It's sometime after four AM. I am pointedly avoiding the small white digits at the bottom of my laptop screen, so I really couldn't say exactly when besides a vague "it's crazy time"; because, as I look up, I don't see the wall in front of my desk but my own darkened reflection in a certain goggled fictional convict. This concerns me for two reasons; the first, he doesn't look happy to see me. While the second, even more worrisome reason, was that, if he was sitting directly in front of me, it meant he's pulled a Kool-Aid Man and ruptured through the kitchen wall. My fiancée will not be pleased. I can only pray that this is, in fact, some sort of sleep-deprived stupor.
"Oh-no Mr. Kool-Aid Man." My weak attempt at cross-referenced humor has no effect and he continues to glare. I decide to cut the shit. "Fuck off, Riddick. It ain't doin'." He continues to stare... or at least I think he is. One never can really tell with the goggles; it kind of makes stare-downs a bit unfair and one-sided.
"Five hundred." His rough voice rolls out and seems to scratch the air between us.
"Oh, now definitely fuck you, guy. Seriously. I'll bet you're here to bitch about the lack of progression in every single one of your damn stories and I see your point. Validated. Acknowledged. But seriously, dude, really? You're gonna quote Knockaround Guys at me?"
"We're going to do this my way. No highway option."
"You know how I feel about The Pacifier." I can feel my eyes narrowing unintentionally and some kind of weird pit forming in my stomach.
"Don't watch me now." It almost sounds like a warning, but I'm really not following.
"Hey, Riddick, you okay?" I ask carefully.
"Have you ever been punched in the face for talking too much?"
"What the fuck crawled up your ass? You really want to push me there? Just you wait, buddy!" I don't mean to yell but, Riddick or not, that was just crossing the line. I move to shove myself away from the desk, the whole indignant, stomping, angry exit, when I notice, for the first time, that he's gripping the table.
"That's about the only thing you can count on in this life. There's nobody that wouldn't hurt you if it helped them." I notice this time his head ticks almost imperceptibly.
"Okay…" I find myself pinching the bridge of my nose with my forefinger and thumb; something, I might add, I never did before I started writing Mal and Simon. "You do realize that you win every fight scene I write for you, aside from the cheap shots I give River? You're the one threatening bodily harm. Glass houses, buddy."
"The milk guy's getting paid... the potato chip guy's getting paid... the beer guy's getting paid... every-fucking-body's getting paid, and you look through me? You fuck!" His fist hits the table hard enough for my ashtray to rattle and the sound of his chair grating against the wood floor is enough to set my teeth on edge. Rationally, I know this is all some kind of fucked up, creative train wreck, but the figment-Riddick still scares the shit out of me.
I can't, however, let him know that. "What the hell is your problem, Riddick?" My own chair scrapes against the floor as I shove myself to my feet. He's got a bit of height and weight advantage on me though, so my attempt at physical intimidation is somewhat less than effective. I switch to mental. "Harry Potter." I threaten.
"That's not what I had in mind." He slowly sits back down and pulls off his goggles. I find that I am more frightened by the nearly pleading expression on his face than anything else that's happened tonight.
"Look, lady, I'm just the delivery boy-."
"Holy shit!" I cut him off there. I don't need to hear anymore as the light bulb blinks on in my head. "Holy fuck! I've broken Riddick." I barely feel it as I drop back into my chair and let my head thud against the table several times. "The Knockaround Guys, The Pacifier, cheese and s'mores, even Babylon A.D. was in there." Riddick looks almost grateful as I finally risk a glance up at him. "I know! I know!" I snort as I light up a smoke. "I've been trying. Riddick, hand-to-God, I swear I have been…it's complicated."
"Back to the ship, huh? Just huddled together until the lights burn out? 'Til you can't see what's eating you? Is that the big plan?" He growls at me.
"I'm not giving up, Riddick!" I snap at him. "I've spent at least four hours, every day, the last week trying to crank this sucker out; don't tell me I ain't tryin'!"
"Ask any racer, any real racer. It doesn't matter if you win by an inch or a mile; winning's winning."
