Please, for the Love of All That Is Good, DO NOT Read This Story
Oh, no no no no no no no.
What have you done? Why did you click on this story? Wasn’t the title clear enough?
Listen, I’m going to let you in on something, right from the start. You do not want to read this story. You still have a chance. You haven't gotten to the point of no return yet. You can stop reading now and go and find some other writer to read. Any other. There are loads of great authors that you can read instead. You can read a gripping horror, a beautifully written romance or a thought-provoking sci-fi. It’s all out there. But if you stick with this one you’re going to regret it. Because your day is about to get a whole lot worse.
You’re still here? God, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Well, first of all, this is a story. And every good story needs a good main character. Mine is called Jimmy.
Stop right there.
Do you see what you just did? Because it’s important that you understand it. And yes, let’s get this straight from the start, I am talking directly to YOU reading this right now. And YOU just did something.
Now pay attention. This is important.
My main character is called Jimmy. That’s all I’ve said about the character. And yet, what have you done? You’ve already created Jimmy in your mind. Is Jimmy tall? Short? Fat? Thin? Young? Old? Believe me, the Jimmy in this story might be some of those things but your Jimmy is slightly different. Maybe you’ve based the character on someone you used to know with the same name. And why have you made Jimmy male? At no point did I, the author of the story, say that Jimmy is male.
He is, though, because what parent in the world would be cruel enough to name their baby girl Jimmy? But that’s not the point. The point is I gave you a name and you already started creating this person in your own mind. So now there are two Jimmys. Presuming you’re the first person to read this. If you’re not there might be five or ten Jimmys. If this story does really well – and I really hope it doesn’t – there could be hundreds of Jimmys. Each one slightly different, with varying appearances and personality traits. Some readers, maybe even yourself, will have spitefully made Jimmy female just because of what I said at the beginning of this paragraph.
This is dangerous. I’m giving you an opportunity. Right now. Stop reading. Because so far this story is a little bit quirky, maybe a little bit humorous. But by the end of it, you’ll be horrified.
Jesus Christ, why are you still reading!?
Right then. Let’s continue.
Jimmy is actually a squid. Well, not a squid exactly but a cute little squid-like creature who smiles all the time. He’s the colour you’re imagining him in your mind right now and he fits neatly into whatever object, large or small, that you think a creature like Jimmy might fit into. You might call this lazy writing but you’re the one that decided to keep reading and keep creating your very own little (or big) Jimmy so this is your fucking story now, isn’t it? Not mine. I mean, there is a version of it that’s mine but that’s not the one you’re reading right now, you’re pleasing yourself and making your own version of it. My version, the original, lives in my mind. Just as yours lives in your mind.
And that. Is. Dangerous.
I can’t overstate it. For example, watch this:
One day Jimmy decides to go for a walk. As he strides, a cool wind blows through his hair.
Stop again. Because there is so much to talk about here.
First of all, I bet you’re picturing Jimmy walking on a nice, sunny day? What other writer would describe a “cool wind” in a scene other than a beautiful, glowing day? Well, it’s not a sunny day, it’s snowing. And guess what else? Jimmy isn’t even outside, he’s indoors. The cool wind is coming from a fan. Why does he have a fan blowing indoors on a snowy day? I don’t know. Well, I do, I have an idea. But that’s for my Jimmy. You’ll have no doubt come up with some ludicrous idea about why MY character has that fan going. Go with it.
Also, how does a squid-like creature actually walk, and what does its hair look like? Again, I know the answers for my own Jimmy, but you’ll have your own.
Jimmy’s best friend in the whole world is you. Well, my Jimmy’s best friend is me. But yours is you. Jimmy thinks the world of his best friend. He loves you very deeply. Because you are Jimmy’s creator and you’ve made Jimmy the perfect colour and the perfect size. He’s just perfect for you. The bond between you is remarkable.
And this is a problem.
I honestly can’t believe you’re still reading this. Can’t you see the signs? That this is going to end very badly?
Well, if you’ve come this far I guess there’s no stopping you now, so I’ll stop begging you to cease reading. Although, by this point, the damage is already done.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Here’s something interesting. And pay attention because this too is important. I read The Lord of the Rings just after the first film came out. So when I read The Two Towers and discovered the great, tree-like ent Treebeard, I didn’t base his voice on any movie, because the second one wasn't out yet. I created it in my head. And for some strange reason, my teenage self thought that a massive tree creature would have a tiny, squeaky voice like a mouse. Particularly when he said hoom!
Now, if you’ve read those books or seen the films, you’ll know that Treebeard’s voice is deep and booming.
It’s not hoom!
But I decided that my Treebeard had a tiny squeaky voice, and so it was.
