Brandon Poe was a starving artist, or rather, a starving writer to be more specific. It hadn't always been this way. Brandon had been one of the many office workers trying to climb the corporate ladder. He did this for nearly eight years until his thirtieth birthday rolled around. It was then that he realized that he absolutely detested his job.
“What am I still doing here?” he wondered. He had only meant for this to be a temporary job. That was when he remembered his childhood ambition to be a writer. He had even won a few contests for his mad writing skills. This gave him great hope that one day he would see his name on a library shelf. Brandon hadn't written a single page for nearly five years.
Brandon immediately walked into his boss’s office and gave him his two weeks’ notice. That gave Brandon enough time to get everything sorted out. He had enough money in his savings account to live on for three years if he was careful with it.
Brandon wasn’t stupid. Or, at least, he didn’t think so. He knew that it took some writers their whole lives to get published. Hell, some pretty damn famous ones hadn’t received any attention until after their deaths. But Brandon knew he would spend the rest of his life in regret if he didn’t at least try.
So there Brandon was, two weeks after he quit his job in his apartment with absolutely nothing to distract him. Brandon had writer’s block.
The trash can next to his desk now contained a mountain of crumbled up paper-balls. His notebook was growing thinner by the moment. Thank God it was back to school season and the supermarket had a sale on notebooks for sixteen cents a pop.
Brandon yawned and looked at the clock. Wow, eleven o’clock already. He’d have to continue this tomorrow. After all, he did have three whole years to come up with something. Depriving himself of sleep wouldn’t make him any better of a writer.
The next morning Brandon woke up to a pen in his hand and a notebook sprawled across his chest. He dropped the pen and let it clatter to the floor. The notebook, he realized, had been written in.
“I must have got up in the middle of the night,” Brandon realized “No wonder I feel so tired!”
He scanned through what he had written. “What the hell?”
What he read wasn’t bad writing. Brandon wouldn’t say it was particularly great, either. What he wrote was gory. It detailed the graphic murder of a twenty-two year old girl who had been beaten repeatedly, had one of her eyeballs pried out, before finally her throat was slit. After that, her body had been dumped in a ditch.
It was strange. Brandon wasn’t the type to write horror. He didn’t have the stomach for it. When Brandon was little and would scrape his knee he would faint at the sight of his own blood.
Wanting to push this out of his mind, Brandon flipped on the television. He was a good thirty minutes into his program when the breaking news sign flashed across the screen. It wasn't until he heard it clatter to the floor that he realized that he had dropped the remote control. A twenty-two year old girl’s body had been found in a ditch. She had been beaten repeatedly and had one of her eyes cut out. Her throat had been slit. Caroline Christie had been her name.
“No,” he said “it’s a different girl. It’s just a coincidence.” Brandon’s shoulders sagged in relief. “Yeah, that’s right. There’s no way my writing predicted or caused that girl’s death. Things like that don’t happen.”
And with that Brandon went on with his day, as if nothing had happened. That’s what he tried to do, anyways. Thoughts of that girl’s death kept fighting its way to the front of his mind. Of course, Brandon would immediately push those thoughts back, telling himself repeatedly that it was just a coincidence.
After once again failing to overcome his writer’s block he went and lay down. Brandon kept tossing and turning and glancing over at the blinking red light of his alarm clock. Ten-fifteen, eleven-fifty-six, twelve-oh-one, one-twelve, one-thirteen.
“I’m being so stupid!” he exclaimed, and got up and unplugged his alarm clock before laying back down. This time, Brandon tossed and turned for about an hour until he fell asleep.
When he got up he was relieved to find that he had neither the pen in his hand, nor the notebook on his chest. He smiled and went into the kitchen to grab some orange juice.
“See?” he told himself, “Absolutely nothing to worry about.”
