Lost in the Wild

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic


Walter dreams of becoming a published author. Will he achieve his dreams?

Submitted: October 31, 2017

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Submitted: October 31, 2017

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‘Good luck with your year off, mate.’

Walter Irvine looked at his smiling colleagues. His workmates had crammed around him in his corner of the office. His manager shook his hand.

‘There’s always a job here for you.’

‘Cheers. That’s good to know.’

‘What are you doing with the time?’

‘I’m going to write a novel.’

‘How fascinating. The next Stephen King, eh?’

Walter laughed, his cheeks reddened. He was always rather embarrassed by the attention his stories attracted. He’d been writing since his childhood and had finally decided to take the step to have a year off and devote himself entirely to his writing. He was young, it was the start of the Nineteen Eighties. It was time for him to make his mark. One year to discover if he had the makings of an author. He would immerse himself in the words and ideas and see what he came up with. He reminded himself that if the worse happened and he came up with nothing or pages of worthless unprintable drivel then he could return to the nine to five having given it his best shot.

As his leaving date had neared Walter had decided that there would be too many distractions if he world from his small flat in Salford. He would start his twelve months with every intention of writing his masterpiece but would no doubt end up watching daytime television and eating junk food. To do this thing properly he would have to cut himself off from the luxuries of modern life. If he could retreat from all the distractions then, he hoped, he could write something truly great, or at least greatly true.

His friends and family wished him well. Walter knew everyone thought he was crazy. But he knew he had something. The words and stories just came to him. And he was still in his twenties. He had the rest of his life to do the spirit crushing office thing. His father had tried to ‘talk some sense’ into him. Walter had insisted that he had to at least give it a shot.

‘And if you don’t make it?’

‘Then I’ll go back to the office.’

His dad had shrugged, unable to come up with a better argument.

‘But just imagine,’ Walter had continued. ‘if I make it. Wouldn’t that be something?’

‘That sounds like one of your stories.’

He rented a run down cabin in the Cheshire woodlands. The place was as basic as Walter wanted to go. It was small square wooden building surrounded by thick forest. A bare bulb hung from the ceiling, a faded worn rug on the floor. The only furnishings apart from the ancient kitchen equipment in one corner were a battered leather arm chair and a dining table with two chairs. Walter dropped his bags to the floor. He smiled. The place was perfect especially captured in the April sunshine spilling through the window. He placed a hand gently on the table. His new writing desk. The place had such potential. The sparse room reminded him of photos he’d seen of Dylan Thomas’ writing shed. Maybe the surroundings would be the inspiration he needed to produce something special.

He unpacked everything he would need. Clothing, tins and tins of food, bottled water and whiskey. He placed the stacks of paper in the desk drawers with refills for his silver pen. The pen had been a present from an ex-girlfriend. The relationship hadn’t lasted but Walter had continued to write his stories with the pen. It became something of a tradition. He would only write his stories with this pen. He propped a selection of paperback books on the wooden shelf. The volumes would hopefully help keep him inspired. The books ranged from poetry collections by Dylan Thomas and Ted Hughes to the Sherlock Holmes short stories and a book on writing by Science Fiction legend Ray Bradbury.

He soon found is routine. He would write for several hours and then go for a walk. He would wander through the forest taking in the rich beauty and the silence of it all. As he walked he would go over in his head what he had written and where he wanted the story to go.

Once settled into the routine the days passed quickly. He scribbled page after page. Words and ideas flowed like whispered voices carried on the breeze. It was almost like the things he was writing were not coming from him but from out there somewhere. He could almost see and hear the characters in front of him. The scenes seemed to be taking place right there in the cabin.

The words flowed and the weeks passed by. Walter scratched the growth of beard on his jaw. He had always enjoyed writing but here and now he was living and breathing each sentence. There was something magical about it all. The real world and the written word seemed to blur and join together so that he could not quite tell which was which.

