Sorry for giving some people Déjà vu. I accidentally published an unfinished version of this piece yesterday, but after realizing my mistake, I pulled it. Here is the finished version. Again, sorry for the confusion, enjoy!
Original Prompt: “Your thrown-away characters from discarded stories or plotlines all get together in a bar and complain about you.”
The character bar was loud and rowdy as people conversed with one another. Rosie and Michael entertained the patrons as they entered the bar and found a seat at tables or up at the bar itself. They had to expand their establishment due to the constant influx of new characters being created by Allen in his works. They also hired Laura as a bartender and waitress.
Laura exited the kitchen with a platter of bar food as she made her way to the table in the corner. There Jonathan, Beatrice, Silver, and Alexis were all talking and arguing.
“Z-Moves give you that amazing burst of power you can use to flip the tide or blow your enemy away,” Alexis said.
“Mega-Evolutions gives you a chance to bond with your Pokémon and see them achieve a new level of power,” Jonathan retorted. “You don’t just get that with Z-Moves.”
“I have a plate of ultimate nachos for the Pokémon Trainers as well as soft pretzel bites and beer cheese,” Laura said placing down the bar food on the table.
“Thank you, Laura,” Beatrice said.
Laura looked over at Jonathan and Alexis, mid-argument.
“Still arguing over what mechanics are better?” Laura asked.
“They are quite lively,” Silver said with a sigh.
“Right,” Laura smiled. “Can I get you anything else.”
Beatrice looked over the table.
“I think we are good for now. Thank you again, Laura.”
“No problem, Bea. If you need anything else, just shout for me,” Laura said.
She picked up some empty glasses and made her way back toward the kitchen.
The front door opened and a woman wearing a long, white and red dress stood in the doorway.
“Uh, am I in the right place?” She asked out loud.
Rosie spotted her and gave a wave.
“Are you looking for the Dungeons and Dragons party? They are upstairs,” Rosie said pointing upwards toward the second floor.
“Thank you,” The woman said with a smile before heading to the second floor.
Laura walked past the bar and Michael leaned over to her.
“You’re doing great, Kiddo,” He said.
“Thank you,” Laura said. “This place seems especially busy tonight.”
“We do seem to have a lot of people here,” Michael said. “I’m not complaining.”
“Me neither,” Laura said with a smile. “I love seeing everyone.”
Laura slowly panned her vision across the bar. She saw some good friends like Cassandra, Nathan, and Caspian as well as more recent characters like Adi, Hazel, Clarissa, Diego, and Cosmo. She was so happy she met so many amazing people and got to here their stories. Most of them were just fragments, but she didn’t mind. Hearing about their lives and all the care Allen had put into crafting their worlds and writing their stories made her happy.
But there was also a bit of sadness. She felt left out of this world. Laura was what Michael and Rosie had called a blank-pager. A character that Allen had created but doesn’t have their own story. Everyone else here had a story that they originated from, but not Laura. This is the only world that she knew.
Rosie looked over and saw Laura standing behind the bar.
“Hey, hun. You doing ok?” She asked.
“Oh yeah I’m fine,” Laura said. “Just getting some uh… some food for the tables.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Rosie said. “You have that look in your eyes again.”
“I’m fine, I swear,” Laura said.
“Your time will come,” Rosie said. “Allen is working on something special for you, I know it.”
“Yeah, yeah I know,” Laura said.
“Just hold in there,” Rosie said placing a hand on her shoulder. “If he’s taking this long, it’s got to be special.”
As Rosie said that the front door swung open and a strong gust of wind blew in.
“Woah, close the door,” Silver said.
“Yeah we don’t need a third rendition of wind,” Alexis said and a few patrons laughed.
A man stood at the front of the bar as the door closed behind him. He wore a fancy, gray suit and tie and wore, dark sunglasses on his face.
“Uh, can I help you?” Michael asked as he stood behind the bar.
The man looked around the bar before saying a word.
“I’m looking for Laura,” He said as a shiver went down Laura’s spine.
Rosie stepped forward and stood beside Michael behind the bar.
“Who are you?” Rosie asked.
“And what do you want with Laura?” Michael asked.
“There is no need to worry,” The man said as he surveyed the bar. “I’ve been sent here to make sure Laura gets to where she needs to go.”
“Don’t make it sound so ominous,” A new voice said.
A woman dressed in a similar gray suit and tie with matching sunglasses.
“My name is Agent Gillian and this is my partner, Agent Williams. We’re both META Agents sent here because we’ve heard there is a blank-pager named Laura,” Agent Gillian said.
“We handle all blank-pagers,” Agent Williams added. “We make sure they get to experience their stories.”
At this point the entire bar was silent. Laura slowly walked up to the bar to stand beside Michael and Rosie.
“I’m… I’m Laura,” She spoke with a soft voice.
The two agents looked at her.
“You’re Laura? The Blank-Pagger?” Agent Gillian asked lowering her glasses and revealing her dark brown eyes.
