It was the beginning and end of imagination. This new technology they'd created. It was a miracle technology, everyone agreed on that. A machine that could read your mind; conscious and subconscious. It was expensive, there was no denying that. The first six months on the market, it was available only to millionaires, but now, three years later, it had come down in price and was even available on a Health System. If a person could convince their doctor that the technology could help their life, a specialist would prescribe it. Kent thought it was an obnoxious machine. The end of free will and determination. Yes, an amazing discovery, he couldn't deny that, but it was making him obsolete. Kent threw his pen at the wall in a fit of frustration. What was the point? He'd been slaving away for years. He'd put himself in debt for his love of writing, borrowing money from family and banks to sustain him as he tried to finish a novel. Yes, it was worth it. His first novel had been a hit, but it hadn't made him enough money to live on. It'd cleared most of his debts, but it wasn't enough for him now, five years later. Three years after that blasted technology had arrived. People were beginning to forget Kent James. He had the clippings from five years before, when his book had been reviewed by every major newspaper in the country, even a few from over seas. Back then, nearly everyone knew his name. People recognised him in the street. Not anymore. Now, no one was recognised in the street, because within a month, anyone could accomplish what had taken Kent seven years. The Imagination Creation. He loathed the name as much as the idea. An imagination couldn't be created in his opinion. It was something he believed you were born with or weren't. Some people were good with numbers, some very organised. Some were funny or good with people, and some, some people were creative and imaginative. He'd seen the television shows about The Imagination Creation, seen how it worked and what it created, he couldn't say it wasn't good. From the people they showed using the machine, they wouldn't have been able to write a book or paint a masterpiece to save their life, but with that machine... With that machine they were creating masterpieces worthy of comparison to Van Gogh or Dickinson. He couldn't stand it. Nothing was original anymore. No idea was fresh or new. It had made Ghost Writers a thing of the past. No celebrity needed a writer to author an autobiography for them, not when a big piece of technology could do it for them and not argue back about fees. But it wasn't just that. It wasn't a machine for putting your life into words. It was a machine for putting your wildest dreams into a format others could understand and appreciate. Kent didn't appreciate it. He found it disgusting. He had studied for three years, dreamt about books and publishing deals for much longer. All those people with no talent and a large bank account insulting his profession, his dreams. For months he'd sat in front of his laptop hoping for an idea, a wave of inspiration that would get his heart racing and his mind moving. There was nothing now. Every time an idea hit him, his thoughts sped to the Imagination Creation. That he could have used the machine and have the whole story written for him in a month. That someone else would have the idea soon, and it would be on the market before he'd even written five chapters. The thoughts made him angry, and suddenly, the idea didn't seem so good anymore. What Kent detested most was that he was intrigued. He knew he was an imaginative person, and he found himself sometimes wondering what stories would emerge if he used the technology, if he let that machine probe through his mind. Would it reveal plots and characters that he'd never thought of? Would it spit out what could be his best work with the same effort it took to make a cup of coffee in the morning? In his annoyance, Kent picked up the paper he'd bought that morning. He read the front page, but finding the article boring, he began flipping through looking for something to take his mind off his frustration. He skipped past clippings about celebrities and their latest drama's, breezed over the latest government arguments, and completely ignored the television section. It was only when a familiar name jumped up at him did he pause. There, on page thirty-two, was a full page advert for The Imagination Creation. Despite his anger, Kent couldn't help but begin reading the advertisement. They were calling for writers and artists to take part in a study, a way to make the machine better, to make it more effective. Five minutes later, Kent found himself still staring at the advert. All his doubts, all his anger was fleeting as he began wondering about the possibilities. He could be famous again, his novel in every bookshop in the country. He could clear his debts and work on a new novel by himself. If he was smart about it, no one would ever have to know he used that machine. Plus, if this machine did what they said it did, it'd all be from his mind anyway. The novel he was trying to write would be at his fingertips. Before he knew what he was doing, Kent was dialing the number for The Imagination Creation Company. ***** Kent sat in front of his computer, his fingers tapping aimlessly against the keyboard, but not typing a single letter. He couldn't think of anything to write. He'd been trying to start his new book for almost three weeks now, and nothing was coming to him. His latest book, born of the Imagination Creation, had earned him world wide acclaim. Everyone knew Kent James' name and were eagerly waiting for his next novel, but he couldn't come up with a story. He couldn't even come up with a character. He blamed himself. He should never have used that bloody machine, should never have taken part in their study. Nothing he wrote would ever be as good as the book that machine had pulled out of his head. That was the only thing keeping him going these days; that the story at least had been in his mind. The characters, the descriptions of places and things, the plot, had all been him. But would he have ever been able to get them all down on paper as perfectly as the machine had done? He doubted it. The book had been called 'Stationary', and was the only part of the book that Kent had decided on without the help of the machine. It was how Kent felt. He felt stationary all the time now. Had the machine taken more from his head than he'd wanted... had it actually stolen his imagination? It certainly felt that way. He couldn't think of anything remotely creative these days, even his dreams were boring and indistinguishable. He'd hit the high point in his career and now everything was rolling down hill. It wasn't even his high point; it was the machine's. With his book, he'd made the machine even more famous because the press had found out he'd used it. With a sigh, Kent closed the empty word document and reached for the newspaper. There was no point trying to write while he had no ideas. All staring at his computer did was make him frustrated. Opening the paper, he flicked past the articles and the horoscopes. He even managed to ignore the latest advert for the new and improved Imagination Creation... the machine that got 'Stationary', the best selling novel by Kent James, moving. He turned to the jobs section. He'd need to do something else for a while. Try a different job to get the stimulus for another story. Looking through the advertisements, he looked for the most benign job possible, because in the boredom of working, he might just come up with something great. Maybe get a flash of inspiration through a conversation with a customer as a Telesales operator. He might witness an accident as a builder, or begin to understand the minds of children as a primary school teacher. Yes. A new job might be just the idea he'd been looking for. The next week, Kent James began a job doing the most creative thing he could think of. He became a bin man.