It was a Thursday night, the music was turned up loud, and Ben was busy cleaning the little room that he spent most of his time in at home. He was only renting the room so he was not surprised to find belongings that did not belong to him. This first occurred when he looked under the bed. There was a pair of olden day dress shoes with wooden soles, a single blue tie, and an old bag of what looked like tea. He wasn't sure though.
And then, as the music switched to a softer melody, he began to excavate the closet. After removing his own possessions and the few pillows and old blankets, he found a stack of collapsed cardboard boxes. They were rather disgusting so he took them out to the recycling, washing his hands before returning to his room. But as he walked back into the room, his toe hit something that did not belong on the floor. He looked down. It was an old book, one that he had never seen before. It had not been there a few moments ago. He bent down, put a hand beside it, and then looked from side to side for an explanation.
"Ah ha," he said after a moment. "It must have fallen out from between the lose cardboard."
And then he lifted the book to the light.
A Dynamic Guide to Creative Writing.
"Interesting," he said. "How old is this thing though?"
He tossed it on his bed for later, and then continued with the cleaning. After the music came to a natural end, he found his hands tired, his eyes itchy from the dust, and his nose wrinkled with distaste. It was time to relax.
He flopped down on his bed and felt the book jut into his lower back. "Right," he said. "Time to see what this is all about."
He opened the book with curiosity and gave the first chapter a critical gaze.
Chapter I -- The Power of Imagery
First, a demonstration.
Ben smiled and rolled into a better position, placing his head on the pillow and the book in the light.
A few moments later, he was no longer lying on his bed. Instead, he was standing in a stream, his jeans rolled up to his knees and his bare feet beneath two inches of cool water. A scented breeze of spring rustled his hair, and fallen cherry blossoms floated by with radiant beauty, softly touching his ankles as they passed.
He had nearly forgotten himself, but something clicked in his mind, and he remembered that he was supposed to be lying on a bed. He looked from side to side. He couldn't see any beds. Oh well. He would rather play in the stream anyhow.
But then he remembered that he was supposed to be reading a book. Again, he looked from side to side, but this time with more purpose. Where had he left the book? It wasn't on the bank with his shoes and socks. Hadn't he brought it with him?
Ben looked down at the water and wiggled his toes. Something wasn't quite right. Something was going to happen soon. Or perhaps something was coming to an end. It was the feeling you got when you knew you were on the last page of a really good novel.
And then he blinked. Tears were on his cheeks. Supposedly his eyes had been wide open for a long while. He'd been staring. He shook his head while cramming his eyes shut. Upon reopening them, he found himself looking at the third page of the old book.
Then his jaw fell softly open.
A few seconds later, he was madly tapping his fingers on his desk, waiting for his computer to load. He had to tell someone about what he'd just read, or rather, what he'd just experienced.
But when he reached his inbox, he was distracted. He'd received a new notification from Protagonize. Seldom had added a chapter to one of his stories.
Ben clicked on the link, expecting the page to load with a long column of text. But something much different happened. Instead, he found himself standing in a desert. Yes. This was something much, much different.
Ben gave his surroundings a quick look and spotted a girl some meters away. She was bloodied and bruised, naked and scared, and near death. But most importantly, she was incredibly familiar.
"She's Taja," murmured Ben in tones of awe. "My character...only...this isn't my chapter. This is Seldom's."
And then the ground gave way, and he plummeted into darkness. He met cold water with a breath-taking splash and was swallowed by a raging current. Struggling to the surface, Ben spotted Taja downriver. But he couldn't get to her. She was helpless under the power of the author. But wait...Seldom wouldn't kill off the main character.
And then a wave hit them both, and Ben found himself coughing and choking on a cold rock. He looked up, willing to see his familiar computer screen, willing it to only be a story. Instead, he saw a single sentence in italics, written to the familiar page of the old guide on creative writing.
"In many cases, it is good to leave an action-filled scene hanging while presenting the reader with a contrast; this adds a natural tension to the quieter scene."
Ben blinked. He was standing in the middle of a black room with the sinister stare of Mr. Clark boring down on him. It was another recognizable scene. This time from the Coastal Storms.
Ben wondered if any of the other authors would care to save him from this particularly tense scene. He wouldn't mind being lifted off to some other author's imaginary land. He could only imagine where that might lead.