A Thousand Words to the End of the World.

Arthur stood with his revolver held tightly in his shaking hands, six fresh bullets ready to be unloaded, index finger poised to apply the pressure to bring it all to an end. Over three hours had passed and he still couldn’t do it. Arthur was an author or notable merit. He’d been writing stories for children and young readers all his life yet success seamed to evade him. No matter how much material he produced his target audience just wasn’t interested until he made a dramatic change to his genre, writing a book that was far from the child friendly work he’d normally write. He wrote a book that made him an overnight success, but instead of finally living out his dreams he found himself plummeting into a nightmare that brought him to the point of despair. Writing for children was his passion and a lifelong ambition to be a full time author was something he couldn’t fulfil unless he wrote about her, a character who’d been haunting his mind for the past five years. She was everything a writer dreamed of creating, yet the real story behind the fiction was far beyond imagining. He’d written six books on her so far, a cunning murderess, a psychopath, a criminal mastermind that the police dare not tackle and the FBI cannot fathom.

His arms were shaking, his shoulders were aching being held up for a long period of time; the incomplete manuscript was his target, the final story in her reign of terror just needing the final chapter to bring her to an end. All he had to do was sit down and write it, yet doing so would mean the death of those closest to him and there’d be nothing he could do about it.

Every writer dreams of producing a story that will change the world; that can change the very lives of the people who read it, the ability to create a fictional reality so real it’s as though he’s manipulating the real world around him. So when he created a character who committed crimes that actually took place in real life after publication, he began to question why he did it.   Writing books for kids never brought great wealth and infamy, but at least he had a steady job that supported his growing family and supportive wife. Writing was an ambition lived out in his spare time.

Five years ago he was desperate; every book a failure, debt mounting, his life falling apart after losing his job when the company went into liquidation.  His beloved wife had packed her bags ready to leave with the girls if he didn’t do something worthwhile. He needed a miracle. He was invited to a meeting with his publisher about his contract renewal. In spite of his hopes the meeting didn’t go well. He was given one last chance to produce something sailable and only six months to do it. On the way home he went into a random bar to drown his sorrows on what little money he had in his pocket. There he struck up a conversation with a stranger who turned out to be a fellow author. The man listened as Arthur spilled out his tragic story then the man bought him a drink and proposed a idea to help him out.  “I’ll give you a character that’ll knock them dead” he said, “all you have to do is write her out, and success will be yours.” He listened to the description of the character and he was hooked, yet politely declined as she wasn’t the sort of thing he was comfortable writing about. Besides, she wasn’t Arthur’s creation so he felt guilty for taking someone else’s idea. “I insist,” said the man. Humbled, Arthur asked what the man wanted in return. “Nothing,” he said, “just let her live on the page, and I promise you, the stories will practically write themselves.”

Arthur was excited about the character and could already see the potential stories she was going to tell, yet they were gruesome, violent, perhaps evil. He supped his drink slowly as scenes played out in his mind, yet he wondered if he had the skills to write about a person like her. “You’ll be absolutely fine,” said the man reassuringly.

“Surely you want something in return? I can’t just take her and reap the rewards for myself?”

“All I want from you is the promise you’ll write her stories and let them be however they’re going to be. Don’t hold back, don’t soften her actions, just let the words flow unhindered by judgement or fear.”

“She’s an incredible character but she’s already scaring me.”

“Excellent. Then you know your readers are going to be thoroughly entertained.” The man produced a piece of paper. “Sign here and she’s all yours,” he said.

“Sign? But?”

“Face it, the children’s fiction isn’t going anywhere for you is it. It’s time to make a change for the better.” Arthur still hesitated, and the man leaned closer. “Just think of the success she’ll bring you,” he whispered. Arthur took the paper and signed the dotted line. The man quickly said his farewells and left. Arthur was alone again, his head filled with gruesome inspiration. On the way home he wondered who the man was then realised in all the time they were talking, ne never asked his name.

It was written in less than a week and the process was dark and harrowing. To write it he locked himself away and met any disturbance with anger and aggression. No sooner had the first manuscript been completed he was already straight on the second. His wife tried in vain to reach him, concerned he wasn’t well and behaving like a man going through a crisis or a breakdown. He hardly ate, didn’t bathe, and only came out of the room for basic needs before returning and slamming the door behind him, locking it tight. Six months later the first book was published. In twenty four hours from its release the children’s author became a horror legend. A new contract was signed, the empty bank accounts were now bursting at the seams, and his wife had taken the girls to live with her parents.

The demand for the next two novels was high. Already there was talk of movie deals and merchandise. The world wanted to know who this new author was but he wasn’t willing to play the celebrity. He kept himself locked away writing furiously, deeply disturbed by the thoughts and actions of his female murderess, writing from her point of view. The next two books were completed in three weeks and Arthur was reaching breaking point.

