It’s a sunny Sunday. I’ve just had a very productive weekend. Started and finished a short film. It’s a story that has been running in my head for nearly two years now. Maybe more. I’m glad I got it out. Maybe now I will have some sleep and peace, for the characters wanted their story told. They kept bothering me, yelling at me, screaming at me, distracting me whenever I was thinking about something else. A little girl and her paralyzed older brother.
A question every writer confronts at some point or the other is “Where did you get that story?” I always wonder where I get my stories. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, suggested that writers are like archaeologists. That stories exist somewhere, and a writer’s job is not to ‘create’ them, but to dig and discover them, and share them with the public.
But I think that stories are experiences in a parallel world. Do you believe in other worlds? Christians and many religions think in terms of Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Paradise. Hindus believe in reincarnations. Phillip Pullman thinks there are other worlds that exist in the same space as ours. Time travelers think our histories (or is it futures?) are stored in black holes. Sci-fi nerds think of life flourishing in other planets. There is the world of ghosts and spirits. One or more of these beliefs is true. And from one or more of these worlds, stories trick into ours, through storytellers, who are like mediums.
We do not create. We only have the powers to peek into strange worlds. Like that boy in The Sixth Sense. Like Whoopi in Ghost. Like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. And when people in those imaginary worlds discover that you can communicate with them, they start coming to you. And bothering you. Until you cannot find sleep. Or peace.
I remember on morning when, the story of a rebel radio DJ, who is stuck on a wheelchair after an accident, came to me. I woke up and it was so clear in my head as if I’d were seeing a movie (well, I’d just seen two movies, murderball and Talk Radio the previous night). First, the wheelchair DJ came. Then his fan followed. For about an hour, I entertained them, poking at them to tell me their story. I wanted it to be a story about two people only, the wheelchair DJ and his only fan. But then, her husband popped up, and so did the wheelchair guy’s ex-girlfriend. I was so furious. I screamed at them; “I don’t want four of you! I only want two of you!” But well, the two late comers refused to go away, and so I’ve never gotten round to writing this story. They however are not giving me peace. They buzz in my ears, like mosquitoes all night.
Often, these strange fellows from those other worlds are shapeless and faceless — and they remain so until I experience something in this world that gives them shape, and faces.
Like this girl and her paralyzed brother.
At first I thought she was a teenage boy, and his little brother was paralyzed. But while in Nepal, Reiza suggested we visit a home where they look after children with severe disabilities. We spent a whole day there. I saw many children with various kinds of disabilities. The visit touched my heart in ways I cannot tell. I’ve posted here some of the photos I took that day.
|Angels in a window are all he’s got to play with.|
|Poor baby stuck in a chair, with an angel who committed suicide.|
It did not strike me at once, but after a long time, I discovered the teenage boy was actually a 10-year old girl. And her paralyzed brother was older, 20 years. And she had to help him.
|Let’s play. But only indoors. No way out.|
She visited me several times in the course of the last year, telling me a single sentence over and over again, urging me to write her story. But she never told me anything more than that single sentence, which went something like this, “I’m a little girl who challenges my parents and bring happiness to the life of my paralyzed brother, and to our home.”
Very vague sentence. It’s not until I sat down to write the story, on Saturday, that she told me more about herself. She sat on my shoulders, and whispered things into my ears. And when I stopped writing after only an hour, she threw tantrums. She pestered me the whole of Friday night. I had to wake up at 5am to complete her story. Only then did I discover she did not have a father, and that she was such a liar.
I finished the story late yesterday afternoon. But wow, you would think she would retreat into her world and leave me alone. But she keeps on bothering me, for she does not want me to tell her story in the form of a film. She wants me to write a folk story, something that will begin like this; “Once upon a time, a little boy lived in a dark room. He had no one to play with apart from the angels who floated into his room on sunbeams that fell in from the tiny window.”
Whew. And someone says I’m blessed. Man, this is a curse. To hear voices. To see little girls. To have no peace until a story is told — a curse 🙁