OUT OF PAPER
Action heroine Max Wagger combats forced writing.
I’m a professional procrastinator. I could probably write a book on the subject, but – like I said – I’m fully mastering the art of sitting on one’s hands.
Instead, I read about it. In a combination of sneering disdain and whimpering self-pity I browse online articles on writer’s block, deadlines and self-discipline. That way, I get to put off the writing a little longer. Moreover, I’m a procrastinator of the dangerous kind. Code red. Because I have trouble admitting to it. Of course I can write decent stuff. If I want to. But I don’t want to. Instead I write bullshit and bloody lies.
"There’s a simple ABC to dealing with the likes of you. Apply Butt to Chair. You’re not going anywhere until the job is done!"
Max Wagger writhed painfully. She was hogtied to the chair. Beads of perspiration ran down her face and gathered in a humid delta between her breasts. The room was hot. She had not eaten since they took her prisoner. The thirst bothered the hell out of her. Her butt was numb after aimless, agonizing hours in the chair. How long would she have to sit there? They could hardly keep her there forever? This last thought she said out loud as she squinted at the nameless silhouettes just outside the beam of light from the desk lamp.
– You cannot escape, Miss Wagger. Not this time.
The leader placed two hairy hands on the desk and leaned toward her. He smelled like ashtrays and cold coffee.
– There’s a simple ABC to dealing with the likes of you. Apply Butt to Chair. You’re not going anywhere until the job is done!
Max tilted her head back and let out a raspy laugh, revealing perfect teeth in a flash of white.
– Tricks for kids! It takes more than acronyms to hold me to a chair. I’m a professional!
The leader straightened up and snapped his fingers. One of the nameless men materialized from the shadows to put pen and paper in front of her.
– Don’t make this harder than it needs to be. All you have to do is write what I ask of you. Then you are free to go. It gives me no pleasure to see a young and beautiful woman rot away at a desk.
– But … 2000 words?! You must be insane, she hissed between clenched teeth.
He shrugged. – What are 2000 words compared to your freedom?
– But the words won’t mean anything! It’ll just be nonsense! Written under pressure! Any person with a shred of critical sense will realize that it’s not even worth the paper it’s written on!
Her voice was thick and hoarse with thirst. Or was it fear?
– Ah, do not underestimate yourself now, Miss Wagger. I will appreciate it. As will others of the same twisted, deviant nature.
A meager consolation … Max Swagger grimaced as if swallowing bile.
– Besides, I know about your dark secret …
He leaned in and let his eyes crawl hungrily over her sweaty, drawn face and the hands that were tied to the desk. As if her inner struggle was something he enjoyed, craved and sucked in with a hunger that she could physically feel. It was repulsive, terrifying and yet it found a strange resonance in her.
– … That deep down, this is what you want. That’s why you came here and practically let yourself be caught, after snooping around the area for several days! His voice was soft, almost languorous. – Believe me. It will feel like a relief once it’s done and the words are put down on paper. Not just a relief. An intoxicating feeling! Better than –
Max Wagger quickly glanced away, afraid of the truth he might read in her eyes. Instead, she stared at the white paper waiting in front of her. Terrifying in all its blinding bareness. Her brain was working feverishly to find ways to escape. Ideas and plans were snatched out of the air, assessed and rejected at lightning speed. Would she be able to trigger the smoke alarm? Too far away. Could she reach the penknife? And kill somebody? Or herself? Negative, it was made of plastic. Could she dare to hope that someone would miss her and come to her rescue? No again. She had made it abundantly clear that she preferred being alone on these missions. No one would try to reach her.
Would she have to write? Every nerve in her body screamed in protest. Her tied hands tugged and pulled in vain. The coarse ropes only dug deeper into the flesh. Did she have a choice? If she refused him – if she actually got away – what then? Sooner or later they would find and catch her again. At best, it would all merely be a postponement.
It was just writing, but the man might as well have asked her jump into a barrel of snakes and roll off a very gentle slope.
With sudden clarity she knew she could not do it. It was just writing, but the man might as well have asked her jump into a barrel of snakes and roll off a very gentle slope. It was not going to happen! No, no way, uhn-uh!
– I need to go to the restroom, she said.
The man clicked his tongue, looking annoyed. – The world’s oldest tricks. You insult my intelligence, Miss. Is that really all you have to offer?
– Far be it from me to second-guess your razor-sharp instincts, but then you should perhaps have failed to tie me to an antique chair in cuir-de-cordoue and horsehair upholstery if you wanted to avoid … ahem, moisture damage, said Max smoothly.
The leader fought a short battle with himself. – Ok. You will be escorted to a bathroom. You will bring pen and paper with you and write there.
Max stared open-mouthed at him. Her face grew hot. – Writing … on the can?
– A lot of people are able to write while sitting on the toilet. Some even write good stuff. Profitable stuff.
Two of the nameless men untied the ropes and Max Wagger was forcefully escorted down the hall. She glanced quickly inside the small bathroom, nodding to herself.
– You got five minutes. If you have not slipped us a densely written sheet from under the door by then, we’re coming in!
Five and a half minutes later, they gave up knocking on the door. Wood chips flew as the door was brutally kicked in. A tiny window high up on the wall was swinging in the sudden draft. Its high-pithed creaks sounding like mockery. It must have cost an enormous effort and motivation to choose such an escape route. Writing paper was crumpled and pushed down the toilet. Words and an obscene drawing were scribbled on the wall with the pen. It was a far cry from 2,000 words.
"Unfortunately, I ran out of paper. Next time I’ll come better prepared. Max"
Outside, already beyond the first tall pines, Max Wagger ran for the woods with long, light strides. Most of the day had passed, but the sun peeked out from behind a cloud and the air after the rain was like champagne.
She was free.
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