“These are not the terms we had agreed upon.” The man’s voice was cold.
“What do you care?” Michael asked. “It’s in your favor. Why question a good thing?”
“That’s not how it works.” His reply was sharp, like a teacher correcting a particularly troublesome student. “I cannot take that which I have not earned.”
Michael’s tongue briefly got the better of his brain. “Doesn’t stop you from taking lives.” Hopefully the man had a sense of humor. All available evidence indicated to the contrary.
“As I said, I cannot take what I have not earned.” He paused, considering something. “And this is twice what I have earned.”
“Look, I can’t take it back. They killed the last guy to try that. Take it.”
“Must I repeat myself?” A moment’s silence. “You could appropriate the remainder for yourself.”
“Yeah, because they’d never find out about that.” Michael ran his fingers through his hair. “Okay, look. How about—what if I hired you?”
“Tell me your target,” the man said.
So he did.
“So, Nicole,” he said, turning back to his cooking, “Why were you outside my door?”
With His Knife
“I was going to visit a friend.” He considered this.
“Your friend lives in this building?”
“Yeah, down the hall.”
“Will she be worried?”
“What?” Nicole asked.
“Your friend. Wasn’t she expecting you?”
“Oh, right. I should hurry on over.”
“I won’t keep you, then. Nice meeting you.”
“Nice meeting you,” she agreed, standing up, “Thanks for letting me use your bed.”
“Glad to help. Go see your friend.”
Someone was knocking on the door. Irritated, Anthony stood up, abandoning his lunch. Why did people always have to show up while he was in the middle of something?
“Yes?” he asked, pulling open the door, “What do you want?”
It was Nicole. Why was she here? She couldn’t have been gone for more than fifteen minutes.
“Nicole? I thought you went to see your friend.”
“I did,” said the girl, “But she wouldn’t answer the door, so then I tried calling her, and she didn’t answer that either! This has never happened to me before and now I don’t have anywhere to go and I don’t know what to do!” She was crying now.
“Do you want to come inside and tell me what happened?”
She sniffled. “Can I?”
Anthony stepped aside to let her pass. “Of course. Come in. Sit.”
The girl shuffled into the apartment and took a seat at the table. Anthony closed the door and sat across from her. “So, what’s wrong?”
Nicole fidgeted a bit. “Will you tell anyone?”
“You have to promise not to tell anyone.”
She hesitated for a moment. “I ran away from home.”
Anthony wasn’t sure what to say to this. He finally decided on, “Why?”
The girl looked at him helplessly. “It’s not safe there.”
He waited for a clarification but none came. “Why do you say that?”
- Her step-father raped her.
- Her mother is a serial killer.
- She’s afraid that the police might find her.
- The house is trying to kill her.
With His Knife
A moment’s consideration and the proper course of action revealed itself. He put down his knife and stood up. Self-consciously wiping the blood from his face, the man made his way to the door of the apartment. The peephole revealed nothing. Confused, he opened the door and looked out into the hall.
Crumpled in a heap at his doorstep was a girl.
Nicole opened her eyes. Her migraines had never been that bad before. Groaning, she put a hand to her face, sat up on the bed, and looked around.
She was in a small room. The smell of copper hung heavy in the air. The lights were off save for one small nightlight, and the two doors out were closed. Nicole stumbled over to the one that couldn’t be a closet and winced as she turned on the lights. The wallpaper had been designed by someone who clearly idolized Jackson Pollock but lacked his color palate. The light hurt, too. She quickly turned them back off and, hoping for a more modest source of illumination, opened the door. Her wish was not granted.
“Oh, you’re up,” said a figure, “I was starting to worry that I’d need to take you to the hospital. I hate hospitals,” it added.
Nicole blinked a few times as her eyes adjusted. It was a man talking to her, mildly handsome despite needing a shave. He was wearing an apron. In fact, this new room was a kitchen.
“Where am I?” she asked.
“You’re in my apartment. It seemed prudent to let you have my bed.” Sensing her wariness, the man continued, “You collapsed outside my front door. Don’t you remember?”
“Now that you mention it, yes. I had a migraine.” Her forehead pounded. “Have a migraine. Who are you?”
“Anthony Miller. I’m an actor. You?”
“I’m Nicole. I’m a rising senior.”
“Ah. High school.” Anthony’s expression darkened momentarily. An awkward pause followed. “So, Nicole,” he said, turning back to his cooking, “Why were you outside my door?”
- She lives in the same building.
- She ran away from home and a friend lives in the building.
- She was visiting a client in the building.
- She doesn’t remember how she got there.
The sky had never felt as far away as it did now that I had caught it. As far up as I was, I could see an eternity stretching out beyond me. I was all too aware that I had merely brushed against the surface of the skies.
And then, from above, I saw an angel descending. The Heavens parted for her passage and I knew that she was mine. But as she fell, I became afraid. Was she falling for my sake? When she dropped to my level, would she still be the pristine goddess I saw, or would her descent twist her into a shapeless, godless horror?
“Stop!” I yelled, “Go back!” I couldn’t let that happen. I needed her, but that didn’t matter.
She looked at me then and smiled, her beauty suddenly blinding, before turning and plunging into the depths.
“No!” I cried, falling after her. The clouds took me in, pulling me closer to my angel. Suddenly, everything pulled away, leaving us alone in the middle of an endless black emptiness.
“Help me,” my love said. I paused.
And then I
I’d like to do an experiment in writing with a deadline. Normally I write fairly slowly, and I want to see if I can change that. Therefore, I’ll be writing a Choose Your Own Adventure! I’ll try to post at least once a week. This first one will be short, but I’ll try to make future sections longer.
With His Knife
“I told you, didn’t I?” he shouted. “I told you to leave well enough alone!”
It was rhetorical at this point. Her blood splattered the walls, and her eyes stared the unblinking, uncomprehending stare of the dead.
“Why didn’t you listen to me?” It dripped off his face as he stabbed again and again, a macabre liquid mask. “Why? Why won’t you answer? Answer me!”
As if in response, a loud thump came from the hallway. He froze, unsure how to react.
What did he do?
- Ignore the sound and clean up.
- Go see what it was.
- Panic and escape through the window.
- Not have time to react; the police burst in immediately afterward.
"I’ll carry her back," I said, stepping over to the girl. William pulled himself up and watched curiously as I picked her up. We walked back in silence.
"Should we take her to the hospital?" William asked after we cleared the Fog.
"No, there’s nothing they can do for her," I responded. "I’ll take care of her for now."
Finally, I saw light poking through the trees. A clearing! Clara had been wrong; there was a way out. I’d have to go back and tell her.
“Welcome back,” she said, walking over to me. Wait a second. How could she have gotten here before me? She told me that she would wait for me in the village. Then I realized what must have happened.
“I must’ve gotten turned around,” I responded, looking around. Sure enough, there was the other end of ribbon she’d had me lay out.
“That’s what I thought the first time,” Clara told me, taking it from me. Then, in one fluid motion, she pulled the ribbon taut. The other end went rigid as well.
“What?” I was dumbfounded.
“It’s not caught on a tree, either,” she said, shaking it vigorously, sending waves into the wood. “Watch.” A few moments later, the waves emerged from the forest, smaller but undoubtedly the same.
“How…?” I trailed off. She shrugged.
“All I know is this: the only way out of here is to cross the bridge.”
“You don’t understand. We’re not in some nice mansion. This is a tomb.”
“No it isn’t.”
“Yes it is! There’s a corpse in every bed. Paintings of the dead adorn the walls. The pantry is full of fake food. And the windows have no view because, as you may have noticed, we’re underground!“