My lovely Twitter followers voted for me to release an excerpt of a WIP for the next piece in the Twitter Series, so here are the first 703 words of my unfinished short story, ‘Projection’. I’ll talk about what inspired it in the rationale next week, but for now, happy reading, and thanks for following!
* * *
There’s a tiny man trapped inside the window of my English class, and he won’t leave me alone. He loves to antagonise me. He talks to me everyday, but I never respond. Even though he’s not much bigger than a safety pin, I can hear his voice loud and clear. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who can hear him, though. If the rest of the class can, they don’t pay him any mind.
On a good day, he’ll stop pestering me after a few minutes and go away. But today is not a good day.
I’m trying so hard to ignore him that I don’t realise I’m glowering at my professor. She catches my gaze and concern flashes across her face for a moment. Before she has the chance to ask what’s wrong, I soften my expression and quickly glance back down at my notes.
“Pssssst.” More urgent this time.
I cut him a glare.
“Hey you!” he shouts. “I’m talking to you! I know you can hear me!”
I attempt to concentrate on what my professor is saying, but I’m focusing so hard on listening that I miss every word.
“Why even bother pretending to pay attention anymore?” He lets out a hearty laugh, shaking his little pin head before resuming a serious tone. “Ya know, other than the fact that you paid all this money to be at this prestigious university, only to piss your days away sitting in a desk half-listening to some stuffy lady drone on about shit that doesn’t matter.”
Goddamnit. I wish I could turn my hearing off somehow.
“Got your attention now, huh?” He chuckles in amusement. Somehow, he jumps out of the window pane and onto my desk. I steal a panicked glance around the class – no one has batted an eyelash. I must be crazy. There’s no way this can be real.
“Oh, but it’s very real!” the little man exclaims. “And as for the crazy thing, yeah, you’re definitely crazy. I mean, who would waste fifteen years sitting in a desk just like this one, cramming useless information into their head and spitting it back out when someone else told them to? And for what? What was your reward for all that time?” He paused, apparently expecting me to answer. He didn’t seem all that shocked that I stayed silent. “A fancy sheet of paper. An imagined reality.”
I freeze, not wanting to accept what seems like a silly musing as truth.
“I know, honey,” he says in mock sympathy. “I know you’re upset because you so desperately want there to be a meaning to life. Here’s the truth; there isn’t one, and you’re just going to have to accept that. But here’s the bright side: soon, you’ll have a fancy sheet of paper that says you’re qualified to earn more sheets of paper than someone who doesn’t have that fancy sheet of paper.”
I bite my tongue, fighting the urge to demand to know why he’s torturing me.
But when I glace over at the window, he’s vanished.
* * *
The university keeps the doors to all the main buildings unlocked until ten so that students can use the space to study and work. Most everyone goes home after six.
I trudge into the deserted English department around eight and swiftly make my way to my English class. My heart flitters in my chest, quick as a hummingbird’s wings. Adrenaline surges through me, fuelling the way.
I stop just outside the door and jiggle the knob. It’s open. I step inside, clicking the door closed quietly behind me and flicking on the light.
There he is, leaning up against the frame of the window as if he never left. Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me, but he’s gotten a little bigger.
“Will you please tell me why you insist on driving me mad day after day?”
A knowing smile spreads across his face. “I’ll do ya one better; I’ll show you.”