The Quarantine Trial of the Imposter

I was furloughed from work, and quarantined because of the plague. I vowed to work on my writing, but I didn’t, and my characters were done being patient.
I sat before the Council of WIP, sweating a bit at the sight of the five judges who would decide my fate: Lorcan, Warr, Dina, Trace, and Rani.
The other members included Haskell, Markis, Sora, Reiko, Jorie, and Xantara.
The gavel came down, and Warr leaned forward in his chair, arms on the desk, gazing down at me with a patient but surly glare.
“Alfred Warren Smith, you are accused of imposter syndrome. How do you plead?”
“Not guilty.”
Dina laughed openly, the rest smiled, as if I’d just offered myself as a sacrifice for their blood ritual.
“Rani’s story is the only one here you’ve completed, and though you’ve just gotten an editor for it, you’ve been home since March of this year under the lockdown, and have completed nothing else but a couple of short stories, and maybe a poem.
“How does that not speak to being an impostor?”
“Because I intend to finish you all.”
“When?” Lorcan said. “As you walk the road to hell and pave it with those intentions?”
Laughter again. I was starting to sweat, and I was getting a little hungry. Ungrateful, wretched creatures!
“It’s a matter of atmosphere, and things being just so, and trying to maintain my friendships on the Internet. Then there’s the playlists, and the candles…”
“While our stories languish, and slink off into the Forest of Forgetfulness to die of old age and starvation?” Dina asked.
“Well, no. I just…”
Trace spoke up. “My story is probably the oldest, even more than Rani’s, and you’ve done nothing with it since you stopped at the most dramatic moment possible for me.             “Nothing.”
“I…Trace, I’m…”
“You’re what?”
I sighed, defeated. “Undisciplined.”
“What else?” Lorcan asked.
Nods of agreement.
Jorie spoke from the side table. “I have a few opening paragraphs. When did you start me?”
I cleared my throat, took a sip of water, and stayed silent.
“Answer the question,” Rani said. “Our stories were pretty close together.”
I stayed silent.
Warr sighed. “Dina?”
Light appeared at her fingertips, and a cyclone of demons began a slow eddy around her. “Answer the question.”
“20….2015.” I said, barely whispering, but the microphone picked it up.
“Care to change your plea?” Warr asked.
“NO?” Markis stood up, but Warr gave him a look, and he calmed back down. Markis was the most volatile among them, but he’d been through a lot, and I never resolved it.
Sora spoke from the side table. “You have research to do on my story as well as Reiko’s, because you’re outside of your own culture.”
“I did. But I’m sort of making it up as I go.”
“When was the last time you ‘did’?” Reiko asked, making air quotes for emphasis.
I took another sip of water; it didn’t matter what I said at this point. They had me; I was an imposter whether I admitted it or not.
“I’ve heard enough.” Warr said. “How many aren’t even here that you’ve left in one predicament of another? Valentine, Zola, Safyra, Hasina, Dawn, Sylva, and Kahi. All unfinished.”
“You seem to like writing women and leaving their stories unfinished.” Xantara said,     “so what is it you’re really trying to say, Imposter?”
I tried to fight the smirk, but I lost and said, “A woman needs a man to complete her.”
I’m chained to a chair now, my meals slipped under the door, cold and stale. The toilet is within reach of my chains, and after turning sixty, for that I’m truly grateful.
Sleep is permissible, but no more than five hours a night or the collar shocks get increasingly painful.
My phone has been taken, and the wi-fi cut off. I’m not allowed to transcribe onto a laptop anymore, and have to write the remainder of my tales in pencil, in a legible hand, or I don’t get my ice cream.
“It’s not so wretched as all that,” I tell myself over and over again, the only break in the silence between the scratching of the pencil, and the scraping of the manual sharpener.
They keep me in candles, pencils, and blankets without bugs (most of the time).
I suppose one day I’ll finish. Maybe even before the quarantine is finally lifted, or before George R.R. Martin.
Whichever comes first.

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