"Did you miss the part where I said I'm stuck? Or did I misinterpret that quote?" I ask, toying with the end of my cigarette as I quirk an eyebrow. I'm beginning to think I might need to check myself in someplace.
"You don't care if you live or die?"
"I do care if the story gets done. All of them and I'm frickin' tryin' here, man." I sigh, taking a long pull off my smoke.
"And they say war is hell." He lets his own head thud against my desktop this time.
"Please man, please, lay off The Pacifier quotes will you? I really hated that movie. I swear to God, if you sing that damn song I'm gonna shiv you in the next update."
"Lesson learned. No such word as 'friend'." He rumbles darkly, looking back up at me.
"Aw hell, big guy, don't be like that." I stub out my smoke and twist up my dreadlocks. "Look-," I say as I light another incense and grab my headphones, "-see, going back to work. Got my smokes, got coffee, my headphones, and now the incense, the system is in place. I'll get it done, I swear it."
"Send me to jail. I'm not guilty but I'm used to it."
"Don't you think you're being a little dramatic?" I ask. "I mean now you're quoting Find Me Guilty and, to be honest man, I'm not even sure what that last one was supposed to mean."
"Who do I have to kill to get this payday off my head?"
"Um… No one?" I venture. "I mean, I'll get it written, no need to go shiv-happy on anybody. Yeah, so I've been distracted a bit by the wedding plans-," Riddick looks up quickly, a blade appearing in his hands as his eyes flick to the stairs. "No! No! No! No! Killing my fiancée will not get this story out any faster. In fact-," I try to argue, "-it will only make it worse because then I'll have to plan a funeral and go through all that grief-y, mourn-y stuff and it definitely won't get written then." The blade disappears again and I light another cigarette. This was going to one gorram long ass night…morning.
"It's been a long time since I smelled beautiful." He switches tactics but I'm not buying it.
"Point of fact, Riddick, flattery works much better when you start with it instead of skipping ahead to death threats and then trying to backtrack. You know that whole 'walking up the downslide thing' that River's always going on about. Well, this would be one of those things."
"If I wanted you dead, you would be." He rumbles.
"No, actually I wouldn't because you, in fact, my good sir, are a figment of my imagination and, quite honestly, I think I could be committed for having this conversation with my wall; which should be where you are sitting right now." I argue.
"Strong survival instinct. I admire that in a woman." He chuckles.
"Oh, go the hell away, man. I get it, you want your stories finished, and I swear to you, it'll get done." I snort as I take another drag off my smoke. "I just need to focus and having a conversation with a fictional murderer who is quoting lines from movies by the actor who portrayed him is not only not helping, but I'm seriously now considering going to watch Knockaround Guys again rather than working on this story." He glares at me. "What?"
"Richard B. Riddick, escaped convict, murderer."
"Fine, I'll watch Pitch Black if I watch anything at all."
"Looks good on paper. We're in the kill zone, pal. Lock and load."
"Oh now you're just being ridiculous. That was the character of Chris Varick from Boiler Room quoting Michael Douglas' character of Gordon Gekko when they were sitting around and watching Wall Street. You're quoting a quote from a fictional character."
"Richard B. Riddick, escaped convict, murderer."
"I get it! Okay, no movie breaks, no other characters, stop getting distracted and work on the story. Look-," I turn my laptop so he can see it, "-I'm closing out of the internet completely. Just MS Word is up, nothing else."
"You're in my good graces but you ain't keepin' your car." He smirks at me.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" I almost laugh. "You can't tell me you're interested in a VW Bug with Jerry Garcia bumper stickers and a rainbow air freshener."
"I told him that cigarette would kill him one day." He merely jerks his chin at my smoke, that damnable smirk still across his face.
"And I told you to fuck off about it." I retort as I go back to my laptop. "Now go the hell away. I got a story to write."
"You're not afraid of the dark, are you?"
"What?" I look up from my screen just as the lights die in my house. "Riddick?" I call meekly, but the only reply is a dark chuckle which seems to hang in the air. He's gone and the wall is back where it should be. "Asshole."
Endnote: I really am still working on all the stories. LOL. Much Love ya'll. 'Til after now.