It was then that strange things started to happen. The story he was currently writing had a scene where the protagonist lost his temper. The character hurled a glass at the wall. Walter heard the smash of glass. He stared in utter shock. There in the corner of the room were fragments of broken glass. When a character stormed out of the door Walter felt the draft from the open door. Was he losing his grip on reality? Surely this couldn’t actually be happening.

Reality and fiction, dreaming and waking the lines became blurred. He laughed and went to make a cup of coffee. This was like one of his stories. If this was in one of his stories there would be a face at the window. He turned to check.

He yelled out in shock. There was a face at the window. A grey haired man with a scraggly beard peered through the window.

A moment later the man pushed the door open. He stared at Walter.

‘I don’t understand.’ the man said.

‘You gave me a shock. Can I help you?’

The man looked around the room at the clutter and screwed up sheets of paper littering the floor. Every available space was piled high with sheets of paper. The room was full of notes, half formed ideas, poems and first chapters. Somewhere in all the chaos there was something special. Walter was certain of that.

‘You are here to write.’

‘Yes, that’s right.’ Walter said. ‘I just-’

‘Had to get away?’

The old man had eyes that told a poetic soul.

‘Yes, exactly.’ said Walter.

The old man rolled up his tattered shirt sleeves.

‘Let’s see what we’ve got.’

Walter smiled. There was something about this man; Walter knew he was an artist. He had wild eyes to match the dishevelled appearance. He reminded Walter of an American poet from the 1800s or maybe a still-touring aging rock star.

‘You’re a writer.’

The man sighed before speaking.

‘I’m that miserable of creatures, a published novelist.’

‘How amazing. I want to hear all about it.’

The man pointed at the writing desk.

‘Let’s see what you’ve got.’

There was something strangely enticing about the old feller. Walter waved a welcoming hand. He ushered him in and grabbed a stack of notes from the desk.

Seated around the desk, amidst all the papers, they went through page after page. The older man would make suggestions, offer ideas, and point Walter in certain directions.

From their hideaway in the woods two men worked hard. In between walks in the countryside they carved out a story. They worked well together. Despite the age difference the aspiring writer and the published author connected through the story.

The months passed. Walter was excited at the novel they were crafting. Finally as they approached the twelve month mark the book was nearing completion.

With the author standing over his shoulder Walter scribbled away furiously. And then it was done. They had completed the novel. He slammed the pen down on the desk. He punched the air with both fists.

‘We’ve done it.’

He turned to face the author. Walter was alone in the room. He got to his feet. He quickly checked the rest of the small cabin. No sign. He rushed outside. He glanced through the trees. What a shame, he thought, I didn’t get chance to thank him.

As he packed his things away and loaded up the car in preparation to leave he went over everything in his mind. Had the old man actually visited him? Had that really happened? Or had he lost his mind out here? Maybe he would never find out. Then something occurred to him. He didn’t even know the man’s name.

He placed the box containing his freshly completed novel in the passenger foot well. His task upon returning to the outside world would be to try and publish his book. He had an inkling that this part would not be as enjoyable as the writing.

 

After six months of peddling his novel around various publishing houses his work was eventually accepted by a publisher. Walter was shocked and excited. He was beginning to think he’d never get accepted. He had spent most of his free time since childhood writing stories and now the world was about to read his novel. His family and friends were almost as excited as he was. His mates insisted on taking him to the pub to celebrate. They bragged to all that their friend would be the next Terry Pratchett. His mother boasted to anyone who would listen that her son was going to be as big as Catherine Cookson.

Walter Irvine’s debut novel was released almost a year after he had left the forest. It  was a moderate success and was being well received by critics and public alike.

When he told his father that he’d just been offered a ten book publishing deal his dad nodded, well done, and grabbed the whiskey bottle and two glasses. As they clinked glasses his dad had a tear in his eye.

It wasn’t the money or the fame that interested him. When he heard Radio Four discussing his work he changed the station. He turned down the requests to attend book signings. He would thank them for their interest but insist that appearances weren’t what he was about. He had to admit though that he was elated the first time he saw someone on the bus reading his book. What meant the most to him was that his work was being read. He was finally being paid for doing what he loved.

