Author: Adis Crow PM
Jonathan is the Hyde to Tom Forester's Jekyll: a fictional character created by Tom to act out the violent hallucinations that he experienced while sedated after a car crash. But what happens when the line between thought and reality begins to blur?Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Horror - Chapters: 4 - Words: 4,161 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 01-24-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2885174
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
After unplugging the landline, muting the phone mid-ring, he collapsed back into the pillows, stretched, extending his limbs as far as they would reach, which was nearly to the corners of the giant bed, and then turned over and closed his eyes again.
This time the ringing was tinny and musical. Cursing, he leaned over the edge of the bed and fished in the pockets of the pants lying crumpled on the floor until he found his cell phone. "What?"
"Tom, we need to talk."
"Terry. God. Can't you just get off my back for a day? It's Saturday."
"We haven't met face-to-face in weeks, Tom. Your deadline is next month."
One wall of the bedroom was entirely window. Now, still early in the morning as far as Tom was concerned, sunlight filled every corner of the room. He'd learned to sleep through it a few days after moving the last of his things into the house; today it had been the phone that woke him; but now, squinting into the bright May sunshine, Tom felt something foreboding uncurl in the cavity of his chest. "Fine," he said, shortly. They arranged a meeting.
"As the nation anticipates the release of the long-awaited movie adaptation of what may be the most significant literary work of the decade, we are here with Tom Forester to talk about the long-awaited sequel to his novel The Terror of Winter, which is expected next year from Radical Publishing. Now, Mr. Forester, rumor has it that said sequel was originally planned to come out this summer. Is this true?"
It had been a long time since Tom's skin had itched from the heavy studio makeup or he'd sweated under the heat of the spotlight. Tonight, though, his clothes felting loose and clammy, and he met the T.V. host's eyes with a look of frantic exhaustion that Terry Young, standing at the edge of the set behind the cameras, hoped wouldn't translate onto television sets nationwide.
"Yes, that's true." He swallowed. "But, but that was before the movie began production. Having the two come out in the same year, we figured that would be too much excitement for everyone." He laughed, nervously, and the audience echoed it.
"So this book has been in the works a long time, then. Tell me, have you had any trouble returning to the depraved mind of Jonathan Elgar? Have you found it easy to settle yourself inside his skin?"
"Yes." The syllable was a hoarse croak. "It's been perfectly easy."
"You've had no trouble at all then?"
"I'm not saying everything was easy."
The studio fell silent. The words had been snapped—a departure from the script Terry had made him memorize beforehand. Rapidly becoming agitated, Tom went on, "You think it's easy to, to kill someone? God, it's not. Having to look at the body afterwards, it the most fucking disturbing thing." And writing about a crime you haven't committed, that's fucking impossible.
Nothing from the audience. An awkward cough. "So, Mr. Forester, there were oblique references in Terror to a love interest of Jonathan's. Will she be making an appearance in the sequel?"
Tom gave the host a long, bleak stare. "I divorced Joanne," he said. His voice, which he heard as though from a long way off, sounded small and plaintive.
The host's smile had frozen on his face. Then, like it was on a well-oiled swivel, his head turned to face directly into the cameras. "Ladies and gentlemen, please join us again after the break. We're here with Tom Forester."
And somewhere the music of a commercial began to jingle, and the bright spotlights went off.
Every phone in the house was unplugged, every cell turned off. The computer, with its flood of unread emails, had also been shut down. The doors were locked, the windows shuttered, and Tom sat in the bathroom, on the cold linoleum floor, staring down at the pen and paper that trembled in his hands.
"Tom, I can't negotiate another extension from Radical. If we don't have at least a first draft by the end of this week… I don't know, Tom. I just don't know."
His head ached. Every time he tried to focus on the notebook pain stabbed at the place behind his eyes. Who was there left for Jonathan to kill?
In the first draft her name had been Jean, and because he was writing by hand he'd often slipped and written Joanne and had to cross it out. Later she'd been nameless, a woman who might have existed only in Jonathan's mind, a more innocent part of the killer's subconscious.
But she wasn't, he decided. She was real. And she'd married another man. Barry, he thought, beginning to write. That was the name of Joanne's second husband. But as Jonathan, seething with jealousy, approached the couple's house in the dead of night, Tom's hand slowed and stopped.
He swallowed tightly and then, desperate, he forced himself to remember the hospital, something he hadn't done since finishing the first draft of Terror. The bodies on the floor, how he'd felt as they'd slowly ceased to struggle. All the times he'd killed Joanne it hadn't been out of jealousy, it had been out of anger, irritation.
But if it was happening now…
He closed his eyes, sank deep down into a trance that was half memory and half imagination, and slowly slipped inside the killer's skin. Jonathan, restless, put down whatever it was he'd been doing—not important anyway— and wandered aimlessly through the halls of his large house. Finally he left entirely, was walking alone under the sodium streetlamps. It was July. Two months since his shouting match with Terry over deadlines, one month since the disastrous television interview. A warm, humid evening.
He was at the grocery store where Jean shopped. Seeing her emerge with two bulging paper bags, and beginning, despite himself, to follow her home for the first time in months. He'd thought he was over it. So did I, thought Tom. Eventually, bitterly, he'd been forced to accept that she was capable of leading her own life. Following her…
He watched from the shadow of the house across the street as she unlocked the door, entered, flicked the hall light on and pulled the door shut behind her. Silently, with practiced steps, he drew closer.
Looking in through the window he could almost have been in the room with her, waiting as she chopped, poured, stirred, tasted. It was only when she set the table with one set of silverware, not two, that he realised she was alone. And he hadn't heard the click of the lock.
She was so naïve.
The light in the hallway was bright as he entered. He smelled steamed broccoli. She was humming tunelessly to herself. Step by step, he crept forward until he reached the threshold of the kitchen. Across the room was the window through which he'd watched her; and nearer, sitting on the counter, a knife, with tiny pieces of broccoli still clinging to its blade.
"So, Mr. Forester, will she be making an appearance in this sequel?"
She screamed when she saw him and dropped the pot. It clattered loudly to the floor, where the water splashed and scalded his skin. He growled, and, in grabbing the knife, the point went into his left palm—but then he had the handle in his right…
And he was golden.
He looked at his left hand, which throbbed with pain; he must have stabbed himself with the tip of the fountain pen. He'd been so deep into the writing… how long had he been bleeding? The blood covered both hands and the pen, and most of it was crusted and dark.
He'd filled nearly a third of the notebook. Bemusedly, he read over the last few lines: the husband, speaking to a news reporter.
"I just, I don't understand. Joanne never hurt anyone in her life, she never offended anybody. I don't understand who would do this…"
Frowning, he crossed out Joanne and carefully wrote "Jean" above it. Then he tried to uncurl the fingers of his hand and hissed in pain. Wiping the worst scarlet stains from the notebook with his sleeve, he left it on the toilet and went to the sink, where, exhausted but satisfied with himself, and feeling as though he might in fact be able to face Terry in the morning, he washed the blood from his hands, watching it dilute in the water and flow down the drain.
All of it.