Your inner EA Poe is f-in brilliant. Show it off!

lakeviewer said...

Yeah,yeah...Your wife out of town and there you are being seduced by Faboulous Red Fortune. A dream is a secret wish, my friend. Ease up, talk it out.

Ronda Laveen said...

Holy cra*! Guess I shudda read the last line first to save myself. I will now have to wait and wonder if...

Birdie said...

and the good news is that you don't need any red pencil to write such a fantastic story ... brilliant Brian!

Goofball said...

as long as you don't leave red comments on my blog, i don't worry


did your red pencil came voting in the Belgian elections as well? I think it might have

RA said...

I enjoyed this tremendously. Eat your heart out, Stepehen King! :)

tera said...

Always slow on blog-catching-up...I read through your last several posts, mohawks and all, and I have to say I am more impressed with your writing every day.
You do with words what I would like to do with pictures if I had a slightly darker filter...

:)

secret agent woman said...

Writing with the fun taken out of it would be sad, wouldn't it?

Tracy said...

Super cool, Brian.

Ariel said...

Your comment here was indeed helpful... You have entered into the stream of consciousness of a writer here. Sounded very natural.
You have so much imagination and talent Brian, that I hope very soon I'll get to buy one of your published creations.

Lorenzo said...

Fiction you say? Sorry, but I have my doubts. I just knew that there had to be some dark secret to your preternaturally, wickedly good writing, day after day after day, and now you have 'fessed up! Is the red pencil also the one we must thank for your prolific, kind and quick commenting on so many blogs?

Suz said...

Too bad about the IRS
can I borrow that pencil sometime?
hehehevilhehe....
what would a blue pencil bring..hmmm?

slommler said...

Creepy, spooky, and downright disturbing. LOL!! Love it!!! And I love the IRS touch...!!
Hugs
SueAnn

The Retired One said...

Now you've done it........I am afraid...very afraid (of red pencils)...just one question...should I also get rid of my red pens?

Sue J said...

This was an excellent read. Very Faustian.

tori said...

so this is the secret to your blogging success...a deal with a evil red pencil...
lol

soundoffreedom said...

C'est un effrayant rouge utilisant un crayon.

That is one scary red pencil.

signedbkm.com said...

brian, i hate that red pencil - i refuse to own one.....

funny i just republished a piece that is related to this....bkm

excellent magpie...

http://signedbkm.com/2010/06/14/self-published-2/

Caty said...

A red pencil would be really tempting right now :) I loved this-it reminded me of Dean Koontz-who is one of my favorites! Your writing never fails to reel me in. Happy Monday!

Catalyst said...

My mind has been away. But I have returned and this one, dear Brian, is splendid!

natalee said...

okay.. this one was soooo creepy a little scary!! i loved it!!!!i will never look at pencils the same..lol

kathew said...

oooh you devil you!I'll never look at a red pencil quite the same from here on out....great fun Magpie!

Maggie said...

Spooky indeed. And some objects do hold a certain magic with them!

Cindybrown said...

EXCELLENT!!!!

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

A very interesting tale of a deal with the devil...

Unknown Mami said...

Holy crap Brian, if I die in my sleep tonight I am coming back to haunt you.

Betsy said...

This was good! What a great book or movie it would be! Yes, I thought of Stephen King, too!

Linda said...

I'm chiming in a little late here, but reading words like creepy and Stephen King in the comments, I am inclined to agree that there is definitely something sinister in that red pencil.

Well done!

Jen said...

That could be a Twilight Zone episode. Great story.

So cool you found your first cache! I wish I'd known about it when my daughter was still little.

LadyFi said...

Wow - terrifying and gripping!

Velvet Over Steel said...

Wow! Intense and as great a piece as always, Brian! I think I'm scared of Red pencils now. :-)
Hug,
Coreen

Lori said...

Wow! Very good Brian, very good!! Enjoyed your words as always. :)

The Empress said...

I really liked this one. It reminds me of the twilight zone episodes I'd watch when I ws little.

So very deliciously scary!

P.S. thanks so much for your nice msg to baby e today...

Stafford Ray said...

Lethal! Is it for sale?

ds said...

Ha ha! The evil red pencil strikes again. Sanity sold for a dream, however...too true. Nice job!

Ocean Girl said...

I was worried for a moment:)

Quiet horror is the spookiest.

Joanna Jenkins said...

That rocked! And your photo is perfect. I'm off to check my pencils ;-)
jj

Kaylen said...

I don't know why you cut it back! I want to know more!!!

Sometimes I feel like I mentally sharpen pencils all the time. Usually when I am in front of this here keyboard....

thinkingtoohard13 said...

"lack of sleep pressed like a matchstick in the corners . . . "
Delicious. I want more.

˙·٠•●❤Sh@KiR@ ❤●•٠·˙ said...

you tell it so well, Brian...
a fabulous story, indeed.
if anyone can do better than this, it is only you!
hugs
shakira

Bing (PinkLady) said...

wow... this was just about a red pencil? amazing tale, brian! i was spellbound. =)

moondustwriter said...

very enjoyable and sinister. Huh wonder what kinda pencil Steven King uses

perfect Bri

christine said...

Creepy! Once again a very good take on the prompt pic. Had me worried for a minute!
Christine

Gattina said...