Every now and again his mind went back to the cabin in the woods. He hadn’t seen or heard from the old man who had helped him. He had been instrumental in gathering Walter’s thoughts and had actually made major changes to the plot.

His follow up novel was an instant smash. Walter was initially embarrassed by the attention but he eventually warmed to the praise lavished on him and his work.

Maybe, he finally decided, those that were describing his new book as the novel of the decade were right. Perhaps his writing was special. Maybe the way he’d developed his skill out in the wild added something magical to the years of writing.

He started to give interviews and attend book signings. When the ‘book of the decade’ was mentioned Walter would summon up as much modesty as he could and insist that the 1980s were far from over. One interviewer had replied, in that case she couldn’t wait to read what he’d be writing in the Nineties.

The books began to fly off the shelves. The money, praise and fame flew in. His old friends kind of faded away as his status grew. He told himself that it was his friends who had dropped him but deep down he knew the truth. When his friends suggested a curry and a few beers he would already have plans having dinner with a couple of people his publisher felt he should meet.

His working class life eventually gave way to a glamorous lifestyle. He moved into a large house in a leafy Manchester suburb. His new circle of friends included television starts, former footballers and journalists. He would spend his mornings writing and the afternoons on the golf course.

The next decade did indeed see Walter Irvine at the height of his writing career. Every novel he published spent weeks at the top of the charts. Critics couldn’t wait for the next book and at the signings he regularly attended fans queued around the block for the chance to meet the celebrated author.

When he got married to a reality television star ten years his junior the photographs appeared on the cover of all the glossy magazines. At their mansion house in Cheshire Walter and Chanelle would entertain their friends. Their parties became well known in their circle. Most of their friends were in ‘the business’. They were all famous and successful in their own right. One of his wife’s favourite words was glamorous. Everything had to be glamorous. Their clothes and jewellery, their cars, holiday destinations, right down to the diamond studded collar on her Chihuahua Coco. Life was all about the glamour.

The glamorous lifestyle involved the renowned parties which took place at least four nights of the week. The soirees became a hazy blur of music, drink and drugs. Amid the flashing lights and pulsing music the couple would get off their faces on any substance they could get their hands on.  The house was always packed with revellers. Walter did not recognise most of the people attending. When he asked Chanelle who the people were she would insist they were a friend of a friend.

Their days were spent mostly recovering from the night before. Now and again Chanelle would pop off to a photo shoot or a TV appearance. Walter would sit at his writing desk and prepare to write. But the words wouldn’t come. The ideas that once rattled around his head been replaced by a constant throbbing headache.

Whenever he mentioned his dreaded writers block to Chanelle she would pour him a large drink and tell him to lighten up. She would tell him not to worry and that the ideas would come back.

‘What if they don’t? What if I never write another book?’

She stared at him in confusion.

‘Then we’ll live off the books you’ve already written, darling.’

The next day Walter had one of his regular interviews lined up. This time he would be promoting a re-issue of one of his early classic works. Walter nodded as the BBC radio interviewer introduced him as one of the great modern novelists. The reporter praised his work and suggested that the term literary genius could be used to describe him.

‘Very kind,’ Walter smirked. ‘but if the cap fits.’

The reporter asked him about his background. Walter explained about his humble working class upbringing. He’d had a hard but loving childhood in the Northern slums. Later in the interview he was asked about his writing and his daily writing routine. He almost replied that he didn’t do much writing these days. He simply said that he writes for a few hours before taking a walk to clear his head. He did not mention that he would wake up still drunk and stoned from the night before often fully clothed in a random part of his large house.

The reporter mentioned his lifestyle. Walter smiled smugly.

‘These days I can afford the finer things in life. I dine in the best restaurants in the city, my clothes are tailor made. This watch,’ he waved the large silver watch dripping from his wrist. ‘costs more than the terraced house I grew up in.’

‘Are you happy?’

‘Excuse me?’

