November thirtieth came, but it didn’t go without some very exciting news. Amy readied the purple trebuchet, sent the pawn flying toward Cole, and walked away. The pawn shattered on the floor. “That’s for you, Cole,” Amy yelled as she walked away with Keith.
Three more days, the clock at Wrimo Hall said as Mia sat down to type. The yellow metal pencil, once sitting in her bag for the entire month, now sat next to her as a writing totem. Chris Baty mentioned this once. His was a golden viking helmet, and he even wore one while giving one of the pep talks.
Mia had one hand on the pencil and the other hand on her keyboard. She glanced at her screen and saw the end of the scene she had just written. No, Amy would never do that, she told herself as she backspaced an entire paragraph and thinking that she really shouldn’t be doing it. Sure, Amy would never do it, but Mia needed the words. Twenty-seven hundred words a day didn’t come easily. Mia looked at the calendar in her bag where she kept track of her word count by day. She had written twenty-five hundred words the day before, and those words actually came much more easily after discovering that NaNoWriMo was in her very name.
Or was it? If NaNoWriMo were in her name, wouldn’t she already have a purple bar? Wouldn’t she have had a green bar a long time ago? Wouldn’t NaNo be, dare she say it, easy? She looked around Wrimonia and saw the Wrimos with purple bars walk past without a worry in the world. Some of them stopped past to cheer on Wrimos who were still writing, just like the marathon runners did the day before.
Mia didn’t need any interruptions, so she tried to look busy and write. It was very hard to look busy, though, as the sky turned dark and two very familiar figures appeared. No one would find her in these conditions anyway, especially anyone who wanted to give her a pep talk like the marathon runner did the day before. Mia kept typing, hoping that the noise of her keyboard would scare them away, but when she saw someone with long curly locks and the accompanying figure with a tight bun in her hair enter the scene, she knew that there was no hope.
She kept typing and backspacing and finally stopped. There was nothing left to write about, and then she looked up.
“Not you,” she whispered.
“Oh yes, us again,” Writer’s Block said. “Who thought again that NaNoWriMo was in her name?”
Mia stood up and held the pencil in her hand, facing Writer’s Block and Inner Editor. “The marathon runner told me yesterday,” Mia said. “You cannot stop me from winning NaNoWriMo. The purple bar will be mine.”
Writer’s Block laughed. “No it won’t,” Writer’s Block said. “You haven’t written anything worthy since you were a wee lass, and even then it only got hung on the fridge because it’s your mother and your mother’s supposed to do those things.”
“Oh please, Mia,” Inner Editor said, cackling. “Look at this.” Inner Editor leaned toward the laptop and read the latest passage that Mia had written. “Amy walked hand in hand with Keith? They walked in the park together? Is this all you’re making them do, Mia?” Inner Editor asked her. “Come on, you’ve been on dates. What did you do on dates?”
“I haven’t been on too many dates,” Mia replied.
“Lies,” Inner Editor said. “Think of dates you’ve been on. Surely you can make this more realistic than a bunch of walks in the park. Surely the parents with children will find this darling young couple a little disturbing after awhile.”
“But they’re just on a date,” Mia said. “Besides, all my dates were… nontraditional,” she said, pausing and neglecting the fact that most of her dates involved movies and friends. Sometimes food was involved, but never traditional dinner and a movie dates that most people went on. Those were for people who weren’t poor college kids.
“Then use one of your dates,” Inner Editor said. “You’ve had enough dates that you can write them well, as uptight as you are. Hey, you haven’t gone on any of those this November.”
“Shut up!” Mia said. “This isn’t about me. It’s about you and about how you’re trying to get in the way of my novel.” Mia pushed Inner Editor back as Writer’s Block began blowing big black bubbles around them.
“I destroyed those bubbles once, and I can destroy them again,” Mia said as the bubble surrounded them.
“Oh, how?” Writer’s Block said. “These bubbles are storyproof. They’re even museproof, not that yours has been around in days. She’s been enjoying her vacation, by the way.” Writer’s Block walked around Mia. “I’ve had her tied up and gagged, and she’s been calling to you with ideas all this time. Shame you can’t hear her.”
Mia fumed. Has Writer’s Block really been doing this all this time? Was he really out to get her? And enjoying her vacation?
“And you!” Inner Editor exclaimed, pointing at Mia. “I’ve been out to get you all month. I’ve been reading first drafts of novels, trying to show you how every other Wrimo has written a first draft better than yours, but no, you won’t even listen. You just keep on plugging as if you won’t even think about giving up.”
“That’s because I won’t,” Mia said. She had already pushed Inner Editor back once to no effect. Surely she wouldn’t do it again. “And you, Writer’s Block. You’ve been a figment of my imagination the entire month, teasing me and making me believe that there’s nothing to write about when in fact there’s plenty to write about.”
