I was a writer. I wrote about everything under the sun and had achieved great fame in my hometown. Every month, the local newspaper published one of my stories and each story was met with the praise of my neighbours. I was a local star. Then, several months ago, I was asked by a dear friend of mine to have my stories collected and published by a major company. What a good idea, I thought. If I do that, then the whole world can see how great my stories are. My writing could change the lives of people living on the other side of the country! I would be famous.
So I went off into the world. I left home one day and took the American Old Line train to the Big City and went right up to the company that printed all of my favourite books: Circa Publishing. Known throughout the state as being a great way for new authors to gain fame easily, Circa was the natural choice for my stories.
I went up to the secretary and asked to submit some stories to the company for publication. She grinned and sent me off to a small white room lined with chairs. I must have waited for hours before someone finally came to see me.
'Hello there,' the man said to me in a kindly voice, 'What can I do for you?'
I looked him over before replying. He looked normal enough. He had a nice blue suit on complete with red tie and some really expensive shoes. His face was grandfatherly and understanding. His green eyes shone with intelligence from behind his wire frame spectacles. He had short brown hair that was neatly cut and combed as to cover up his receding hairline.
'I have come to submit some pieces for publication, sir.' I said to him.
He smiled and motioned for me to follow him into the next room. I do so to see his office. He sits across form me and asks for my pieces of prose.
For over an hour, I sat there watching him read page after page, story after story, in unbearable emotional distress. What if he doesn't like them? What if he does? How much should I ask for? How much should I take?
With such questions buzzing through my mind, I jumped as he clears his throat.
He grinned. 'First off, let me tell you that these are all very good. I can see no problem with getting these published.'
My heart leapt for joy. He is going to publish my writings! At last, I will take my place among the elite!
'Secondly,' he continued, 'we are going to have to have a contract signed.'
"Of course!' I said, literally bursting at the seams to scream at the top of my lungs in excitement.
He pulled a packet of papers from his desk. 'This is our standard contract. It outlines everything you will need to know. Just sign here, here, and here. After that, you have yourself a book.'
In my euphoria, I grab the nearest pen and sign away my life in an instant. All the while, the man was smiling.
When I was done filling out all of his forms, he got up, and escorted me to the door. It was at that moment that my wits came back to me.
'Just how much do I get?' I asked.
His grin broadened. 'You get ten percent of everything the book makes! Soon you will have the money just rolling in, my friend! Go treat yourself to a celebration drink.'
I turned to him, the words bumping into one another in my head. 'Wait a minute. Ten percent?'
I didn't get an answer. The door was slammed in my face and the man was gone.
Well, I thought, ten percent isn't all that bad. If the book sells well, that will still make me a lot of money. I can live with ten percent. For now.
Days rolled by slowly without any news about my book. The days turned to weeks; the weeks into months and still nothing. During that time, I was too nervous to write anything new for the newspaper. My mind was just too full of questions. I could not stay concentrated. My popularity with my neighbours soon wore off, and I was no longer talked about in town. I had lost what popularity I had had. But no worry, I constantly told myself, soon I will hear from Circa and get my first check.
Then it came.
I had received a phone call from the owner of the local store. He said he had a surprise for me.
I rushed down to the store and found him standing outside, holding a book in his hands. Grinning like a madman, he handed it to me.
There was my name! On the cover of this book was my name! I excitedly flipped through the pages in a haze of glory.
Wait a minute, I thought. Something is not quite right. I slowed down and read some. These were not my words! What was going on here? I kept looking. The titles had been changed, the words mixed around. This was not my book! What had they done to my stories? Where was my money?
Needless to say, I rushed down to Circa Publishing and asked to see the man I had talked to before. Surely, this was some sort of mix up. Of course. That had to be it. Why else would they print my name on a book with cut pieces of my works? Why else would they have not contacted me? Why else would they have not paid me?
The man appeared and I entered his office again.
'What can I help you with?' he asked.
'I would like to know what this is.' I said, placing the book on his desk.
He glanced at it. 'Why, this is your book.'
I shook my head. 'No. This is not my book. This may be my name, but these are not the stories I gave to you. What did you do to them and why didn't you ask me first?'
He grinned another of his grins, this time, it was not a nice one. This one was an evil, cunning grin. A grin a villain grins in those old movies when he knows he has the hero in a trap. 'We gave them to the usual editors and they thought these needed a bit of rewriting. Standard stuff.'
'But why didn't you ask me for permission first?'
The grin widened. 'Because they are our property.'
