What Stephen liked about writing was that there was no dead time. He was always creating—even in the grocery lines, where someone might say something, that he could use in a story. Amateurs had it all wrong—you never sit down to write a book—you’re writing it all the time—it’s constantly in your thoughts—it’s how you perceive the world, and the surest way to stop writing, is to think writing begins and ends—it just keeps going. His old man was a writer, but he didn’t know when to quit—the alcohol didn’t help either, and he hadn’t quit that. Stephen was writing entertaining stories, but nothing great. His father had one really good book, but it didn’t make the golden bar. We don’t know if we have gold inside us—they call it talent, but you can’t know, until you dig—sometimes, for a really long time. In Stephen’s case, there was nothing else he wanted. He had a few short stories published—but nothing more.
He opened his mail, and read it. Then the phone rang.
“This is the county sheriff. Your father has had a heart attack. He died at Silver Mountain Lodge. The staff thought he was working on a novel, but he was working on Jack Daniel’s. Too much to drink, and not enough grub. Would you like to collect his effects?”
“I’ll drive up.”
“Hurry—there’s a storm moving in.”
Stephen was never close to his dad—but perhaps writers express their feelings differently. There’s a lot of subtext in the written word. He planned to write where his father had. He didn’t know why. When he got to the lodge, it was deserted—like a Buddhist monastery in the high hills of Tibet.
“Your father wrote in the mountain room,” a voice said. The doorman came out of the shadows like a vampire. He wore a penguin suit.
“How did you know the dead man was my dad?”
“You have the same face, only younger,” he said. The doorman wore a handlebar mustache that was waxed on the ends, which made him look like Trumbo—or an eccentric Frenchman.
“Here’s the keys. Your dad had eight days left—so the time is yours.” The keys felt heavier than they should’ve been.
“By the way—you need to know the history of that room, before you go in. Three writers tried to finish their novels there—each one died. The room is possessed.”
“You mean haunted?”
No—more like the holy of holies.”
Stephen didn’t pay him any mind. If you open and close doors all day—you start to see other worlds. He was curious if his father had finished his book. The windows were white and caked with snow. There was a writing desk in the middle of the room, with a black typewriter sitting still. A bottle of cheap champagne stood at attention, with an unopened pack of cigarettes waiting to be smoked.
Stephen punched a couple of keys. It sounded good. A laptop is too sterile—it doesn’t cut into the paper. He looked for matches, but couldn’t find any. Cigarettes, but nothing to light them with? Stephen walked to the fireplace, and found the burned edges of a manuscript. The Swan’s Song.
Dad tried to burn his book? When Stephen read what was there, he began to cry. It felt like he was holding his dad’s soul, that he had never known—it was burned—sent to hell. Stephen sat down at the black typewriter and retyped it. The words became his own, and he knew his father for the first time.