“Then let’s see you catch up now!” Inner Editor said. She turned to Writer’s Block. “You know what to do.” Writer’s Block blew more small bubbles. Mia’s laptop floated out of her bag, and the bubbles sucked words from the laptop and into the bubbles, and Mia ran around, popping bubbles with the pencil, but she wasn’t fast enough. A few minutes later the bubbles that had popped once were being reformed by Writer’s Block and were sucking in the words again. Inner Editor ran toward Mia and whispered in her ear.
“Don’t pop those bubbles,” Inner Editor said. “Those are all crappy words anyway. It wouldn’t hurt to get rid of all of them.”
“But those are forty-two thousand words!” Mia exclaimed as she popped the word bubbles too slowly for them to return to her laptop.
“Loser,” Inner Editor whispered. “Terrible writer. You’ll never become a great writer. You’ll never even be a NaNoWriMo winner.”
Mia dropped the metal pencil for a minute. Was it true? Was Inner Editor right?
Then Mia heard the sound that lifted her spirit more than any other since Writer’s Block had trapped her inside the bubble. Footsteps. A figure with brown shoulder-length hair stepped in, followed by a shaggily handsome man. They were holding hands, and the woman was holding a young boy. Brenda followed them in, followed by the rest of the coffee shop staff and some of the other customers. Even the ghostly couple Mia hadn’t seen in weeks, Cole, the preschool staff, the children at the preschool, and people Mia didn’t even recognize stepped into the bubble.
“Good afternoon,” Amy said, facing Mia. She turned to Writer’s Block. “Your bubble isn’t characterproof, I hope you know.”
Writer’s Block turned pale. He had never thought of that when devising his evil plan.
Mia turned to her characters. “You know what to do,” she said, hoping they did because there was no way she was going to tell them what to do in front of her nemeses. The characters certainly did know what to do, and they popped those bubbles with gusto. Keith was particularly good at popping bubbles; he ran around popping bubbles with his X-Acto knife, while Amy popped bubbles with the traveling shovel of death, which she somehow rescued from the burial site. Mia didn’t even bother asking her how that had happened and in fact didn’t even get a chance, for Inner Editor was rounding on her.
“Terrible. Worthless. Useless prose. No one writes worse than you,” Inner Editor said. “Your words are better off here, you know. They can live a life in their best condition, never being exposed to the light of day. No one will have to suffer deaths from exposure to Mia’s words. The world will be much better off without your words.”
“Lies!” Mia yelled, trying to convince herself that it was a lie because it would keep her going and help her finish NaNo–that is, if it were even possible.
“Truth,” Inner Editor said, and with that Mia could take no more. She held the pencil up to her and heard the voice that filled her heart with joy, except this time she could hear what it said, and she listened to it as her characters ran around destroying word bubbles and setting Mia’s words and their own story free. Only a few more bubbles remained.
“If ever Mia shall decide
To give up NaNo–oh, she tried!
Then she should know there’s no debate
That NaNoWriMo’s in her fate.”
The voices sang Mia’s name followed by NaNoWriMo several times before resuming the rhyme. Mia smiled and turned back to the inner editor.
“I’m going to finish NaNo whether you like it or not,” Mia said, holding the point of the pencil closer to Inner Editor than was healthy.
“No,” Inner Editor said. “You can’t. Your novel is terrible.”
“Just watch me,” Mia said, and she stabbed Inner Editor in the heart with the pencil. The song played out loud as the characters popped the last two word bubbles, and Inner Editor writhed.
“NaNoWriMo… in your fate…” Inner Editor mumbled as her bun fell apart and her face fell flat, her glasses falling to the floor. Inner Editor fell to the floor in a crumpled heap as Writer’s Block writhed at the other end of the bubble, pinned to the bubble by Amy and the traveling shovel of death.
“How’d you like that?” Amy asked. Mia watched as all the words floated back to Mia’s laptop and arranged themselves in the right order.
“I can’t believe it,” Writer’s Block mumbled. “You did it.”
“Oh, not only did we do it,” Amy said. “But we know what’s going to happen next. You’re only in Mia’s imagination, after all.”
Mia sat back, letting Amy take control. Amy’s hair sat in place, her eyes blazing and the traveling shovel of death in hand.
“What?” Writer’s Block asked. “What do you mean you know?”
“Oh, we know,” Amy said. “Remember when Keith and I went to the art gallery I work at because I was working their next event?” Writer’s Block nodded. “Guess who happens to be there?”
Writer’s Block gulped. Cole stepped forward, and Amy held the pawn in her hand. Cole reached for it, but Amy didn’t hand it over. “Oh no,” Amy said. “You’re not supposed to get this back yet.”
