Karif Battle, founder of Theoretical Fiends LLC, is writing with the Muse, surrounded by dark supernatural smoke

It all began at a small elementary school on the corner of 62nd and La Brea. It was time to read his homework in front of the class. He stumbled over the first sentence to snickering children. But within minutes, you could hear a pin drop. They called him crazy as they applauded. The short story he and his mother wrote was a hit. And THAT is when the muse appeared.


Art is life and life is gritty. It shaped his words. A poem he read in high school got him transferred across town, to a rival school. The violence and isolation twisted him. The muse continued to whisper. But it was no use. Karif was done writing, or so he thought.


His college major was Computer Science, but English composition was a required course. He shivered when he was forced to write a poem. He was done with writing, so he re-used his old words. The class was silent. Regret swelled in his chest. He dropped his head and turned toward the exit. Wild applause stopped him. It was — rejuvenating.


“Become a writer,” they said. But engineering had a hold on him. Creating assets in the upcoming cyber society was more promising; Writing is just a hobby. Money and glory followed him as he rose. The muse continued to whisper. He scribbled her words into a notebook whenever he could.


True love would not be ignored.


19 years passed. From the top of the hill, he stood with a straight back, broad shoulders, and shiny eyes. Life was good — but something was missing. He found the answer under the bed one day. His old notebook. It had been ages. Colors sharpened all around him as the vision of a massive tree materialized. He could remember again. Who he really was and what he was supposed to do in this life.


Resistance came forth. What about his fancy career? There wasn’t enough free time to tell all those stories. His phone agreed. The database was down. He slid the notebook back under the bed and opened his workstation.


He did not take heed.


A motorcycle collision was waiting for him. Again, he did not take heed. In fact, he couldn’t wait to brag to his biker brothers about popping his asphalt cherry. It was a badge of honor.


Then, he lost his mother.


It folded him up like a dishrag. Within the crucible of grief and trauma, he stared into the darkness. It took notice. Underneath the murky waves of despair, the leviathan approached. His days in the light were numbered.


Pain snatched him from his slumber. There was a searing heat in his stomach and chest. He begged the 911 operator to save him. “I can’t go yet,” he cowered, before drifting into the black. At the rim of this world and the next, he saw something. Something ineffable. It followed him back to life.


The notebook is on the kitchen table.