The Waiting Room

    It wasn’t a very large room, though it was crowded with people. It wasn’t large because it wasn’t meant to hold anyone for very long. It was built to be uncomfortable. The chairs were those kinds that look like broken and bent plastic spoons balanced on a tangle of metal that somehow worked out to be legs. There was no coffee table or rack of multicolored magazines to guilt the patients for their deficient bodies and minds. There wasn’t a single picture on the walls, and no windows or fish tanks. You wouldn’t be able to find a water fountain either, or even so much as a vending machine. It was really nothing more than a box. Exactly what the name suggested: a room for waiting in.

  Despite that, this was no normal room. Every chair was full of ragged, tired looking men and woman. Some bleeding. Most bruised. All reflecting the same look of boredom back at the others. Sometimes someone new would come, which would cause everyone else to grumble and shift around. And still, there was a chair for everyone, and not one left empty.

  The fact that people could come and go was a bit remarkable in and of itself. You see, there wasn’t a door in this room.

   “You three have been here for a while,” an attractive young woman in a Victorian-styled brown dress said, adjusting her bodice. A skinny blond boy in a particularly beat-up group nodded slowly in answer.

     “Writer's block?” The girl asked.

     “No, busy weekend.” Cowl Coven answered.

 Adelaide shook her head, brown curls bouncing. “It’s not fair. Weekends are supposed to be ours.”

  “Give her a break,” Bas said, leaning back. “Anyway, I’m not particularly eager to be back in our world right now. We’re nearing the turning point, which means that things are going to get sticky from here on out.”

   “From here on out?” Menrva raised an eyebrow. “It’s book two. It’s been sticky already...with my blood mostly.” She glared down at the bruises on her legs.

   “Don’t be so dramatic. You've got it made.” Adelaide tugged at her lace gloves. “The longer it takes her to get through your trilogy, the longer it will be before the rest of us get a turn. At least you have readers.”

   “Why are you so concerned.” A bitter man with a permanent scowl said from the other end of the room. “She doesn’t even know if she’s going to write you.”

   “Shut up. You don’t have to be so cynical,” Adelaide hissed.

   “Cynicism is the Author's primary character trait. I don’t believe there is an optimist among us.” Amonshek crossed his arms, leaning back in his chair.

 Beside him, a broad-chested man who’s comparatively pale skin was crisscrossed with blue tattoos and whip scars raised a hand. “I am.” His face cracked into a giant grin, the Glasgow smile carved into his cheeks wrinkling.

  “That’s because you are the comic relief.” Cowl pointed out.

   “Hey!” Dred jumped to his feet, “I am that. I am very much that.” Laughter rolled out of his lips. “This depressing story needs me.”

   “And I wouldn’t be in a rush to be written if I were you,” Oceane, a black-haired beauty, ran her fingers over the handle of her sword and studied Adelaide with that very distinctive look that suggested she was sizing up the other woman. Adelaide was pretty, and any other pretty woman was a threat. There were two ways Oceane dealt with threats, and the sword in her hand was one. Not that she could use it in the Waiting Room, and even if she could, Adelaide was from another book. So it was pointless. “You see, we were written more times than I can even count anymore. And I think each time was worse than the last. I can only hope the Author gets a handle on this before she tries again. I’d rather sit here forever than be read in that state.”

  Hunter, a lanky teen, shook his head and laughed bitterly. “Speak for yourself. She’s never going to take another crack at me.”

  “Crack.” Kyle chuckled and kicked up his feet on one of the other character’s chair. Ameonna immediately knocked them down, almost throwing Kyle out of his chair. “That’s funny. Ironic.”

   “It wasn’t crack.” Hunter raised an eyebrow. “It was heroin. Crack wasn’t romantic enough. Poor, naive child. But me and Danza aren’t going to ever get published. I wish she’d just forget us so we could leave.”

   “If you are still in here, maybe there is hope. Remember Starke? He did his job and once he was finished and published, he got to leave. Now he’s off filling people’s minds with his world.”

   “I really hope she doesn’t try again,” Danza said. She was a petite, idealized version of the Author in every way. Except for the tears that never seemed to stop rolling down her cheeks. “My book was the first one she finished. And it was really bad. I mean, I don’t want to go back. Even if it means getting out of here. But I’m not upset. I like that she keeps remembering me. I was such an important part of her writing career, and of her faith. It's like, none of you would be here if I wasn't here first.” 

   “She has more reason than any of us to complain.” Ekharis, one of the fantasy characters, pointed out. His stern face was softened by empathy. “And she has the best attitude. She’s right. We are here because the Author loves us. Because she can’t let us go for whatever reason.”

   “Are you sure you aren’t the optimist,” Kyle laughed. “I guess you are right. And it could be worse. We could be Card.”

  Card, a pasty-faced character with watery-white eyes and a trenchcoat studied Kyle for several minutes before answering. “Once she figures the plot out it’ll be better. I love the city she made for me, but I’m just sick of dying every time she thinks about me. I think she has something against men.”

   “Ummm, really?” Menrva said, pointing at the bruises on her face. “She just likes high stakes. If we were in a contemporary romance it would be a lot easier. Sometimes I get jealous of other people’s characters…”

  “Tell me about it,” Cowl echoed.

  “But our stories are all important.” Menrva continued. “I mean, we are teaching her about empathy and love for other people. And Kyle, you are helping her face death. That’s pretty impressive.”

   Kyle shrugged, fixing and awkward grin over his face. “I am pretty impressive, aren’t I?”

   “Guys?” Adelaide interrupted. “What does it feel like to be read?”

  Danza brushed the tears from her cheeks, though they were quickly replaced. “It’s the best feeling in the world.” She said. “It makes everything worth it.”

  “It’s an adventure.” Ameonna looked up at the ceiling, her mind somewhere far off. “Better than flying.”

  Hunter nodded “It’s better than any high.”

“You would know.” Kyle rolled his eyes. “But seriously. Imagine that your world, the one you get to go to when the Author is thinking about you, exists on a hundred different planes. And then imagine that you and everyone you know and care about are in all of them. And you get it experience it all with a million eyes. It’s like the whole universe just unfolds in front of you. It’s like...It’s like… It’s like a sunrise accept you aren’t just seeing it, you are smelling it, tasting it, breathing it. I don’t know, help me out, guys.”

  “Every reader brings their own unique thoughts to the story.” Bas said, picking up on Kyle’s thoughts. “They find new things, and they bring deep thoughts of their own. And not all of them will like you, but it doesn’t matter because once they read you, you get to live in their thoughts. You get to see a bit of their world. It’s pure freedom. That’s the only way to explain it.”

  “I can’t wait!” Adelaide’s face was awash with wonder. She looked around the crowded little room. There are so many characters here. Some were only just discovered. Some have been with the Author for most of her life. Some didn’t have their own worlds yet, or their own voices.  Each a little piece of creativity, mimicking the creativity of God himself. A piece of the author, and yet each something uniquely their own. Especially once a reader got ahold of them. The best was ahead for all of them.

  On the other side of the room, Cowl stood up and grinned “She’s calling us.” He grabbed Bas and Menrva’s hands. “I’m going to get a kill count this time. I can feel it.”

 “Don’t count on it, Cowl.” Menrva lifted her chin and looked down her nose at him. “We have been kicking butt this book. She’s going to give us all the glory.”

  “No way.” The trio began to dissolve as Cowl gloated. “This is my book. I’m one hundred percent the hero. Just you wait, I’m gonna be saving you in the end.”

   With that, the three characters dissolved, and quiet fell back over the Waiting Room. Each character lost in their own daydreams of what it would be like when they got their turn.