Before he knew it, Daniel had finished another page. The chicken scratch on the paper (a veritable mess that only he could decipher) was gradually coming together to form yet another chapter of his latest horror masterpiece.
Well, a masterpiece to him, anyway.
Ignoring the bias that so frequently accompanied any amateur author's work, Daniel flipped the notepad to the next page. An intimidating stretch of blank lines greeted his eager eyes.
"Come on, Daniel," he said to himself. "Let's keep the flow going."
In his story, the main protagonist had just broken into the burial chamber. Having escaped from the clutches of the huge spider guarding the chamber, the man, a heavily- muscled hero with flowing black hair and good looks that would have made any movie star envious, pushed into the room. Vast treasures lined the chamber floor from wall to wall.
With the maddening gleam of gold and jewels digging into his mind, the hero stepped past the threshold and began collecting what he could.
Daniel looked at the paper. His pen dangled between his fingers, a seemingly useless tool that only increased his anxiety about the writer's block threatening to attack.
But he was determined. In the past when he had trouble with ideas he found that it was best to simply push forward.
"If you come up against a wall, just break through it," his dad would always say.
A glint of light caught his eye. It vanished just as suddenly however, fading into the dull shadows of the room.
Daniel tried to ignore it, but found it impossible to do so. It festered in his mind like a pot of boiling water: a potential danger that could prove disastrous if not treated with caution.
Standing up, Daniel set his notebook and pen aside and focused his attention on where he thought he saw the flash of light. He stepped forward, slowly, cautiously, silently. Excitement churned in his gut. His heart threatened to punch through his chest.
As he approached the darkened corner, Daniel noticed it again: a brief but glaring flash of light, light that suggested something metal.
He moved aside a small table, and then a rickety old chair.
It glared up at him like a lost puppy begging to be rescued.
Without hesitating, Daniel reached down and scooped up the treasure. He brought the items closer to his eyes, as if he needed to verify that they were in fact real.
A golden box housed coins and loose strands of heavily-jeweled necklaces, as well as rubies and diamonds the size of golf balls. And gaudy rings, one studded with so many precious stones that he couldn't tell if there was gold beneath, clung to the edge of his palms like freezing children around a fire.
Daniel was at a loss for words. He lowered his hands, allowing some of the treasure to slip past his fingers and clank to the floor.
"This can't be happening," he mumbled under his breath.
Another flash of light caught his attention.
And then another.
And yet another.
Soon, he was surrounded by impossible riches, towering heaps of gold and precious stones beyond what any man could imagine.
His mind scrambled for a possible explanation, but came up empty. Thoughts of simply grabbing as much of it as he could and retiring to a comfortable lifestyle on some island paradise bounced around inside his head.
It would be so easy.
A sharp crack against the far wall jolted Daniel from his swinging hammock and Margarita daydream.
He spun around and faced the wall.
Another crack shook the dusty photograph of his parents that hung there and toppled a small lamp.
Daniel held his breath. Whatever was on the other side of the wall was obviously big and determined. It seemed to be moving along the wall, making its way to the one door of the room.
Another hit, this time only a few feet from the door.
Daniel thanked God he had closed it earlier.
Then the door itself was smacked, causing a somewhat neat split to run vertically down its façade. The heavy oak bulged from the external pressure; hinges began to lift from their seats; the frame started to buckle.
Daniel set the treasure he still held in his trembling hands on the floor. The sudden urge to arm himself danced across his mind, and he embraced the notion.
I need to find something, something to defend myself with.
He looked down and noticed a long blade on the floor, partially hidden by a chair. It hadn't been there a moment earlier.
Daniel picked it up. He held the sword in his hand, gracefully cutting through the air with the gleaming, forged steel.
At that moment the door gave way. Shards of wood showered the room as the antagonist made its appearance.
It was a spider, all one and a half tons of it. Soulless black eyes peered down at its puny adversary. A pair of needle-sharp fangs hung below its mottled head, foul-smelling venom leaking from the tip of each.
Daniel leapt back. The sword nearly fell from his grasp but he hung onto it. Bolstered by its presence, he shouted at the beast: "Be gone, foul abomination, I have no quarrel with you. I only seek the treasure that this cursed place holds."
Daniel couldn't believe his ears. Did he just say that?
The spider paused in its slow, maddening approach. It seemed to understand what Daniel was saying. It studied him with its rows of glossy-black eyes.
Then it charged.
Furniture was smashed as if made of cardboard, the creature's sheer bulk reducing all before it to shredded remains wholly unrecognizable as anything of use.
Daniel sidestepped the gnashing fangs and flailing legs with relative grace and ease. It was as if he had faced such terrifying monsters before, and this one was just another threat.
He raised the sword and brought it against the side of the spider's head in a deadly arc. Black blood spurted out of the jagged crevice, splattering both Daniel and the spider.
Rearing up on two of its legs, the spider raged in pain. It crashed through the ceiling, causing a shower of plaster and wood to cover the room.
However, Daniel ignored the maelstrom. He simply stood back and watched the spider's death throes.
But the monster wasn't done yet. With alarming speed, it tensed all eight of its legs and rushed forward. Blood matted its mangy fur, bristling ever so slightly from its frenzied movements.
Daniel darted to his left, narrowly avoiding the beast, and with agility and strength he never knew he had, leapt onto its back and thrust his blade deep into its pulpy flesh.
The spider collapsed into a lifeless heap.
Pulling his sword from the carcass, Daniel stepped away from the mess and surveyed the carnage that used to be his living room. It hardly resembled the peaceful haven where so many great story ideas had sprung from his imagination. Plaster, wood, furniture, all were scattered across the room in sporadic abandon. Where the ceiling used to be there was now only a gaping hole, a disturbing chasm that revealed the darkened space of the attic. And the floor, once a smooth sea of beautiful hardwood, was now only a splintered collection of ruined boards, a sad reminder of the battle that had just taken place on them.
Daniel walked over to his chair and fell into it. He felt the sword vanish in his hand, as did the treasure in the room. He watched the room repair itself, healing the terrible wounds that had been inflicted on it: shattered walls and furniture transformed into their previous, unblemished condition; walls and floors slid back to how they were before.
And finally, the spider, its body already bloating with postmortem gases, began to fade, gradually drifting into silent nothingness.
Sitting in his chair, Daniel reached over and grabbed his notebook and pen. It felt good to have a writer's tools in his hands again, and he felt a wave of excitement surge through his body at the prospect of getting that next page of the story written.
And now he knew what to write next. He'd been given a deeply-personal inside glimpse into the main character of the story. Even though he himself had created the character, it still wasn't enough to just write about him. He needed to be him, to think like him, to act and react like him.
Taking a deep breath, Daniel began to write.