Soon as those words passed through his mind, he saw the notebook and the pen lying across the tile floor. His first instinct was to throw the thing through the shredder. Curiosity overcame his fear, though. He read through the notebook and once again it contained the description of a murder. This time a man in his fifties had been mugged and shot.
“It’s not true. I’ll prove it.” He turned on the television and kept it on for hours. With each passing minute he was feeling more and more at ease. When the clock in the living room struck five he laughed. “What was I even worried about?”
It was then that the evening news came on. “And next,” said the anchorwoman “Fifty-five year old George Dean was found shot and murdered in an alley. Police suspect a mugging took place and—”
Brandon turned off the television and just sat there for a moment. Then he quietly got up, and shredded all of his notebooks, and then afterwards he dumped the remains in the trash along with all his pens. He went out to the dumpster in the alley outside of his apartment and threw them in it. Brandon hardly slept that night.
The first thing Brandon noticed when he woke up the next morning was the black words written on the wall. When he went closer he noticed the shoe polish and dirty q-tips on the floor next to it. This story recounted the murder of nineteen year old Jonathan King.
After that, Brandon began drinking lots of coffee doing everything he could to keep from going to sleep. It didn’t work, of course. He eventually would faint from exhaustion. It was a miracle he hadn’t had a heart attack from the amount of caffeine coursing through his veins. But, maybe that was in the story’s will too. The stories seemed to have a will of their own. They wanted to be let out, whether Brandon wanted it or not. It seemed they loved to torment Brandon. It seemed like the words were written in a new place every day. On the kitchen table, the refrigerator, the ceiling.
He stopped watching the news to check if the stories were real after the first dozen or so times. Oh, he knew they were real. He knew that in his sleep he was spinning tales of death. Brandon wanted to stop writing more than anything. He had tried getting someone to handcuff him to his bed at night and come get him in the morning, but everyone he asked called him insane when he tried to explain, and would then tell him to go get some help.
Actually, Brandon had considered checking himself in to a mental hospital. Not because he thought he was crazy, but because if he was locked up he couldn’t write. Brandon discarded the thought, though. He knew that as long as he had fingers he could write. And that’s when Brandon came up with an idea.
He walked to the kitchen and set the front burner to high and pulled out a butcher knife. A string of giggles escaped from his throat as he poised the knife over his hand that rest on the pale white counter. Brandon dropped the knife after he made first chop on his left hand. He sunk to the ground and screamed clutching his wrist. He vomited all over himself. He wanted to stop so bad but he knew he couldn’t—doing this little wouldn’t be enough to stop the words. And so he picked up the knife and swung it down once again, severing his left thumb.
The right hand was worse. He had to go about it much slower. Without the use of his left hand, he could no longer swiftly go about it. He had to put the handle of the butcher knife in his mouth and dig the blade into his flesh. Then, once he had it standing up, he pushed all his body weight on the knife with his chest.
Brandon screamed as he pressed the bloody wounds against the hot burner of the stove. The smell of burnt flesh hung in the air. Brandon found himself crying and smiling at the same time. It hurt so much—but he was free! He then staggered over to his bed and passed out from the pain and loss of blood.
The first thing Brandon noticed the next morning was the sharp throbbing sensation in his hands, the second thing was the strange taste in his mouth. It took him a second to realize what he had tasted was blood. He opened his eyes and glanced down at his right stub, and saw the chew marks on the edge, still bleeding. He glanced up at the wall in front of his bed and saw smeared red letters all across it.
Brandon began to give out spontaneous spurts of laughter between his sobs, because he realized then, that it would never be over. He could chop off his arms and his legs, and he knew the words would still find a way to get out. They always would. So he went to the counter and clutched the butcher knife between his two stubs, and slid it across his neck, the fresh blood flowing over the crusted blood.
Brandon had never read the words on the wall before he died. It is a wonder whether he would have taken the same action if he had read them, as the last lines of the story had said, ‘…and so the writer slit his throat in grief—for this is a tale of a man who wrote himself to death!’
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