Reality was a different world; one in which my body hadn't yet been found.
So as I hid behind a book, hunched over the pages of my newly published hard-cover novel, I kept reminding myself of that fact.
I dared to grab a surreptitious glance at the tall man, as he ordered his cup of coffee, dropping my eyes as he looked around the empty shop. "Double shot of espresso please, black. Thank you". He took the sting out of his gruff tone by casting a genial grin at the barista behind the counter of 'Coffee Clusters'; the little local coffee shop I came to every morning.
"Coming right up sir," the barista replied, wearing an enthused smile as she started to ring up his order.
"Sir makes me sound old", he laughed his tone flirtatious. I shook my head in disgust; I'd watched this scene before, in fact I wrote this scene before. "Call me Joseph". At his words my fear spiked, adrenaline rushing through me as his introduction came and went.
Joseph my new neighbour, (who was sub-letting the house next door), bore too many disturbing similarities to the protagonist in my latest novel. He was the same build, the same height, and even wore the same rare green eyes. From the slight limp in his left leg to the scar on his right cheek, it all fingered him as 'Joseph', the Lothario who ran an organised underground hit-man ring. From the moment I'd laid eyes on him, his every action had been that of the killer from my novel, 'Love and Death'.
Of course, the barista didn't know any of this. "Alright then, Joseph", she blushed; while I silently mouthed her every word before she'd even uttered them. "The boss wants staff to act formal all the time, but I'll make an exception for you", she chuckled.
I'd been tracking Joseph's movements for the past three days, ever since he introduced himself to me over the hedge of our adjoining gardens. It felt like watching a movie for the fourth time. I could predict his choice of direction, his beverage order, even which bar of chocolate he'd snag on his trip to the local newsagent.
My fatal mistake however, was using my first name as the victims title. Despite writing under a pseudonym, I provided my book as clear proof of Joseph's conspiracy to murder me, but my therapist didn't buy it. She told me I'd 'allowed my imaginary world to bleed into my reality'. And that I should remember 'my work as a writer simply reflects what I see, it does not cause it'. I fired her by the end of the session.
As Joseph spun around and leaned back against the counter, while he waited for his coffee order, I took a deep breath to try to calm my nerves. I prepared myself for what would come next. "Good book?" Joseph asked me as I caught his wandering eye.
I nodded stiffly, rising out of my seat, leaving my book behind. After three days of researching – not stalking as my ex-therapist referred to it – I figured out how to prevent my murder. I needed to disrupt the chain of events that would lead him to hire a hit man to kill me.
"It's a very good book actually". I couldn't hold back the contempt from my voice and confusion washed across his face. He soon shrugged it away; instead choosing to spin back around to watch the barista finish preparing his cup of coffee.
I moved in behind Joseph, braced to take uncharacteristic course of action, to stop this man from making a deadly phone-call.
I lobbed my order over his shoulder. "I would like a half-caff skinny sugar-free caramel latte please".
Authors Note: Not too sure about this effort. It was hard to try to set up the scene (and fill in the extensive background story) in under 500 words. And even then, I still went well over the limit. What I've written feels like, (if it wasn't for the story prompt explanation), the reader wouldn't really know what was going on.
Story Prompt : You've written a novel with a character that eventually murders one of his or her neighbors. Suddenly, a new person moves into your neighborhood with the same name as your character. Looks similar too. In fact, you can't help but notice this new neighbor is doing several of the same things as your character—including laying the groundwork to murder someone. You decide to follow this person because, if all holds true to your plot, you know what's going to happen. Write this scene. (500 word limit)