Better Left Shut

What if, when we leave the doors of our minds open, we don’t just attract muses?

You’re lying in bed, comfy, cozy. Between the cool room and warm blankets, your body has reached that ideal temperature, just right for sleep. As you start to drift off, your mind wanders, and you have an idea. An amazing idea. You know that if you just open yourself up to it, great things will happen.

You try keeping a pen and paper on your nightstand, but you can never decipher your scribble the following morning. Those lost ideas bother you. What if your bestselling novel is already gone, flittered back into the ether because you’d been too lazy to write it down properly?

When smartphones replace alarm clocks, you realize you don’t need paper and pen to capture your ideas. Your phone has a notes app, and it’s easy to use. Soon, you have enough ideas to fill a book. Some even become published stories:

—found doc: court transcripts over lawsuit regarding sale of haunted house

—toilet nanobots analyze our waste. man has to hide his own shit—why?

—mastermind who uses Amazon Mechanical Turk proxies to commit perfect crime

—book: kids who have the worst night terrors are the chosen ones

Sleep is a problem, though. The LED screen delays your brain’s melatonin payload. Once you type an idea, you lie in bed, feeling wide awake. Then, just as you begin to drift, another idea pops up in your mind. Turn on the phone, rinse, repeat. You feel half-dead every morning, but creatively, you’ve never felt better.

Until you find the note you can’t remember typing.

the maN is in the bAseMent

Some ideas come out baroque, but usually you can make sense of them in the light of day. This one… nothing. Except a shiver down the back of your neck. You decide to ignore it. You haven’t been sleeping well; you’re bound to forget some of the stuff you type on your phone.

You begin finding other things tucked between your ideas:

—screenplay that’s Lord of the Rings meets Cheers

fAirly falLen is freE boOdy

—mythic real estate agent trying to sell a used Valhalla to a deity

tere it is, the dArk

—flash fiction that’s an ad for a FOMO drone

whn freE be we?

—a weaponized empathy bomb that goes horribly wrong

balla de gaRgaNtuas

The random capitalization, the skipped letters. You aren’t writing these.

One night, feeling a little mischievous, you type: Who is the man in the basement?

The next morning, you get your answer.

u know whO he is

u alwaYS knOWn

the ghahgaldook thE bogey the hoRned demon with the cuP

thE movement out the Korner of ur eye

the flicKerin shadow when u dOn’t blink

u lef the dOOr open

he remeMEmber u

and he COming

One of your favorite passages in Stephen King’s On Writing is the description of his muse—a basement-dweller who visits at night. What if, when we leave the doors of our minds open, we don’t just attract muses?

What if other things come through?

You decide this has gotten a little too weird. You retrieve your alarm clock from storage and begin leaving your phone in the living room when you go to bed—which is supposed to be better for sleep anyway, right?

That does the trick. No more weird messages. Only…

The ideas stop. Writing begins to feel like work. Sitting at your computer leaves you frustrated and sad. You type words, but they feel empty. The well has run dry.

You still keep your phone in the living room. You wonder how long that’ll last. You can’t starve yourself forever. You want ideas. You need ideas. But you’re scared to open the door. Scared to let the muse in, because what if the man in the basement follows?


You’re lying in bed, comfy, cozy. Between the cool room and warm blankets, your body has reached that ideal temperature, just right for sleep. As you start to drift off, your mind wanders and you have an idea. An amazing idea.

You know that if you just open yourself up to it, great things will happen.

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