The blank page stretches before you
By Rebecca Peterson, Assistant Editor
There was a time you might have said that you enjoy writing—for work, for fun, for life. That time has long since passed.
It all began moments ago when that tickling sensation began at the back of your mind; that encroaching sense of trepidation, the wailing Cassandra in the distance warning you of a forgotten danger, an unknown doom too near at hand. With tremulous fingertips, you turned the page in your homework agenda, only to see that which you dreaded most of all: You have an essay due this week.
It is only five pages long, far shorter than many you’ve had to write, but it still cuts you to your very core. All the words you have ever known in this brief, cruel life of yours promptly fall out the back of your head, leak from your staring, unseeing eyes like draining teardrops of knowledge. You’re not sure what the essay is meant to cover. You’re not sure what an essay is. You’re not sure who you are any more. You only know that you need to start gathering sources. Properly-cited sources.
You scour the wilderness of the Douglas Library, both online and in person. Librarians drift by and offer to help, kindly spirits trapped eternally in an ethereal limbo, but you politely decline. You know to take their offer of aid is often the downfall of unwary travellers; after all, what does a librarian want in return for their guidance if not your immortal soul?
Once you’ve gathered your (peer-reviewed, academic, written within the past decade) sources, you set about trying to glean forbidden knowledge from their pages. The challenge set before you is nearly insurmountable. The words on the page drift about, change languages, switch from standard alphabet, to braille, to binary code, and back again. You read the same sentence twice. You read the same sentence twice. It all blurs together as the letters mix and strta to lsoe trieh mineang adn bmceoe icmophersnblie. Wtha cleur troteur hsa bfelaln yuo unop thsi dya.
Eunvetelly yuo plul yuor brain back together and take enough from the texts to form a coherent argument: Introduction, summary, critique, conclusion. You form your outline with confidence, meaningless sentences becoming endless paragraphs under your indifferent touch. You have no idea what you’re writing—it’s all a matter of autopilot now. What matters most is that you’re doing the thing. What matters most is that you’re going to hand it in on time.
You’re so close to finishing, so close to completing your goal, that you decide you’ll polish it off in the morning before class. You envision yourself prancing through the doors of your college with your essay in hand, receiving the wild cheers and acclamations of your classmates with humble pride. It all seems so close.
You wake up two hours after your class is due to start with terrible nausea and chills. You think you are dying. It is a little disconcerting.
You are not dying, but you have contracted some kind of infection, and you will not be finishing and handing in your essay today. You will sit in a doctor’s office after walking there through the rain, where he will karate chop you in the stomach to test your pain response (significant). Congratulations! You are sick.
Your essay is barely on your mind as you crawl back home and into bed, clutching antibiotics close to your chest, but your last thought as you slip into a restless sleep is the unshakable conviction that somehow, in some way, the essay did this to you. The essay has infected your very soul.
You still need to write the bibliography and hand it in, somehow. Your teacher takes a letter grade off per day late.
You have no time to waste.