‘I asked if you are happy. You are a best selling author, you are wealthy and married to a beautiful TV star. Your life seems to be perfect. So, I wondered, if you are happy.’

‘Yes. Yes, I am.’

‘Would you care to elaborate?’

‘No. Next question.’

‘What are your dreams?’

‘I don’t have dream. Only nightmares.’

He got to his feet and waved a hand. The interview was over. The reporter called out thanking him for his time. Walter charged from the studio.

That evening as he smoked, drank and snorted himself into oblivion the interviewer’s question went over and over in his mind. Was he happy? He was rich, successful and famous. He got anything he wanted. He had a collection of expensive sports cars in his garage. Mind you, these days he was never quite sober enough to drive. In a stupor brought on by the drink and drugs and also by his mood, he padded from room to room. Each room was full of revellers. Every so often he would see a face he thought he recognised. The pulsing music and flashing coloured lights added to the fog in his head.

Was this what success was like? He was a powerful figure in the literary world but somewhere along the way he had lost control of his life. Unsure quite what he was looking for he wandered through his house as though he was visiting a strange psychedelic museum. He grabbed a bottle of whiskey from a table. He twisted the cap and took a long swig. He sighed and carried on walking. He opened the door to a tiny box room towards the back of the house.

‘Oh, sorry.’ He muttered as he saw the couple having sex on the sofa. As he was closing the door to leave he recognised the woman’s face. Chanelle.

Walter swore. He gave a deep groan before turning and walking away. Chanelle rushed after him yanking her dress down her legs.

‘Walter, it meant nothing.’

‘Nothing does.’

The press reported on the high profile divorce. Chanelle was all over the television and magazines declaring that although they still loved each other they had just fallen out of love with each other.

Walter did not contest her demands in the divorce proceedings. He did not care. Fame, money and status. He had it all and yet his life had no meaning.

While Chanelle paraded herself on a series of celebrity reality TV shows he retreated to the privacy of his large home. He wanted nothing more to do with fame. He did not want to see or speak to anyone. The once full party house was no empty apart from the writer. Locked up in the vast mansion Walter threw himself more and more into his writing.

The media referred to his vanishing from public view using words like ‘self-imposed exile’ and ‘recluse’. Walter did not want any part of the shallow world. He focused once again on his writing. His stories had got him to the top and everything fell apart when he stopped concentrating on his writing. The outside world could rot as far as he was concerned.

His next novel was published a month later. The press and the public caused a fuss after the high-profile divorce. Walter made no appearances, no promotional tour.  He simply started work on his next book.

And for the next twenty years that was how Walter lived. Cut off from the outside world he wrote the ideas that came to him. His existence now reminded him of the time he’d spent in the woods as a young man.

One day having completed his latest novel and sent it off to his publishers he knew that he was done. He had finished his last novel. His writing and his life was over. He knew it. He was finished. He was in ill-health. He had more aches and pains than ever. He knew his eventful life had caught up with him. Things had run their course. His time in the house was over. Not entirely sure where he was going he went outside and climbed in his car. With the radio tuned to a rock station he drove out into the countryside. He sped down winding country lanes with the radio blasting out. He cared nothing about his safety. He had been coughing blood for months and had stomach cramps so dangerous driving was just no concern.

He slammed on the brakes. He stopped and stared. What had made him stop so suddenly? He shook his head. There was nothing in the road. He got out of the car. He looked up and down the road. The empty lane swept away in both directions. He stepped off the road and slipped in between the trees lining the road.

He walked further and further into the forest, still unsure of where he was or where he was heading. He walked on and on. Some time later he saw a wooden cabin buried deep in the woods. The place looked vaguely familiar. He approached slowly. He peered in the window. The occupant of the cabin called out in surprise. Walter opened the cabin door and stared at the scene in front of him. The person looking back at him was him. It was him, as he was all those years ago when he’d retreated into the wild.

‘I don’t understand.’ Walter said.

Nobody was quite sure when of the last sighting of the famous author.


© Copyright 2018 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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