I’ve been working on my novel this week, up to 30k words, but in no particular order! I’ve written act one, then jumped to the middle of act two, now I’m in the middle of act three. Not sure if that’s the best way to do it, but it seems to be working so far…
Talking of out of order, today I present to you another episode of my non-chronological story, The Book. Last time, DOCTOR MONTE HILTON had told his own therapist that he thought they had progressed as far as they could.
Here it is. I hope you enjoy…
“Doctor Maskell?” The head of a middle-aged woman appeared round the door of Claire’s office. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but a parcel has arrived for you. I signed for it.”
“Thanks, Margaret. Just leave it on the desk.” Margaret placed the small package on the edge of the desk, and left the office, closing the door behind her.
Claire pulled the package towards her and began to tear off the brown packing paper. When she saw the black leather cover of a book, she stopped and set it down on her desk. This must be the book that Monte had talked about. Her interest in the book had been purely as a tool to assist in the treatment of Monte Hilton. Following his death, however, her curiosity had grown, and as she listened to the recordings of their sessions together and reread the notes that she had made as she watched an otherwise exemplary example of sanity descend into psychosis, depression, and ultimately an untimely death at his own hands. If she was honest with herself, the book sitting on her desk now held more than a passing attraction.
She slipped the book out of the packing paper and placed it carefully on the desk in front of her. The book was exactly as she had imagined: old and well-used. She placed her hand flat on top of the book and immediately felt a flutter in her chest. She looked around her, as if expecting there to be someone else in the room. There was, of course, no one. She allowed her hand to slide over the surface. Despite information to the contrary from her eyes, the cover of the book was flat and smooth.
With her other hand, she turned the cover and was surprised to find a folded piece of paper just inside. Unfolding the paper, Claire read the short message:
“Claire, thank you for your efforts to help me. Don’t think I wasn’t grateful, because I was, and please don’t take my suicide as a slight on your skills. As you have probably guessed, this is my book. I sent it to you because I could think of no one else I would trust with this responsibility. Please destroy it if you can, hide it if you can’t, but please don’t read it. I thought I was strong, but I’m not sure anyone would be strong enough.”
Claire traced a finger across Monte’s spider-scrawl writing, letting her finger linger on the last line that he had written in block capitals and underlined twice. It simply said “DON’T BE TEMPTED.” She folded the note and placed it in the top drawer of her desk. Turning her attention back to the book, she flipped a couple of pages and began to read.
When Claire heard the knock on her office door and looked up, she was surprised to see that the shadows had marched across the room and now reached part way up the opposite wall.
“What?” Her voice wavered as she spoke.
The office door opened and Margaret’s face appeared again. “I’m heading off home-” Her breath caught in her throat as she saw Claire. She quickly came into the office and went round the desk to Claire and bent down until their faces were level. “Doctor Maskell, are you alright?” Rivulets of sweat ran down Claire’s face. Her eyes were bloodshot and puffy. She stared blankly at Margaret, who snapped her fingers in front of Claire’s face. “Doctor Maskell? Doctor Maskell?” When she received no response, Margaret picked up the desk phone and began to dial for an ambulance. Before she had completed the third nine, Claire brought her had down on top of Margaret’s, bringing a squeal from the older woman.
“Don’t bother.” Claire was crying as well now, and her chest hitched as she spoke.
“But you don’t look well, Doctor.” Margaret tried to remove Claire’s hand that was pinning her own but failed. “I need to get you some help.”
Claire rolled her eyes slowly towards her Personal Assistant. “I didn’t know, Margaret. How could I? It’s just a book.” As she spoke, she closed the book that had been open on her desk. They’re in there, just like he said.”
“What’s in where, Doctor? You’re making no sense. Let me get you help.”
“They’re in there,” she repeated, still staring at Margaret. She spoke as if in a trance. “There are so many, so many.” The sentence tailed off into a whimper.
“Doctor, please!” Margaret continued to try and pull her hand out of Claire’s grasp. “Claire!” Without warning, Claire let go of Margaret’s hand and she staggered backwards. Claire continued to stare at her PA.
“You don’t understand Margaret. They’re so strong, so many. I read too much.”
“What are you talking about Claire?” The time for proper titles had passed.
“I read too much!” Claire was crying again.
“Then stop.” Margaret spoke softly. As she did, she slid the book away from Claire. “We need to get you some help.”
“Too late, don’t you understand? I read too much and they found me!” She buried her face into the palms of both hands.
“Who’s found you, Claire?”
Claire’s face remained buried in her hands. The sobbing had stopped, and she now breathed easier.
“Claire?” Margaret stroked Claire’s head gently.
When Claire looked up, her eyes were still red-ringed and her face was streaked with tears. When she opened her mouth to speak, the desk moved visibly in front of her, and she stood up, knocking the chair backwards. The voice came from somewhere deep inside her throat, sounding like a dying man’s last breath. Doctor Claire Maskell had spoken her last ever words on this Earth over a minute ago, and the voice that came out now was not hers. As the words were spoken, Margaret began screaming.
“We have found you.”
Well, that was The Book. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and I hope the non-chronological order wasn’t too off-putting!