A distinct lack of inspiration
Probably the most clichéd thing anyone can possibly write is an essay on how they can't possibly write. The movie Adaptation, with Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep and some other bloke with buck teeth, shrugs this off with stylish aplomb, but if the rest of us attempt such a thing we're lucky if random homeless men don't come up to us on the street and headbutt our groins. Thus it is with great trepidation that I launch into this, an article about how I can't think of a thing to write.
Discussions with the other regular contributors to this electronic publication yielded the same conclusion: we have no inspiration. The causes of this were initially unclear, but research and available evidence seemed to indicate that some kind of imp came along and, during the night, ate our brains through a twisty straw. Superficially, this could be construed as extremely gnarly; however, on a deeper level, we would like our craniums to be returned. They help us walk.
Exactly how does one find a brain-eating night imp? For answers I contacted the Schlosser Imp Institute in Lausanne, Switzerland (often jovially referred to as the Schlimpstitute by the chefs manning the crepe stands surrounding the complex). This privately-funded facility has been carefully studying these creatures for over fifty years; its founder, Dr Hermann Schlosser, was driven by a deep desire to locate the terrible beast that stole his wife's creative soul, and they haven't stopped searching yet. Insiders have explained that sometimes, in the dead of night, one can still hear Dr Schlosser's impassioned wails, and his wife's half-witted giggling at her favourite soap opera omnibus.
Dignitaries such as Tony Blair and Malcom McDowell famously got their start at the Schlimpstitute, although they often seek to distance themselves from it. The current spokesperson, Bartholomew Tourette, was gracious enough to spend half an hour in my company over some expensive coffee and a bear claw.
"Imps are dangerous creatures," he explained. "In the night they crawl out from the deepest, dankest corners of the mind, and just as you are off your guard – just as you think your soul, the individual flame that burns deep within you, is safe – they strike like a praying mantis upon its prey. And then you have no hope, you see, for your mind is gone like a restless dream."
I asked him where I might possibly find the imp responsible for stealing mine and he stared at me for a moment, looking round at the coffee shop as if using his eyes for the first time. It is hard to say what he was thinking, but finally he simply stood up and walked away, leaving me with two bear claws, a cappuccino, a mocha freeze and a whole lot of questions. There would be no answers here.
Unsure of how to proceed, I bought a banana crepe from one of the merchants surrounding the institute complex. It is an astounding campus, designed by several of the architectural luminaries of the 20th century; glistening towers reach out towards the sky, and a giant waterfall flows into an ovular pool in a central courtyard dappled with grapes and almond trees. Salmon swim upstream towards specially designed breeding holes in the cafeteria, where they can be plucked by chefs and instantly transformed into a three course meal for the well-paid researchers. Despite having to watch from afar with a less-than-gourmet pancake, I felt lucky standing within its presence. Truly, it was impressive.
Days later I found a telegram delivered to my hotel room. The ink had run and there were strange, six-fingered handprints all over it, but the message was still just about legible. I was to meet Mr Tourette in a cellar bar in Budapest; I thanked my lucky stars that I was reporting for Rum and Monkey as opposed to some lesser, poorer publication, and caught the first plane.
The ambience was magnificent; wine bottles sat in driftwood racks, soaking up fumes from the open flagons of whisky sitting below. The barman was an overweight, bald gentleman with a beard and a big white apron, who laughed and held his arms open as I walked in. His name was Venya, and he rarely had foreigners walk into his establishment; for the duration of the evening, he attempted to introduce me to what he called his "special wines". "My grapes have been trodden with great care," he said in broken English. "My three virgin daughters danced in them for three days and three nights in the hope that a foreigner such as yourself would come and drink like a hearty lion."
Mr Tourette was sitting in a corner, reading a Budapest Star. "I am glad you made it, Mr Benjamin," he said to me with a smile as I approached him. "Very pleased indeed. But before I speak to you, you must agree to do one thing for me."
"You must never mention my real name. Construct a pseudonym for me, by all means, but my dearest wish is that my family remain unharmed. You see, what I am going to tell you is of utmost importance and deepest secrecy; it concerns the Schlimpstitute and their collaboration with the imps." He folded his arms and shot me a fearful look.
"Sir," I replied, smiling and offering my hand, "you have nothing to fear from me."
Mr Tourette returned the smile and brought his hand to mine – but it was limp, and his head had fallen to the table. Blood poured from his mouth and his back, forming pools of death around me, on the table, across my shoes and my face; there had been a sniper in the bar. Someone didn't want Bartholomew Tourette alive if he was going to spill the Institute's secrets. Almost certainly, they would want me dead too.
I quickly turned round and scanned the inhabitants of the bar. I could see Venya's head behind the counter; tears were streaming from his eyes. He wasn't the culprit, but he appeared to be the only person left in the room – whoever it was had made their getaway, and fast. I frowned and slowly, carefully, made my way to the Budapest city streets, where everything appeared to be normal and the people went about their business as usual. Nobody was running, nobody was hiding in the shadows. There was no fear behind any corner that I could see.
The flight from Budapest to London is nearly three hours long; I found myself wondering what Mr Tourette was trying to tell me, and if I would ever find the imp who had rendered me so disabled. Could the Schlosser Imp Institute be in league with the creatures in order to maintain their funding? I couldn't say, but I found myself wondering if Doctor Schlosser was howling in pain each night for a different reason.
I sighed. Whatever lies behind the mystery I uncovered that day, whoever lies behind the nefarious killing of that poor, brave man, one thing remains absolutely certain: I still have nothing to write about.
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