The writer sat, hunched over his typewriter, clacking away so fast and hard that his fingers went numb, but he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t stop until The End.
In the story, the Vagrant held the rock and crashed it down on the head of his would-be killer over and over again. Then, realizing the futility of his act, he turned and ran for the nearby city. He ran, knowing he was only forestalling the inevitable. Someday, brightly-painted hands would close around his throat.
The writer smiled and, taking a deep breath, wrote two, final words:
“Shit,” he said; he hated typos.
The problem with fixing mistakes on a typewriter was it was time-consuming. You had to get a piece of correction tape, slide it between the hammers and the paper, back the typewriter up to the mistake, retype the mistake through the correction paper, and then type the correct letter over it.
Still, he thought as he pulled the correction tape out of a desk drawer, I love the sound of the typewriter.
As he slid the correction tape into the typewriter, he looked at the typo.
The writer started. He was sure he had made a mistake, but there was the correct spelling, as clear as day. For a moment, he thought he might have already fixed the mistake, but there was no faint “F” on the page under the “D.” His mistake had magically disappeared.
He felt a chill go up his back and goose bumps formed on his arms.
“I fixed it for you,” said a thin voice behind him.
The writer froze.
“Who are you?” the writer said, too afraid to turn around.
“I don’t have a title that would easily fit into your conception of reality. You can think of me as Death or Fate or God, if it helps. Perhaps you should call me Choice.”
“What choice is that?” the writer said, still refusing to turn around.
“Your choice. Every great artist has two possible paths after they have finished their greatest work. Either they die and everyone mourns their loss, or they live long, sad, lives, never quite reclaiming their earlier glory.
“I have come to honor you on the eve of your greatest accomplishment to let you choose which path you prefer. Your novel is brilliant and will be celebrated for generations. Would you like to end your life now, calmly, peacefully, and be celebrated? Or would you prefer to live maybe another sixty years, a shadow of whom you once were?”
The writer looked down at the page in the typewriter. He slowly rolled it out and placed it face-down on the stack that was the rest of the novel on his desk and flipped it over. He stared at the cover page he had typed nearly a year ago.
The Illustrated Man
He knew all he had to do was turn around and look this Choice in the face, and it would all be over. He knew his novel would somehow make it to the publisher and be an instant success. He knew the book would be enjoyed by millions and he would join the great writers: Shakespeare, Shaw, Tolstoy, Homer. He knew if he didn’t, he would never quite regain the success he would soon enjoy.
But he just loved writing so much. How could he stop?
Ray refused to turn around.
“Thank you for letting me choose,” he said, “but I’ll keep writing. Who knows? Maybe I’ll surprise you with my next novel.”
“Very well, Mr. Bradbury. I’ll see you again in a few decades,” the voice said, and Ray felt its presence wane, the warmth return to his skin.
“By the way,” Choice said, barely a whisper in the distance, “I loved the part about the Martian and the movie director.”
And it was gone.
"Do what you love and love what you do."