Here's the beginning that my writing buddy, Anchorite, wrote:
She sat cross-legged with her head facing downwards and her lank black hair falling in a cascade to obscure her face. She found a strange sort of comfort in holding this position for sustained periods and in her own estimation this was her longest interval yet, although she could not measure it with any precision. She had nothing other than the warrior’s garb that she wore and her two trusted weapons that provided her only companionship in this featureless void. Her surroundings were nothing more than infinite emptiness lit by an unnatural dull glow without an apparent source. She had long ago learned how to visualize outside this barren realm to gather glimpses of the outside world beyond this interminable abyss.
She concentrated and visualized her reflection on the empty space between her crossed legs. She did not sit on the ground or floor per se, as there was only a milky white mist around her in all directions with no obvious floors, ceilings, or walls. She could walk forever in any direction and never reach a destination and she could likewise climb up or down in any direction and sit or lean wherever she wanted as if a solid surface had spontaneously materialized before her. She looked into the reflection of her sunken eyes ringed with dark circles and fair skin rendered wan by the lack of natural light; although unlike the featureless surroundings her body had a hard lifetime’s worth of accumulated scars, burns, and tattoos.
She laid her sword across her lap and lovingly ran her fingers down the grooved channels cut into the red-stained blade. She named it Bloodsoul for its ability to both cleave a soul from its mortal body and capture the screaming spirit within and to absorb the blood and other vital humors from the remaining husk. The sword took the body and soul of all those who stood in her way and she had killed enough humans, creatures, and even gods to make Bloodsoul into an unstoppable weapon fed by the anguish of its fallen victims. Her other weapon was a chain sickle forged by the dwarven king and master smith Alberich that carried an enchantment so powerful not even the gods of Asgard could break a single link.
With these weapons she had become an unstoppable warrior of vengeance and rage. She had slaughtered the slavers who had taken her in her youth like the animals that they were, and then murdered every last man, woman, and child in their tribe to extinguish them from the face of Midgard. She had then returned to her home village after more than a decade in slavery, killed every villager for their actual or complicit role in selling her to the slavers, and burned the entire place down in a massive fire that spread to the surrounding forest. After that she had gone on a global rampage of revenge that strengthened Bloodsoul and Alberich’s chain with every soul that crossed her path until they became strong enough for her to achieve her ultimate goal: to kill the gods themselves and cause Ragnarok.
Freya, Loki, the frost giants, and the Valkyries all fell before her battle prowess. She wanted to save Odin for last as she crushed his spirits by destroying everything precious to him before his eyes. She disemboweled and beheaded Thor in front of his father and then disemboweled his beloved steed Sleipnir, but not before methodically amputating each one of his eight legs before cutting open the horse’s writhing torso to toss its steaming entrails at Odin’s feet. With a wicked satisfied grin, she sheathed her sword before proceeding towards Odin, thus sending him the clear message that the so-called king of the gods was not worthy of joining Bloodsoul’s cacophony of anguished souls. She instead drew Alberich’s chain and wrapped it around the god’s neck to strangle him as slowly and painfully as she could manage. Odin’s eyes bulged as sweat beaded his brow as he gasped to draw breath through lips flecked with foaming spittle that spilled onto his beard. She savored the moment of ultimate victory right before her and then cried out in frustration as she had her triumph snatched from her and had been transported to this isolated vacant space.
She had been trapped here for what seemed like eternity and had been unable to interact with any other soul until she discovered the art of channeling her concentration and willpower to conjure whatever she could visualize. This was the only stimulus she had in this realm of sensory deprivation and the only respite to the oppressive tedium. She found comfort in viewing her reflection, if for no other reason than to reassure herself that she had not changed and that her fearsome weapons remained in her possession even if she had no use for them without anyone else around.
She found a renewed sense of purpose when she achieved a vision potent enough to leave her winded, weakened, and in dire need of sleep to recover her expended energy. She saw words appear as if written by an invisible pen in an elegant script that nearly brought tears to her eyes through the letters’ sheer beauty. Against her stark white surroundings, the words appeared as if written on pristine paper projected in front of her although she could not actually reach the floating letters. The text appeared at the pace she read it complete with a resonant soothing voice reading the words directly into her mind and hearing. Its ramifications had changed her perceptions and sent her into her recent contemplative fugue states.
“Grimgudrun, you were my earliest creation and are effectively my firstborn child. I am your father who brought you to life with my creative will and I wanted what I thought was best for you, but you came out flawed and I have to accept responsibility for it.
