Linus Daglen is a Hack
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Linus wasn't one to complain about his position. He figured he didn't have the right. Plenty of people did what he did and a lot of those people were better than him at it, but that's no reason to throw a fit. Those people had a natural abundance of talent and years, decades, and even sometimes centuries more experience than him. How long had he been at it? Linus counted it out on his fingers, unable to keep numbers in his head. Twenty-three years, he decided, give or take two or three years.

He sat on the floor, leaned against the bookshelf behind him. The journal in his hands sat patiently, waiting to be written in for the first time in days. Waiting? Patiently? It was a tad disconcerting the amount of personification his mind had been applying to things these days. Maybe it was a sign that his creativity was finally about to come back. Or maybe it was evidence of his mental decline. The insane ones always befriended the world around them as best they could once living creatures stopped talking to them.

Linus was way off track, digression to the nth degree. What was he thinking about before? He shook his head, dismissing the errant thoughts before they could sink their fangs in again. Inexperience? No, no. Well, kinda. It had something to do with a feeling of inequity. Inequity? Linus thought he'd used the term "inexperience." What's the difference? he questioned. Quite a bit actually, you see—

"Shut up."

Back on track.

Linus Daglen was a hack. Plain and simple. At least, that's what he considered himself to be. Were the things he wrote amazing works of literature? No, not at all.

The pointless introspection had to be stopped there. Deadlines were encroaching and Linus was wasting time with contemplation.

"What deadlines?" Linus demanded, raising his arms in frustration. He was lucky no one else was around, otherwise he'd look like a regular Martini.

"You keep this up and I'm gonna make you into a regular Billy Bibbit," Linus spat at nothing. The threat begged the question, how does one make a "regular Billy Bibbit" out of an intangible sensation of direction and purpose?

"Here I was, thinking I'd finally managed to ignore you, but I guess not. And now you've upgraded to… whatever this reality alteration shebang is! I guess I just have to keep listening to some fake narrator in my head verbally abuse me and jerk me around."

The idea of being relegated to being simply a fictitious voice spurred on by the mind of a fictional character was a spine chilling concept. A terrifying ouroboros.

"How do you think I feel with you doing all of… all of this! You treat me like I'm some character you can throw around like a doll!"

Linus felt angry and confused. He felt that he was being forced into the role of a jester, meant to dance for some kind of sick entertainment. Forced to reconcile with his existence as a fictional character who could easily be manipulated.

"You keep doing that! You keep calling me fictional, but I sure feel awful real," he yelled, patting his chest as if to prove he was corporeal.

"I swear this whole writing drought is because of you. You're— you're wasting my precious creative resources on this stupid cliché!"

A thought rose up in the back of Linus' mind as it played devil's advocate for itself: for something to be cliché, surely it must be an established trope? Have been used in other media?

Linus pointed indignantly at the ceiling far, far above him, "Stranger Than Fiction, The Stanley Parable, and, I hope you take this with all the venom I'm pushing it with, Homestuck. Hell, you could make a pretty solid argument for Disco Elysium too! And those are only a few!"

Linus had proven his point, a smug grin crawling disgustingly across is face. It was clear that he wanted to shake things up— a change of scenery once more.

"No, no, no we're not doing this again you




CUT TO:

INT. DINER - AFTERNOON
THE SCENE OPENS in a small diner, lost in the past with its red tables and countertops trimmed with chrome. The seats are a white vinyl, stained by years of various messes. The camera is focused on LINUS DAGLEN (???), a seemingly young man wearing an ugly coat and an even uglier tie, his shirt untucked. His hair is a mess and he hasn't shaved in a few weeks. His facial hair is ratty. Fear, twitchiness, anxiety, and all other poor traits for an author to have define his existence. Linus sits in a booth, a half-eaten hamburger laying on a plate in front of him, accompanied by fries. To the left sits an empty cup. Linus is facing the ceiling, anger in his eyes as he shouts to nothing.

