Brainstorm: Part Three
I was wet, I was upset, and I was more than just a little frustrated. The little dark faerie that had appeared from nowhere was balanced on my nose, perched on one toe like a ballet dancer.
The cloud above my head rumbled in greeting, sending off little yellow sparks in her presence. I noticed that not a single drop of rain landed on her petite figure; each drop seemed to rebound away from her, repelled by some sort of magic and landing on me instead.
She winked at me, green eyes flashing, and waggled her fingers in a wave.
My blood was boiling and I felt my claws clench into a fist. Who did she think she was? Yes, she was a faerie. Yes, she had magic powers. But that didn't give her the right to mess with me and try to ruin my career. I wasn't just any camouflage Draik; I was a world-famous author! I deserved a bit of respect, didn't I?
"Why did you do this to me?" I demanded, gesturing at the raincloud hovering above my head like a dark halo.
She hopped about on my nose a bit, tickling my camouflaged snout as she shifted around. "Didn't you say you wanted a brainstorm?"
"I wanted a writing brainstorm!" I cried. "You know, like the one with paper! Not some sort of magic cloud that won't leave me alone." I closed my eyes in frustration. "I have to have a story written by tomorrow, and I can't even write because of this stupid cloud you forced on me!"
At this the dark faerie paused in her dance and narrowed her little green eyes at me. "Oh, no, no, no, Holly. I'm not the reason you can't write. You are the reason you can't write. I was merely the kind faerie who offered to help you."
"'Kind'? Psh, give me a break. And this cloud isn't helping!"
She sighed, crossing her arms. "You aren't getting it. What were you looking for last night?"
"A story...?" I said slowly, wondering if it was some sort of trick question.
"Inspiration!" she shouted impatiently. "You were wandering around the streets in a stupid cape, hoping to be inspired."
"But I wasn't."
"Which is why I offered to help you with a brainstorm!"
"But the stupid cloud isn't helping!" I repeated, my voice rising to a shout. I felt so frustrated, and we were just wandering in circles.
She pouted, her little violet lips pursed in what I could only assume was offense. I felt my stomach churn; I had clearly crossed the line.
"Fine," she said shortly, turning away from me. "It seems like the almighty Holly Milburry doesn't need my help. Fine by me." She kicked off my nose and started flying away, her thin wings blurring as she rose into the warm afternoon air. "Good luck trying to write your story on your own."
"Wait!" I called after her, watching as she darted off through my neighborhood. I followed her with my eyes, straining to keep her in my sights, but she made a beeline straight for the sun and I was forced to squint in pain. "Don't go yet! Take this cloud off me first!"
And although I could no longer see her, I heard a defiant "No!" echo in my ear.
And that's when I realized that I, Holly Milburry, had messed up badly.
* * *
I hate to admit it, but I spent the rest of the day moping in my basement.
I sat on the old threadbare sofa—the only piece of furniture I didn't care about being ruined from the constant splat of rain—with a blanket and an entire roll of plastic wrap casing my body. I had given up trying to write; any time I reached for a page it became a pulpy mess. Instead, I sat watching Neovision, eating a giant bowl of ice cream. I wanted to get swept up in my favorite Neovision drama, but the raincloud above me would rumble with thunder whenever the characters said anything of importance. After a few hours, I was completely lost: I no longer knew which Poogle was the evil twin, whether or not the blue Kau had lost her job (which had been the subject of the past thirteen episodes), and why in the world there was suddenly a hideous Blorbis in nearly every scene.
Eventually I fell into a fitful sleep on my couch. I woke up nearly every hour in utter discomfort, forced to change out of my soggy clothes and into something that would only remain dry for precious seconds. And when I did manage to sleep, it was plagued by the weirdest dreams. In one of them the dark faerie had mounted the cloud above my head and was zooming about in a game of Faerie Cloud Racers, tittering about inspiration. When I repeatedly tried to run away from her, she would just loop around me, the trail of the cloud wrapping me up in a thick rope of ugly black smoke. And then Lily suddenly appeared, now a Disco Chomby, and began to tap dance in front of me, singing a horribly off-key rendition of Blinging in the Rain.
It was all too much, but I couldn't escape, and the dark faerie just kept driving her cloud into my head, tapping me over and over and over...
I suddenly woke up, feeling something real tapping my head over and over again.
