The famous novelist broke his fingers. Day one was Regret and Disbelief. Day Two was only Pain, but as he grew accustomed to the painkiller's fuzz and the dull routine of the hospital, so began his true torment.

It started as an itch inside his head. By Day Three the itch had become an ache, by Day Four a pain to rival his throbbing fingers, though this was a sensation the painkillers could not dull. On Day Five the pain became a voice.

"Why aren't you writing us?"

"It's my fingers," said the novelist, "they're broken."

"We made a deal."

"Pardon me?"

"We made a deal that if you'd write us out we'd make you rich and famous. You're letting us down, Mac."

"I'm sorry, I can't write. I can't type, can't pick up a pen -- I can't even wipe my own arse for heaven's sake!"


"Excuses! It's not as if I can do much about it."

"Pick up a pen. There's one by the bedside."

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"It'll hurt. I might damage my fingers."

"The pain is dulled. We can dull it further." A fuzz more numbing than the doctor's drugs crawled over his skin. He clutched at the hospital bed-linen in reflex action, yet felt no pain. Soon even the linen's rough texture had faded to nothing. "Stop it, I can't feel anything."

"Good. Now pick up the pen."

The novelist reached out for it, but stopped short. "What about my fingers? I may not feel pain, but I could still hurt myself. Please -- you want me to heal don't you? You want me to write again? The doctor said I should be able to type in a few weeks. . ."

"Too long. Pick up the pen."

He reached out with the tips of his fingers bunched together by tape and bandage like a semi-naked sock puppet, and brushed them against the pen's hard plastic casing. He drew back. "I could dictate."

"Not acceptable. Pick it up."

He pushed his finger tips down onto the pen, but it skittered across the bedside table, span out off the edge, and clicked onto the floor.

"Get out of bed."

Lips pursed below a sweat mustache, the novelist got down on his hands and knees and tried again to pick up the pen. He fumbled, but pushed down hard before it could skid away. He managed to wedge the pen in his claw. Sweat stung his eyes and a sob stuck in his throat. His hospital gown fell around him exposing his backside.

His voice a whisper. "I have no paper."

Theirs a curse. "We don't care. Write us. Write us now!"

The novelist sat up, concentrating on keeping hold of the pen. Too scared to stand, he tried writing on his gown, but the ballpoint's nib scratched and bunched the fabric and left no mark.

"Write us now!"

The sob in his throat escaped his mouth in a parody of speech. He pulled up his gown to expose his thighs. The gathered cloth in his lap his final dignity, he began to write at his left knee.

"Oh yes. That feels so good, so gooood." The pen flowed well against his smooth skin, like writing on banana-skin, and before long both legs were text tattoos. Unmindful of the gown slipping away, chin pinned to his neck, he continued writing upside-down from crotch to collar bone.

When the nurses came they found him on the floor, clothed only in words, except for that last blank page across his back, with outstretched pen trembling in contorted frustration, and screaming:

"Write us now!"

"Write us now!"

"Write us now!"
"Write Us Now!"
Copyright: © 2010 Barry J. Northern
Barry J. Northern lives in Brighton, England with his wife, son, dog, and cat, who is getting old and has just lost one of her front teeth (say ah). He was inspired, no, forced, to write this story by his own subconscious after being too busy to write much for a few days recently. He's glad there was a laptop to hand. He has a few stories over at Flashes in the Dark, and blogs regularly at, which is also the home of his weekly podcast, Friday Fables.


  1. Real life Nano horror? Good one Barry, congrats!

  2. I don't think this is fiction, Barry! Great story, with all the horrors that writers face from inside.

  3. Wow, some muses are more demanding than others. Good story!

  4. Very enjoyable piece of writing, Barry.