LINUS
sadistic prick!

Linus stops yelling, looking around the diner. Multiple patrons stare at him, pondering his mental stability.

A SHOT OF THE COUNTER, THE KITCHEN WINDOW IN VIEW
A line cook's head is cocked to the side, gazing at Linus with squinted eyes. A waitress in the middle of taking an order at the counter also stares, her pencil standing still on the notepad in her other hand.

BACK TO LINUS
Linus cracks an awkward smile, attempting to bring a semblance of levity to the moment and convince the patrons and workers that he isn't insane. All quickly return to their tasks or food, some shaking their heads in disapproval. Linus drops his fake smile, slouching over in the booth, staring at the hamburger.

LINUS (MUTTERING TO HIMSELF)
Y'know, I was really enjoying being back in some stable reality in the Library.
I think I just need to stop getting into arguments with you.
Thanks for making me look like a lunatic to these mirages, by the way.
Really appreciate that.

A WAITRESS (42) approaches the table, taking Linus' empty glass and pouring water from a sweating pitcher into it, setting it back down in front of him.

WAITRESS
You're very welcome, honey.

The waitress gives Linus a pleasant smile, Linus returning it as best he can. She quickly returns to attending to the other customers, taking orders and refilling drinks.

LINUS (MUTTERING TO HIMSELF)
Not sure how this "change of scenery" is supposed to spur creativity.
Hasn't worked yet, doubt it'll work now.

A BALDING MAN (64), sitting in the booth back-to-back with Linus', tilts his head back, craning his neck to try to make eye contact with Linus.

BALDING MAN
Now, I ain't no genius, but…
Well, only way to really get past the whole "hack" thing you got goin' is to, y'know, stop bein' a hack.
Maybe practice that a bit.
Just a s'gestion.

LINUS (INDIGNANT)
Wow.
How profound.

BALDING MAN (FEIGNING HURT FEELINGS)
No need to be so harsh!
Jus' tryin' to help ya.

Linus stares forward in frustration, grinding and flexing his jaw a bit.

LINUS
Could you at least have the decency to drop me outside at some point?
Not trying to be the prick that smokes inside.

BALDING MAN
Door's right there.

LINUS (WITH A LAUGH)
No way. I know what happens if I go through that door.
Ain't really an outside so I'd just go somewhere else.

BALDING MAN
Who knows, maybe it'll be an outside.
'Sides, you'd be so much better off goin' cold turkey.
This "weaning off it" crap is just gonna get you to slip 'gain.

LINUS
Go cold turkey, I'm liable to get hooked again.

BALDING MAN
Sounds like you've got no self-control to me.

LINUS
Y'know, I really don't get your tactic with all this.
All you do is throw me around and tell me I'm a lackluster writer.
Say things like that, putting me down.
Seems more antagonistic than helpful.

BALDING MAN
Jus' makin' sure you know why we're here 's all.
No need to get all inhospitable.

LINUS
"Inhospitable"?
That's calling the kettle black.

BALDING MAN
You jus' keep up your bellyachin'.
See where that gets ya.
I'm here 'cause I wanna help.

The waitress returns to the Linus' table, setting down a tall chocolate milkshake, topped with whipped cream and a cherry.

BALDING MAN
Look!
I even got you a milkshake!
C'mon, don't say I never did nothing for ya.

A STRAIGHTFORWARD SHOT OF LINUS, AS IF THE CAMERA WERE SITTING ACROSS FROM HIM
Linus stares at the milkshake, his face twisted unflatteringly in irritation. Linus reaches for the milkshake, much to the delight of the balding man, before picking it up and leaning over the booth, pouring it out on the balding man's lap.

A VIEW OF THE BALDING MAN'S LAP
Chocolate milkshake sits piled in his lap, running over onto the white vinyl seat and down the legs of his khaki pants. They are a very nice pair of khakis, now ruined by Linus' childishness.

