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A Background Poorly Written

William Mangieri is a blogger, karaoke junkie, former theater student, and recovered wargamer, who spends a lot of time wondering "what if...." He writes from Texas, where he lives with his wife and the ghost of a nine-pound westie as he tries to find ways to flesh out his own existence. His fiction--including his first novel Swordsmaster--can be found on Smashwords, Amazon, and other online sellers. You can follow him on William Mangieri's Writing Page at williammangieri.wordpress.com , on his Facebook writing page @NoTimeToThink, or on Twitter @WilliaMangieri.
"What was that?" the woman asked.
"What was what?" someone replied. I think that was me.
"That sound. Didn't you hear it?" she asked.
"No," I said, before a scratching that sounded like it was on the outside of the wall caught my attention. Wait--I don't see any wall. The wall of what...?
"There it is again--what is it?" Debbie asked.
"Wait a minute, who's Debbie?"
"That's me, silly. Did you hear it that time?" she--Debbie--asked.
"Well yes, now that I've been told that it caught my attention and what the sound was, sure, now I've heard it," I said.
"Is that you saying that? It's like you're reading someone else's lines," Debbie asked.
Debbie always asks too many questions.
"You ask too many questions," I said.
"Who says so?" she asked.
"I do, and--somebody else," I said. Confused about who else.
There isn't anyone else.
"Somebody else who?" she asked.
If she doesn't stop asking questions, I'm going to have to start over, and you won't like that.
"Why wouldn't I like that?" I asked.
"Like what?" she asked.
Don't talk to me. You better ask her something.
"Debbie, where are we?" I asked.
"Why are you asking me?" she asked.
"Because... someone out there...."
No one is supposed to be aware of me. It will distract from the story.
"There's nothing else to be aware of. We don't even know where we are," someone says--maybe Debbie, I don't know; it could have been me.
This isn't working at all.
The scratching becomes more persistent outside the walls of--wherever Debbie and--whoever I am are, and then the walls buckle, as though being crushed and crumpled, and that's when I think I see Debbie for the first time, a scream forming on her lips just before the emptiness dissolves into--even more emptiness.
"Why do they refuse to cooperate? Do they think they can write themselves?"
The End
This story was first published on Monday, June 15th, 2020


After completing my first novel, I was having trouble switching back into short-fiction mode. I'm a stream-of-consciousness writer--ideas tend to just come into my head out of nowhere--whole scenes, monologues, and conversations sprout from whatever my muse really is, and then go where they will (and yes, I often don't know where they will end up.) Sometimes, the words don't materialize as easily, or the characters refuse to cooperate. "A Background Poorly Written" was an attempt to get back on the short-fiction writing horse, and it struck a chord with what my writing experience often feels like. Sometimes the characters aren't as helpful as they should be to the process. I wish they'd tell me what they want of me....

- William Mangieri
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