This is my Terror Tuesday for this week. I'm starting up a new online novel. Meet Robert Schantz, a very tortured man.
GHOST NO MORE
The fire takes the chill out of the cabin. Even though it's early fall, the air has quite a nip to it. I hadn't planned on being here at all: sometimes, things happen.
There are plenty of logs stacked by the fireplace. As isolated as this place is, there are no power lines anywhere. Fire for heat, and candles for any extra light if I should need it. That's about it.
I should be in the city right now, enjoying the fame of my new novel. Yeah, that's what I should be doing. Instead, I'm holed up in the mountains, away from everyone, in a one room cabin with just the bare necessities. It's a nice cabin, knotty pine paneling adorning all the interior walls, the light texture of the wood capturing the dancing flames, shadows moving in and out of every nook and cranny, the corners displaying the more unique of the patterns. This is supposed to calm me, to take away the anxiety, putting my mind at ease.
I've been fucked over; to the max. For more years than I can remember, I've been a ghost writer, one of those guys that no one knew even existed until just a little while ago. I had my reasons. And, if truth be told, I did pretty damned well. We split the money, the author under whose name I wrote benefited when he couldn't meet a deadline because good old Bob would have one ready for him. And, of course, more novels were sold in his name than would have ever been sold under mine. A win/ win for both of us.
But now, I want to change all of that. This time, I have written my finest work and I plan to have it come out under my name.
Yes, that’s the plan, but it's not going to happen. My bastard of an agent knew the novel for what it truly is and sold the rights to the highest bidder. No one knows who I am! Shit, I don't have a leg to stand on!
All the reviews say this is the ultimate horror novel: the perfect combination of horror with just the right amount of gore added in. I agree. Only now, it won't go out in my name.
What more can I do other than stew over it, pushing myself into a state of depression unlike any I have ever had before. This was to be my crowning achievement. Now it's my saddest hour.
Even the PTSD can't compare to this. The memories of all that happened in 'Nam weighing on my mind; the same dreams spinning in my head night after night, always having the same endings, never coming to a happy conclusion: always death; cold, hard calculated death. I've been taking medication for this, seeing the shrinks; all the stuff they've wanted me to do I've done. For what? So my mind can be completely snowballed under by treachery.
Jack Slade. One great author: fantastic resume; 38 novels to his credit. I'm more Slade than he is. I've written 29 of those books. And here he is, waltzing around, waving my book in his hand, espousing this to be THE definitive work. Jack Slade, the modern day Poe, they're calling him. Poe, my ass!
Up here, I don't have to listen to the newscasts, look at the book reviews, or see my books on the shelves. My publisher says we have to go along with all this hype to make this the success it can be. Money. Filthy lucre. Sure, I'm making money on this, but the novel could stand on its own. There is no hype needed.
Night becomes day. The fire still roars. It should; I've been up all night tending to it. Sleep: like I could have slept with this festering in my brain. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. Perhaps I should have stayed in the city. I don't know. Confusion is eating away at me. Is this the way it's always going to be? Will I never be accepted as Robert Schantz, horror writer supreme? Am I to constantly toil in the foxhole of behind the scenes shenanigans?
If I was to go with a different publishing house, how would I explain my past writing? Contractual obligations; I can't fucking discuss any of this. Sure, I have the contracts in my possession. But by displaying them, I would void them. Shit! They might make me pay the money back.
I put some more logs on the fire and go out for a walk to clear my head. Maybe a plan will pop into my head. Something, Anything.
The cool air is perfect for thinking; the gray matter just sizzles. Yes, as ludicrous as things are playing out in my head, I think I can make this work. It has to be done just right. But, yeah...
I almost run back to the cabin and pack. I have to get to the city fast, before everything goes crazy. Before it's too late.
The jeep is packed and I'm on my way in a flash. Fortunately I keep an ample supply of water in the cabin and am able to douse it well. I won't be back here for a while now,
The city is a lot warmer than the mountains are. My loft apartment is pretty stifling. I open all the windows and put fans to work to get it all aired out. From where I live, I can look down on the huge Barnes and Noble store, site of next weeks book launch. Jack got his start, signing his first novel here- actually my first novel- and the rest... the rest is history.
If all goes well, Jack will not be signing here next week. No; the great Robert Schantz, man of the mighty pen will make his debut. And the debut will indeed be grand.
