Excerpt Three

I thought I would give you a third excerpt (a continuation of the previous two), as I haven’t posted in a while due to being busy typing up this WIP. So here’s the third excerpt. Again, I hope you enjoy reading it.

So here we go again:

The Leaking Manuscript

A Continuation – chapter two

Mr Fictional tightened his hand on mine as if he thought I’d run away. We crept into the hallway. It was still in the same disarray that I’d left it in that morning as I’d rushed out of the door to work.

Work and the café seemed so long ago now.

I felt Mr Fictional press close against me like a predator keeping low to the ground. He smelt of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on except to say it reminded me of long grass in the twilight. He squeezed my hand again and led me up the stairs.

We knew Lydia was in the house. We’d watched her steal in, her blonde hair flicking out below her ears in an innocent way betrayed by the devious green of her eyes. The rustling upstairs suggested she was going through my papers.

I didn’t understand why we couldn’t just walk in normally. Mr Fictional had insisted that we were silent. He seemed to think that seeing us would make her run or something.

The door to my study opened from the inside. Lydia pointed the gun in her hand straight at my head. She smirked.

Mr Fictional stepped in front of me. His bulk almost covered me. “We can talk about this, Lydia. If you agree to go back–”

“Do you think I’m stupid?” she spat in a tone I recognised too easily. She glanced at me like I was something she’d pick up with a poop-a-scoop. “I’m not going back in her head to be ignored and played with. I like it here. I can do anything.” Her green eyes gleamed in a way that sent ice sliding into my stomach.

I tried to imagine her agreeing but she didn’t seem to notice and nothing happened.

“So what are you going to do?” Mr Fictional asked. For once, I felt his apprehension.

Lydia cocked the gun.

A second later I was sprawled across my hallway floor, the gunshot ringing in my ears. Mr Fictional was partly on top of me. He’d pushed me to try to get me out of the way, but now he was grasping the back of my shirt and urging me to run down the hallway.

I scrabbled up as best as I could, hearing Lydia as she fired after us. The blood pounding in my ears almost muted all sound out.

The window at the end of the hallway shattered from the force of Mr Fictional’s fist. I tried to look back at Lydia, but somehow I was falling through the air.

He’d launched us through the window.

I squeezed my eyes tight shut in preparation for the smack of hard tarmac but the thud hit the soles of my feet and I stumbled in his arms.

He didn’t even let me collect myself. If he had, the bullet that sprayed at my feet would probably have sunk straight into my flesh. He’d already pulled me away, though. Without a moment’s breath, we were haring down the passageway at the side of my house, dodging bins, cats and neighbours.

If Lydia jumped out of the window or followed us, I didn’t see her.

My muscles ached with strain, adrenaline all used up. I started dropping behind Mr Fictional. He saw me, slowed down and pulled us into some leafy garden a few blocks away.

He put his hands to my cheeks, opened my eyes wide, looked in my mouth, patted down my shoulders and spun me around. I didn’t even complain. I was in too much of a daze to understand this.

It wasn’t real. Characters couldn’t come to life and I had not just been shot and thrown through a window… except my clothes were torn and smattered with broken glass.

“Why did sh-she shoot at m-me?” I stuttered.

Mr Fictional put his hands on my shoulders, holding me steady. “You’re in shock.” Of course I was in shock. What else would I be in? My protagonist had just shot at me! “We’re going to go get you something less conspicuous to wear,” he said, glancing at my uniform and name badge, “and then we’ll get some food.”

He steered me into town and found some cheap, plain clothing from the first shop we came to. I didn’t go in. I just stood outside and stared into space in some hidden nook he’d found.

It couldn’t be real.

I’d been shot at by an imaginary character from a novel that I hadn’t even finished writing.

