Author’s Notes: Second Entry of a Short Story, Read Part 1 Here. Horror. Adult Language.
“Eli, sweetie,” She always called him sweetie when the news was bad. “This…” she said stamping out her cigarette. “This just isn’t going to cut it. I mean – have you actually read it?” Abby Benton was one of the best in the business. She was sharp, crude, and she didn’t tolerate fools; the truth was she made enough money in a city known for eating men twice her age alive, that she didn’t have to. Her long dark hair swung all around her as she regarded the manuscript again with disgust.
“What do you want from me Abby?” Her dark almond eyes darted to the left and then locked back on me, trying to bore holes straight through my skull. I’m trying my best, I’m…”
“What I want is the writer I found in that hovel of an apartment back. You were living in a god damn box back then Eli and even on your worst night and with the shortest deadline you STILL gave me better than this horses shit. If you think I can sell this for you then you’ve had one to many drinks which, by the way, I’m not paying for today… not after this.”
Eli sighed, crossed his arms and looked away from her tirade. There was no point in trying to argue with her. He knew the writing was his worst yet. He wouldn’t have even given it over to her if he had any other choice.
“Find it. Okay?”
“What?” He asked.
“Whatever it was that made you good.” She stood up, snatched up her purse and looked towards the door before finishing, “You got twenty-four hours. I don’t think I can keep stalling anymore than that.” Eli didn’t have to ask what would happen if he didn’t have a sell-able manuscript by the twenty-four hour deadline. He just nodded to himself and savored the last dregs of scotch in his glass. The Lord alone knew when he’d ever be able to taste something so smooth again.
Wadded up papers littered the floor, a crime scene of ideas shot down before ever knowing life on the glowing white screen. Some had been tossed at the waste paper basket, others hurled in rage at the clock as it persisted in moving forward towards the hour when his life would officially be over. Across the floor and back he paced playing ‘what if’ … out loud he read old notes trying to find something, anything, that had a flavor and urgency to him. Did NOTHING burn within him anymore? Had all the words he’d ever been blessed with already exist on a page somewhere – or had he ever been a TRUE writer at all?
That last thought didn’t go away easily and before long he found himself scrawling hateful words and accusations at himself – making doodles that depicted all the terrible outcomes he knew might follow in the weeks and months to come when destitution were sure to be forthcoming. In a quiet moment, he considered that perhaps it wasn’t worth all this; he had been pretty happy in that hell hole of an apartment, hadn’t he? No deadlines, no editors red marks like blood splashed on his pristine pages, and no angry Abby with her deadlines and threats of his very lifestyle hanging over his head: just him and his stories.
Of course, there were other calls then… creditors and friends to whom he owed money. There was also the nights were he’d eaten the last bag of ramen noodles and his belly complained of hunger but nothing was in the cupboards that would satisfy it and he’d find himself weeping that he couldn’t afford even a hamburger off the damn dollar menu. As tears welled up into his eyes, the memory of hunger gnawing the edges of his thoughts, he looked towards the plain white door that lead out into the hallway of his building.
The radio… he’d had one hell of a night’s sleep after seeing it sit there on the table, sure that it had spoken to him. That was insanity though – a lack of sleep talking. That, at least, is what he told himself again and again until exhaustion had taken him. In the morning light it was easy to forget it, laugh the notion off, but here in the dark with only hours to go; Eli stood up from his chair and had reached the hallway before he’d really thought any better of it. What if the radio HAD spoken to him? What if it could help? Some part of him would have accepted help from Satan himself if he walked into the room in that moment… perhaps the radio was possessed by some ghost or demon…
His laugh shattered the silence of the hallway, when he stopped only the hum of the lights above him remained. Did he expect the radio to invite him in? He stood at the door, waiting, and nothing was happening. Should he knock? Was the door still unlocked at all or had the super realized that he’d left it open when he was last in there? Closing his eyes and rubbing the bridge of his nose he tried to look at it another way; what if the radio was a gift from god? Maybe an angel speaking to him… a muse! Maybe this was god’s way of making it up to him, his way of helping him out of the rut he’d fallen into!
Eli reached for the door handle and turned, fearful of losing his nerve. Opening the door he walked inside and shut the door behind him, hoping no one noticed him entering the apartment illegally. There was the radio, alone on the table, unmolested and unchanged save for the fact that it was not on at the moment. He wondered if the thing had a short – perhaps that was why it came on and off unbidden by human hands. Crossing the room with arm extended, he cautiously took hold of the on button and turned it gingerly.
A squeal, some static, and then a very authentic sounding disc jockey voice spoke over soft background music in a way that seemed so perfectly natural, except for the words that were uttered.
“Hello and good evening to all our listeners out there and especially to you… Elijah.”
((to be continued))