A Puddle of Surreal Time


I went to Writer’s Group tonight. The prompt was ‘In Surreal Time.’ This is what I worked up.  

I awoke this morning to a song on my alarm. “It’s only words, and words are all I have …” An old BeeGee’s song. I’d forgotten about it, yet now it has become an earworm. It haunts me. Words. I got up and began my day. Another day of editing, reading over comments from a reader. Words.


My desk clock, I notice, is doing strange things. It is not solid as I remember it, but is rubbery in texture. I pick it up and it bends in my hands. It is melting, and the whole clock slides down the front of the shelf as I set it down. Like a Dalí painting, the face is now misshapen, the numbers unreadable, walking away as spiders. The hands are twisted and they point to nothing. Time is falling off the edge of the shelf into an abyss.

I go downstairs for a cup of coffee. My character, Jaime, exits the pages of my manuscript and joins me at the table. The colors of the tablecloth are swirling, creating new and magnificent colors. It is hard to listen to him because the colors are distracting me.

Everything slows down while I sip my coffee and I focus on Jaime’s words. He is demanding more paragraphs, more description in my manuscript that is already bulging at 135,000 words. He says gently, “It’s only words.”

I return upstairs to my edit and Jaime reluctantly climbs back onto the page. My hands hover over the keyboard. My fingers and the keys are melting together. “I’m melting,” said the witch in the ‘Wizard of Oz’. Strange words melting together.

Partway through the day I take a break to do the dishes, to fold the sheets. Didn’t I fold these same sheets, wash these same dishes yesterday? And the day before? Dishes, sheets, only words.

I return to the same sentence I’ve been editing all day. It’s as though all of the manuscript is composed of the same sentence repeated over and over. I read the pages, “All work and no play …”

Yet another edit. Someone asked me, “When do you know when you’re done?” I answer, “Never.” The word count moves and swirls, the words won’t keep their place or their meanings. Words, words, words. Yet words are all I have.

I check the time. The clock is no longer on the shelf, but has formed a puddle on the floor. A puddle of surreal time.