The Next in Line: a flash fiction

(For the Etherbooks Flash Fiction competition day seven: topic: ENDINGS)

He didn’t even knock. The intruder burst in through the cellar door of the old Gothic mansion of the world famous author, Ridley Springs, and searched for some time with flashlight in one hand and shotgun in the other until he found the writer way up on the third floor nursing a scotch and soda and watching the late night news. Springs didn’t even blink when the gunman leveled the rifle at his temple and declared it was time to talk.

“Talk away,” the author yawned, and gave his scotch a little swirl.

‘You know why I’m here,” said the gaunt young man.

“I’m sure you disapprove of something or other,” said Springs, still keeping an eye on the television screen, where fire trucks were racing to a scene and announcers sounded highly impressed.

“Shattered Dreams,” the young man said, cocking the gun.

“Aren’t they all?” mused the writer.

“I hated the ending,” the intruder shouted. “So now you’re going to change it.”

“Seriously?” Ridley Springs glanced up at his guest and properly observed him for the first time. Trenchcoat? Check. Attempted facial hair? Check. Young, white, male, check check check. Hadn’t he signed a million books for just such ones? Probably even this one, possibly even more than once.

“Well then,” Springs said, rising to his feet and ambling to his desk, where his world famous old fashioned typewriter resided, the one from which endless tidbits of authorly advice were offered to the masses, advice such as “keep your hair short and your sentences shorter”, and“don’t fall in love with your characters. They aren’t actually real”.

“How would you like it to end?” he asked, taking a seat on the throne, and cracking his knuckles in preparation. At this the young man lowered his rifle and realized the full awe of the moment. He was there, in that hallowed room, at the moment he’d dreamed a million dreams about.

“Kimberley has to live,” he said.

“But then Jason would suffer,” Springs countered.

“I don’t care about Jason,” the young man said. “He deserves to suffer.”

“Okay, Kimberley lives then,” said Ridley Springs, popping a sheet of paper into the machine and beginning to pound away on the keys.

“And another thing,” the youth advised. “I hated how you ended it in the middle of a sentence. You ought to finish that sentence. It was rude.”

“Yes, you’re right,” Springs confessed. “It was very inconsiderate. I do apologize. I will fix that too while I’m at it.” Springs had of course by this time used his foot to press the button concealed on the floor beneath his desk, the button which sounded an alarm at the local police department. He couldn’t be sure precisely how stupid this latest intruder might be, but he had a hunch.

“Is there anything else?” he asked. The visitor shook his head.

“Just fix it,” he said. “And then I’ll – “


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