Chapter 6

(Mine!) I felt it inside me. My inner voice was seeking not to take over, but to step out in front of me to meet what stood before us. He'd once written about the incarnation of a pseudonym that came to life and tried to take over the real author's life. What I saw was the real writer within tearing itself free of the man who sought to hold it in check. All along I thought I liked the writer, when it was the man who tempered the horror. It was the man who appreciated childhood innocence, friendship, loyalty, and human relationships. This thing was no longer sheathed inside a man with a conscience and a will; it was fully in control and I was helpless before it. (We're not helpless!)

I felt my lips turn up in a bloody smile. I almost looked, as my hand flipped him off, shaking that middle finger at him as much as the handcuff allowed. "Pussy, plagiarist! Pussy, plagiarist, pin-headed, pathetic, pud-whacking, pedantic, pedophile, prick!" The alliterative rant had his hands gripping the bat once more. "Sit and spin you miserable excuse for a writer!" My hands doubled their middle finger salute at him and I fought not to cringe as he choked up on the bat. (This is necessary)

He struck so fast I didn't have time to brace for the shock or the pain. He brought the bat in hard and fast at the offending fingers of my hands. I felt it and heard it like the sound of walnuts crushed in Grandpa's large hand. I only heard the first hit; the second time I was screaming too much to hear or even remember beyond the agony. I know I lost consciousness, but I wonder if I went out completely or merely turned over control to my inner muse.

It's something I'll never know for sure, as I woke up still shuddering at the pain. It paced the room, flexing its fingers as if taunting me with a movement I'll never be able to do again. The bat was dropped on the floor which was more frightening to me, since I could imagine all the things his hands could do to me. I was cold, and I looked down at several of my injuries which were still oozing into the urine that had already pooled and soaked in beneath me. How much blood had I already lost? I was a crime scene photo and I wondered how long it would be before it decided it was time to dispose of the body. Dispose. The word sounded so sanitary and I imagined something offensive being wrapped and neatly tossed away. Not what it had in mind at all. I somehow knew what was in the lake outside, and I knew all about the wood chipper that had seen it's share of bone as well as sticks and branches. I knew about the fire pit just off the patio, and what a good forensic team might be able to uncover. And I knew I would probably die for that knowledge alone. (No we won't!)

I called his name. It ignored me. "I know you're in there somewhere. Are you just going to give up and let it win? Don't you want to know the things I know?"

It snarled and turned on me. "Shut up bitch!" The hands clawed into my hair and tore a clump out by the roots, making me scream. I was reminded of Stephanie, whose dark hair was still in the tarp. (Don't give up girl, you can't stop now!)

I called his name again. "Come back, you can still save us both. It's not too late. I know the secret. I can help you St... " Its fist in my mouth loosened teeth. Its hand clamped around my throat, and cut off all hope of talking and breathing. (Don't pass out or we're dead!) I struggled to conserve my air, remembering being at the bottom of the deep end of the pool at summer camp when I was twelve. First one to come up for air had to kiss Dennis, the boy who'd been hit especially hard with the puberty stick. I'd dug my fingers into the drain cover and let tiny bubbles escape until my lungs felt completely empty; then I counted to ten before I kicked to the surface.

I held my eyes locked onto its gaze and counted, as my head felt like it was going to explode. At nine he blinked, and by eleven there was a change in the intensity of his eyes. Thank god he was back! Please let go I begged silently. I could see the notation on the medical examiners report; petechial hemorrhaging in my eyes being a sign I'd been strangled. Thank you CSI.

Finally he did let go. I was more aware of my broken nose than ever before, as I tried to get enough air through my mouth. I gasped in the blessed air across my busted mouth and loose teeth. "Thangk you." I whispered to the man. "I thingk I love you." (Careful)

He got up from the bed and I hadn't even realized he was kneeling over my body. There was blood and fluid soaked into his jeans. CSI would have a field day, but I knew there would be no crime scene investigation here. I knew it in my bones and up through my loose teeth. No DNA swabs, no fingerprints, no fiber analysis. It was between me and him.

I looked up at him and whispered, "you didn't stick to the rules, did you?" I swallowed blood. "You were really good when you were younger, before you got so famous. But you forgot how it works, and it got out of hand, didn't it?" I watched him as he looked at me, trying to hide the acknowledgment on his face.

"You were the writer, and it would whisper little pieces of brilliance in your head. Little flashes of insight that caught our eyes like the sight of a sports car peeking out from under an old army tarp. You knew then it was about the dance; the little give and take that flowed across the page in one fluid motion, whether it was a tango or a waltz." He sat on the edge of the bed and leaned in to kiss my forehead; the only part of my face that wasn't battered.

"You forgot though, in a dance there's always a leader and always a follower. Why did you ever let it lead?" I looked up at him and I saw the guilt. "Did it beg? Did it threaten? Did it withhold itself from you? Why did you give in and let it out?" I saw it, flitting just behind his eyes. It was angry. It was hungry, demanding to be fed. "You don't need it anymore. Let it pout. Let it pack it's bags and go to grandma's house. Let it know who's boss."

