“I can’t. I just can’t. You have to find another.” Shadow was crying. It was 2008 and we were stuck.
We had signed up for a writing workshop and paid a hefty sum. The cost of admission included a reading from seven people. Five editors would read the first five pages. They would weigh in on what they thought of that work and send you on your way. One editor would read the first 15 pages. She had more experience and she would give you half an hour of her valuable time to share her insights. The instructor of the workshop would read 50 pages. He was an important agent and he was our shot at the big time.
The first day of the week-long workshop, I was set to meet with the woman that had read my first 15 pages, but I didn’t have the tools to do it. I stood now in the bathroom of the hotel, five minutes before show time, weeping with fear and unable to go on. I had sprayed hot vomit from nerves. I had stood before the mirror and begged every other ego state I had to please come meet with this woman, and I had come up goose egg on anyone willing to do it.
We had five minutes. We had no chance.
This meeting would tell us if we had the talent and the ability to achieve our one dream. The dream my wife and I had clung to for years. This was the moment when we found out if we were kidding ourselves.
In this time of crisis, in this time of impossibilities, he came forward.
We had never seen him before. At this point in our life, we were 32. We had stopped creating ego states a long time ago. But in this moment of horror, we formed a new mind, a new person. He stood up and grinned in the mirror. He laughed, a cruel sound that chilled the room, and he turned and walked away.
He walked straight to the door, although he knew not why. Knocked and was let in, still unaware of why he had come, unable to feel any apprehension about it. He sat and she spoke.
She had good things to say. Our world building had blown her away, and she was excited about our work. She said a lot of negative things that he chuckled at. She spoke of hope and a time of success, and when he left, he still had no idea what had happened. He didn’t care. He walked out of the room and spoke out loud.
“What was that about?” he asked.
From within, we told him not to worry about it. He was done. Go away.
“I think I’ll stay,” he chimed. “I think I’ll get laid.”
Violent reactions from every ego state within. Fear and rage radiated from everywhere, and he was shoved out. We had Bekah. We would not let him defile his body with another woman. He had done his part. We commanded him to go away. But this was not a creature to be commanded.
He soon realized he had no hope of sex. We could take over the body too readily, but he was not done. He took over as completely as he could and was alone in that hotel room for two minutes. When we came back, our wedding ring was gone. Vanished. When asked about it, he laughed. When berated, he jeered. When threatened, he ignored. We had created a beast.
He read our book Liefdom and he smiled. We told him we would call him the Manager, and he laughed. “No, you will call me the Prince of Darkness. You will call me Prince. For royal I am, and unforgiving I will live.”
He attended every class. He made friends. He drank. When the time would come for him to wash, go to the bathroom, feed himself, he would shift away. He said he was too good for any sort of menial job, and he refused to care for himself in any way, demanding we see to his every need.
We never found our wedding ring. He refused to give it up. Told no one where it could be found, and after searching with every free moment and enlisting Bekah’s help to find it when she came to pick us up, we still failed to find what he had hid.
Months went by of him doing everything. And for a long time, he sat idle. For a long time, he was just another man. Just another mind to deal with. Obnoxious and dark and bored. Causing trouble when he could and acting superior constantly. We all hated him. And he did not care.
Years later, we got serious about writing, and when we did, he came forward in a surge. He said he would command our return to writing, that he would take charge. Bekah agreed to it. Bekah had said, “We will give him a chance. See what he does.”
His first act was to read the book The Perpetual Child. It was a short novel we had written that told of a young holy warrior on her quest to save her religion. He read it and tossed it back at Artist and laughed.
“It’s horrible,” he spat.
Artist was furious. He raged and yelled and cursed.
“It has to be rewritten.”
“It is perfect,” Artist said.
“It is swill. Write the ending over again and make it bloody. I want three new endings. And kill a different character in each one.”
“I will not! I refuse! This ending is perfect and it is the only one I will write,” Artist said.
Prince leaned in close. “Do you know what your problem is, Artist? Do you know what gets in your way?”
Artist could only cross his arms and huff.
“You believe them all,” Prince said. “You hear them say you’re great, everyone that has ever read your writing. They all say you are magnificent, and you believe it.” He threw his head back and barked out a laugh. “You actually think you’re a good writer. Well I may be the only one to say this to you, but you are mediocre at best. You have no discipline, and you have no focus. You are afraid to write real fantasy, and you are too arrogant to know that there are real fantasy masters out there that owe you nothing. You have been the Golden Boy for too long. I’m here to shatter all of that. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about your work but me. You write for me now. My opinion matters. Everyone else is just drinking the KoolAid.” He pointed his finger in Artist’s face and smiled. “Write me three new endings by the end of the week. Get started tomorrow. Don’t make me wait.”
Artist was furious. He went straight to Bekah. He told her most of it. He was afraid to tell it all. Too arrogant to even repeat the words Prince had said about his inadequacies, too terrified to talk about his failings. He spouted it all off to Bekah and she soothed him. She told him he didn’t have to change the book. Told him he didn’t have to change a single word. She promised she would talk to Prince, and she let Artist go away to rest his wounded heart and feel sorry for himself. She called out Prince and they talked. For ten minutes.
When she called Artist back, she looked pale. She looked as if she had heard something that scared her and gave her hope. She took Artist’s hand and looked him in the eye. “You need to do everything that Prince says. Write the three new endings. Obey him. He is right. He has a plan.”
Furious and betrayed, Artist ran upstairs to his friend, Herman. A constant ally, a steady rock. Artist confessed everything Prince had said to him and he begged Herman to tell Prince no. To let Prince know he would not dictate the writing to him. Herman agreed and Artist retreated, scared and shook up.
Ten minutes exactly, down to the second, and Artist came out. Herman’s smile was a beaming light. He punched Artist in the shoulder. “You need a drink,” he said. He handed him a beer. “Artist, you know I love you. You’re my boy and I will back you for the rest of your life. But you have got to obey Prince. He is right. He is right about it all.”
Therapy was the same exact story, the next day, when Artist begged his therapist, Henry, to talk to Prince. Ten minutes exactly. Down to the second. Down to the breath. Henry looked at Artist with a downtrodden face. Prince had beat him. Prince had defeated the man in ten minutes.
Artist rewrote that ending. The entire book opened up. The new ending was a vision. It took the book to another level. Artist had no idea he could write that way. He was struck dumb.
They fought. Artist struggled over and over again. He refused to do as he was told, and he fought to enlist help. Ten minutes, and that hope was taken from him. It was a few months later when Prince broke him.
In therapy, Henry would record Artist’s talking and it would be played for Prince. Prince would retort and it would be played for Artist. One day, Prince walked in and shook his head.
“No more of that recording shit. I only have one thing to say to that bastard. I’m tired of his attitude. I have goals and a time frame, and he is messing with it. Record this. Play it and help him deal with it.”
The record button and Prince picked it off of the table. He held the mic to his mouth and tapped it. “Can you hear me? Is this thing on? Listen carefully and learn to live with this. You are a muscle car, beautiful and shining, with a monster of an engine and no end to speed and performance. I am the foot that drives you. You will drive when I tell you to, as long as I tell you to, and as fast as I tell you to. You have no say in it. You have no will. My foot propels you. Now shut up your whining. We have a lot of road ahead of us. We don’t have time for your shit.”
Artist was offended of course. He complained to everyone, and they promised to talk to Prince about it, promised to tell him off and make him apologize.
Those conversations lasted ten minutes.