Suggested Audio Candy:
 John Carpenter “Utopian Facade”
 John Carpenter “Dark Blues”
 John Carpenter “Windy Death”
 John Carpenter “Night”
 John Carpenter “Angel’s Asylum”
 John Carpenter “Distant Dream”
Dennis Houseman was just about approaching the very end of his tether. Careering towards his fifties, Dennis had recently become shamefully unkempt, and was clad in the same filthy bathrobe he had been wearing for three days on the bounce. If ever a home reflected the mind of its owner, then his dingy suburban bungalow provided pretty much a mirror image. Cleaning duties had been woefully neglected for weeks now and strewn across the living room were all manner of soiled clothes and papers never destined to be filed away. He spent the majority of his time in the study and this was now a fortress of discarded energy drinks , half-eaten junk food, and a multitude of ash trays, every one of which was filled way beyond capacity. Taking care of himself had ceased being a priority for Dennis some time ago and he had found himself in one almighty rut, without anything like the tools or willpower to prise himself out of his ever-deepening mire. Moreover, it was of his sole construction, and this made him more than just an accessory.
Right now things were looking particularly bleak as, while nothing appeared inclined to give with regards to his living habits, the pressure was well and truly on. Six hours were all that stood between him and his deadline and he hadn’t so much as tapped a key to secure that said deadline was met. This represented the one viable opportunity to make something of himself and God knows he worked hard enough to facilitate it. Five years he had been a full-time writer and not once had that looked likely to pay dividends. Daily blogging certainly assisted with regards to finding a style he was comfortable with but had paid none of the unpaid bills currently littered from wall to wall. Failure to meet this deadline was simply unthinkable but Dennis had found himself at something of a loss for motivation and the noose was only tightening with every passing minute.
For the last half an hour, he had been perched at his desktop, fidgeting awkwardly. In his left hand he clutched a stress ball which had been in receipt of a thorough massage since he first sat down at 7pm, while his right tapped his desk impatiently. According to the antiquated clock hanging adjacent to the study, it was now 10.15pm and its intrusive tick of the timepiece was symmetrical to his own uninspired rhythm. It felt as though each click signified another second of his life ebbing away and this was something he had resigned himself to nowhere near reluctantly enough since his life changed irreversibly a few weeks back. In the back of his mind was a nagging reminder that tonight’s shift was in dire need of do-or-die initiation. If there was one word to elucidate the one way out of his current dilemma then that would be urgency. Without it he was FUBAR. This made it all the more disparaging as he simply couldn’t seem to muster any.
“Fuck it. Get your head in the game. Seriously, have you seen yourself?”
That was as close to urgent as it got for Dennis right now and even then wasn’t delivered with any great conviction. There was now a small opening for him to lift his ass from the leather seat that had been threatening to splice itself to his posterior for the past thirty minutes. However, the moment would soon pass, and the packed out three skin joint he had just blazed through would make sure of that.
“Let’s do this. One. Two. Three. And up…Up…Fucking UP you gibbon!”
While hardly likely to count as an epiphany, some unforeseen jolt of decidedly meager electricity had gotten him just about vertical, and that represented a dash of fortitude in his weary bloodshot eyes.
At this rate, he was on course to arrive in the kitchen by around 10.30, and that, itself, heralded a severe upturn in productivity. Thirteen minutes to traverse around three yards of matted carpet and touch down on murky lino. Didn’t seem too ambitious a goal to set himself.
“Get to the chopper!”
If anything was to escalate transit then rousing one-liners just had to be it. True to form, Dennis began to lurch unenthusiastically to this tantalizing Havana of food-encrusted crockery and a vast array of abandoned pizza boxes. He even had an objective in mind, entailing a half-empty bottle of Jim Beam on the kitchen worktop. Of course, even this proposes another potentially sticking point as his once six-strong collection of tumblers was now down to a solitary one and he hadn’t the vaguest idea where it habitually resided. The cupboard would be as good a place as any to start right? So one would think but any organization skills dissolved around the same time as his life hit its latest speed hump at full pelt and the amount of trash on hand-made locating needles in haystacks seem more of a sure thing.