That's a long story, but with those pencils you could kill somebody !

rel said...

Brian,
Brilliant my friend,
The price of success is sometimes too dear, but then again.....
rel

Eternally Distracted said...

Fabbarooney Mr Miller. You just get better and better.

RNSANE said...

I know evil lurks in all kinds of places, in seemingly charming gentleman bloggers, even. This tale was a bit on the creepy side, definitely in Stephen King mode or other authors that seem to border on near psychosis. The red pencil promises all but takes all...one's soul.

Just Be Real said...

Your gift of words is profound Brian. Not too long at all. Thank you for sharing dear one. Blessings.

island of peace said...

fantastic. well, what a timing, i have a tribute for your story telling expertise.

will you accept it?

http://window2mysoul.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/story-teller-award/

have a marvellous week ahead.

dustus said...

Your story makes me reconsider what it means to be a "successful" writer; including the illusions many of us harbor about the lifestyle. Thanks, Brian

Lorraine said...

You are a fantastic writer, with or without a red pen! Tales from the Red pen..should be your book: a collection of all that you have blogged here, 'cause it's fabulous

Sam!! said...

Nice piece of writing.. thanks for sharing.. :))

Take care

Rob said...

dun dun dunnnnn

Mr. Stupid said...

This was creepy yet brilliant. Good job, Brian!

sheri... said...

oh sure, now you tell me about the cost! brian, i really enjoyed reading this, the flavor decidedly different from what i'm used to reading on your blog but fascinating, none the less...it's exciting watching you branch out! this was such a great tale, i didn't even see the red pencil while reading many of the magpies until i had read yours...what a sharp eye you have, my dear!

chiccoreal said...

Dear Brian: "One Red Pencil" is stirring, unsettling to say the least. The red pencil extracts an exacting toll from the writer; is the price worth it? Good thing one can eliminate completely the red pencil; or can one? Ohhhhohhh! Hitchcockian! Excellent mag! Timely twist!

JennyMac said...

Bravo on this Magpie Tale. Loved it.

SuziCate said...

Applause!!!Forget the red pencil, what you do on a laptop is pure magic.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

I just read another experience that reflected this kind of experience for me too.


Wonderful wonderful!!!

Patience said...

Just to let you know, the red pencil worked and I died and have come back to haunt your blog! Lol! Glad i can usually count on you for a weekly dose of soft horror, you really do a great job in that genre. Keep up the good work!

gayle said...

Wow~! I am getting rid of the one red pencil I have!! or maybe not!!

Valerie said...

Heehee, loved this Brian. I was going to ask to borrow your red pencil but something tells me it would be very ... er ... unwise. Smiles.

Cinnamon said...

Agree with Mrsupole! x

blueviolet said...

The red pencil...always the critic within.

Peggy Jo said...

Write "The One Red Pencil" Brian. I agree with the others...Stephen King would be proud. Well done!

Uma said...

An amazing tale Brian.

Mona said...

I take the red pencil to symbolize Life & yellow ones to symbolize the lies that writers tell. The red one imparts a little drop of blood to them & make a rainbow!

The girl with the flour in her hair said...

Awesome. AWESOME!

Just don't respond to your comments with that red pencil, ok?

Bossy Betty said...

Great images and tension here!

Lyn said...

Well, we can't pick our muse, and some would seek him/her out despite the consequences...
Original and so droll..loved it!!

Heartspell said...

Bloody red pencil always lurking about... very visual, loved it. Heartspell

Mona said...

PS. I use the word 'lies' in the sense of Myth making or Fiction writing

Helen said...

Oh, the siren call of the red pencil!

A great Magpie!

Sam Liu said...

This is haunting, Brian...deeply, powerfully haunting. I could feel a chill down my spine as the story drew to its startling climax. It had a macabre and ironic fairytale-like quality to which I thoroughly admired. An amazing and most unique Magpie Tale indeed.

Syd said...

Wow--I've had the red pencil used on my manuscripts a few time. But I never took any reviewer out. It is a good haunting story.

Paul C said...

This is engaging narrative. I see elements of the style of Edgar Allen Poe....a frenetic, introspective characterization.

Menina said...

Brian, do you have any published books? I'd love to read a Brian Miller book/collection.

jingle said...

http://jingleyanqiu.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/thursday-poets-rally-week-22-the-perfect-poet-award/

I am sure that you have written this magpie without a red pencil...
You don't have to give the red pencil too much credit, YOU are the one who is in charge of your writing,
which is the most beautiful thing to keep in mind.

Happy Writing!
U Rock!

Shari Sunday said...

Good job. Question is, if there was a red pencil with that power - would you use it? Fame and fortune vs. an office full of IRS workers. Doesn't seem like a difficult choice. Enjoyed it.

Selma said...

There is blood pouring out of my computer screen. It is drowning me aaaaahhhh, eeekkk, glerb.

I LOVED this one!

Mighty M said...

Can't you buy something OTC for mental constipation? Might have been a little easier.... but definitely not as entertaining!

jake said...

FREAKING TIGHT!
Great story. I didn't even mind that it was longer at all. I know you're headed down the road to publication, just keep your blood and perhaps your soul in place, ok?

Marla said...

Oh my goodness, Brian. This is crazy, scary, good!

Peg said...

Nice Magpie