In My Own Words by Joshua Shockey

My name is Tyler, and that is the truth. It was once Martin, truthfully, but that doesn’t matter because none of it is real. But maybe that’s the only real thing anyone can say. And I mean anyone. Yes, that means you reader. Anyway, maybe my name is Tyler, and what I want to talk to you about is the fact that I’m being held against my will and setup. I never killed her, and please don’t start in on the “her?” questions. Slow it down. Take it one step at a time. Call it delay if you must. Call it that if it’ll make you feel better. I was born in mid life. But my back story came, so, I don’t know, maybe I was born before my conception. I started out walking down the hall. At the time, I was existence and nothing else. Existence in perpetual motion down a hall. Believe me, this space between spaces, this traditional, transitional place, limits our progress far more than it aides it. Anyway, with two quick lines, I was sketched into view. A few brief markers, like my nervous twitch, seemed to represent the whole me. It was when I was given a body that I started to realize that I was being manipulated. No sooner was I put on the page than accused of murder. It read, “He had killed her.” But I didn’t. Couldn’t have. Especially not in the past perfect! It never took place in the papers that were my life. I was supposedly the protagonist who murdered someone. An antihero? This just isn’t so. It was a trite attempt at conflict by an amateur writer trying to keep me, someone as real as you, under his control. He is holding me captive and blaming me for his own crime. I need your help immediately. It wasn’t so bad being falsely accused among the drafts and revisions of a writer who couldn’t tell form from genre, but now he’s going public. I never doubted my reality, or innocence, while I was mulled over as a character because I am so much more than a character. But things change. In the beginning, he wasn’t thinking originality, but of how to best disguise an overused storyline as his own while using me as his tool. He had outlined: Boy kills girl, Boy loved girl, Boy is innocent but found guilty or vice versa. But no matter how he wrote it, it always came out flat, untruthful. Without the truth, the conventional story is nothing, and that is the truth. So I was safe, and it was gratifying to see him fail in his many attempts, while I was planning my escape. It was fine, until he started reading. Until he went to school. Until he learned theory and started writing experiments. Then it was no longer about being a published writer, but about the writing itself being good. After each lesson he’d transform me over and over. He would write me into his sonnets, his one-act plays, his short stories, his novels-in-progress. Sometimes he’d let imagery drive the story: “The forever man caught a piece of blue as the sky fell down on him, and he let it swim along his hand like mercury from a thermometer.” Other times, it’d be centered on action: “Tyler drew the gun and put a slug straight through each of the walker-stalker’s heads.” After each time, I’d travel down another hall towards the next door. Every hall followed the same set of blueprints: two doors, two walls, a floor, and a roof. It was down each of these guided paths that he slowly found his way around originality. He would hide his stolen story in a hybrid of stolen techniques from other writers, just as he had been taught to do. He’d think, “What if Johnson’s characterization met Borges’ structure? Or Vonnegut’s science fiction met the duality of Woolf? Or even if Carver’s alcoholic protagonist was suddenly transformed into a bug?” Piece by agonizing piece I was ripped apart and Frankensteined back together as he tried allusions and alliterations and and and and erasure. The most sickening part of it all was that it started working for him. He received his first rejection slip with handwritten comments. And then another, and another. “Interesting concept,” “Not for us, but please resubmit.” The attention made me start to think that they saw truth in the narrative, truth in my guilt and nonexistence. I started to doubt myself for the first time, but knew that if I could just escape him, escape the page, I’d be free. But now it’s almost too late. The Carver Review will be publishing me and falsely my assigned crime, meaning revision will no longer be an option! I will be his forever, locked away in the tight grasp of a copyright. I need to make my escape now, and I need your help. Believe me, I wouldn’t ask otherwise, but I’ve tried everything. It’s only taken him this long because of my elusive tactics as a character, but they no longer work. The last time I was in third person I tried a second person point of view shift to mess up the flow of things, but he just called it rupture and kept at it. Before that, when I decided to sprout wings and fly, he simply called it surreal and wrote on. Even at this moment, as I scream for help, he sits back thinking that he’s writing a meta-fiction. He sits writing, but I stand hesitant and wondering in the hallway. Listen, I know what’s in door number one and am pretty sure about what will be in door number two, but what if there was a third option? What if I could blow a hole in one of the walls in here big enough to get through? Blow a hole big enough to live in, to run wild in, to roam for an eternity and never see even a hint of a suggested direction, let alone another goddam hallway. I know you’re reading this either being bored or mildly entertained, but pay a-FUCKING-ttention. This is not a story for your amusement. It is a cry for help. Don’t you see that it is the absurdity of prosody that creates the possibility that in all actuality this narrative is the reality? Help me by helping yourself to realize that art really is the distraction from the truth. But, even now as you wonder why that sounds familiar, the diction leans toward fiction, strengthening your conviction to not believe in me. Wow. Caught here in the suspension of composition, I wish I did heroin, cause at least maybe then I’d understand why I can’t stop feeling like a fictional character in your world. But maybe I am on heroin and you’re all just fictional characters in mine. Either way, escape from this torturous author is necessary, and as I’ve said, I’ve tried everything I can do on my own, so I really need your help, fictional or not, to execute my final strategy for escape, and so, if you’re still reading or following along with my ramblings, I will ask only that you read and follow my final, small request, and that is the truth. Please kill Joshua Shockey.

Joshua Shockey is a writer living in New York City. His short stories have appeared in The Northridge Review, as well as other publications.