“I know you’re around here somewhere. I can smell your fear. Show yourself rogue tumbler. Make yourself known or pay the eternal consequence”
Well nobody could accuse him of not having given it the old college try. Conversations with stumpy glasses tend to be a one-way affair and it was time for the search party to be called off. He was a full-blooded man, with his very own man-cave, and sporting a shaggy enough mane to make it in the wild should he so wish. Who would denounce him for swigging from the bottle neck? Nobody. This was how bachelors lived. Nothing to feel sheepish about whatsoever. Just part of the code. Besides, he had achieved so much already. The very least he could do for himself was to supply his demanding yellow tongue an overcoat of whiskey.
“Don’t mind if I do”
Bachelor life rule number one: One must never be embarrassed to strike up a conversation with oneself.
“Better make it double. Cuts down the journey time. Or you could just take it with you as a safety precaution”
“You my good man are a genius”
“I prefer the term alpha geek but will take that compliment and run with it”
“Better not do any running. May I suggest that a leisurely stroll would be far more advisable? Maybe even a light saunter?”
“Bravo. Now we simply couldn’t let this moment pass without celebration could we?”
“What did you have in mind old bean?”
“Bloody brillo. Couldn’t have said it better myself”
Bachelor life rule number two: Under absolutely no circumstances should one not have a packet of smokes about his personage at all times.
“I’ll race ‘ya”
One quick pat down seemed the only requirement and this proposed surely his most significant triumph thus far. His bathrobe may have smelt vaguely of ass, but it did boast rather large storage compartments, and there was no better space for his cigarettes to lease. Alas, he had unwittingly thwarted himself earlier without knowing it and both pockets were conclusive in their vacancy.
No time for chewing the fat, there was a factory sealed box of Lucky 7’s at large, and a screenplay with no intention of writing itself. He was getting ahead of himself with that particular dilemma as a few puffs of carbon monoxide would be required before he could even begin to contemplate such an all-encompassing migraine of a notion. As it had it, lady luck was on his side as, on the table by the doorway, was a factory sealed box of Lucky 7’s.
“I’d like to thank the academy. And God for the gift of ten/ten vision”
Given that Dennis was now on something of a roll, an all too rare spring accompanied his three lengthy strides, and this was the closest to being one of life’s lotto winners he had come in many a moon. Thus, removing a smoke from its casing would require a dash of chic to celebrate his upturn in fortunes. Tapping the base like smoking was his forte, he then proceeded to slide off the cellophane seal as a call girl would lingerie, and claim himself his ultimate prize.
“Hello. May I say you’re looking mighty purty tonight young lady?”
“Why thank you fine sir. I was secretly hoping you’d pick me”
“How do you feel about a little lip service?”
“You had me at hello”
The front porch appeared the best place to consummate this blossoming relationship and lethargy need no longer factor with this particular carrot in mid-dangle. On arrival, little had changed from the last time Dennis pitched his tent here. That had been Thursday. It was now Tuesday. Needless to say, Vitamin D was at an alarming premium. Nicotine, on the other hand, was in no short supply and he intended to savor the moment like he hadn’t lit up in months. This required squinted eyes, nostrils primed to flare, and the all-important first exhalation on instant stand-by. Very little was cool about Dennis Houseman right now but the swelling orange glow of primary burn was admittedly buying him some hip points. He drew his measured puff out to the maximum and opted for steady excision via nostrils to double up on that tally.
“You gotta know how to smoke you see”
“Take me again. Please I beg of you, make a woman out of me”
Dennis’s brief romantic interlude had been nothing if not stimulating but, alas, it was destined to end. You see, while the population of his personal space was one, his bathrobe was about to betray him in at a critical moment. Even as far back as when he purchased his Motorola 375 cell phone in 2008, the chime had been irritating. Seven-years later, that annoyance had been cranked up to the power of ad infinitum. Moreover, the last thing on earth he desired right now was wasteful conversation. His vintage handset had spoken and this left him with two choices. Choice A: Let the bastard ring out and curse the fact that it habitually failed to trigger an answer phone, thus making its shrill torment potentially eternal. Choice B: Man up and push the button. Peace of mind felt more probable with the latter so, after a quick display check to pinpoint the call’s origin to MIKEY, he puffed out his chest and pressed it.
“Just taking five”
“So is it done yet?”
“Not quite yet no. Just applying any finishing touches”
Dennis was fully aware of what was coming next so armed himself with another puff of his cigarette.
“Jesus Dennis. You’re cutting it fine”
“So this is your attempt at an eleventh hour pep talk?”
“I’m just saying it as I see it buddy. He wants this by tomorrow morning right?”
“Well you don’t sound particularly enthused. Level with me, how close to finished are you?”
“About 5000 words”
“You haven’t even started have you?”