My jaw hit the table, I'm sure of it. 'What?!' I screamed in disbelief. 'I wrote these, they're mine! You had no right...'
'We had every right. You said so here.' he said this as the contract was pulled from his drawer.
'What? I never...'
He pointed. 'Right here, it says that Circa Publishing has any and all claims to the material given to us. The material becomes our sole property to do with as we see fit. You do not come into the picture.'
My mind was too busy looking for something to throw at the man to communicate with my mouth, so it just acted on it's own. 'But- but what about my money?'
'As stated in the contract, you will get ten percent of all sales of your book. After the first six months of course.'
'Six months!!?' I screamed at him. 'Who said anything about six months? I want my money now, damn it! Right now!'
His hand moved below the top of his desk and quickly comes back up. 'You signed the contract sir, not me. No one made you do it. It was of your own free will.'
'But, but, but...' I said in my infinite wisdom, the world seeming to fall away from beneath my feet, the air sucked from my lungs. I never heard the door open behind me.
The man spoke. Not to me, but to someone behind me. 'Please escort this young man to the street.'
Two pairs of arms grabbed me by the shoulders and moved me out of the room. As I was dragged from the office, I could hear the man's voice calling me from behind. 'You should be happy! You now have your book!'
I sat on the curb for a while after security had 'escorted' me from the building. Just thinking. My initial blindness had worn off and now there was a strange empty feeling in my skull that I had never before experienced. An emptiness that was only interrupted by a single thought.
All the way back home, that thought ran through my brain like lightning. In bed that night the thought was still gallivanting in my head. Round and round it went, back and forth, up and down. One single blink of colour in my otherwise dark mind. A thought that both frightened me beyond anything that I have ever know, and excited me to a point of glee. A thought of pure, unadulterated emotion, free of the clutches of the mind. A thought of both sanity and madness. A thought of fear. A thought of revenge. A thought of hate. A hate so strong that it began coursing through my veins and arteries instead of blood. A hate that somehow seemed fitting. A hate that surrounded me and encompassed me and became me.
Reaching into my bedside drawer, I placed my hand on my reassurance and fell to sleep. A sleep that was as empty and bleak as my mind.
It was almost midday before I woke and even then, it hurt to move. My whole body seemed to scream to me in pain with every movement. But I kept it under control. I let the pain guide me through my actions, to focus my thoughts, to become a part of me.
I was soon walking the halls of Circa Publishing with my reassurance by my side. People turned to stare at me as I passed them by. My head was throbbing with pain and the grim determination of my thoughts. No one mattered but that man. No one was important but him.
How dare he? How dare he try and keep form me what is rightfully mine? I had waited months for any news of him, because I trusted him. I had given him a good part of my life and what had he done with it? Destroyed it. I had once thought of getting rich with his help. Of helping others feel the way I do. Of telling others the peace I feel when I write, when I pour my feelings and emotions and thoughts onto paper.
Now no one could ever feel that because of what he had done. He had tricked me and had used my hopes for his own personal goals. With my reassurance by my side, I planned on showing him exactly what happened when you played with a person's dreams.
There. I burst through his door and stalked into his office. He looked up in surprise and I raise my arm.
Once, twice I pulled the trigger, sending balls of lead into his head at invisible speeds. He fell back and slumped in his chair, his head a mass of blood and bone. A sudden rush of exhilaration filled my body and I stagger against the wall. The thought of hate slowly left my body, with my mind coming back into operation.
What have I done? I killed him! With my own hands, what have I done!? No, I didn't do that, someone else did. I couldn't have. But I am here holding a gun and his head is there and there and there. How could it have been anyone other than me? I killed a man! How could I do that!?? How could I have pulled the trigger of the gun in my hand? It's murder! What have I done! Oh my God, what have I done??! Sure, he deserved it, but I took his life! What was I thinking? I will go to prison for this, I'm sure of it. I can't go to prison, I have a whole, bright future ahead of me! I can't go to prison! I mustn't go to prison. I must stop my life from falling into the hands of the law. I must stay free to help others, to live on and complete my dreams. I must stay free. How? How can I stay free? The gun. Yes, the gun! That's it! They can't get me there. I can go free and live on.
My hand slowly raised and came up to my head. Again, my mind cleared, but this time peace fell upon me. I felt more relaxed than I had ever felt before. I felt a peace. At peace with the world and all those around me. I could almost feel the universe working around me as my mind seemed to drift and expand. I felt free. A single thought flew across my mind as the trigger was pulled:
He deserved it.