Hunched over my laptop staring at the blinking cursor on the blank page. The whiteness on the glowing screen taunts me, an incessant "neener-neener" of a schoolyard bully. Will my words matter to anyone? Is writing just a cosmic joke, a colossal time suck, a delusion I've persisted under for 20 years?
Will I be anything but a rank amateur in a bloody clown circus of amateurs, sniffing the big top for peanuts and stepping in mountains of elephant shit? Can I finally cast off these shackles of anonymity and find sweet success?
Are my words making others happy? Am I fulfilled and complete?
Just as I extricate a large block of text with a swift movement of the cursor, flicking pixels on the screen like an axe murderer dismantling torsos in a Jacuzzi, a chilly wind blew through the room.
The unmistakable aroma of brimstone hit my nostrils and I spun around in my chair.
A gaunt gentleman in a Victorian frock and tophat stands behind me, stroking his tightly cropped and oiled goatee. Flashing me a Cheshire cat grin, the man introduces himself, his voice oily like a tin of sardines.
"Greetings, mortal. I am Mephistopheles. Some call me by other names. Beelzebub. Lucifer. Prince of Lies. Satan. The Great Deceiver. You can call me Blaine."
"Get the fuck out of my house, Blaine," I said, pointing at the door.
"Is that any way to treat a guest?" Blaine said, and sat on a nearby chair, first pushing a pile of books from the chair to the floor, where they crashed in a great heap. "Have writer's block, do you? Can't get those stubborn words from your beloved brainpan?"
"Seriously, I'm calling the cops if you don't leave."
"Ah, the writer's temperament. Frustrated because your inability to release those brilliant word nuggets onto the page, eh?" Blaine said, producing a red silk handkerchief from his vest pocket and dabbing his lips. "It's positively infernal, isn't it?"
"I'm dialing 9-1-1," I said, reaching for the phone.
Before I knew it the iPhone transformed into a block of Bavarian chocolate an started melting in the stifling humidity.
"What the hell?"
"Exactly!" Blaine said, tittering like a foppish dandy. "Hell is full of surprises, you know."
"Where's my fucking phone, Blaine?"
"You don't need to get the authorities involved. I can make your wildest dreams and desires come true," Blaine said.
"So you're some kind of Victorian gay rent boy? Sorry, Blaine, I don't swing that way. I jut want to finish writing my story. Peddle your forbidden love candy somewhere else, ya freak."
Blaine wrinkled his brow.
"That's no way to treat a guest. I'm here because you need my help. You're a writer, but self-doubt and self-loathing plagues you. Nothing you try seems to work. None of your stories connects. You squeeze the trigger, but the bullets don't fire. You're not hitting your targets. Am I correct?"
"What's it to you?" I said. "How did you get in here, anyway?"
"I can assist your writing career. I can make people love your work. The ideas will flow under my tutelage. Let me guide you. Why be a miserable hack when I can nourish your budding talents? Don't you want to be one of the most successful writers who's ever lived?"
For a solid minute, I sat in silence, thinking about Blaine's offer. Does he really possess the ability to lift me from my torpor and jumpstart my career?
Then it dawned on me.
"You're a literary agent, aren't you, Blaine?"
Blaine looked offended.
"No, I'm not."
"You are. You're totally a literary agent. Or maybe one of those con artists who trick writers into paying for a writing seminar and then dispense trite advice on preparing manuscripts and query letters," I said.
"All you have to do is sign this contract, pledging your immortal soul to me in exchange for success. You'll be prolific and witty. Your books will sell like hotcakes. You'll ride the gravy train to Beverly Hills and beyond."
"I'll bet there's a fee. There's always a fee with you people. Or a membership. I'll have to buy a membership to your writing club, right? Maybe you're from a self-publishing business, ready to hook a few egotistical suckers."
"No! There are no seminars, no dues. No weekend writing getaways at a hotel in Woodbridge, New Jersey. Just sign your name in blood and that's it," Blaine said, rising to his cloven feet. He waved the contract at me, a brittle document with lavish, flowing script. "I'm the devil! All I want is your soul in exchange for something paltry and temporary you crave. That's it!"
"So what's in it for me?"
"Fame. Prosperity. A horde of loyal readers. I can give you an audience hanging on your every word. Your name will be on books from now until forever."
I thought about it.
"Fuck you. I'm calling the cops," I said, and moved towards the door.
Blaine stamped his foot and a thunder clap sounded, shaking the house.
"Deny me this, son of man, and you'll be forced to slog indefinitely. Your words will be ignored, your name forfeit. Madness and insecurity will hound you for the rest of your days," Blaine said, his eyes glowing red.
"You're trespassing, Blaine. Fuck off," I said.
Blaine dissolved in a wisp of foul mist which smelled like rattlesnake farts and roadkill skunk guts. The gibbering moron was finally gone.
I sat back down at the computer and stared at the blank screen. Something brilliant was on the verge of being created, a future masterpiece ready to be born, yet the stubborn words would not come.