For the fourth time this week, I woke up at my desk. It wasn’t very comfortable: most of the space was taken up by an assortment of empty Red Bull cans and coffee cups. Clutter never bothered me though, it’s not like I could see it anyway. As per usual, I would open my laptop the second I woke up and frantically note down everything I’d dreamt of.

This was a very strange time in my life: strange doesn’t even begin to describe the fact that I’d been having dreams from the perspective of my novel’s protagonist. Even worse, I was now using these dreams as inspiration for the novel’s storyline. However, my desperation was at an all-time high and I was ready to do anything to finish this novel before I ran out of money.

This was my life now, I was so close to going broke that there was no option but to keep going. My days were spent writing(or at least, trying to write) and ignoring panic-inducing calls from my publisher about how I’d be fired if I don’t meet the final deadline. My nights were spent dreaming of Isaac.

Isaac was the main character of the novel I was working on. His character was heavily based off the memories I had of my childhood friend Bill. After the accident that made me blind as a kid, Bill was the only friend I had. He wanted to grow up to be a painter and could go on for hours and hours about his love for art and color. Meanwhile, I was slowly losing my ability to perceive things visually and started to forget what colors looked like. Though it was an unlikely friendship, it weirdly made sense.

We would laugh about how we were total opposites in almost every aspect, from our hobbies(I had never painted a single thing in my life) to our favorite food(Bill loved pizza while I hated it so much I couldn’t even be near it). However, Bill moved to another country at the end of the school year and we had never spoken since. I was back to having no friends.

The novel had turned into a nostalgic outlet for my childhood memories and Bill was a cherished part of them. The protagonist, Isaac, was an homage to my artsy, hippie, pizza-loving friend.

The deadline crept nearer and I spent every waking moment thinking about the book. Even at night, I could dream of nothing but the plot. As pressure from my publisher increased, so did my anxiety. I felt extremely tired and sleepy all the time. Sleeping at my desk certainly didn’t make things any better. I almost never left my house, and the days had started to blur together.

On one fateful morning a few days later, everything changed.

The moment I woke up at my desk, I felt something sticky on my elbow. To my horror, I realized that it was a half-eaten slice of pizza. I immediately ran to the bathroom and puked. ‘Was this some sort of a twisted prank?’ I wondered, then I realized I didn’t have anyone that was close enough to me to want to play a prank or care enough to know of my dislike for pizza.

I paced around the house checking if all the doors and windows were locked, making sure the house wasn’t broken into. When I found the basement door open, I froze in my tracks because I had never opened this door in my life: the landlord told me it was a moldy storage area nobody ever used.

I pushed the door open and stepped inside, terrified. The air smelled of acrylic and was so dusty I couldn’t stop sneezing. I continued to walk around the room, wondering how the hell the door could be open while still trying to recover from the shock the slice of pizza had given me. All of a sudden, I tripped on a can of paint and fell on something.

It took me a long time to calm down and get up. After some careful inspection, I realized that it was a canvas stand that I had fallen on. I looked around some more and found a bunch of canvases and paintbrushes scattered on the floor, and a pile of pizza boxes in the corner.

After slowly connecting the dots, the realization I’d come to was extremely concerning and terrifying. Everything made sense now: how I felt so sleepy all the time and why that godforsaken slice of pizza was stuck on my elbow. Somewhere along the line, my ‘dreams’ weren’t dreams anymore: I had started playing out my fantasies and pretending to be Isaac in real life.

I imagined myself roleplaying as the character, eating pizza, pretending to even remotely know how to paint; I thought of how stupid and scary this must’ve looked to my precious dog, Milo. Here I was, a blind man that had never painted a single thing in his life roleplaying as an artist at night. I felt bad for all those canvases I wasted while playing pretend.

This was all too much for me to process. I picked up the canvases and brushes, put them aside, and then took a shower to clean myself up. I called up my weekly housekeeper Agnes to come visit and help clean up all the mess the paint had made in the basement. She was quite surprised to hear from me since I’d been ghosting her for the last couple of weeks.

While leaving; Agnes said something I’ve been trying to forget ever since. “Sir, whoever you hired to make those portraits of yourself is going to go places. They’re absolutely wonderful and look exactly like you!”.

Share this on: