The Voice

Do you know what the definition of insanity is Joseph?” the voice said, in an almost soothing tone, “It’s trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results.”

It is in fact one of the most remarkable traits of the human race. We just don’t know when to give up.” The voice said, moving to the far left corner of the room; away from the near limp body secured to a wooden chair, under a single flickering bulb. And as the dark figure from which it exuded stood there, silent for a moment, Joe felt like the room was empty. And for one brief moment he was alone. But sadly only for a moment. “Surely by now you see that you can end this pain Joseph. Just tell me what I want to hear.”

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Chapter 4 – The Campfire

Tell me Charles,” the Battlemage said as he stoked the amber flames of the campfire, as they danced before his eyes, “Have you ever been bested my another… Been so beaten that you were unsure you were going to get back up?” His friend turned from the tree he had anointing with the ale of the hours past, happily unaware of the dozens of endangered pixie ants he had just sent to a, lets say watery, grave. “Ha! There is no man who can best me by sword or arm Battlemage! If he were to break my arm, it would mend, and it would return unto him his favour two-fold” “But what if it is not your bones that are broken?” Barekvar added, his face looking much older now than it had in the days past. “Ah…” Charles Manor sighed, finally catching his friend’s drift, “So you speak of the fairer sex. Of wounds much harder to heal.” “I do…” replied Barekvar.

The silence in the small campsite seemed almost deafening. The two childhood friends sat alone around the amber circle, amidst the many Goblin corpses of a raiding party that made the fatal error of thinking they looked easy prey. Their other two compatriots had travelled North, to chase rumours of their quarry, while these two travelled East, to chase others.

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Chapter 3 – Black and White

King to Bishop Nine” Barekvar said through clenched teeth as he fought the searing hot pain shooting across his arm. “I can watch this no longer.” murmured Manor under his breath as he turned and walked away, unable to continue his exposure to the sight of his best friend putting himself through such agony, “He is a fool” he added, wiping the beginnings of a tear from his left eye. “Listen to me Barekvar!” King shouted. “He has your Queen. This is over. Stop your madness.” But despite his friend’s pleas of sanity he played the game of infernal chess with the Serpent King, refusing to see the last of his hope dwindle in the face of his opponent’s end game.

As the scaly foe hissed in laughter and made his next move, drawing the game to its inevitable end the Lady Lazarus walked quietly to the Battlemage’s side. There she stood. Motionless and without speech. “I don’t want to hear it.” Barekvar grunted, swallowing back the urge to burst from his seat or pass out from inflamed agony. “I know,” she said, breathing in a long and heavy sigh, “But you have to.

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Decisions, Decisions

“You make decisions every day. Small ones. Big ones. Whether to stop at that coffee place on the corner before punching in. Whether to wait for the light to turn or just chance it. Whether to get that third pint or call it a night. And every one of these decisions affects the course of our lives. Shifts it in the tiniest of ways in a direction unbelievably the same yet completely distinct. This is just one of those decisions Thomas. And like every one of those decisions, it’s one that needs to be made.

Sure some of your choices may seem more pertinent than others. Whether in the end Brown was better. Or should you have held out for Yale. But who’s to say that changed the trajectory of your fate any more than the decision you made between Butternut Squash Risotto or the Rib Eye the day before your 23rd birthday. Who’s to say Yale would have brought you more success? Who’s to say the Rib Eye would have meant you wouldn’t find yourself with that 33 Caliber in your hand right now.

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Illogical Neuro-Physiological Defect

“I fear I just do not understand sir. These creatures are very… confusing.”

“What is it about them that confuses you Mr. Fritz?”

“They do not behave in logical patterns sir. Their actions seem almost haphazard at times. Their history shows that they are capable of immense growth. Indeed they have made unbelievable strides considering that their already limited cognitive potential is further impaired by these… What are they called again?”

“Emotions Mr. Fritz. They are called emotions.”

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Chapter 1 – The Party

At an hour too late for most three dark figures entered the near broken down premises of The Lincoln Liars Inn. “We search for the one known as the Battlemage” said the one in a low voice as the figures approached the dingy bar of the Inn. The barkeep shifted in his shoes upon hearing their request, unsure if it was a safer option to answer or to not. “We would appreciate any help you could volunteer” said one of the other two as he slipped a shiny gold piece onto the bar. “Over there” the barkeep whispered pointing to the South East corner of the room with his head.

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Alternative Ending

There he stood. Face to face with the girl he had said goodbye to all those years ago but had never stopped thinking about. In that one moment that his eyes caught hers he saw his entire life play out before him. He saw the tears in her eyes as he told her he still loved her and always would. He saw himself getting down on one knee in the crowd at a concert as the band played their favorite song. He saw himself waking up next to her smiling face every day for the rest of his life. He saw them old and retired up in the quiet little place in the hills. She really did love the hills. And in that one moment he felt happier than he had ever felt before and so he did something he hadn’t done for a really long time. He smiled. And I don’t mean one of those smiles that you put on for your friends and family so they don’t worry about you. Or that drunken grin you get on your face as you sing along with the song playing in the bar after a few too many pints even though it’s not karaoke night. It was one of those rare smiles where, even though you don’t really have any extraordinary reason to smile, you do anyway, because in that moment, for that fraction of a second, you feel nothing but true content in a way that your mind couldn’t really even begin to understand or express. And wearing that same smile, he turned around and walked away.

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Beyond

“Oh my god!” James exclaimed, “I can’t believe you guys did this!” He shuffled through the crowd handing out the standard half-hugs and shoulder bumps to the many people who had been invited to “pad the numbers”. Nancy from accounting gave him a big hug, spilling a splash of champagne on his shirt. “Whoops,” she shrieked in her excited giddy voice, “clumsy me!” The evening progressed slowly, but after the clock struck two the people hustled out exponentially, till there were just the few “hardcore drinkers” left, making coffee or trying to find their keys. James made his way to his bedroom, leaving the party and its few remnants to their own devices. He would slip the maid an extra hundred for the trouble. She’d understand.

As he rifled through his bedside drawer looking for his cigarettes he went over the evening in his head. He’d had way too much to drink. Not so much that he felt sick, but enough that he would now go over thoughts best left untouched. Thoughts that would hurt, and jab, and keep him up that night, but would be shoved back down deep the next morning, where they belonged. Thoughts of his beautiful ‘93 Firebird. Thoughts of his mother and father, who would be all alone now. Thoughts of his best friend’s 30th birthday, he never got around to getting him that pocket watch. Thoughts of her.

He stood outside on the terrace and lit up a camel. Pulling deep and holding the smoke in his lungs, as if he knew that as soon as he exhaled, the floodgates would open. And just as they were about to, his best friend came up beside him and handed him a glass with a beautiful 18-year-old blended scotch. He preferred Single Malt. But he took the drink. It was probably going to be the last they shared for a while.

“What’cha thinkin’ about?” Chazz asked, taking a cigarette out of the pack lying on the small antique table James used to leave out on the terrace for his ashtray. “Stuff” James answered, taking another deep drag off his cigarette. “Like?” Chazz added. A small smile crept across James’ face. Chazz was a man of few words, but most of them questions, questions that didn’t end until his curiosity was satiated.

“Thinking about all the people who showed up today” James said, “and all the people that,” he paused for a second not quite knowing how to end the sentence, knowing that his best friend of two decades would see right through an attempt to be stoic or elusive. “And all the people that didn’t.” “Meh!” Chazz retorted in his characteristically aloof style, “Their loss. Good party.” And it had been. A great party by most standards. Hell, between the hours of 9 and 1:30 James had completely forgotten about the “drama” of the last month as well as the huge new changes coming in the very immediate future.

“Gonna miss you man” James blurted out after a big swig of whiskey, “Gonna miss this town. Gonna miss my family. Gonna miss Angela and Rick and Vijay.” “We’ll miss you too,” Chazz said “you know that.” They stood there staring out into the woods behind James’ place for what felt like hours before another word was said. “I’m scared man,” James mumbled, choking back on the words even as he said them. “In 48 hours I’m going to take off, leaving my entire world behind. There’s just some things I’m not ready to give up on. Some things I don’t wanna have to let go of.”

Chazz refilled his glass, topped off James’ drink, took a deep breath and then said, “You see those stars up there man. In two days you’ll be on your way there. Reaching into the heavens as only a handful have before you. True, you’ll be gone for a while. But the world won’t stop spinning. It’ll still be here when you get back. I’ll still be here. Everything else, well” he paused to take a drag, “That stuff will work itself out too, if it’s meant to.” He clinked his glass to James’ and said, “To the stars man.” James smiled, looked up and sighed, “To the stars.”

The Face in the Mirror

She walked back from school swinging her sling bag as she skipped to the beat in her head. As she passed the old mill near the school her classmates pulled alongside to ask if she wanted to join a bunch of them down at the beach for the day. “No thanks,” she said as she continued walking, “think I’ll head home early today.” “Suit yourself!” the driver of the blue pick up yelled out as the car pulled off, its wide breadth tires kicking up a large cloud of dust.

The walk to the little cottage where she lived wasn’t very far from the local high school, especially if you took the shortcut through the forest. Which she loved to do. She was soon bouncing through the quaint white fence of the quaint white house up to the quaint white door. She went into the kitchen, kissed her mother on the cheek and told her she’d come right down to help with supper once she’d changed and put her school clothes away for the wash. “Sigh. What a nice girl she is,” her mother thought to herself, the moisture on her cheek still warm from the loving kiss it has received. Her father was in his study, reviewing some papers which she cared not ask about, but would have gladly listened and pretended to be interested in had he spotted her on her way up to her room and asked her in.

There was a spiral staircase that led to her little attic room. She used to call them the ghost stairs. Not because they were scary, or even creaky for that matter, but because they would wind upwards for a while and then disappear suddenly into the ceiling. “Vanish like ghosts”, she used to say to her mother.

She threw her bag on her impeccably made bed, turned on the hot water in the shower and picked out some comfy sweats. As she took off her hairband at her vanity she opened one of the secret drawers and pulled out a collapsible mirror. As she opened it up she smiled, gazing menacingly at the tiny reflection of herself beating against the mirror from the other side.

The Plot

“See,” he said as he pulled out a cigarette from the crumpled pack of Golden Highs and lit it. “You don’t want this to be just another suspense novel” he said, pausing for a puff, “you want people to see this guy and not hate him right off, cause then you’ve lost em.” “So how do we do that?” his friend asked, typing away furiously on his tiny notebook sized laptop. “Well,” he pondered as he rubbed his goatee, “the first one has to be an accident. Some chick in some European country while he was on vacation. He got drunk in some tavern in… Scotland. Met some dumb busty blonde who thought his accent was amusing. They sneak off to some hut in the middle of the night. Fool around. She likes it kinky. Asks him to choke her. He plays along, hesitantly at first, but soon he finds he can’t stop himself. He feels her blood pumping through his fingers, squeezing the last of her life from her body.” He paused, taking another drag. “Afterwards he feels nothing,” he continued “none of the shame or guilt he’s supposed to. In fact, the more he thinks about it, the better he feels. More in control.”

“Okay,” the typer said, rubbing his hands together and blowing on them to prevent his fingertips from numbing up, “what happens next?” “The next two are easy,” his friend replied “Two bit hookers in some back alley in the Red Light district.” “How does he do it? He has to evolve over the intermediary kills. Maybe piano wire? Or a rope?” the typer asked, reaching for the cigarette to take a drag. “No No!” the narrator protested, “I thought of that already. Too filmy. He has to use his bare hands. That way he feels every moment.” He paused suddenly, thinking about where the story went next. He pulled out a fresh cigarette, handing the stub to his mate. “The ending is gonna be important,” he said after a few minutes of puffing his fag silently. “He can’t just get caught or die in a shootout. He needs closure.” “So how do we give it to him?” his friend asked coughing from the disgusting taste of the last drag. “With a final kill. The important one.” “Who is she?” “The one that broke his heart. The one who started the entire cycle of pain and anger.”

He took a deep drag, sighing loudly as he exhaled. “She has long brown hair. Plump breasts. An ass that used to drive him crazy. He’ll take her out to dinner first. Pretend he wants to meet up and talk about old times. To catch up. This one’ll need a lot of detail, and don’t forget the eyes. The eyes are important.” “So where does she die?” his friend asked, trying to type fast enough to keep up with the narration, “What is she wearing? Do they do it?” “Don’t know yet” the narrator said as he stood up, crushing the cigarette butt under his all-stars, “I’m picking her up tonight.”