I felt a stir of hope in my gut; maybe the dark faerie had come back to remove the cloud! But I knew that was just wishful thinking. Through sleep-slitted eyes, I glanced up and saw the cloud still raining on me from above, rumbling deeply. But I also saw what had woken me up: a yellow envelope. It was hovering in midair, rebounding against me skull with a crinkle of thick paper and the slight stench of magical stationary.
"Ugh," I sighed, plucking the neomail from midair and glancing at the heading scribbled on the front: Encouragement from Lily-Willy!
I tore the envelope open, thankful that whoever had created neomail had the insight to make the envelopes and letters waterproof, and read the enclosed note: I just wanted to check up on you. You better be writing, missy! I expect to read your masterpiece in the Times next week!
I sighed and tapped the bottom corner of the mail: reply. The neomail buzzed gently in my head, awaiting my response. I cleared my throat and announced, "I'm giving up. This cloud won't go away, I can't write, and I have no inspiration."
The neomail wrote itself automatically, script appearing on the page as I spoke. I tapped "send" with my claw and it flew away.
I glanced at the clock on the wall: 10:32 am. That meant that today was Friday. Seven and a half hours were all that stood between me and the end of my writing career. At 5:00 pm sharp, my writing agent Christine would ring my doorbell, wing outstretched in anticipation of my latest piece. And I would have to turn her away empty-handed.
Suddenly, another yellow envelope zoomed into the room, hovering in front of me. Lily's response. I frowned, surprised at how quickly she had gotten back to me. I tore open the envelope and was greeted by a letter written in all caps; clearly she was angry: THAT IS CRAZY TALK, HOLLY! YOU BETTER START WRITING RIGHT NOW! THINK ABOUT YOUR DREAM OF BEING IN THIS YEAR'S ISSUE OF NEOPIA'S BEST STORIES!
I sighed. I loved Lily to death, but she just didn't understand. She was an actress. Her job was to act out the words of others. My job was to create those words from thin air. And that was difficult enough without the added stress of a magical cloud.
I tapped reply and said, "But I have no inspiration. I barely have a character, and the setting and plot are nonexistent. And even if I did, there's no way for me to write it down! Not without the paper turning into a pulpy mess or my pen ink running everywhere."
As I said the words, it all suddenly felt more concrete. "Oh Fyora," I murmured, feeling the sting of tears in my eyes. "I'll never be able to write ever again. Not a sentence, or a phrase, or even a stupid little letter..."
Letter. The word jarred me, its second meaning making me glance down at the neomail in my hand. I had ignored what was right in front of me. Neomails were not only waterproof, but they could be written without pens or paper of any utensil at all! I wasn't entirely powerless. I could still write; I'd just have to write by neomail.
But you still have no inspiration, a negative voice in my head whispered.
I sighed, knowing that the little inner voice was true. It didn't matter that I could physically write. I had nothing to write about. I redrafted the letter, sending Lily a simple response: "I still don't have any idea what to write about."
I expected another immediate response, but there wasn't one. I waited in the basement for a bit, expecting another envelope to come zooming at my face, but nothing pelted my scales save for the relentless downpour above me.
I sighed, feeling a hint of sadness as the truth sank in. I couldn't expect Lily to be my cheerleader all the time.
Shaking my head, I stood up, deciding it was time for me to change my clothes. Again. I carefully peeled off the plastic wrap, crunching it into a sodden ball, and then picked up my empty carton of ice cream off the floor. I made my way up the stairs, the raincloud following my every step of the way, and threw everything out in the kitchen garbage. I was about to go to my room to change for the umpteenth time when I heard the doorbell ring.
I opened the door to find Lily standing on the porch, the royal girl Chomby's lilac eyes narrowed. In her one hand was the bright yellow neomail I had sent her. In her other hand was some sort of shiny purple rain jacket.
"Get changed into something dry and come with me," she demanded, her voice stern.
I blinked. "Where?"
"On an inspiration walk."
I sighed and tried to protest. "I already tried that the other night and it didn't work."
But Lily refused to take that for an answer. She shook her head, as stubborn as stone, and looked me straight in the eye. I had never seen such a look of fierce determination on her face; I wondered if that was the reason she landed so many acting jobs in a field riddled by so much uncertainty. "They say that if at first you don't succeed, try again," she said, completely serious. "And that is what we're going to do."
To be continued...