BACK TO LINUS
Linus smirks to himself, resembling a petulant brat engaging in petty actions for his own amusement. The balding man looks down at his now ruined pants, a look of frustration paints his face, but he still wishes to help Linus nonetheless. He just cares that much.

BALDING MAN
Aw hell, an' I just got these slacks.
I'm gettin' the sense that you ain't a fan a this locale.
Ungrateful little brat.

Linus closes his eyes, portraying a sense of resignation.

BALDING MAN
Aw, bless your heart.
You not wanna go anymore?
Let this be a lesson in appreciating when others do you a kindness.

A beautiful Spring garden in the Fall
Blooming flowers and red and orange leaves
Surely empyrean, it's without squall
Classical inspiration in its wreathes

Linus, an unappreciative guest
He throws up next to a cherub statue
The trip was tumultuous, my behest
He spouts vulgar claims, most of them untrue

After the upchuck, Linus gazes 'round
He crosses his arms, refusing splendor
A fae creature brings him tea without sound
Spiteful, he pours it out on a flower

I insist that he take in the nature
The child is told by the kind teacher

Linus procures his journal from his coat
And with a click of his pen, he's writing
I wait in silence, excited to gloat
He'll thank me for my help as he's crying

He jots down ideas for minutes more
He shows his new works, kit and caboodle
It's all senseless vulgarities, gore
Alongside anatomical doodles

Linus must think he's so very funny
Smiling, not even trying to suage
"I guess you finally inspired me"
The flowers wilt in the wake of my rage

Pettier and pettier thoughtless whims
For some imagined wrong I've dealt to him

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"Huh. Shoulda figured."
Couldn't just let you get put to work for a few centuries. Not when you still haven't written anything.

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"I can't tell who's worse off: Tantalus or Sisyphus."
So now you can throw out a quip? Be clever?

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"Just draining my reservoir."
Seems counterproductive.

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Off to find adventure? Or are you trying to escape?

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Ignoring me won't solve anything.
"I'm just looking for a more comfortable place to sit. Less dirty too."

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Happy?
"Not really. It's hot, humid, and the sun's setting. You know how I feel about the dark."

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Lighter: "SUE PALL MALL 4 A BILLION $$$!"

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Very productive.

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"Just give me a minute of peace, okay?"

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You protesting now or something?

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"Just tired of all this."

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Where're you going now? Is pouting in this locale too boring? Too trite?

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"Like I said: I'm tired of the endless back and forth with myself, so I'm done."

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You know I'm not gonna let you leave.

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"Do whatever you want, I'm not gonna fight it anymore."

walking down a road
cracked pavement below his feet
stretching beyond all

weary of the task
weary of the nagging voice
weary of himself

and so he just walks
the forest on either side
framing his retreat

this is the bottom
the most pathetic hes been
if i could id scowl

i berate him so
but he just keeps walking down
down the infinite

tears form in his eyes
he pretends that they arent there
but i can see them

the falling action
to a tale of woe and spite
without a climax

this is your lowest
he grits his teeth squints his eyes
holding back his thoughts

i know what they are
pity oh pity me please
a desperation

youve proven me right
youve admitted defeat now
inadequacy

dropped it just like that
i just hope it was worth it
a wasted effort

he turns to the sky
he cries out with his whole heart
screaming his throat raw

"i understand that
you always remind me so
and you broke through me"

"i am fine with it
i just dont care anymore
i have given up"

"i am no savant
i will never be a great
and maybe thats fine"

"im okay with that
i wont just settle for less
ill strive to improve"

"but ill be okay
ill live in others shadows
thankful for the shade"

theres a new feeling
in himself he finds it now
he finds acceptance

Linus blinked. He'd only moments before been stuck on an endless stretch of road, but now he was somewhere else completely. Normally, he wouldn't be surprised by the sudden change of scenery— it'd become an unfortunate facet of his life— but this seemed different. Before, there'd be a jolt, twisting his stomach and taking the wind out of his lungs. Sometimes the feeling was mild, other times it was extreme enough as to induce sickness, but this time it had all happened without any side effects.