“Uh.. yeah,” Laura nodded.
“Fascinating,” Agent Williams said.
Michael, Rosie, and Laura all looked at him.
Agent Williams cleared his throat.
“Sorry, it’s just that we don’t see a lot of blank-paggers in person,” He said.
“But you said that you and your agency handle blank-paggers,” Laura said.
“To be honest, Laura, we haven’t been called on a mission in some time,” Agent Gillian said. “Well time is a tricky concept in a meta-narrative about story characters, but you know what I mean. We’ve been waiting for someone like you to come along.”
“So what are you going to do with her?” Michael asked.
“Don’t worry, Sir. We’re just going to take Laura to her story so she can be a character like the rest of you,” Agent Williams said.
“We’ll make sure she gets there unharmed. No complications,” Agent Gillian said.
Rosie turned to Laura and then back to the agents.
“Does she… does she get a choice?” Rosie asked.
The question hung in the air for a moment before Agent Gilliam spoke up.
“Laura is free to choose her path. Well as free as a story character has when they are being written by a amateur writer. If she does not want to come with us, she does not have to,” She said.
All eyes turned to Laura.
“Of course, if she remains a blank-pagger, then we are not 100% sure what will happen to her.”
“What do you mean?” Laura asked.
“Characters are supposed to be in stories. They are supposed to live their lives within the confides of the written word and the author’s imagination. This bar. It’s a space outside the world, but connected to it. It’s a story outside of the story,” Agent Gillian said.
“Look around you, Laura. Everyone here has a story separate from this bar. And I’m guessing many of them would love to return to sequel after sequel. An ongoing world where their character will develop and thrive,” Agent Williams said.
He then looked up at the party of Dungeons and Dragons characters still celebrating on the second floor of the bar.
“An ongoing adventure,” Agent Williams added.
“Without a story of your own, this may become your story,” Agent Gillian continued. “Then we don’t know what will happen.”
“It’s something we’ve never experienced before,” Agent Williams. “Characters either get stories or…”
His words trailed off.
“Or… or what?” Laura asked.
Rosie placed a hand on Laura’s shoulder.
“Remember how I told you that there weren’t many blank-paggers? Well, many characters either get their own stories or they don’t. And if they don’t. Then Allen.. he gets rid of them.”
Laura’s eyes met Rosie’s, who’s eyes were filled with tears.
“You mean. If I don’t join a story and stay here, it’s possible that… that I’ll be deleted?”
“It’s a possibility,” Agent Gillian said. “That’s why we advise that you come with us so you can get your own story. You can be preserved along side the rest of the characters.”
Laura turned to look at the agents and then back to Rosie.
“I’m not sure what to say,” Laura said.
“I think you should go,” Michael said placing his hand on top of Rosie’s.
“You do?” Laura asked.
“I know you’ve always wanted to be a normal character. Have your own story. Have a backstory and connections to others ingrained within you,” Micheal said.
“Plus, you can always come back and be a patron,” Rosie said. “All characters are welcome here.”
Laura smiled and both Rosie and Michael a big hug.
“Thank you guys so much,” Laura said. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”
“You’re very welcome, Laura,” Michael said. “Now go out there and live your story.”
“Stay safe and make sure you tell us all about it,” Rosie said. “Hopefully it will be a science fiction story.”
“I hope so,” Laura said with a nod.
“Right this way, Laura,” Agent Gillian said gesturing to the door.
Laura finished saying her goodbyes to all the bar patrons and then she left with the agents.
Outside there was a slick, black car waiting for them in the pouring rain. Laura looked out and the rest of the city seemed to be covered in a deep fog.
“I’ve never been outside the bar,” Laura said suddenly realizing how strange that was.
“That’s not unusual,” Agent Williams said. “Like we said. This is a story outside of a story. The bar exists as the background but the city does not. All of the fog is covering the edges of reality.”
“But don’t worry. We are able to jump between stories,” Agent Gilliam said. “We’ll get you to where you need to go in a quick and safe manner.”
“In the uh… car?” Laura asked.
Agent Williams let out a small laugh.
“It may look like a car, but it’s actually quite high tech. It let’s us traverse different story realities in a blink of an eye,” He said.
“It basically lets us do whatever necessary to get the story moving,” Agent Gilliam said. “Now come on. Your story is waiting.”
All three of them made their way through the rain, to the car. Agent Williams opened the car door and both Agent Gilliam and Laura crawled inside.
“Fancy,” Laura said sitting on one of the comfy leather seats.
The inside of the car was much larger than the outside let on. It stretched almost like a fancy limousine.
“Glad you like it,” Agent Gilliam said.
Agent Williams made his way around the car to the driver seat and climbed in.
“Alright, Laura. You ready to go see your story?” He asked as he started up the car.
“I…uh… I guess. I’m just really nervous about everything,” Laura said.