Peter, his agent, came to see him after a communication blackout. He found the house looking neglected with tall grass and overgrowth. The front door was open and the place was upside down. Arthur was in the kitchen; he looked like a hobo and stank like trash as he scooped water from the tap with his shaking hands. Peter saw long cuts to his arms and chest with one across his throat. Arthur was babbling incomprehensively about finding the man to give her back. “What are you talking about?” asked Paul.

“The man! You know him you must do! The man who gave me the character! I gotta give her back! She’s destroying me!” Paul tried to calm him down whilst hunting for a number on his phone. Arthur ripped off his T-shirt and showed his battered body. “LOOK!” he demanded, “see what she’s doing to me! If I don’t write, she hurts me! You gotta help me!”

Next morning Arthur was in the psychiatric ward of the nearest hospital. His claims that his character had possessed him were met with concern. By now the successes of the first two books had gone global and were hitting the headlines for a different reason. Three murders that took place in the first book had been lived out in real life by a mysterious murderer the police and FBI couldn’t find. Arthur was franticly demanding something to write with or else his character was going to kill him. Drugs didn’t work to calm him down, so Dr Johnson gave him a typewriter and a stack of paper. For the next few days he wrote feverishly on the fifth manuscript. Between spells of writing he was begging for her to leave him alone, like she was forcing him to comply against his will. “Don’t make me write it!” he begged, “I will not be responsible for they’re deaths.”

When he finally passed out, the FBI would take his work. Owing to an obscure detail in his contract, the publishers were able to obtain a copy for publication regardless.

Several weeks in the hospital that produces four more books and the story seemed to come to an end. Arthur was improving in his behaviour and Dr Johnson was ready to discharge him. The last book ended with the lady killer disappearing, believed to have been killed off, and Arthur was again thinking of returning to his children’s stories. His wife came to visit. Holding her tightly as he cried until he couldn’t breathe seemed to be the turning point for the better. The murders that happened in real life that directly mirrored his books were put down to copycat killers inspired by the stories. The back lash Arthur expected to get was handled by the company and a bunch of lawyers, yet Arthur deep down felt the haunting presence of his character lingering in the shadows.

He moved with his reunited family into a new home away from public attention. His children’s fiction was finally gaining recognition and he carried on writing more. Over the next three years he wrote peacefully, yet his dark novels continued to inspire real murders. The FBI were looking for a female culprit who looked to be gaining power through her actions. Believing the books to be the key to the mystery they relied on them to try and stay ahead of the real person using them as inspiration. Just as the fifth book described, she vanished without trace, and everyone hoped, especially Arthur, that was the end of it.

Arthur woke up in the early hours of the morning. He was sitting by his writing desk with all the materials he needed. His head was filled with the final story, the climax to the murderous bitch determined to have her final say. How she duped the police into thinking she was dead to give her time to plot her move. Arthur tried to sit up but couldn’t, he was tied to the chair. The house was locked fully up, the phones smashed up, and nasty traps set up on every door and window. “Complete me,” came her voice in his mind.

“No! NEVER!”

“Complete me or they will die.”

He heard a moan. He looked round to see his family tied and gagged to the living room couch. A set of loaded shot guns facing them held with a series of wires. If any of them tried to get up, they’d be killed. The way his wife was looking at him gave him a harrowing realisation. The only person who could have done all this was him. So determined was she to be completed that she waited for him to fall asleep, then made him set up the house and take his own family hostage, just so he could write the final story.

Eight chapters came out easily. The final chapter was ready to start, and he resisted. His family cried as they watched him fight with himself like a mad man, then scream as he broke free of his chair, rummage through his desk and pull out a hand revolver.

The final page was blank, sitting on the table beside his typewriter, flickering as though nudged by a ghostly hand. The rest of the manuscript was propped up ready to receive a bullet. “Complete me,” came her voice.

“NO!” he replied. The paper shook; a scream echoed in his head, feminine fingers with long red nails peered through a tear in the middle of the sheet. “Complete me!” she demanded, two female hands coming out from the hole torn in the paper, “or go to hell!”

Enough was enough. “Go on,” came a man’s voice, “finish the book.” It was the man from the bar, casually sitting on the edge of the table beside the incomplete manuscript. “You only have a thousand words to go, then it’s done.”

“I cant! Please for the love of god I won’t do it!”

“Yes you can. Just sit down, finish the story and our contract is at an end.”

“Contract?”

“Yes. Don’t you remember? You signed it in return for the character that’ll bring you untold riches with a story that’ll change the world. A story so real it’s as though it actually happened. Evert writers dream.”

“If I do, she will destroy the world! Kill millions!”

“Isn’t it for the better? All the people on this Earth? If awfully overcrowded and many of them don’t deserve the skin on their back.”

“Shut up! SHUT UP!”

“Look at your family. Do you really want to lose them like this? Come on now, sit down and write.”

“And if I don’t?” the man just shook his head slowly.

Through the hole ripped into the piece of paper he could see her eyes glaring at him, willing him to comply, the smug grin on the man sitting on his desk, the moans and cries of his family.

The following morning the was no sign of him, just a pile of paper and a gun with five rounds.

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