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Lee Pletzers

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Character Attack
By Lee Pletzers
Friday, August 01, 2008

Rated "R" by the Author.

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What happens when a character you create for a book, decides he doesn't want to die and enters your reality to do away with you.

Character Attack

 

 

I awoke in a cold sweat. The room was pitch black and outside, winter rain fell, mixing with the snow littering the cold landscape. It battered the roof of my small apartment and bounced off the bedroom window.

The dream.

Lying under the blankets, I tried to force the images to my awakened conscious state but it was a losing battle. Glimpses, stilled images. Flashes really were all I got. I remember cold, unmoving autumn brown eyes, a twitching mouth of barely controlled anger.

Fear came into play as well.

It’s weird; usually I don’t suffer bad dreams. Some of the characters I write do, though, and through it, I find it sometimes helps set the character’s state of mind. At other times, it helps keep the plot advancing in the correct direction.

I don’t wanna be the bad guy, Lee.

That voice. I knew it well. It sounded like mine, only a tone deeper. In a flash of blood, the owner came to me, an image caught in my bedroom from the flash of electricity exploding outside. He stood with his legs slightly apart, seemed to be wearing an expensive suit and had a solid build, squinting eyes and the dagger in his hand. It was Peter Clement from my novel Re-Entry of Evil. 

My hand went rushed to the bedside lamp and pressed the switch. Instantly the room was bathed in light. Light and nothing more. No Peter near the window, or anywhere in my room.

Damn, I dreamed about the villain from REOE? Now there’s a first. I have never dreamed of a character or thought about them outside the context of the current story and their placement in it.

A shiver ran the length of my spine just thinking about Peter. To date he is the best villain I have ever penned. A normal guy offered everything he wanted and a sudden desire for it, and the change he goes through learning how to get what is offered. Add to that a special skill with words that can and will destroy the world and a skill that will bring Lucifer into a new world, almost devoid of religion. 

Just the fact he had entered my dreams freaked me out. I pulled the blankets up around my chin, trying to gain as much heat that I could. I didn’t like the knowledge he’d visited. It was like art ‘inflicting life.

REOE was almost finished, the last word nearly penned. The publisher was waiting for the revised copy containing the requested rewrites. All my old files were deleted and the paper version was in the trash. I was working from the HD file only -- rewriting the requested changes. I planned to finish it this morning. Peter should have been out of my life, and should have been out of my thoughts.

What was he doing visiting me in my dreams?

I don’t wanna be the bad guy, Lee.

Sorry dude, you are. I created you. I am your God, I decided what path you choose, and what choices you would make. Without me, you don’t exist; you are nothing but a failed character sketch. That and nothing more.

Jesus I couldn’t get him out of my mind. Did he want a sequel? REOE part 2? Impossible he was dead. As God, I killed him off. And I did it violently, I might add. How could a character affect me like this? It was only a dream. Maybe many writers suffer this sort of thing, but won’t admit it or voice it without several beers. Dutch courage: “Hey, you want to hear something strange, something that should be in an issue of Weird Tales…?”

The rain outside continued to pound down. Its force never diminishing even for a second as it tumbled from the heavens. The Rain-God did not rest, didn’t need to take a break from self-driven driven duty to water the earth. He was as diligent as Peter in attaining his goals.

Peter! Damn it! Get out of my head or I swear I’ll rewrite you as a poodle.

Desperate for sleep, I closed my eyes. The rain was a soothing sound I have always liked, it calmed the nerves whenever I closed my eyes during a downpour day or in this case a night.

I had to force my thoughts away from the dream and onto nicer, sweeter things. I filled my thoughts with dreams of grandeur; full time author, living the dream. The big 3 level house I would be proud to live in, compared to where I grew up and what I inhabit now. A SUV parked in the driveway and next to it my Triumph Bike. Not too much to hope for, not a lot to ask. Peter wanted that as well.

Damn it. Peter again. I couldn’t even force him out of my mind.

The digital clock on the bedside table glowed brightly in the room. The green numbers read, 0427. Four in the morning. Could I hope for sleep? Not likely, I’m an early riser, up at six, jogging by six ten, while the coffer maker at home does its thing. Better to get up now. I could surf the Internet, read a few blogs and by six return to my normal schedule. And besides, I had to take a leak.

Throwing the blankets off, the chilly winter air ravished my naked body, save the boxers I wore. I swung my feet on the bed and in a sitting position, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness; I searched for my jeans and sweater.