(Pull girlfriend! Pull your hand out of there, it's not letting him go! PULL!) I'd heard of a car accident victim once, who'd broken almost every bone in her body. Lying in the hospital bed hooked up to machines and encased in plaster she'd complained incessantly to the nurse about only one injury; her little finger, which was causing her untold agony. Seems all those nerves, tendons, and muscles that made us able to do things most mammals couldn't, also had the ability to bring us more pain than anyplace on our body.

I yanked my hand and screamed as I felt all the bones and nerves grind against each other. I wiggled my hand in the metal bracelet to spread my blood over my wrist and pulled again. I folded my hand in as much as I could and used the fingers of my left hand to straighten the metal circle so I wasn't pulling against an angle. (Don't stop! Life and Death now girlfriend! Pull!)

I felt my consciousness trying to slip away and still I pulled with every bit of strength and weight I had. I could see my pulse pounding behind my eyes, and I could hear my screams, and still I pulled steadily. Either my hand was coming out or it was coming off, nothing else would do. When the handcuff clanged on the metal headboard I realized I was free. I didn't waste time trying to gauge his reaction, I leaped up and ran toward where he was not – his office. I heard the snarl and fell in the doorway when he launched himself at me. His arms around my waist and his hands hooked into claws were digging in to hold me.

(Kick! Fight! Now ! Don't stop!) I turned and did just that. I kicked and hit and screamed and fought til he had no choice but to release me. I made it into the office and I dared to think of my clothes which was a mistake. He charged in low and swung the bat. It connected with my knee and I went down hard.

"No way! I'm not quitting you bastard! " I kicked him with my other leg, then rolled out of the way as he swung at me again. I scuttled between his legs and shot my foot up into his crotch, hard. But it was his bare foot that was my real target. I tore up the cuff of his pants and bit down hard on his ankle. You want vampires I'll give you vampires! I used my whole body to bring him down, though he didn't fall as hard as I'd hoped. I rolled to his face and drove my thumbs into his eyes. My right hand was on fire with pain, but my left wanted his eye! He grabbed me and flung me aside and scooted away from me.

(RUN! Don't look back, just GO!) I stood and almost fell down again. My knee wouldn't hold my weight. I hopped toward the door and down the hallway. I hit my bottom to bounce down the stairs and limped for the kitchen. I wanted a weapon and settled for the overcoat on the hook. I didn't stop and I didn't hear him behind me. In the driveway I dreamed about taking his car but knew it was locked; even if I could drive with my busted hand and knee. I did a great hunchback impersonation as I headed down the steep drive; hop drag, hop drag. I was starting to feel like I might get away when I heard the car start. Damn! (Don't give up!)

I kept moving as heard the car turning behind me. I saw the headlights flash across the trees and I heard the motor rev. (not yet) I skidded a bit on the slope and almost tripped and I could hear the tires behind me. (Now!) I dove over the side of the drive. And I felt the branches gouging my skin before I hit the ground and rolled. The fall leaves broke some of my fall but I still rolled the rest of the way into a depression and stopped when I hit the rocks. I climbed the other side and pulled the coat around me as I made it to the road. Thank god his gate didn't come with a fence as well.

I just knew any minute I'd hear his car behind me and he'd drag me back to my appointment with the wood chipper. I had no idea where I was going since I'd gone the opposite way from where I'd come. It was maybe twenty or thirty minutes when I saw headlights coming toward me. I didn't need to flag the car down; it slowed and stopped on it's own. It was some kind of law enforcement: cop, deputy, highway patrol, I wasn't sure, but I recognized the lights on the top. As he got out of the car I collapsed, suddenly all out of adrenaline. The officer carried me to the backseat of the car. I sat and tried to string coherent words together to tell him what had happened. As soon as he heard my accusation he was telling me a different story.

"Yes miss, I understand you've had a tough time of it. I'll get you to the hospital and you can see a doctor and get get stitched up before you make an official statement." He closed the door on me and pulled away. "You see, he was the one who called me to let me know to keep an eye out for you. He told me how he found you and you were dazed and disoriented and obviously had been mugged or something. He was trying to get you some help when you took off." He watched me through the rear view mirror. "He's a real humanitarian. He's practically a hero around these parts. Yep, you know we get a lot of tourists come through here because of him. I bet an awful lot of jobs would disappear if not for him. There's a lot of people think very highly of him; you'd be wise to consider carefully before maligning his good name. You're pretty lucky; we've had a few women come through here and disappear altogether. Young woman like yourself should be especially careful going off alone with a stranger." (Are you starting to understand no one is going to back up your story?)

At the hospital I was rushed right into the emergency room. Apparently the officer didn't think my injuries were nearly as bad as the doctors thought. I was barely able to sign myself in before they were assessing me for surgery. The hospital was small and they first made an effort to stabilize me so I could be transferred.