I followed dazedly to another café, changing into the less conspicuous clothes in the bathroom. The room was empty when I came out of the stall so I stood in front of the mirror and smoothed uselessly through my chocolate hair. He’d managed to pick out clothes in my size and, most remarkably, didn’t look half bad. There was a red vest top and some plain jeans with a loose shirt to cover my shoulders. He’d even got some cheap baseball boots so I wasn’t stuck with my nasty work shoes.

He sat in the café with his limbs stretched out languorously; worn jeans making his legs look strong and sturdy. His shirt was different now. Instead of matching his eyes it was just a plain grey thing. I supposed it was good enough for blending in.

I slid into the seat opposite him. He watched me as I took a sedate sip of the drink he’d ordered. “So, it looks like we’re stuck together for the mean time,” he murmured. “My name’s Shane.”

“I’m not dreaming, am I?”

He shook his head, and then continued to watch me closely.

“Why are you helping me? You’re clearly not doing it out of love for your creator.”

His lips twisted awkwardly. “If you die, then I die.”

I frowned. “What about Lydia? Surely she’d… disappear too?”

“You’d think so, but she can’t hear you telling her what to do. I can. If I killed you then everyone you’ve imagined will disappear and die. If Lydia shoots you, she’ll live but everyone else will still die.”

That was really encouraging news. Everything seemed to point to my death and, judging by Lydia’s welcome, that was how she’d prefer things to end. I ruffled a hand self-consciously through my hair. “Is there any way for me not to die?”

“There’s getting Lydia to agree to go back into your imagination or… Or we could get rid of her first,” he said slowly.

I was quiet for a moment.

This whole thing was a lot to take in. I wished it was just in my imagination. I wished I was delusional. That would have been a lot easier to deal with than being asked to kill somebody. I tried to look at it as writing somebody off in one of my stories, but I couldn’t. Lydia was real now. She was flesh and blood.

How could I kill her?

“How do you know this?” I asked hurriedly, deflecting the conversation away from death. I’d just been shot at. The last thing I wanted to think about was exactly how close I’d come to realising Lydia’s goal. “I mean, I’m the one who imagined you up. Shouldn’t I know what you two know?!”

Shane scowled at me. “Look, it’s your fault we do know. If you hadn’t wanted us to be the characters that knew all the answers then Lydia wouldn’t be hunting you right now! You’re the one who made her smart and devious!” He huffed and folded his arms, blowing hot air out through his nostrils.

He wasn’t the nicest person to have mad at you. In fact, he seemed to take on all the characteristics of a wild animal when he was enraged.

“If you stopped hearing my voice in your head, you could kill me and live, couldn’t you?”

“Yes,” he muttered.

“Would you…?”

He glanced up at me, vibrant eyes searching my expression. I quailed under the intensity of that gaze. “Maybe,” he murmured. My heart hammered in my chest and I hoped like hell that he wouldn’t be able to shake off my internal narrative.

I swallowed down a thick sip of my drink, trying to hide my nerves. My pulse skittered anxiously up and down my arms. This was bad. He was already trying to get my voice out of his head. If he managed it, then that would be just one more person out to kill me.

Maybe I should have been excited. It isn’t every day, after all, that a writer gets to see her creations come to life or for her to be involved in a thrilling storyline, but, quite frankly, I just wished I could have my normal, boring life back. Was that too much to ask for?

And then there was the fact that it wasn’t just any storyline. It was a storyline that could involve my death.

And who was the main character here? Me? Lydia? Shane?

Would the main character survive or fall?

A warm hand on mine made me raise my eyes. Shane’s gaze seemed to penetrate me right down to my bare insides. “For the minute, though, if you die, I die; so we’re stuck together.” He smiled softly. “And I’m the best person to protect you right now.”

He was right. Lydia was a fictional character come to life. Shane was the only other person I knew who fit that particular bill. It was logical, but it was a piece of logic that sounded odder than anything else I’d ever heard.

Part of me still couldn’t believe that they were real.

“So what now?” I asked, my tongue seeming to stick to the roof of my mouth.


To be continued…

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