What was I going to do? My story was already late. If I didn’t write one soon, my readers would be disappointed, perhaps even abandon me for more interesting bloggers, and I don’t know if I could ever come to terms with that happening. That’s why I decided to consult that little known bureaucracy, the Ministry of Imagination. They’re there to help, or they say they are. From outside the architecture looks elegant, yes, even inviting. Inside, my footsteps echoed eerily in the empty, impersonal halls, causing my unease to build. Finally I came to a heavy wooden door. It opened by itself.
Inside the antechamber it was awful! It was crowded with characters sitting or milling about, empty stares and blank expressions on invisible faces. They looked like stereotypes out of b-movies or dime novels that never get life breathed into them. They murmured clichés under their breath, and the collective sound of it would have been bad enough, if not for the laconic female voice droning from the speakers, calling out random numbers every few seconds. Numbers that no one apparently held, for none of the stereotypes reacted. I took a slip of paper from the take-a-number machine. It bore the digits 00. The haggard, unshaven schematization of a drunkard swooped in close to me, too close, and smelling of cheap liquor. He began a high-pitched, screechy laugh. “Every one draws zero!” he declared between phrases of the horrid sound.
I couldn’t stay in that room. I would suffocate. I quickly scrawled the letter N in front of the double null and added two exclamation points – “NOO!!” it now read – then crumbled it up and threw it onto the floor – my protest to bureaucracy. I exited the anteroom through the same door I entered yet found myself standing not in the hall from whence I had arrived, but in the office of a ministry official. It was the Chief Imaginator. He appeared indifferent at seeing me. Except for the bored “state-your-business” glance he cast in my direction, he seemed hardly to notice me at all.
“I have to know about my application!” I exclaimed, aware that I must have sounded a little too apprehensive, too desperate. That could ruin my chances. I tried again calmly: “I applied for an idea two days ago but haven’t yet received an inspiration.”
“How do you intend to use this idea?” the Imaginator inquired while stifling a yawn.
“A story. I want to write a story, a special story. A masterpiece, perhaps. The world needs more masterpieces.”
“The world needs more masterpieces,” he repeated copying my intonation, but only to taunt me. It didn’t sound as if he agreed. “From you?” he added rhetorically, after an effectful pause. The Imaginator drew a folder from a tower of documents on his desk, thumbed silently through the papers, then spread the entire sheaf out flat for me to see.
“Why, they’re all blank!” I told him, so shocked I even forgot what I’d come for.
“Regrettably, I must disappoint you,” the Imaginator stated with a subtle smirk, “but as you can see, we are all out of ideas. They’ve all been used up. I couldn’t even tell you what color they were. Good day.”
“But you have to help me!” I implored, leaning forward over the top of his desk, “I have no idea what I’m going to do otherwise.” The futility of what I’d said dawned on me like the sun going down. He was waiting for me to leave.
“Here,” the Imaginator said, moving suddenly to retrieve something from his desk, which he then tossed into my hands, “have a light bulb.”
Written one night, when I had no idea what to write… This story was originally posted at indeterminacy.blogspot.com, a site featuring “one minute short stories” inspired by found photos.
Here is the found photo which served as the catalyst for the story:
Disclaimer: This photo is not my work, and is therefore also not for sale.