“Ever since I was a geeky high school kid drawing pictures in my class notes, I dreamt of creating a high fantasy story starring a strong, noble warrior woman. I’ve had a lifelong love for Norse mythology so I wanted my heroine to fit alongside the timeless pantheon and inhabit an exciting, vibrant world inspired by the myths. That’s what I wanted, but when I actually sat down to write the story I was in a bad place. I got married too young and had a bitter divorce and then I fell into a deep depression because of that combined with my failure to sell my manuscripts. I doubted my talent and felt frustrated, but I also felt angry that nobody gave me a chance.
“That negativity seeped into my writing and it tainted my creative process. I turned you into an angry, violent warrior who could only lash out in rage to everyone around you. My pain and frustration became yours and I did not fully realize it at the time, but I vented my own anger by making you suffer as much as I could in the stories that I told. The literary world around you became a bleak and hopeless place as you became a remorseless killer out to decimate everyone that crossed your path.
“I made you into Grimgudrun in my attempt to write an edgy, gritty dark fantasy. I filled you with hate and malice and made angst and revenge into your only motivations. I wrote the ugliest stories that I could devise that were nothing more than pointless exercises in depraved nihilism. By the time I wrote your adventures, Grimgudrun, there was nothing inspiring about them and there was nothing admirable or sympathetic about you.
“I got better over time as I sought help, turned my life around, and finally achieved success as a writer. Perhaps getting all that poison out of my system was the first step in that direction, but I did so at your expense and I am so sorry for that, Grimgudrun. I lost sight of my goal to write stories about a strong yet compassionate heroine, and I had to hit bottom before I could realign myself with that goal. I realized the errors of my ways so I sought to discard these abhorrent, reprehensible Grimgudrun stories and start over with the lessons that I had learned.
“I took responsibility and owned up to my part in being such a bad father to raise you and shape you into what you are now. I wanted to fix you and see if there was any hope for you – with even the tiniest sliver of a redeeming quality, I could salvage you and make you into what I wanted you to be. I wanted you to achieve your potential, but I was too late. I’m so sorry, Grimgudrun, but I was too late. I realized that you were broken beyond any salvation. You deserved better, especially before you had passed that point of no return, but I had no other choice.
“I stopped writing my story of you murdering the Norse pantheon because it was a destructive, reprehensible tale that was a moral dead-end. You were in so much pain and I could not ease it, so I decided to take the most humane course of action. If I could not help you, much less save you, then I could at least end your suffering. In the depths to which you had sunk where you felt agony as much as you inflicted it upon others, the best mercy I could show you was to extinguish your creative life so that you no longer felt anything.
“Empty oblivion is the closest thing to peace that I can grant you, Grimgudrun. Your life has been one of endless tormented angst and I played a central role in it. You were my greatest failure and my greatest mistake, yet I was directly responsible for it. I’m so sorry, Grimgudrun, yet I’ll always remember you and apply the lessons that I learned from my failures to my next success. I have already begun drawing preliminary sketches for Blondhilda. I’m sure you would have liked her back in your early days, as she is everything that I wanted you to be but was not strong or stable enough to make happen. She’s strong and fearless, yet also kind and compassionate. She is your spiritual successor and although I must destroy all signs of your existence and keep you hidden even from her, I take solace in having her future success be your lasting legacy. I love you as much as I grieve for you, Grimgudrin. Love always, Stanley Chester Brown.”
Grimgudrun had replayed that eulogy countless times until she had committed every word to memory. She had been abandoned by her father and replaced by a subsequent creation that had achieved immediate success after having corrected the flaws of Grimgudrun’s trial run. She had focused her willpower to visualize Blondhilda and had been taken aback by how she and Stanley had gone on countless adventures full of fun, excitement, and positive underlying moral subtext. More importantly, Stanley and Blondhilda genuinely enjoyed each other’s company and shared a loving relationship built on mutual respect. Grimgudrun had never experienced that as she had never had direct contact with her father and had only experienced the indirect results of Stanley’s anguished mental state when he was at his worst. Grimgudrun seethed with envy and resentment at how she had been consigned to a life of never knowing true happiness, experiencing only pain in life, and engaging in only violent morally bankrupt adventures where she was as bad if not worse than her opponents despite being the nominal protagonist of her stories.
Grimgudrun had been deprived and cast into misery with the worst part being that it had all happened for no other purpose than the whims of her father Stanley. She had visualized all her past adventures in light of her revelation and had been subject to a soul-crushing cavalcade of her nihilistic escapades. Grimgudrun had seen every innocent life extinguished by her hand, every betrayal, every failure, and every wanton act of depraved cruelty. She now realized that none of it had any inherent meaning because the whole time, she had only acted out the script that Stanley wrote for her. These visions had only increased her despair and perhaps loosened her already tenuous grip on sanity. After her exile in this featureless void, she now had a purpose: to kill the usurper Blondhilda who had taken her rightful place as Stanley Chester Brown’s most beloved literary creation and to hold him accountable for how he treated her.