“Don’t be. There’s nothing to worry about,” Agent Gilliam said. “Williams, hit it!”
Williams hit the gas and the car took off into the white fog; however, the fog did not last long. In a split second, they were in a completely different location. Instead of being outside the bar in the middle of a heavy rainstorm, they were now driving up to a city park with a clear blue sky overhead. Lots of people were out enjoying the weather, playing games, or just walking through the park.
“Woah,” Laura said looking out the car’s window.
“Told you it was high tech,” Agent Williams said from the front seat.
“Where are we?” Laura asked.
“Well, we’re here in your story,” Agent Gillian said. “Now let me give you a rundown of the lead up to the scene. You know, your background information.”
Agent Gilliam reached over and picked up a slick, black tablet off of the seat and started tapping on it with her finger.
“It says here that you met with a gentleman online through a dating app. His name is Elijah. You two flirted a bit and you decided to meet up with him in this park,” Agent Gilliam read from the tablet.
“Is that it?” Laura asked.
“That’s all it says,” Agent Gilliam replied.
“Oh. So this isn’t a science fiction story?” Laura asked.
“I’m afraid not,” Agent Gilliam said. “But sometimes stories can take unexpected twists and turns.”
“Does it say anything about twists on the…uh.. on your tablet there?”
“It would kind of take all the surprise out of it, if it did,” Agent Gilliam said. “Plus this is just background stuff. Information you’d know as a character, before you are actually on scene.”
“Alright,” Laura said. “But what do I do now?”
“You’re overthinking it,” Agent Williams said.
“He’s right. This is your story. There are no wrong answers. Just go out there and do what you think it right. Allen will help guide you as you go,” Agent Gilliam said.
“Alright. Yeah. Sure,” Laura said.
“Now go out there and live your story,” Agent Gilliam said.
“You got this,” Agent Williams said with a smile.
Agent Gilliam opened the door and Laura stepped out.
She stood there on the sidewalk for a bit and just took a few deep breaths. She was still very nervous. All of this seemed so strange. Laura was a no longer going to be a blank-pagger. She was going to have a story.
Laura turned back to see the black car was still there. Agent Gilliam gave her a thumbs up and then a shooing motion to say, “Good luck, now go.”
Laura nodded and started walking toward the park. As she walked, it was almost like a second nature to her. Her brain seemed to be filled with information that she did not have before. Thoughts of a man named Elijah who had flirted with her over the dating app for days. The inside jokes and all the fun they had. Now the nervousness of meeting him for the first time. She was excited.
She passed several people out in the park, but she did not recognize them. Then suddenly something caught her attention out of the corner of her eye. She turned and saw a well-dressed man sitting on a park bench near the edge of the park’s pond. That was him. That was Elijah.
Laura started making her way over to him, and he saw her.
A huge smile grew across his face as he stood to greet her.
“Laura right? I’m Elijah. I’ve been looking for you,” He said with a smile. “I was afraid you weren’t going to show or that you weren’t even real.”
Elijah let out a small chuckle.
In that moment, Laura felt… nothing. The whole thing felt empty. Her brain was telling her that she should laugh. That Elijah was this smooth talker with funny jokes and plenty of charisma, but she didn’t feel these things. She felt nothing when she looked at Elijah.
“Ah, are you ok?” Elijah asked. “You are Laura, right? The girl I’ve been talking to online? You’re the cheese and crackers girl?”
Laura just stood there unable to say anything.
“I…I…” She stuttered.
“It’s ok. I’m pretty nervous too,” Elijah said with another laugh.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t do this. This isn’t right,” Laura said.
Before Elijah could say anything, Laura turned and walked away from Elijah. Her mind burned. It was almost like someone was trying to force herself back to Elijah. That what she was doing now was somehow wrong. But she knew that she could not just sit and flirt with Elijah. This was not her story.
Elijah yelled for her, but Laura did not slow down or even listen to what he had to say. She just kept on walking.
Eventually she made her way back to the edge of the city park. The black car she arrived in was still parked there.
Laura walked up and knocked on the window. There was a brief moment but eventually the window slid down. Laura’s eyes met with Agent Gilliam’s.
“Is there something wrong?” Agent Gilliam asked with a bit of nervousness in her voice.
“This. This is all wrong,” Laura said. “This can’t be my story. There must be some sort of mistake.”
“We don’t make mistakes,” Agent Gilliam said. “This is your story, Laura.”
“No. No it’s not,” Laura said shaking her head. “There’s no way I’m just going to go along with this. Not after all this time.”
“I…I don’t,” Agent Gilliam struggled to find the words.
“Laura, this is very unusual,” Agent Williams said from the front of the car.
“Well I’m used to that by now. And I can’t just accept this… this story,” Laura said gesturing around her.
“Well… what do you want to do?” Agent Gilliam asked.
Laura thought for a moment and then she spoke with a new sense of confidence.
“I want to do what you do. I want to be a META Agent,” Laura said.