By Chloe McDonald
The sound of dripping water, infiltrating the stifled murk of unconsciousness, began the ascent to awareness.
A herd of overweight, iron-shod, elephants was tap-dancing a ragged routine in his head, long before the scent of mildewed decay, hovering delicately above the stink of stagnant water, finally dragged him into the arena of wakefulness.
Groaning, cold to the marrow, but dreading sudden movement, he steeled himself, and tried to change his position.
“You may feel like vomiting,” a voice close to his ear purred. “Concussion often causes that reaction, Mr. Andrews.”
“I’ve been in an accident?” he gasped, then opening his eyes to complete darkness, choked in panic “I can’t see. I can’t feel my hands or feet. I can’t move.”
“Nothing accidental has happened to you.” Unhurried footsteps carried the silken voice away. A sharp click sliced through mounting terror. Light exploded. Shrivelling pain speared him, and dreadful certainty, a heartbeat later. “Struggling will only tighten your bonds. Scream, no one will hear. Current state of play? Best-selling author kidnapped.”
“M-m-m-money? You want money?”
“Nothing so crude. Consider your situation, Mr. Andrews. Does it remind you of anything you’ve read recently?”
“You critique short stories entered into monthly competitions in the Industrious Wordsmith magazine, don’t you?”
“Really? Naughty, naughty. Papers foraged from your dustbin tell a different story. The handwriting exactly matched the scrawl that savaged my humble submission.”
“Don’t lie. I’ve done my research. You live alone.”
“You want your story published? I…I can arrange it. I can make it happen.”
“You’d print forgettable trash?”
“No, but I could look at it again. I’ll even help with a re-write.”
“Disingenuous offers, Mr. Andrews.”
“Please…please…what do you want?”
“Hush, all in good time.” Paper crackled behind the light. “Your critique said, and I quote, ‘hard to believe these one-dimensional people could exist.’ I accept my characters weren’t drawn as well as they might have been. ‘Dialogue: stilted.’ Strangely, our conversation has followed the same pattern as our fictional counterparts. ‘Setting: completely unrealistic.’ Hardly, it was based on this location. ‘Plot: strains credulity.’ You aren’t struggling to find your situation credible, are you? ‘The story should be, but is not totally convincing.’ That comment, whilst expressing an absolute lack of imagination, was an irresistible challenge to prove that it was.”
“You wanted to make a point,” he stammered. “Fact is stranger than fiction.”
“Partly. Know how the story ended?”
“Oh, God, you know I don’t.”
“My fictional author’s caustic remarks were empowered by the security of anonymity as doubtless yours were.”
The light winked out. In the darkness paper whispered. Footsteps moved slowly away, and moments later, a door creaked.
“You can’t leave me like this.”
“But I thought you understood, we’re re-enacting my short story, Mr. Andrews. Best-selling author disappears. Months later an emaciated corpse is found in the basement of a dilapidated building awaiting demolition, and the wannabe writer, having taken revenge, gets away with murder. Not totally convincing? I think you’ll find it is.”
A very original idea, really well written, loved the dark humour. Would love to see more of your work.
A well executed concept, concisely written. Eerily believable and chilling.