Greetings and salutations eminent readers of the blog,

It’s Monday and time for another story. This weeks story has a very graphic scene. It also touches on a sensitive subject. I don’t wish to offend your delicate sensibilities. This is your final warning. If you proceed beyond this point I can’t be held responsible for your reaction.

 

FEARLESS

By Dave Benneman

The soft clicking of the keys floated on the still air, accented by the rhythmic drip of the kitchen faucet. Jo reviewed the scene hovering above her desk while the sound of each droplet massaged shards of glass into her brain. Calling the Superintendent was out of the question. The man offended her senses. His tool belt jangled with every step, like a symphony orchestra caught endlessly tuning. Every fucking light in the apartment would be turned on, and the residual reek of garlic and cheap cigars would take a week to dissipate. She would lose a minimum of three days recovering from his brief visitation. Three days she could ill afford with the publishers deadline rushing toward her like an oncoming subway train.

She made her way through the darkened room—drip, to the sink—drip. She reached for the hand towel conveniently hanging from the oven—drip, and draped it over the offending faucet. The breath she’d held blew out in a sigh of relief. “That’s better.”

Rubbing her tense neck muscles, she made her way back to her austere desk. Her hip brushed against the layers of heavy drapes over the window. The slight movement allowed the noise from the Hudson River to leak inside her apartment for an instant. A reminder of the fragile barrier between the outside world and her solitary confinement. The blaring horns and flashing lights of the river pushed against her inadequate fortification endlessly, just as it harassed the levies keeping it within its banks, day after day, without rest. Thinking about it exhausted her.

A glance at the computer reminded her that Amanda, the heroine of her romantic adventure series, still lay naked on sweat-dampened sheets in the embrace of her lover. Amanda would have to wait. Jo’s traitorous mind took a sharp turn and accelerated toward paralyzing fear. The collapse of her psychological defenses would allow the world to flood in and wash her out to sea, where she would be tossed around in a cacophony of sound and light. She shuddered.

Her slippers scuffed softly along the carpet down the hall to the bathroom where an army of amber bottles stood at the ready. Idly scratching her forearms, she read the labels. A nightlight provided enough illumination to identify the correct soldier. She shook out two pills, tossed them into her mouth, and swallowed. Panic hammered on the door, it threatened to smash her fragile state. “I can’t afford an episode now. Not now. Please God! Not now.

Fatigue overtook her. The safety of her bed and a cocoon of comforters beckoned her. Unable to resist, she slipped between the sheets and pulled the covers over her head, burrowing deep. She shivered, and blew out long slow breaths. Dread, her only companion in those hours before sleep granted release.

###

Waking on a bed of silk, cool, and smooth against her sensitive skin, eyes wide open. Jo sees nothing. The dark is absolute. Relieved, she relaxes into her bed of silk when she hears it, the silence. She can hear nothing except her own heartbeat, virtual silence. There is a slight woody smell, faint, but pleasant. Delighted, she sits up, only to push her face into more silk. The fabric rustles loudly in her ears. Shifting to one side, she frees up her arm and feels around. She is trapped in some kind of box. In her dream, the obvious takes forever to dawn on her. When it does, her screams fracture the silence as she kicks at her coffin.

###

Awakened by the dream, she sobbed. The blankets tangled around her feet. Bloody grooves marred her arms where her nails dug into her skin. She stumbled from her bed, and returned to the dining room where Amanda still lay naked in Nicholas’ arms. Jo’s keyboard provided the release her mind sought. Once immersed in her writing she would be liberated from a life of self-bondage, fear, and shame.

 

Amanda left Nicholas’ snores behind and climbed to the main deck of the yacht. Leaning against the bulkhead, she let the warmth of the Mediterranean breeze dry her naked skin. She was virtually alone on the water, not another vessel within sight in any direction. Thousands of stars reflected on the calm sea and she didn’t have to share them with anyone.