When I read Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, I thought Roland came from a place called “Gi-lead”. Years later I found out it was pronounced “Gil-ee-add”. Did I start pronouncing it that way in my head? Absolutely not! I travelled for miles with my Roland through pages and pages of drama, tension, horror, anguish, joy and everything in between. My Roland was from Gilead. That’s Gi-lead. End of.
Readers do this stuff all the time. How many people do you think imagined Hermione Granger as looking exactly like Emma Watson when they read the Harry Potter books? Despite the fact that Hermione is described as having huge buck teeth? Many readers get particular ideas about characters and just make them whatever they want them to be. They change characters' hair colour, skin colour, sexual orientation, nationality, whatever! Just to suit what they would like that character to be.
By the way, just so you know, Jimmy is now dancing in my story. I see him doing a sort of tango but you might see your Jimmy perform that vomit-inducing twerk or maybe more of a disco thing? It’s up to you after all. You’ve hijacked my story, just like I hijacked Tolkien's, King’s and Rowling’s. Whatever. Do what you want.
But here’s the thing about those stories. I could imagine the unwritten parts all I like. I could pretend that Frodo Baggins carried around an enchanted doughnut throughout his quest and that might make it real for me, but at the end of the day, Middle-Earth had only one God, and that was Mr Tolkien. No matter how many stupid things we make up in our heads there are certain rules that authors make that cannot be broken. We cannot pretend, for instance, that the ring isn't gold and has Elvish markings written upon it because it is clearly described in this way. In The Dark Tower, we cannot ignore the fact that Susannah is a black woman in a wheelchair because she is described as a black woman in a wheelchair. In Harry Potter, we cannot see the scar on his forehead in any shape other than a lightning bolt.
You see, no matter how much you make the story your own, the author has the final say in a few things…
Which brings us back to Jimmy. Poor, poor Jimmy. Look at him. He’s beginning to realise now. He realises that you’ll betray him. Poor thing. He’s even crying a little. And go on, give him one last thing. Does he cry normal, human-like tears? Or maybe he weeps ink since he’s a squid-thing. There you are. Another piece of Jimmy that’s your own creation. This is only going to make things harder.
I wrote this story. Me. Chris Morris. And no matter how much you’ve tried to make it your own by giving Jimmy his colour and his hair and a little of his history, at the end of the day, I’m in charge. It’s my story. And I told you not to read it. But you did. So now you have to pay the price.
And I see what you’re doing now! And it won’t work. You’re trying to distance yourself from Jimmy now because you know something bad will happen to him and you probably don’t want me to “win” anymore. You'll refuse to create any further things for Jimmy. But you can’t help yourself!
Jimmy’s favourite food is…
Don’t fight it! Give him a favourite food. You’ll probably give him your own favourite food, because you can’t help but think of it. And if you haven’t already fallen into my trap, just give him the first food that comes into your mind.
Still not working? Think you’ve beaten me?
Fine. Jimmy’s favourite food is poison.
Now that’s not my fault! That’s your fault! You could have chosen Jimmy’s favourite food for him but you resisted. And you let me do it. And now Jimmy’s in real danger.
But you know what? I’m not going to make Jimmy drink poison. Even though it’s his favourite. And now he’s crying even more because he wants the poison and I’m being a responsible parent and not letting him have it. I’ve saved my Jimmy.
Which is something you won’t be able to do.
Now remember, no matter how much you’ve tried to take control of my story, I am its creator, and what I say goes. So with that in mind, here’s the thing. You’ve created your own version of Jimmy. And that one – the one with all the particular things you chose about your precious squid – that one really exists. There’s actually a proper scientific theory about this. I won’t go into all the details about it, but basically there’s a theory that anything that exists in your mind, anything you create, really actually exists somewhere out there in the universe. So your little (or big) Jimmy is out there somewhere.
But he lives in my world. And in my world, every time someone reads a story and makes a character their own, that character only lives for as long as a reader has the webpage with the story on it open.
Oh shit. There it is. I told you. Don’t say I didn’t.
So whenever you click off this story or close the page or the tab completely, you’ll kill your little Jimmy. Mine is safe, I just locked him in a little box and stashed him in the back of my mind. But yours is terrified.
Look at him. Poor bastard. He’s shaking. He’s waiting for the inevitable. Oh, and also, he won’t die instantly. It’ll be slow. Painful. And he’ll be surrounded by darkness. And he’s afraid of the dark.
And YOU are going to do this to him! You monster! You wicked piece of filth!
And before I end this story and let you make the decision of either condemning Jimmy to his sad fate or keeping my story up on your device until the end of time, let’s let Jimmy plead his own case. Remember, he’s talking directly to you, the person he loves and trusts the most in the whole wide world. Give him whatever voice you like. He’s yours after all. You made him. He’s pretty much your child.
Here’s what he has to say:
‘Please. Please! Don’t do it.’
Now make your decision.