Ah, there they are on the floor.

Dressed, I didn’t feel that much warmer. In my study (AKA living room) was a two-element heater, which didn’t seem strong enough for the harshness of winter but it helped a little, so I rushed to it and plugged it in. I didn’t bother turning on the lights, I know this place like the back of my hand.

I stood in front of the heater a moment and watched the elements warm up, throwing a soft orange glow across the carpet. I needed a new heater for sure, this one had no front guard. Dangerous. Oh well, time to pee.

It was bitterly cold in the toilet. The cold vinyl covered floor stung my feet. The small window above the bowl was frosted over and I could see my breath.

Steam rose from the flow and I closed my eyes, still sleepy. Oh shit, I should’ve booted up the computer and set the coffee maker before coming here. Oh well, no problem. This is what happens when one breaks a near perfect routine.

Sounds.

I heard someone moving around in the living room. I heard the beep of my computer booting up and the gurgle of the coffee maker. Had I set that stuff and not noticed? It was possible; my brain was half dead with sleep.

In my head, I retraced my steps from getting dressed. I walked along the hallway, glanced in the kitchen, thought about doing it but wanted to get the heater running first.

Wasn’t me who started the computer.

I’m hearing things for sure. That nightmare must have really messed with me. Were some dreams that powerful? They were in my writing but that’s fiction. It’s all make believe.

I figured I should do a quick search on the power of dreams and find out for sure.

A harsh cough erupted from the living room.

Instantly I tensed and the flow stopped. I packed my product away and listened. The computer beeped. The coffee maker gurgled again, then fell silent. Outside a cat meowed. It was quickly followed by several dog barks. A car drove past the apartment, its tires slicing through the wet.

Rattling silverware. The clinking of a spoon in a coffee cup.

Someone was making a cup of java …in my house?

“You fall asleep in there?”

My heart almost stopped. I knew that voice. Had listened to it for several months.

“I was waiting for you on the sofa, you didn’t even notice me.”

This was not happening. I’m still sleeping, I told myself, yet I felt wide awake. I flushed the toilet and ran my hand under the cold water. It was a mild shock and proved I was wide-awake and alert.

And listening to a book character talk.

“You’re not real,” I said. My voice shook with each word.

“Coffee’s on the table, and I opened up the file, Re-Entry of Evil. You’re all set to fix some things and finish this baby.”

Jesus I had to open the door, I couldn’t stay in here forever. Or could I?

“Lee, there’s work to do.”

I didn’t answer.

“Now, you don’t want me to come in and get you. Do you? You wouldn’t like it.”

I reached for the handle. My hand shook like mad. I‘ve never been good at confrontations. The adrenaline shook my body like a mouse in the jaws of a cat. With my hand on the cold bronze handle, I took a couple of deep breaths to steady myself.

Something thumped the door and suddenly the tip of a dagger pushed through. I stumbled back and fell into ‘the kings position’ on the toilet seat. I watched the tip of the dagger get sucked back into the door.

The doorknob caught my attention. The small button wasn’t activated. I’d been standing behind an unlocked door all this time. If he’d wanted me dead…That’s a thought I didn’t want to continue with.

“Open the door, Lee.”

“You open it,” I replied defiantly. Surprisingly I was suddenly calm, like I’d passed a certain point where fear held little or no power over me. You know that point, when a big dude threatens to bash your head in and you know there is no escape. Fear is no longer an option. Your breathing is controlled and you put up your dukes. That’s where I was at now.

I calmly watched the doorknob turn. Heard the click as the mechanism came free and watched in absolute silence as the door swung open.

Peter smiled at me.

He looked different than I painted him in the book. Not a big difference. His body was wider, more muscular, his chin was square and covered in stubble. He wore a black suit, and his brown hair was cut short. Bedroom brown eyes stared at me from the doorway.

“It’s been a long time,” he said.

“Because the book is finished.”

He shook his head. “No,” he said, the smile fading. “There’s a huge error in it that requires your immediate attention.”

I stood up off the toilet seat. We stood eye-to-eye, toe-to-toe.

“And what huge error would that be?” I said.

“Me,” he said. “I’m wrong in that book.”

Feeling brave, I pushed past him into the living room. The computer was on and the word processor was activated. Blue screen, white letters stared at me. The title was in large bold letters, the font was Times New Roman.

