Writer's cave
Fabiana Vilsan, Division 3, College sophomore #ws17e-s1d3

It is past midnight and the only discernible sound is that of my next-door neighbour’s snore seeping into my room courtesy of our thin dorm room walls. My roommate is fast asleep, with her hand strategically placed over her alarm clock in order to ensure quick snooze capabilities. I wake up because I’ve been dreaming words.

It happens once in a while and must sound peculiar to people that have regular dreams. You know, your typical falling-off-a-cliff nightmares or hitting-the-jackpot fantasies. But on nights like these, for no particular reason, I wake up with sentences running across my eyes, down my cheeks and scurrying over my hands until my fingertips itch. I wake up with beautiful words buzzing at my eardrums and I hop out of bed to grab any paper and pen I can find.

As many college students would testify to (or perhaps deny with rosy cheeks a dead giveaway), dorm rooms often double as obstacle courses in the dark. My floor is littered with the odd textbook, highlighter, and water bottle, each innocent in the light of day but packed with the potential to wake my roommate at night. I strategically make my way through this maze, feeling my way around the side of the bed to reach the notepad on my desk. Once I am back in the warm embrace of my bed, I begin my ritual – one that few young adults can relate to, I’m sure.

I pull the thick covers over my head and lay down with my chin propped up by the palm of my hand. My phone rests against the wall, operating as a flashlight and providing a stark light for my writer’s cave. I am surrounded by silence and hugged on all sides by my duvet. I think back to the times when, as a child, my friends and I would build similar forts under blankets, shine flashlights under our tiny chins, and concoct elaborate horror stories. We would take turns terrifying one another, each with a more descriptive, imaginative nightmare. Then, we would resurface from our cave and settle into an unsettling sleep, pretending we were old enough to know those stories were make-believe but undeniably touched by the words we’d heard. Then, as a teenager too stubborn to accept curfew, I’d hide under blankets with my friends and swap gossip, embellishing each run-of-the-mill high school event with colourful details. I’ve always found that, in the dead of night, under the comfort of a blanket and surrounded by light, my head rids itself of daily monotonies and allows words to dribble in like poetic honey. I woke up knowing tonight would be one of those nights – a night of personal miracles in an otherwise unremarkable setting.

I feel my fingers gripping my pen until my middle finger aches under the pressure; I feel my hands moving wildly across the page, and the chafing on the side of my arm as it rubs against my notepad. Yet I am unaware of these little pains, perhaps even enjoying them. Words are trickling down from my knuckles onto the page faster than I can write them. Sometimes I write sentences, other times just phrases or words so beautiful I can’t leave them un-inked but haven’t quite found the right place for them. With every thrilling plot twist, I feel a shiver run down my spine and tingle into my kneecaps. With every sentimental musing, I feel a familiar wetness in my tear ducts. With every romantic piece of prose or heated dialogue I write, I feel the lightheadedness of a young girl in love. I don’t have time to stop, think, or re-read. I run the risk of dropping words onto my sheets and never remembering what they were aching to say. I keep writing, up and down the page, scrawling up the side once the page is filled. Then, after what seems like seconds but is more likely hours, I come to a halt, as though my soul has twisted a knob and my inner well of words has suddenly dried.

I look down at my creation, half expecting to see nothing at all and to wake up instead from an elaborate literate dream. My notepad is filled to the brim, so much so that words are laced together, creating a long and winding symphony. My ears are ringing and my eyes are fuzzy with a mixture of sleep and emotion. I emerge from my cave into the darkness of my dorm room and the familiar sight of my roommate’s face pressed against her pillow. My neighbour’s snore resumes, a friendly tree-sawing sound that brings me back to reality. I sink back into my covers and fall into a deep sleep almost immediately, drained by my creative gymnastics.

When I wake just a few hours later, startled into consciousness by my roommate’s insufferable beeping alarm, I feel around my nightstand for my notepad to convince myself once again it wasn’t all a dream. But it’s all there: the smudged ink, the beautiful prose, the lonely phrases, the independent words, the fiery dialogue, the written silence. My roommate shuts off her alarm and turns to face me, rubbing the drowsiness from her eyes.

“Were you awake last night? I thought I heard you…or saw a light,” she says.

I shake my head and close my eyes again, smiling at the tips of my mouth at the thought of last night. Ever since I was a little girl telling horror stories under the covers, I knew where to find beautiful words. Or rather, beautiful words knew where to find me. Never when you’d expect, but always past midnight in my writer’s cave.
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