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Short stories

The Cocoon

The Cocoon

Ever since he had been a boy, his ambition in life had been to write. Throughout the years at school and then at college and university, he had seized upon every opportunity to read and read and hone his talent. Eventually, he had become famous, but not by the typical routes of patronage through which most authors managed to find success. Instead, he had slaved away at the English idiom in the papers, eventually published by a small, independent company. Over the years, he had perfected his own special technique of delivery and it was an especially ascetic and self-denying one.

 

He would sit in a darkened room, with just a desk lamp for light. There was to be no interference with his thought processes from outside media. He sat with a clothes peg on his nose to deny him the sense of smell and wore ear plugs. He severed all outside contact and personal relationships, so that he would not be disturbed. This method gave him the focus that he needed to produce his masterful prose. His opponents had levied against him the criticism that writing was a social process and that he had intentionally starved himself of society, that this took from his work. They had tagged him “the cocoon writer” and savaged him in their literary magazines, but he had become the locus of a powerful literary faction and school.

 

He was at the close of his career and had produced three masterworks, which even his critics had to admit (even with all their faults) were among the most powerful and original in the realm of the English language. There was not one author that could touch him in the living world and many thought that even the dead could not compete. But he was not complacent; he did not know what the world thought of him.

 

He was working on his fourth and final novel, now that he was grown old and his mental faculties were going. He knew that it was his greatest work and that it could never be rivalled. He had worked at it with tremendous industry, had finished his first version and was now painstakingly revising the first draft.

 

His hands and fingers hurt with the writing, and his mind was weary with the writing. He paused a little and massaged the back of his neck with his hand, stared at the white ceiling. He had painted the whole room white, because he was sure that any other colour would impress its mood upon his writing. There was a little crack in the ceiling, he noticed. He had not seen it before, but it was clearly visible now.

 

In fact, as he looked at it, it seemed to get a little bigger. He reprimanded himself for being such an old fool and looked away. He was thinking about the main character in his novel, Catherine. He had called her a tawny blonde in the first chapter, but had changed her later to a golden blonde. He was wondering what the effect of each description would have on the overall meaning of the work. He looked up again and suddenly gasped. The crack was bigger.

 

He was sure it was bigger, he was not so sure about how much bigger, but that it was bigger he could be certain. He stood on his chair and looked at it more closely. He had not seen another human being for so many years and now he could see a cradle above him. The weight seemed to be breaking apart the ceiling in his apartment; the rockers were made out of metal.

 

He frowned and scratched his ear – a nervous habit of his and the ear plug fell out and he heard a startling sound. His heart collapsed under the shock and the surprise of it and he foamed at the mouth and died. It was a terrible beauty that destroyed his fragile world and fragile brain. It was the baby’s cry.

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