“You wrote it, so you can easily change it.” Peter stood next to me as I sat down on the office style chair.

“I wanna be the good guy,” Peter said at length.

I stared at the screen, the typed words. “I could change the name from Peter to something else. It’s easy enough to do.”

“No, I like my name.” He leaned close to my ear and whispered, “You need to rewrite me. A complete rewrite.”

“Are you nuts? The story is done. It’s finished. You became the devil. You died.”

In a calm voice, Peter said, “I want to be a good guy. I don’t like what happens to me...afterwards.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I was locked in a conversation with a violent character from my book. What weird dimension had I stumbled into? This was so messed up. I knew I couldn’t rewrite Peter as a good guy. He was perfectly bad.

“I can’t rewrite you.”

“I started out as a good guy. Keep me that way.”

“If I do that you have no relevance in the storyline.” I looked up at him. “I’d have to create a new bad guy and then what happens to you?”

Peter took a step away from the computer. “What would happen?” he asked.

“You won’t exist.”

He shook his head. The dagger, which I hadn’t noticed since the door incident was in his tightly clenched fist. “No. I want to exist. Rewrite me.”

“I can’t. There won’t be a point to your part in the book.” I turned in my seat to look at him. “I’d have to kill you off. Maybe from Mephistopheles or No Neck.” I was giving him the truth, cold and hard as it was. In the book, Mephistopheles controlled him and No Neck was his first killing.

Peter’s face reddened. His mouth twitched and eyes narrowed to slits. “Rewrite me,” he ordered.

“No.”

“I’m a good guy,” he shouted. “Write me as a good guy.”

“You write it.”

“I can’t,” he screamed. “I’m not a writer. I can’t form words into descriptions, I can’t invent names and build a life around them. That’s your job.”

I sighed loudly. Never had I envisioned the vicious character of Peter to be a whiner. I didn’t know this side of him, I had never sketched it.

“You sent me to hell,” he said, still looking at the floor. “You locked me inside this dagger, and you made the souls inside it aware of my inability to battle them all.” Finally, he looked up and met me eye-to-eye and I saw the coldness inside him. I saw the hate, the hurt and the betrayal. I had written it all. He was here because of me. Because of the words saved on the computer.

With lightning speed, he grabbed the collar of my sweater and yanked back hard. I felt the wheels on the office style chair go out from under me. A second later I was on the floor and being dragged across the carpet.

I tried to twist out of his grip but it was strong. Peter was strong. I had written him that way. He was every bit his character. In my struggle, I kicked over the heater; vaguely remembering the safety switch was broken, I attempted to kick it again into a more favorable non-carpet burning position. I failed as Peter dragged me all the way to the front door.

He picked me up with the ease of a professional power builder. Roughly, he pinned me against the door. “I’m a nice guy,” he snarled.

I spat in his face.

He replied with a knee to my midsection, successfully removing all air from my lungs. I heaved heavily in his grip but he held me up like a rag doll.

“Dude,” I wheezed. “You want me to write you as a nice guy, and this is the way you act?”

“You wrote me this way. How else did you think I’d react?”

He was right.

Peter pulled me away from the door. “Let me show you something,” he said and opened the front door. “This is where I live because of what you made.”

I shut my eyes, I didn’t want to see whatever it was, but I heard the sounds. Man oh man I heard the sounds. The screams, the power saws, leather thrashing flesh and ungodly mutterings in a language I, thankfully, could not understand. I heard something scraping the doorframe and a squashing sound reminding me of dropped watermelons.

“Look,” Peter commanded.

“No way. I don’t wanna see that and you can’t make me, either.”

“I can cut your eyelids off. This is my world, Lee. I brought you here.”

He lifted me high again and I heard him kick the door shut. I was lowered to my feet and felt cold steel against my neck.

“Last chance,” he whispered. “You made this wonderful dagger. I’d hate to use it on your soft neck. Change…my…character.” He released his grip on me and the cold steel vanished. I opened my eyes and starred at a madman in all his glory.

I walked over to the heater and put it upright. The carpet had a deep black mark on it. The wool was smoldering. I stepped on it with bare feet and crushed out any chance it had of catching on fire.

“Write,” Peter said.

I picked up the office chair and seated myself in front of the glowing computer screen. “Turn on the light,” I told him, giving me a few seconds to think a way out of this. I wasn’t going to change the book. I liked it the way it was. If a publisher demanded such a change, then maybe I’d give it a lot of thought. I’ve heard that a lot of authors listen to what their characters say, but not me. I am their God, their creator. They will do as I say. Peter was written to be different than the average character but I never imagined this would be the result.