“Just can’t seem to get going”
“What’s stopping you?”
“You know. The usual”
“No more than normal”
“You’re your own worst enemy my friend. If you just got on with it and stopped pondering the mystery of the universe, maybe you’d be finished by now. That shit clearly ain’t doing you any favors”
“It’s not that”
“Listen, I’m not going to bust your balls. That’s your mother’s job. I’m just saying”
“Funny, that’s precisely her punchline”
“Perish the thought. No offence Dennis but the moment I start sounding like your mother, I want you to lead me out into the fields and club me round the back of the head like a mangy mare”
“I’ve been praying for someone to do that to her for years but no dice”
“I’d say you were out-of-order if you were but I’ve met the bitch and I make you bang on the money”
Dennis donated the customary chuckle to proceedings but this was cut short as he suddenly registered faint movement from the bushes across the street and this seemed to require far greater attention. It looked like the outline of a person but he couldn’t be sure as it was barely visible from his distant vantage. However, whatever it was, something made him feel ever so slightly uneasy and the shadow cast over the figure only served to heighten its dubious edge.
“Listen Mike, I’ve gotta get back to it. Are we done?”
“Whatever. Just pull your head out of your ass and stop over-thinking everything. That’s your problem you know”
“Loud and clear”
He didn’t wait for a response before cutting the call short as more pressing concerns were afoot than Mike’s best attempts at rallying the troops. He must’ve looked away for no more than a solitary second but, in that time, this mysterious visitation concluded. After one protracted final drag on his cigarette, Dennis made his way back inside for his next dip in mental quicksand. However, this interlude now had him soundly rattled and, for the life of him, he couldn’t fathom why.
“The bliss of predictability”
Given that his feathers were now ruffled, there was great consolation to be taken from the rhythmic ticking and welcoming mist of body odor that greeted him upon rearrival. Time was of the essence hours ago and, while ordinarily Dennis worked most effectively when he placed himself under intense pressure, the last chance saloon was now beckoning. It wasn’t that Mike had told him anything he didn’t already know, more that he placed it straight back on the agenda. In a perfect world, screenplays would write themselves, but his life had been anything but idyllic since Melissa’s untimely departure. Eighteen months they’d been together and, in typical Dennis fashion, this relationship had undergone three distinct stages. Stage one: Leaping in with both feet and declaring his undying love as did each time cupid’s arrow struck. Stage two: Suggesting she move in and investing in a packet of replaceable electric toothbrush heads. Stage three: Disappointing her in every key area until which time as she was left with no option more attractive than heading for the hills.
While their eventual break-up hadn’t been particularly acrimonious, there was a fair share of ill-feeling and it emanated entirely from her side of the partition. That was almost a week ago now and, to give some idea of the fallout of their split, Dennis’s armpits hadn’t seen a lick of either soap or water since. It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen it coming, for months the bough had been threatening to break, and he did precious little to prevent its fracture. But this was the fifth time that history had repeated itself and the steady realization that he was perhaps impossible to live with needled him most. For this sole reason, Melissa’s desertion had hit him like a 40 lb splitting maul. If he were looking for a scapegoat for this writer’s block then she was it.
Quickly nipping thoughts of Melissa in the bud before the inevitable spiral that accompanied suchlike recollection, Dennis made his way back to the study hoping for some overdue grief channelling to bail him out. The trusty stress ball was precisely where he had left it several minutes earlier and, as he was only too expectant of, there was nothing fresh to report from his monitor. If blank screens could embellish themselves with spirited prose, then his headache wouldn’t be half as tempestuous right now.
“Come on creativity. I know you’re in there. Show yourself”
If it was then it certainly knew how to keep its head down. Nothing whatsoever was forthcoming and this prompted him to stretch his legs and pace the room as a further show of frustration. However, before he could make the executive decision of separating his rump from the leather recliner, the clock on the back wall chipped in once again. Tick was still shortly followed by tock and repetition was no less its bargaining tool than earlier. Hypnosis may be a proven method for cutting down on smoking but it was positively wretched in his current plight. In times like these, the bell can prove a man’s savior but, as his cell chimed a second time and the name HO FACE flashed up on its display, it was more like a death sentence.