I give my agent a jingle. As usual, he's not there, so I leave a message. My guess is that he's probably sitting in his over-sized swivel chair, feet up on his desk, chuckling away as he's listening to me ramble on. He's not really my agent of choice. I sort of inherited him. Rich, my first agent and a very good friend, would have never let this happen to me. God rest his soul; I miss him so much.
Two can play at this game- I know where he lives. When nightfall comes, I'll pay him a visit. Then I won't have to worry about him anymore.
A smile creeps across my face. This will be like a dress rehearsal for another novel. Yes, that's what it will be.
My plan is simple actually. The players will be assembled, each in his own little place, and the play will go on.
* * * *
Darkness, that place where things go on that befuddle the mind. The unknown springs to life here, creating illusions that seem so real, and yet...
Yes, this is my time. I write about it, and I dwell there. My writing comes from within. The soul of my existence, both present and past, are entrenched in this nether land of despair and agony which are the larger part of the real me.
For many people, this darkness is a place to flee. They haven't learned, the way I have, that embracing this part of our souls completes us as a person. It makes us real; complete. Leave out the bad and we choke on the fallacies of a perfect place
Nothing is perfect. Nothing.
It is in this darkness that I make my way to John's office. Originally, I had planned to confront him at his house, but what good would that do? What I'm looking for must be in his office
I park a few blocks away and walk to the building where my faithful agent performs his treachery.
Shit! The outer door is locked. I could open it easy enough with my little set of tools, but there is too much light here: I would be easily spotted .I remember leaving through an alley door once when maintenance was being performed on the entry floor tiles.
To the rear.
This is perfect. No one is around, and except for one little naked bulb, there is no light.
I check one last time before attempting my entry. The tumblers click under my magic touch, and I'm in.
Security cameras are everywhere, but that little problem is taken care of. A hat, some makeup, and an obscure, artificial nose change my looks completely. I won't stand out at all.
I take the elevator to the third floor and walk to John's office. There are no lights on in any of the offices that I pass, and no light appears from under any of the doors I can see up ahead. However, to play it safe, I walk to the end of the hall to double check. I was right: no lights.
A couple of clicks, and I'm in. Now to check the files. With the gloves I'm wearing - complete see through latex that won't reflect any light - I won't have any hassles with prints. Not that it really makes any huge difference. What I'm after belongs to me and I'm not supposed to exist anyway according to my publishing house or agent.
Stupidity abounds: what I'm looking for is sitting in the file cabinet under Schantz. I was thinking I would have to tap into the safe, but no such problem. This is too easy. All the evidence is here; signed contracts, a copy of my hand written MS ( I have the original ) , and my request to publish this in my own name. All I have to do now is put it all together: a nice little package with a tight, perfect bow, and a congratulatory tag that says, "Congratulations, Robert Schantz."
“Bob, what are you doing in my office?”
I turn and see John standing behind me. “Just taking what is rightfully mine. You fucked me over, John.”
“You are such a fool, Robert. Did you think the people at Penguin would take a chance on you, an unknown?”
The anger builds inside me. I want to place my hands around his scrawny neck and squeeze until his worthless life becomes a mere memory. “This unknown, as you put it, is responsible for putting a lot of food on their tables; not to mention fancy cars in their garages.”
“All in Slade’s name. Not yours.”
“Slade is a hack.”
“I’ll agree with you, but you made him what he is. It’s too late to change now.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, John. I’m going public with this. One way or the other, my name will be on this manuscript.”
John is infuriated and jumps at me, hitting his target and knocking me into the file cabinets. Before I can even react, he is pummeling me for all he’s worth. Somehow, I manage to kick him off of me and towards his desk. In a rage, he reaches inside his waistband and pulls out a revolver I had no idea was there, a sickeningly small looking weapon for a man to wield, but at the distance separating us, it looks awesome.
A huge smile drapes itself on his face as he cocks the hammer, but no shots ring out. The air in front of him becomes a monstrous display of electrical discharge. The look of a winner is no longer present on his face. Fear, down and dirty, replaces it.
Three of them, so repulsive looking I almost puke at the mere sight of them, come crawling out from within the menacing vortex and slowly advance towards John.
Damn! It’s happening. It’s actually happening!