Except Jo, of course. Jo saw every sparkling gem of light in the night sky. Jo shook out her hair and welcomed the goose bumps that erupted on her body from the fresh Mediterranean breeze. The gentle rocking of the boat lulled Jo into a trance. The soft clicking continued, her fingers moving of their own accord.

###

When her eyes opened, the first thing Jo noticed was the darkness. The computer had put itself to sleep, but her tense fingers woke it from its slumber. Two words floated in the middle of the screen:

The End

Mild surprise drew her gaze down to the word count. Eighty-seven thousand words. She’d written almost thirty thousand words. In the past day, or days, she couldn’t be sure how many. She’d completed the novel. It was longer than usual. Eddie, her editor, would have to deal. She knew there was no need to go back and proofread. Experience told her the thirty thousand words would ring true, they’d be better than anything she wrote in her conscious state. She did her best work when she traveled.

During phone interviews, she told reporters she got lost in the character. However, it was more than that. Much more. When Amanda looked at the stars above the Mediterranean, Jo saw them, heard the waves slapping against the hull of the yacht, felt the gentle rocking of the sea. When the breeze blew across Amanda’s wet skin, Jo’s broke out in goose flesh.

Yes, she experienced her characters’ lives in the flesh. If she stepped into the story, the question that begged asking was, who remained behind? Who typed in her absence? She couldn’t follow that train of thought for long or she’d require a Xanax breakfast with a side of Wellbutrin and a glass of Bombay Sapphire Gin.

She pushed those thoughts away and busied herself formatting the manuscript before emailing it to her agent and publisher a full two weeks ahead of the deadline. Emails sailed into the Ethernet with the familiar whoosh. Only then did she push her stiff, skeletal frame out of the chair. Her joints cracked and popped with resentment at the abuse she’d leveled on them. There was no doubt her body had been in the chair for God knew how many hours typing while Jo had been elsewhere.

Under the hot water that softly fell from the rain-shower head, she thought about the days ahead. Eventually, she would read the prose written in her absence. For now, she’d wait for her editors to read it and respond. Their suggestions and corrections proved to be invaluable, but very few of those involved the sections written while she…traveled. Those sections that materialized when she escaped from her self-made prison were always flawless. Sometimes, the transitions between her conscious writing and what she wrote while she traveled needed smoothing out. She smiled into the steamed-up mirror at the thought of traveling. She wrapped a towel around her body and dried her short hair with another.

She got around pretty well for a woman who only left her apartment once every six months to appease her psychiatrist. Her bills were paid online, she cut her own hair, and an anonymous young person delivered her food from the local grocer.

The delivery people changed, but as she looked out her peephole, she knew only their faces changed, except one. Only once a delivery person tried to get her to open the door, first on the pretext the groceries would be stolen. She recalled how the young woman had finally admitted she was a fan. She produced one of Jo’s novels and a pen and proudly held them up to the peephole.

“I—I…could you, I mean, I hoped you would autograph it for me?” she asked through the door. “My name is Amanda, too.”

Jo scribbled a note and slid it under the door.

Leave it. Come back tomorrow.

The girl tilted her freckled face after reading the note and peered at the peephole. “But…”

Then she had reverently set the book next to the groceries and turned away. She disappeared from Jo’s limited field of view, but the chime on the elevator did not ding for a long while. Jo waited, her face pressed against the peephole, when the bell finally announced the arrival of the car she opened the door and pulled the bags inside. She was annoyed by the intrusion of this girl, but signed the book anyway.

 

To Amanda with Freckles,

May your travels be as interesting and varied as our heroine’s.

Jo Scott

 

She hung her canvas shopping bag on the door with the book inside. The next day, a note appeared under the door.

I’m sorry to have bothered you. Thank you for signing my book. Please don’t tell the manager. I need this job. I will not bother you again. Promise.

Amanda with Freckles

TO BE CONTINUED;

I stumbled on this weeks quotation on the internet. The source was unknown. If anyone can help me attribute this please leave me a message.

“Don’t lose touch of reality, it might drive you insane if you’re locked in your own world of possibilities for too long.”

Thanks for tuning in,

Dave Benneman

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