“Give me fucking strength”
What could Melissa possibly want at this hour or any come to think of it? Had “You’re a fucking degenerate asshole. I hope you fester in your own squalor” not provided sufficient closure to their courtship? More importantly, it was back to option A and B. Dennis knew only too well that her stubbornness, paired with the fact that she knew damn well he wouldn’t be busy in the slightest, would prevent her from giving up until the battery died and 24% equated to a good few hours of slowly descending into utter madness. It was a no-brainer. Damage limitation or getting it over with to be more precise. He clenched the bullet between his plaque-infested teeth, bit down hard, and hesitantly pressed that infernal green button.
“Stunning welcome Dennis. It’s me”
“Is that it? Oh?”
“What do you want me to say Melissa? You said it all the other night”
“Yeah and I don’t remember you exactly begging me to stay”
“What’s the point? You had no intention of changing your mind”
“You just don’t see it do you? I can’t stick around while you work out whatever point it is you’re attempting to prove”
“I wasn’t even aware we had a problem”
“That’s your problem Dennis. You never do. Maybe if you spent a little more time in the real world you might see what’s going on around you”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I had slipped into some parallel dimension”
“You practically live there. On what plane of reality is it acceptable for a couple to have sex once in three months? Three fucking months Dennis”
“So it all boils down to that then?”
“Do not even try that. You know it’s not all about that. I’m just saying”
There it was. Mike had been just saying something a few minutes back and that amounted to nothing plus change and now Melissa was jumping on the bandwagon as pretty much forecast.
“Is there a point to this Melissa?”
“You tell me”
“Listen, much as this guilt trip is delightful, this isn’t the time”
“It never is. That’s your fucking problem. Correction. That’s one of a laundry list of fucking problems”
“I get it. I’m a shitty person and deserve every last misery coming to me”
“No you’re not actually. You’re just a very deluded one”
With that, Dennis discerned movement from his bedroom and instantly swiveled his chair to peer over his desktop, placing his thorough dressing down on the back burner momentarily.
“So what have you got to say Dennis?”
Obliging her with an answer couldn’t have felt less important right now as the feeling of mild trepidation from earlier was returning in leaps and bounds. All attention was on the darkened recess by his bedroom door and that ominous shape appeared to be back in attendance.
His pupils were now fully dilated as he struggled to make out the outline just yards from his coordinates. Last time was disconcerting enough but, whoever or whatever this was, was now very much in his personal space and the vibe he was getting was anything but friendly.
“This is exactly what I’m talking about. It’s like living with a ghost, you’re never there. Maybe if you spent as much time living in the real world as you do off with the fairies then we’d have something to sort out. But it’s like you don’t give a shit”
“There’s someone here Melissa”
“Now I get it. Well you certainly didn’t waste any time. Who’s the new victim?”
“I’ve got to go”
“You know I’ve changed my mind. You are a fucking asshole! Thanks for nothing”
He hung up before she could have the satisfaction and returned his full undivided attention to his uninvited visitor.
“Who’s there? I’ve got a baseball bat right here you know”
Nothing. Not a solitary flicker although the illumination of a car passing outside his window had now shed some light on his subject and the enlightenment was far less than encouraging. While still shrouded by shadow, it was clearly a man of around the same height and weight as him and he could now discern the flash of metal by his side. Using the wheels of his chair, he shuffled cautiously to his left and reached down the side of his desk for his trusty baseball bat, still keeping his eyes firmly fixed on his motionless opposite number.
“You think I’m messing around here?”
The figure now appeared to be smiling although it was lacking any kind of warmth whatsoever. Even more disparaging was the realization that the item he was clutching by his side was a serrated hunting blade. Panic washed over Dennis as, baseball bat or not, he wasn’t best equipped for conflict and it was appearing an increasingly likely proposition.
“I’ll give you to the count of five to get the fuck out of my house. One…”
Although Dennis was the one on countdown duties, it was him who felt under pressure as the inactivity continued.
This time there was a response, although not quite the one he had been hoping for. The stranger’s smile widened further and Dennis’s blood ran cold as it did.
Bachelor life rule number three: You are the master of your own domain and must therefore protect it at all costs, even if you have no intention of actually using that baseball bat. Fuck, he’d never so much as swung it in his life. He was now left banking on not having his bluff called.
“Right. That’s it”
He reached over to the halogen lamp shade on his right and flicked its switch, filling the room with 60 watts of flickering light. Relief washed over him instantaneously as the foreigner was no longer in attendance. Of course, this was tempered by the recognition that he would now be required to perform a thorough search to ensure that the danger had indeed passed. Tentatively, he shuffled towards the open doorway and peeked into his bedroom. No sign of forced entry and, mercifully, no intruder. After rubbing both eyes with his right palm, Dennis returned to his kitchen to drown his mounting sorrows and polished off the remainder of his whiskey in one fell swoop.
