The trip to the barn was more incredible then Mike could have anticipated. When he slid open the old barn door, he was slightly disappointed in the plainness of the four visible walls. They were simple whitewashed wood planks that were flaking from age. Where was the magic his author senses told him was here? He sat down his laptop bag and replica sword to look through the yard and garden tools that were placed neatly along the walls and tinkered with the antique tools that were strewed over an old beat up workbench. A giant uneven stone slab created the middle of the barn. It was so large, Mike was sure he could park the SUV in here at night to prevent anyone from messing with it. The author leaned up against the back of the barn, scratching his head at the small size of the interior. He noticed a small latch carefully hidden on the wall to his right.
After several minutes of fiddling with the old metal latch that was painted white with the walls, Mike opened the door to a decent sized seating area. A wood stove sat in front of a rich wine colored overstuffed couch with more pillows then Anna insisted on keeping on their bed. There was a large cherry colored wooden box sitting perfectly in between the couch and two French-designed chairs that faced each other. Mike knew this was the area he was drawn to. He had found his writing spot for the next few months. Fingers crossed, he could get some words down on paper in that time.
Retrieving his author’s survival kit, he set himself up on the couch. As he scattered his notes on the table, Mike propped up the sword against the couch then opened his laptop. The screen was dull as Mike realized his computer battery was dangerously low. Looking around, he noticed an outlet on the far wall of the barn. He knew his cord wouldn’t stretch that far, so he exited the secret door once more in search of an extension cord. For being such an experienced writer, Mike was disappointed he never thought to pack one.
Laptop plugged in, notes from the original book spread out, and the feeling of excitement on starting a new novel, Mike was ready. He elevated his laptop up on his legs with the use of a few of the extra pillows then rubbed his hands together eager to recreate his first love. Bitterline was Mike’s debut novel as a sci-fi author and he poured his heart and soul into carefully creating the characters. Putting his fingers on the keys, the words evaded him once more. He growled in frustration at the book 2 curse.
“Maybe you’re going about it the wrong way,” Derek, the main scientist in Bitterline, said from one of the chairs. He was sitting straight backed with a cup of coffee in his hand. Mike shook his head at him.
“I could agree with you,” SHALI, a secondary character from the book, added with her feet thrown across the arm of the chair. She bounced her right foot in rhythm to a song she must have been playing in her head.
Mike ran his fingers through his hair. “I’m getting enough pressure from everyone else. I don’t need it from you two. Get out of my head, please.”
Derek straightened his white lab coat then sat down his coffee cup on the table. “Here’s the deal, Mike. We just do not want to come out of retirement. Our story has been told and we both are just too old to go on another adventure.”
SHALI, the time traveling artificial intelligence nodded her head. “You can not write this book. We will not allow it, old friend.” With the words from the sweet robot voice, Mike placed the pillows with his laptop off to the side then hung his head in defeat.
“What are you going to do?” Derek asked.
“Can we compromise? I have a lot riding on this story. Tell me what it would take to get your cooperation. Do I need to kill both of you in the end? No more stories could be written?”
Both figures of Mike’s imagination looked at each other. They gestured back and forth as if they were communicating through their heads. They remained quiet for several moments.
“We will agree for you to write our story if you can beat SHALI in a sword fight,” Derek said, interrupting the silence.
“What? No way, come on. How is that even fair? She’s a robot trained in all sorts of battle formations and weaponry. I can’t possibly beat her.”
“No? I thought you were the author that gave her all her knowledge? SHALI only knows what you know. If I remember correctly, most of us had to wait around for weeks to get to our next scene while you researched attack strategies and lethal weapons for her.” Derek reached for his coffee cup and took a sip.
At this moment Mike saw no other hope. He had to write this book and needed the character’s help in doing it. Standing up from his seat, Mike picked up his Bitterline replica sword. SHALI smiled up at him. He didn’t even see her get up before he realized she was behind him, sword in hand. Closing his eyes, he took one last deep breath before turning to face his creation. He ran at her, swinging his sword wildly. She stood still in a defensive position until he was inches away from her. She ducked and rolled out of the way.
Mike realized his mistake before he crashed into the wall. The old wood shattered in pieces on impact. He rolled out of the wall, holding his right shoulder. His wife called for him from the back door of the cabin. “Son of a..” Mike looked around the room, realizing he was alone. Getting up from the ground, he looked back at the wall trying to assess the damage he had caused. In the hole created by his body sat a bundle of white cloth tied up with meatpacking string. Curious, he picked it up with his good arm and went back to the couch.
The sense of adventure filled Mike again at the thought of this hidden treasure he discovered. He pulled at the knots in the string until they untwisted. Clumsily unwrapping the cloth, he discovered a scratched brown leather diary with a brass lock keeping it closed.