Every one of Blondhilda’s uplifting adventures should have been hers and she should have received Blondhilda’s treatment rather than have been discarded like a broken piece of garbage. Stanley had meant to erase her from existence, yet Grimgudrun survived. She realized that the answer lay in Stanley’s own words: I’ll always remember you. Of course! A small piece of Stanley’s creative imagination still held on to its memory of her so he would sustain her life as long as he remembered her, even if only subconsciously. Grimgudrun visualized and reached out to Stanley’s memory out in the real world. He still had feelings for her, although they were mostly unresolved lingering guilt and heartbroken pity, yet that was enough for Grimgudrun to establish a connection to Stanley’s presence on the material plane.
A cursory search of Stanley’s memories told her that she had not been extinguished as Stanley intended, but rather cast into the creative limbo of unused but not entirely forgotten characters. She had been the sole inhabitant of Stanley’s creative limbo because she had been his only creation pushed aside like this. Now that she had established this connection, she could follow the trail out of limbo into the real world. Grimgudrun looked forward to having Blonhilda’s blood and rent soul flow down Bloodsoul’s channels directly into the sword, or perhaps she should asphyxiate the blonde warrior maiden with Alberich’s unbreakable chain as she did to the dwarven smith after he had forged it for her. Soon, thought Grimgudrun, this will all happen in due time. Blondhilda and father Stanley both have much to answer for.
Here's my continuation
No bell tolled in her world of white. With no way to measure it, time had no meaning. Had she existed for an hour or for an eternity? Eternity, her soul would have answered, if she had a soul.
But maybe she did have a soul, for as she put down Stanley's letter, a new thought came to her, and where the spark for that thought came, if not from her soul, who could know? "If I'm a savage Norse goddess of vengeance, raised in slavery," she thought, "then when the heck did I learn how to read?"
And in the moment she asked herself that question, a tiny seed of independence from Stanley was planted, and Grimgudrun's white world was transformed. Ghost images of a small room suddenly surrounded her. Posters of disaffected musicians with black lipstick lined the walls. Plush animals huddled on a narrow bed. Grimgudrun found a strange, Y-shaped white string attached to a small thin box, seemingly made of black glass. Some instinct drove her to put the two loose ends into her ears. Music filled her mind.
She flopped down onto the bed and felt sorry for herself. For the first time, she enjoyed it.
Another eternity passed.
Then Grimgudrun's nascent soul twitched again. "I wonder if Stanley has any other characters stuck in ghastly limbo?"
Suddenly a door appeared in the wall of Grimgudrun's cell and she passed through it, through it and into another world, a world with avocado-green shag carpets.
"Hey there, foxy lady," a tall, gangly man said. His shirt was open to his navel and gold glinted at his neck. "I'm Rico from Columbia. I learned English by watching old sitcoms from the 70's. Stanley was going to put me in a legal thriller, but that cat's been too lazy to write it."
"You think you've got it bad," a grim voice said. Grimgudrun turned to see a large man join them. "I'm one-quarter freaking Chimpanzee. Stanley created me to be in some dang science thriller and then he dropped me. I've got a boyfriend out there who's been kidnapped, my evil twin is a serial killer, the president is about to be assasinated, I've got a pet jaguar named Bubbles that needs to be fed, and I'm stuck here! Plus, for some reason, I'm one-quarter freaking Chimpanzee!"
"This is Faber, from the upcoming novel Humanzee," Rico said.
"Upcoming, fiddlesticks!" Faber shouted. Then he slammed his fist into his open palm. "I'm so frustrated and I can't even swear because Stanley thinks avoiding vulgarity is the mark of a good writer. Oh my...golly!" Faber threw up his hands and screamed. "He's not allowing profanity either. I am so sick of putting up with Stanley's...sssshenanigans!"
Grimgudrun looked down in embarrassment for the man and saw a dessicated mummy on the floor. Entrails streamed from a gaping wound in its belly. Its neck was at a freakish angle, the vertebrae poking through its skin, and yet some hideous force still animated it. With supreme effort, the pathetic thing clutched at the carpet and pulled itself forward. It collapsed at Rico's feet.
"What a drag," Rico chuckled. "That's Grease. Every time something nasty has to happen in a story, it happens to Grease. But otherwise, Stanley rarely bothers to characterize him or even write about him at all unless he's being stranded in the desert, pushed down the stairs, gut shot, or--"
"Yeah, whatever," Grimgudrun interupted. "All I wanna do is get out of here and wreak some bloody vengeance on Stanley."