All together I only spent a few days in the hospital, but I needed several surgeries to put my right hand back together, and repair my busted knee. When it was all finished, I was left with a limp and a hand I could still use for typing with practice, but not to grasp my own toothbrush or take the cap off the toothpaste. Most of my other injuries were superficial, even the punctures cleaned up and healed well. The name carved into my stomach faded to a distinct white signature, and I eventually went to a tattoo artist to have it covered. I was lucky I didn't lose any of my teeth, and my nose healed perfectly. I had some scars on my legs from the tree branches that gouged me, but they didn't hold any memories for me. I came away with a lot of scars, but the ones that you can't see are by far the worst.

I tried a couple times to tell someone about what happened, but no one really believed me. From newspapers to law enforcement it was the same, he said – she said. The hospital had lost any evidence they might have collected, whether intentional or not I'll never know. Before I left Maine I did file a report for a stolen car, since mine had disappeared from the restaurant and was never seen again. I was able to get my laptop back from the motel, once they learned the reason I'd never returned. My purse and clothes from that night were never recovered.

For a while I imagined getting someone to listen to me and believe me. I thought about what it would take to get a search warrant for the house and property, and how they would likely not find anything in the search. Somewhere there's a section of woods with a nasty little wood chipper hidden away and rusting. And at the bottom of the lake, in the mud and muck there are bone fragments enough to build six women.

But it doesn't do me any good to worry about them. I remember who they were, and what happened. And I hope that he's filled his quota and won't feel entitled to harvest any others. Little by little in pieces of dream and nightmare, I've come to understand that my muse knows these things and so I know them. I don't know how, and when I try to explain it all I can come up with is the thought that they communicate with each other. His is terrifying and evil, but mine... I'm not sure. I know it's the reason I went with him in the first place, and I know it's the reason I got out alive. And I think in a way it used me to put a stop to what he was doing.

What I believe, is that the dead girls had Voices of their own. Why else would he choose them, if fans come in such a great number as to support a tourist trade? I think they were special, that they too listened to their writer's voice. And I think mine wanted to help. I hope that's all it is. I remember what I told him, that writing is a dance, and though the Voice wants to lead you can never give over control. I know that mine has already lead me down a dangerous road, and I know that it sometimes speaks a different language than I do.

I want to believe that I am the one in control. I want to think that I'm the one who wrote my first novel, which is on the verge of release even as I cower in my home. I tell myself that the dark scenarios in my book are from my own vivid imagination, and are not coming from an alien voice inside me. But I'm not sure. Did I merely listen to the muse, or did I give over control? Am I dancing with it, or is it leading me in ever darkening spirals that will lead me to my own destruction?

It was almost a year after my escape that I received the letter I still carry with me. The letter that drove me away from my rehabilitation and writing and into a drinking habit that would give me enough peace to sleep. It got to me in so many ways. The first was of course how he knew where to send it, since I'd changed my address and phone number immediately when I came home. Then there were the threats he hid so artfully in his words; would anyone else be able to see them? Of course the whole idea that he credits me for his research makes the clawed fingers of my right hand twitch. And there is the one reason I don't even know how to put to words.

My mom is afraid of heights. She has been for as long as I remember. But yet she easily gets on an airplane and sits by the window, and she loves to ride roller coasters. She explains that she doesn't get vertigo or really any symptoms of a phobia. It's just that when she's up high she has an overwhelming urge to jump – to leap through the air and try to fly. I used to think this was ridiculous until I had my brush with fame.

One of the things that terrifies me most, is that I am a published author, or I will be soon. I've spent the past year listening to the muse whisper in my ear. I've danced with it and I've come to recognize its voice. It's frighteningly good, the way it spins my words and experiences like Rumpelstiltskin to a pile of straw. But I can never forget his words about feeding the muse. I know how he intended to feed his, and I believe that's due to the type of story they write. But mine may be just as dark, if not murderous. My book has scenes of bondage, and pain, and even rape, and I now can say I have experienced them myself.

But what wakes me up screaming, is the thought that keeps circling through my mind. It's the thought that I want to answer the letter. I don't want to answer it in writing, but face to face. It's not because I have a death wish, but because my muse thinks it can defeat his. Somehow it thinks it can leap off the roof and fly. I've given up drinking so I won't lose control and find myself on a plane headed to Maine. I plan to fight it with all I have. I want to keep writing as long as I can, and maybe a certain amount of notability will make me less of a target. I have stories that are demanding to be told and I know I've got a great career ahead of me. And yet like I know about the ladies of the lake and like I know about the new wood chipper in the backyard; I know I'm going to find myself on that front doorstep some day. I'll be there to feed the muse.

a/n: Well, this is it. I appreciate the reviews and those who took the time to read and come back to read again. If you've guessed the name of the writer you're probably correct. I don't want to say for sure since it's such a twisted version I've created and he doesn't deserve that. In an interview he said something like 'my fans always ask me why I like to write such scary stories. I want to ask them why they think I have a choice?' That's where this idea came from and it took me by surprise.

For those of you who write, do you ever wonder where some of those amazing phrases and ideas come from? I love it when those little gems explode in my head like Fourth of July fireworks and all I can do is sit and go 'Ooooh!' I'm pretty sure if I have a muse it's fed with practice and editing, not thrill seeking.