Basically just a narrative version of Problems of an internet person.
Basically, a Number One is seen as the ultimate accolade in pop culture. Winning the Gold Medal. The crowning glory.
I sat down at my desk for the third time today, reaching out to the power button on my computer. I fiddled with my phone while it started to warm up, the soft whir of mechanics coming to life inside the machine filling the air around me and breaking the stifling silence. I heard a ping and looked up to my bright screen. “WELCOME”, it read and waited for my password input.
Along with the soap stars, sporting heroes and selected (however distant) members of the Royal Family, pop stars belong to a glittering world of showbiz parties.
After I logged in, I opened a few windows and browsed my social media pages. I smiled at pictures of my friends and their families. I watched some silly videos and sighed, finally squinting at the Word icon to the bottom left of my screen on my taskbar. Click me, it begged.
Once or twice a decade, a story will burst through with a Number One that hits a national nerve, and the public's appetite for the sound and packaging will not be satisfied with the one.
I double-clicked and brought up a blank document, the cursor blinking, taunting me. I leaned back in my chair, staring at it, willing something, anything to come into my mind. A hopeless romantic finding love across seas? An ace detective who sees a partner in an ex-con? Something fantastical, like dragon wars or wizard duels? So many possibilities, and yet...
The formula will be untampered with and the success will be repeated a second, a third and sometimes even a fourth time.
Not a single thing crossed my mind. The cursor kept on blinking, as if saying, “Write something, write something, write something,” over and over again. I leaned forward on my desk, putting my head in my hands and grasping at my hair in frustration.
It had never been this hard before! I used to churn out story after story, chapter after chapter, pages upon pages of fiction and fantasy and romance. No one could stop me! I wrote every single day and sometimes I was writing three stories at once. Tales of drama, of death, of glory, failure, success, and horror. Stories which would laugh one minute and weep the next.
Most artists are never able to recover from fame. The first hit becomes the millstone around their necks to which all subsequent releases are compared.
What happened to me? The thought echoed in my mind like a scream, and I felt a burning sensation in my eyes. A tear splashed against the wooden tabletop. I sniffled, wiped my eyes with the hem of my sweater sleeve and stood up.
Most never have the chance of a repeat performance and slide ungracefully into years of unpaid tax, desperately delaying all attempts to come to terms with the only rational thing to do - get a nine-to-five job.
“Not today, I guess.” I said, leaning over to shut off my monitor. I left my room and made myself some coffee, resigning to my spot on the couch, then I waited for the TV to finish loading up.
The celebrated, of course, are apt to fall into a world of drugs, drink, broken marriages and bankruptcy but even this is given the glamour treatment instead of the squalid misery that it is in reality.
Another uneventful evening passed by. I went to work the next morning, going through the motions of my life. I tried my best to ignore that hollow feeling in my chest, the one that could only be filled by doing the things that I used to enjoy. Somewhere along the trail of my life, I veered off into comfort and stopped challenging myself. Not anymore, I told myself, determined to fill that void.
It is you, though, who will be responsible for bringing back those lost tastes, smells, tears, pangs, forgotten years, and missed chances.
Once again, I found myself sitting down at my computer, hoping, willing myself to try. I did some research on writing, pulling up different pages of writing styles, reading some other people’s short stories, trying to gain inspiration from anything. Defeated, I finally resorted to a search for writing prompts. I opened the first website that popped up and scrolled through their suggestions before one caught my attention.
“Write a story about an author who has just started writing again for the first time in a couple of years.”
Either the artist will be destroyed in their attempt to prove to the world that there are other facets to their creativity or they succumb willingly and spend the rest of their lives as a travelling freak show, peddling a nostalgia for those now far off, carefree days.
I made a soft chuckle, looking at a few other ones, but that one stuck in my mind. I scrolled back up the page and found it. After copy-pasting the suggestion into my word file, I smiled and started writing:
“I sat down at my desk for the fourth time today, reaching out to the power button on my computer...”