The house stood on a slight rise just on the edge of the village, its exterior warm and inviting with bright colors and a meticulously maintained landscape. A cobblestone path wove between twin beds of blooming flowers. Three stained wood steps led up onto a large porch that stretched across the front of the house. A vacancy sign sat in the ground at the bottom of the steps. I set down my luggage on the porch and banged the brass knocker three times, its hollow sound echoing.
The door swung open and a tall, lanky man was standing in the doorway, smirking down at me. His black hair was slicked back and his gaunt eyes watched me with a scrutinizing gaze. He wore a crisp pinstripe suit and extended his hand.
“Welcome, Mr. Wiley,” he said as he shook my hand, “I’ve been expecting you here for quite some time.”
He beckoned me to step inside and I entered into the house. The main lobby was filled with computer terminals, hordes of people crowding around each computer. As a person finished on the computer they got up and then moved to the back of the crowd, waiting to get back on the computer. I looked over at my host and he smiled at me.
“This is the Social Media Center,” he gestured toward the crowds of people around the computers, “where our residents gather to spend precious time on websites like Facebook and Twitter.”
“Why do they get back in line when they are finished?” I asked.
“They feel compelled to check them constantly, fearing that if they don’t they will miss a vital status update or tweet. Others tend their farm or mafia as soon as they have enough energy to do another action.”
I frowned, watching the mass of people continuously cycling through the computers. “This seems a bit ridiculous to me,” I finally brought myself to say.
“Haven’t you ever checked a website repeatedly throughout a day?” he asked, licking his lips. When I shrugged his smile faded a bit. “Clearly not the place for you,” he said, turning toward the hallway. “Follow me. We’ll find somewhere to your liking. People always fit in somewhere.”
The walls of the hall were lined with hundreds of nameless pictures, some faded and others recent. My host stopped me in front of a vacant spot, gesturing toward the space. “We have a place for you here, Mr. Wiley. Your picture shall be enshrined forever in this hall.”
“What are all of these pictures here for?” I asked, unable to suppress my curiosity.
“This is the Hall of Could Haves,” he said, watching at me with his beady black eyes. “All of the people here could have achieved their dreams but chose to accept failure instead.” He walked along, motioning to various pictures on the wall as he spoke. “This one could have written a bestselling novel. This one could have cured cancer. She could have become president. He could have traveled to Mars.”
“I get the idea,” I said. He turned down another corridor, leading me away from the Hall of Could Haves. The wallpaper on the wall ended abruptly in the middle of the corridor, being replaced by large black stones that lined the walls, floor, and ceiling.
“Ah, here we are,” he said with a smirk as we stepped into a chamber with many doors. “I think you will feel more at home here, in the Writer’s Block Wing of my house.”
“There is a whole wing?” I said.
“There are a lot of writers that reside here,” he said with a wink, “so you’ll never lack company during your stay. Each stone in this wing is a genuine writer’s block, guaranteed to stop the writing process before it starts.” He turned to the left and opened up a door. An overweight man sat in a computer chair, surrounded by three computer screens and two televisions. Empty pizza boxes and Mountain Dew cans littered the area around him. My host turned to me and smiled, beckoning me inside. “I think you will feel quite at home here with Distraction.
“All the video games, television, movies, and internet surfing you could ever desire can be enjoyed here. You’ll never have to worry about writing again with all of these things to occupy your time. We have a whole network of computers set up in the back for your MMORPG pleasures, where most people spend their time playing World of Warcraft. But you, I believe, had a different preference: Final Fantasy XI, yes?”
I looked at the multitude of people in the room with Distraction, absorbed in reruns of Family Guy or playing video games for day after day. I shook my head, saying, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Then he beckoned me to follow him out of the room, frowning at his failure to seduce me with the pleasures of Distraction. He ushered me into a new room filled with people looking depressed and dejected. “Perhaps staying with Pessimism might be more to your liking? Spend your time here allowing your thoughts to dwell upon your shortcomings as a writer, comparing your own works to those who are better than yours.” He gestured to a massive doorway in the back, saying, “Back there is the Room of Rejection, where you can have your stories and poems rejected. Of course, there is the standard 2-4 month wait for that privilege.
“Would these accommodations be more to your liking?” he concluded with a hopeful gleam in his eyes. I looked around the room at the despondent faces all around and the stacks of rejection letters littering the space. I witnessed everyone passing each other without a word, their gazes always cast downward. I shook my head again, looking at my host with my response.
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
My host looked dejected himself as he led me out of the room and hurried me through the largest door of them all. Dozens of people sat behind desks, working meticulously on writing papers. A tall, balding man wandered about the room, wielding a red pen that he used frequently as he passed by the papers. Each time he made a mark the person set the paper aside and started anew on a fresh sheet.
“This is the room of Perfection,” my host said to me as we watched the red pen mark up another paper. “Here you can hone your writing skills by writing and rewriting until your draft reaches the point of perfection.” He points to a pair of people near the back, both with stacks of discarded papers reaching above them. “Those two have been working here the longest. She has been writing the first three chapters of her novel, carefully revising it over and over. He has almost finished the first sentence of his story, having eliminated a comma and placed it back in repeatedly for months. When they finish, they will have the first flawless novels in history.”
He turned to me, eyebrows raised while awaiting a nod of approval. The appeal of Perfection drew me in enough to give it consideration, but finally I shook my head once more and said, “I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
My host’s face became disfigured and wrought with anger and frustration. His failure to win me over a third time was more than he could handle. He lifted a hand to lash out at me when the house and its inhabitants disappeared. I stood in an open meadow where the House of Failure had been, the sun shining radiantly down upon my face. The sights and sounds of God’s handiwork surrounded me, filling me with an inspiration to write once more. So I sat in the green grass, pen and paper in hand, and began to write.
This in another entry into the Master Class. This idea came to mind earlier in the week and pretty much demanded to be written. It is a bit of a departure from my normal writing, but I hope you found it to be an interesting venture.