Linus saw a large green field that was surrounded by woods, at the edge of which he stood, a path worn by foot traffic leading out of it. Sitting in the center of it was a playground, lying on a mat of mulch. A large walnut tree stood in the middle, its limbs reaching over almost all of the mulch circle. The day was perfectly overcast: there was enough sunlight to give the impression of a sunny day but cloudy enough to keep the heat at bay. Linus' skin was cooled by a constant, gentle breeze that wafted through the field.

The strangest part to Linus was the feeling of intense comfort and nostalgia the place instilled in him. He'd never been there before, not as far as he could tell, but it still felt like a long-lost part of his childhood. A place where he'd first used his imagination to engage in battles of epic proportions with friends and pictured the past and future as he ran gleefully through the grass. It was comforting.

The breeze picked up ever so slightly. The sound of it rushing by his ear brought Linus' attention to another new factor: just how quiet it was. The trees in the distance rustled, a wind chime hanging from a window in the playground lightly rang out, but it was otherwise silent.

Silent.

Linus held his breath, closed his eyes. He listened for it: the voice that reverberated through his skull, spurring a pain like a tooth ache in his molars, poked and prodded until he gave way to anger. But there was nothing but the blood rushing through his ears, faintly buzzing.

Gently, apprehensively, Linus opened his eyes again, taking in his surroundings, searching for anything that would break the illusion of isolation, but nothing seemed amiss. Everything seemed as clear as reality could be: no paint smudges, no jagged outlines, words of his own spilling out of an ether, no nothing. Informed by the brief moments of clarity he had been afforded, meant to tantalize, he knew he was somewhere concrete.

Fixating his eyes on the playground, Linus felt an inexplicable draw to it. The soft tinkling of the wind chime pulled him in, dredging up brand new memories from a dusty corner of his brain, memories of comfort and adolescence where the self was ranged from FL to IF. The swings' creaks as the breeze gently rocked them reminded him of a mother he'd never had pushing him in a swing he'd never been in while a brother he didn't recognize was pushed in the adjacent swing by a father whose face was obscured in a haze of cigarette smoke. The air was home, the mulch the carpet he'd never burnt his knees on as he hadn't wrestled with an unhad brother.

The playground itself was made out of a dark wood, divided into two parts: an open air platform from which came two slides, a fireman's pole, and a ladder; and a portion resembling a child's drawing of a house, a large, open window sitting in the center on the front and back sides, accessed by either the walkway between the two portions or a climbing wall on the other side.

Climbing up, Linus found a stack of blank papers sitting in the house portion, a stash of pens sitting nearby.

Linus held his breath and closed his eyes again, listening, fearful but hopeful. Listening, listening, listening. Still, all that he could hear were the trees and wind chime, all subject to the whims of the breeze. Linus smiled, taking in the wondrous atmosphere.

Peace.

Linus would soon set up shop in the playground. He'd have to leave to get supplies, the footpath he'd entered in from the only way out. Every time he left, he'd be subject again to the wiles and pestering of himself, torn to and fro within illusions and loathing, but he'd somehow always find his way back to the green field, taking refuge until he next needed to leave.

His works piled up in the corner. Were the things he wrote amazing works of literature? No, not at all, but he was happy to be slowly improving his skills, putting to paper the things he had wanted to for so long. Carving bits out of himself with the pen and gently laying them down onto the page. Each character held a bit of himself in them.

Linus didn't know if he'd ever be able to leave without succumbing to the torment once more. It seemed to him that it was scar tissue, maybe fading but always present. He was okay with that. It was an integral part of him and as much as it hurt him he couldn't see himself being the man he was without it and all the things it dragged along.

He could appreciate the scarring for what it meant.

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