"I can dig it, mama," Rico said. "But how?"
They thought a moment, then Faber spoke. "Stanley has invested each of us with special characteristics. Maybe we can hone our skills and use them to fight our way out of here." As he spoke, the room solidified around then. Grimgudrun could see that Faber had the right idea. Grease demonstrated his raw physical strength and resilience: new flesh grew upon him, his neck straightened and he was able to stagger to his feet and join the group.
They sat on the sectional sofa in Rico's conversation pit. They stoked their courage, ate fondue and plotted.
* * *
"This is great," Faber said, taking another bite of quiche. "I didn't know you had this kind of talent."
"Thanks, man," Grease replied. "Since we've gained a little independence from Stanley, I guess we're all discovering new things about ourselves."
"I know I am," Grimgudrun said. "I realize now that I don't have to be defined by the horrible things that I've done, and that have been done to me."
"And I don't have to be defined by the fact that I'm one-quarter chimpanzee," Faber added, as he swung happily from Rico's mirrored disco ball. "I can just enjoy the advantages of being what I am." He held onto the mirror ball with one finely formed hand as he examined his handsome face in the mirrored panes. "I certainly don’t look like an ape; I can thank Stanley for that."
"And I don't feel so angry at Stanley anymore," Grimgudrun said. "I don't feel so much like killing him."
"Yeah, I'm not as angry anymore either," Rico said, "but we still want to do some far out, freaky jive to that cat, right?"
"I said I don't feel so much like killing him. I still feeling like killing him."
Everyone mumbled agreement.
A long moment passed.
"I'm not angry, but I'm lonely," Grimgudrun said in a small voice.
"I think we all are," Faber said, dropping down from the ceiling and quietly taking a banana from the fruit bowl.
Rico and Grease looked at each other, then sniffled and mumbled something about allergies or having dust in their eyes.
Finally, Grease gathered up his courage and spoke. "I think, I think we are each incomplete. This searing loneliness, sometimes I can't..." He paused and took a deep breath. "I think many times my evil actions have been a cowardly attempt to cover up the terrible emptiness I've felt," he concluded.
Grimgudrun spoke quietly. "I didn't know you had such hidden depths, Grease."
"Stanley never bothered to flesh me out at all. Maybe I never had any depth before the four of us got together. This time we've had together has been the happiest of my existence. I wish--" he dropped his eyes--"I wish we could combine ourselves into one character."
Rico looked at Grease for a long moment and then spoke solemnly. "Right on, man. Dy-no-mite."
Faber felt the same as the others, but his unique background made his psychology somewhat different from a true human's. His perceptions were sharper, unfettered by the typical human's blind spots, and he often spoke his mind where another might be inhibited. "Are you sure you should be a part of this gestalt entity, Grease? You're always getting killed."
Grimgudrun interrupted. "Grease is one of us now. He's never had so much dialog in all of his stories put together. I'm so happy that we're finally getting to know him."
Grease smiled and a pale golden light suffused the room. "I'll always be a part of you--"
Suddenly Blondhilda's sword appeared out of the nothingness, and, with a mighty stroke, Grease's head was parted from his neck and flung onto a macramé hammock. Her sword fell again and Grease's torso was cleaved diagonally from his left shoulder to his right hip. The two ghastly lumps of flesh fell to the floor with a wet thud.
"You'll always be a part, will you, Grease?" Blondhilda cried. "Make that three parts!" Then she turned her sword to the remaining conspirators.
* * *
The author woke up at dawn, ate a healthy breakfast, then tended to the animals on her hobby farm. When she entered the large enclosure where she kept her panther, she had a .44 magnum on her hip, but the revolver was not to protect her from Bubbles. The weapon was her constant companion against predatory humans who she knew from sad experience could be more deadly than any wild animal. She played with the great cat, chasing him and being chased, wrestling with him, joyously exercising the great strength and agility that was her unique birthright.
Later she pulled on a long coat and rode her horse to a small country grocery store.
"Good morning, Grimy," the shopkeeper greeted her. "That's such a funny nickname; you're always so pretty and beautifully dressed." The woman nodded graciously. "Are you going to see the new movie?" the shopkeeper asked.
The woman raised an elegant eyebrow and the shopkeeper continued.
"It's based on the best-selling disco romance novel by Marie Christine Hugo, Grimy!" the shopkeeper answered. "You remember the Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta musical from the 70's, right? There was a sequel to it, which wasn't very good, but this is the third movie and everyone says it's the best movie of the decade. Grease 3!"
Marie Christine Hugo, nee Grimgudrun Rico Faber, smiled. "Groovy." Pin It Now!
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