“What do you mean, I don’t get it back?” Cole asked. “That’s been missing for weeks and I’ve had to make up this crazy postmodern explanation as to why a pawn was missing from a chess set. Most of them have bought it, but others, not so much.”
“And what did you tell them?” Amy asked.
“That it represented… something. I don’t remember what now,” Cole said. To tell the truth, he didn’t want to remember.
“You’re not supposed to get this back yet,” Amy said. She watched as Writer’s Block writhed in place. Mia suddenly realized what Amy was about to do and then remembered what Alaina told her way back when.
“Amy, no!” Mia said. “You can’t do that to him.”
Amy turned to Mia. “Why not?” Amy asked. “It’s the traveling shovel of death. It’s supposed to kill people.”
“But you don’t get it,” Mia said. “Too many people have tried that. He likes getting bopped on the head by it now. It only encourages his crime of robbing people of the ability to write.” Mia looked around and noticed that the bubble around them was fading. Fading, but not disappearing entirely.”
“Then what am I supposed to do, stab him with the pencil?” Amy asked.
Mia thought. She never actually killed Writer’s Block; in fact, Alaina told her that Writer’s Block would always be back. Amy wanted to try, though, so Mia walked to Inner Editor and yanked the pencil out of her. Surprisingly, it was clean, probably because Inner Editor didn’t have a heart. Mia grinned and handed it to Amy.
“Go for it,” Mia said. Writer’s Block writhed as Mia and her characters surrounded him, telling him what they were doing next in the story, and when Amy stood right in front of him, Amy said, “You’re a monster, Writer’s Block. You deserve to die,” and she stabbed him in the heart.
“I’ll be back!” Writer’s Block yelled as his writhing slowed to a dull stop, and he writhed no more.
“I’ll be back?” Amy asked Mia.
The bubble faded, and someone else entered, someone Mia hadn’t seen in a long time. Alaina wrapped her arms around Mia. “Welcome back,” Mia said.
“How’s the writing going?” Alaina asked.
“It’s going well,” Mia said. “Could be better.” Alaina turned toward Amy, who had now pulled the pencil out of Writer’s Block’s chest; it too came out clean. These villains really were heartless. “What have you been up to?”
“I’ve been on a little vacation,” Alaina said. “It’s what happens during this time of the month.”
Mia shook her head. “No, really, what have you been up to?” Mia asked. “I could have used you during the last few weeks.”
“Don’t worry, I’m back now,” Alaina replied. “It’s time to make this happen.” Amy handed the pencil back to Mia, and Mia stashed it back in her bag as they settled on the trusty eraser bench to write. Eight thousand more words to go, Mia told herself as she began to write.
Have the enemies been vanquished? Will Mia finish NaNoWriMo with three days and 8000 words to go? I am a cruel human being for making you wait until Monday.
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After a few more sentences, Mia looked around Wrimonia. Some Wrimos weren’t writing at all and in fact weren’t carrying writing implements, but instead were wandering around Wrimonia with purple bars and relieved looks on their faces. These Wrimos were celebrating with champagne and confetti. Others were sitting on eraser benches like Mia and were typing away on their novels. Vendors with halos were more vigilant than ever in selling the halos.
“Don’t you want to be in Wrimonia again next year?” one vendor yelled across Wrimonia. “Get a halo for yourself or a friend today! Save Wrimonia!” The vendor pushed his cart to a Wrimo celebrating her victory, and Mia looked away to a sign ticking away the seconds toward the end of NaNo. Mia watched it for a few seconds before turning away. Every second watching that sign was a second not writing, she told herself, and I can’t afford that right now.
Missed Friday’s installment? Read Part Thirty-Three before continuing.
Everything was gone. Writer’s Block, Inner Editor, the black bubble that Writer’s Block had been blowing to surround them. Mia looked up. It was just like the day she was browsing the adoptable threads in the Plot Doctoring forums, except she didn’t get sucked into anything. She got up and wiped herself down. Then she noticed where she was.
NANOWRIMO ATE MY SOUL, read the nearest plaque. Nothing could be more true, Mia thought as she ran into the forum. She stumbled into the nearest thread, conveniently titled “I hate myself and want to die” and collapsed on the nearest couch, metal pencil still in hand. As she panted, she looked around the room. Other Wrimos appeared to be in similar states.
The next day disaster struck. Amy and Keith, who were so present the day before despite their murder of an innocent woman, were nowhere to be found. Alaina, of course, was on an extended vacation. Unfortunately, other visitors did make their way to Mia, and some very familiar ones at that.
The once-ugly man unzipped his costume and revealed his shiny locks and handsome outfit. He pranced around Mia, blowing dark bubbles in her direction and laughing with glee as they popped in her face.
“Stop it!” Mia yelled as another bubble, the biggest one yet, popped right in front of her face. “I’m trying to write here.”