“Dennis my boy. You are losing the plot”
Time outs were a regular occurrence in Dennis’s frightfully slack work schedule but this one felt downright compulsory. The bathroom hadn’t seen a great deal of action in the past week or so as attested by the aroma of damp towels and around a litre of urine that had never quite made it to its intended destination. However, it did contain the only mirror in the house, albeit murky, and he took it upon himself to consult his reflection for a much-needed reality check. Once he had made a couple of faces at himself for his own amusement as was customary, it was promptly down to business. Said business entailed a few home truths.
“You know what you are?”
“I suppose you’re going to tell me”
“You’re a worthless prick. A waste of precious oxygen”
“Tell it how it is, why don’t you”
“Look at you. You’re pathetic. Can’t hold down a relationship. Can’t write for shit. I don’t know why you even bother trying. Might as well just give up”
“Who died and made you emperor?”
“How’s that screenplay coming along Dennis?”
“You know how it’s going”
“Yeah that’s right. It’s not is it. Nobody gives even half a shit what you’ve got to say. Blah blah fucking blah. I’ve seen some miserable excuses for human beings in my time but none quite as deplorable as you. You’re just a drain on everyone around you”
“No. Fuck you Dennis. Fuck you and the scabby three-legged horse you rode in on”
“Are we done here?”
“What do you think?”
“I think your motivational skills are for shit”
“Gonna prove me wrong are you?”
“Maybe I will”
“Like a phoenix from the flames he rises. Can’t wait to see this”
“Ready to look stupid?”
“Well considering I’m your reflection, yeah I’d say I’m pretty much primed for ridicule”
“Why am I even wasting my breath?”
“It’s your forte Dennis. Well that and sitting around in your own squalor feeling sorry for yourself”
“As much as this has been stimulating, I have a screenplay to write”
“That’s the spirit”
“See you around loser”
“Not if I see you first”
Feeling utterly defiant, Dennis called time on his conversation with himself, and strode back to his leather recliner with fresh purpose. However, that blank screen soon put paid to any hopes of a rousing comeback as it reflected nothing but indifference back to him. It was now ten after midnight and Paul Firth had been most clear that he expected something pretty monumental to land in his inbox by no later 7am. To make matters worse, Dennis knew only too well that the equipment had already been paid for and this short film would need to be done and dusted by Friday, or else he would likely never work in the industry again. Paul had been commendably patient up until now but his reputation was just as much at stake and this only served to crank up the urgency.
Dennis’s sole consolation was that things couldn’t possibly get any worse than they were already. However, it was time for him to hold that thought as his cell chimed for a third time, and this particular communication was about to soundly disprove that theory. The caller I.D. read MOTHER DEAREST and had been input with no end of irony. There was little dear about this seventy-six-year-old spinster, not even remotely. Indeed, the only pleasure she appeared to take from life now was to remind her youngest son that he was a crushing disappointment. His older brother Leonard was a successful broker and pulled in a six-digit annual salary to consolidate his golden child status. He was also happily married and had provided Maude Houseman with two beautiful grandchildren, both of whom were straight A students. Dennis, on the other hand, was consistent only in amounting to less than zero. This proposed to be a bruising encounter and he knew that only too well.
“Jesus Christ, have mercy”
Failure to answer this call could have dire repercussions as she lived no further than three blocks away and would think nothing of marching over to voice her bemusement in person. For all of his disinclination, Dennis knew exactly what had to be done and also fully intended to switch off his cell the very moment he was granted the inevitable bittersweet release. Another swig of inebriating liquor would have come in handy right now but the empty bottle in the kitchen wasn’t about to come to his aid on this occasion. With heavy heart, he pressed down that infernal green button and prepared for warfare.
“That’s how you’re answering your phone nowadays is it?”
“What is it? I’m up to my neck here”
“We need to have words”
Of course they did. Mother wasn’t hot on catch-ups, at least where her biggest disappointment was concerned. But she did do words and every last of them cutting to the innermost core.
“Well? Are you going to keep me in suspense? What have I done now?”
“Melissa called me you know”
Fucking pair were in cahoots. This did not bode well. Imagine a winged hell beast with razor-sharp talons and every intention of tearing you to ribbons. Then multiply to the power of two as Melissa was the one responsible for the manicure.
“Of course she did”
“I’ve got to say I’m bitterly disappointed in you Dennis”
“And what’s it got to do with you anyway?”
“In case you haven’t noticed I’m your mother. I brought you into this world”
“Yeah I get it. And you can take me out right?”
“I’m just saying”
It had only been a matter of time before she dropped that one in and Dennis’s recoil was softened by acceptance.
“What’s going on with you Dennis? Talk to me”
Could this be? Genuine concern? Surely it was a ruse, a cunning plan to lower his guard before delivering the knockout kidney blow. Regardless, he fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
“You really want to know?”
“I’d love to know why you can’t hold down a relationship for more than two years yes. It’s like a skill you have for driving young women away and you certainly didn’t learn it from me”
Evidently pulling punches wasn’t on this evening’s agenda.
“God you’re brutal. And you wonder why I’ve got issues”
“Leonard got promoted to vice president by the way. Thought that might interest you as you haven’t picked up the phone to him since before Christmas”
“Bully for him”
“So about Melissa then”
“Well if you must know she was insufferable towards the end. Nothing I could do was good enough”
“That’s right, blame someone else. It’s always the other person isn’t it? Never anything you’ve done”
“And you’re just a pillar of righteousness aren’t you Maude? The all-knowing one. Your shit doesn’t stink does it?”
Bachelor life rule number four: Should the gloves be required to come off in order to prevail a verbal shit tornado, then off they shall come. Calling her by her birth name was testament to his readiness for melee.
“Since when did it become acceptable to speak to me like that?”
“Since you stopped listening to a single word I say. Oh I’m sorry, I forgot. You’ve never listened in the first place”
“So it’s my fault that you’ve become a pariah then? Just like your father”
“And you wonder why he walked out”
The ice beneath his skates was perilously thin right now and that last comment may well have just cracked it.
“What did you just say to me?”
“I didn’t mean that. Sorry”
He did. He truly fucking meant it. Rarely in his forty-five years had me meant anything more than that. Of course, mother would not let such an opportunity pass to go one better.
“Sometimes Dennis, I wonder whether I should have had you aborted”
Now that was too much, even for her. Conveniently situated just right of the green button on his cell was its red compatriot. Using the marvels of modern technology and any hand-eye coordination two litres of whiskey hadn’t robbed him of, he could make MOTHER DEAREST go away. This was precisely what he did and he backed up that decision by powering down his handset as call back was as imminent as its conclusion was foregone. Drawing the blinds, dead bolting the front door, and extinguishing any source of light was next up followed by a short trip to retrieve his headphones, boot up Slayer’s God Hates Us All, and drown out the white noise that was rapidly engulfing him.
Finally peace and quiet, accompanied by militant thrash metal. 5000 words give or take, most likely take. That had to be his sole focus now. Currently he was stuck at two but that was a start. Every tale needs a title after all. 12.18AM. That was 1000 words an hour, allowing for the obligatory smoke breaks of course, of which there would be the nineteen that stood between him and an empty box of Lucky 7’s.
Suddenly something caught Dennis’s eye in the reflection of his monitor that froze the very blood in its ventricles. The figure was back, moreover, it was now standing directly behind him and no longer obscured by shadow. Perhaps most distressing about this intelligence was that the person slowly lifting a serrated hunting knife above his head with intent was every bit his mirror image. Certain things can be mistaken but Dennis’s gaunt profile wasn’t easy to replicate. Before he could get past the registry phase, his identical opposite number sprang further into action, plunging the blade down and a good inches into his sternum. While he convulsed in agony, the blade was pushed deeper into its cavity, causing a fountain of deep red to spray onto the white screen before him. Blood was streaming from both sides of his mouth and one more twist caused him to spew forth any tacky fluid backed up in his jugular.
It was then that the grim realization dawned on Dennis. His intruder was no longer present and the trembling hands around the blade in his chest were under his sole jurisdiction. With one last twist, he relinquished his grip and placed his bloody fingertips on his keyboard, where they commenced to type furiously and without a solitary pause. Motivation had now ceased being an issue.
The time was 6.59AM and Paul Firth opened his laptop wearily. The first of numerous daily caffeine shots had just passed his lips and reminded him that matters of urgency awaited. First port of call was his email and, as the small hand on his wall clock reached the hour, the new mail icon flashed right on time. After mass deleting several surrounding communications, only a single unchecked message remained. It was titled GHOST WRITER by DENNIS HOUSEMAN.