The room exploded into light, temporally blinding me. I was faking it trying to buy more time. The wall clock ticked softly in the silence. I looked at it. How did digital clocks tick? I shook the thought away and concentrated on the job at hand.

Peter stood behind me. I could feel his eyes on the back of my head. I could also tell what he was thinking and I knew the dagger was still in his hand. I wrote him, I knew his base feelings and reactions…and I feared them.

I stared at the first sentence of the book: The devil sat on his fiery throne in the sulfur filled city of Hell. This was the forward of the book. Peter showed himself on the next page in chapter one:

The sound of night insects was louder than usual as Peter Clement put the last of the dishes in the dishwasher. He pushed the start button and left it to do its thing. It was eight o’clock and he was feeling more tired than normal on a Wednesday night.  Middle of the week, he told himself. But it was more than that and he knew it. After twenty long years, it was time for him to give his blood to the dark prince.

 

How the hell was I going to change that? It was important to the book. I couldn’t change it to: After twenty long years it was time for him to give his orange juice to the neighbor. It just didn’t work.

I felt the tip of the dagger press against the back of my neck. Peter was determined to be a good guy. “The story will fall apart if you are good,” I said and felt the pressure of the dagger increase. And I realized, he didn’t care about the story. The plot meant nothing to him.

I had written him into Hell and Peter wanted out. I couldn’t blame him but couldn’t let him out either. I’d much rather lose it all than destroy my story. I clicked the right mouse button.

“What are you doing?”

“What you want me to do.” I clicked the select all option. “Good bye, Peter,” I said and hit the backspace button. The screen went blank. The file was empty.

“NO!” he screamed and shoved me off the chair and onto the floor. He leaned close to the screen and scrolled up and down the page. All he had now was a blank page. He didn’t exist any longer.

So, what was he doing here?

I watched him closely, expecting him to disappear in a poof of smoke perhaps. But it didn’t happen.

“What have you done?” he muttered.

I got to my feet. “I erased you. I deleted the entire book and all the characters. You’re nothing anymore.”

Peter looked at his hands. Studied them. Touched his face. “I’m still here,” he said and raised the dagger.

“I’m going back to bed,” I said. “I expect you to be gone when I get up.” It felt good to be back in control.

Peter swept the dagger as I tried to pass. It sliced through the sweater and split my skin. I jumped back, more in surprise than pain.

He swung the dagger again. I dodged it. My foot hit the heater and for the third time I hit the floor. The elements fell against the soles of my feet. The heat was intense and I scrambled away as quickly as I could.

Why hadn’t he vanished yet?

My mind raced as he took his time approaching me. My feet throbbed; blisters grew on the soft skin. I felt the heat as they swelled.

Suddenly I was on my feet. Peter held me up with one hand.

“I created you,” I said in my strongest voice, trying to hide the pain of exploding blisters. I wasn’t doing a very good job of it. “You can’t hurt me. Without me, you are nothing.”

“If I am nothing, how do you explain this?”

“What?”

“This.” Peter smiled and slammed the handle of the dagger into the side of my head. I felt the searing pain as skin tore free. He threw me to the floor. I noticed smoke rising up around the heater.

I wasn’t going to die on my knees, that’s for sure.

I wasn’t going to give Peter the satisfaction.

Pushing aside the pain, I struggled to my feet, my sight fell on the computer, and I realized why Peter was still here. I knew now.

A kick hit my back, shoved me forward, my feet couldn’t keep up with the pain and the speed. I lost my footing and fell chin first onto the office chair. The wheels hit the computer desk. My weight on the backrest tilted it and it toppled over onto me.

Another kick struck my ribs, quickly followed by another.

“All right,” I screamed. “I’ll rewrite you.”

A third kick didn’t arrive.

I looked up at Peter as he gazed down on me. “Too late,” he said.

If I were writing this scene and not living it, I’d have Peter drop to his knees at my side and drive the dagger into my stomach. That’s how I would write it.

 Peter raised the dagger over his head and with a sickening realization, I knew he was going to act out what I would have written. He knew me as well as I knew him. Perhaps better.

I did the only thing I could. I kicked him as hard as I could. He saw it coming and twisted slightly. I had aimed for his gonads, but struck his hip instead. Still, it knocked him back a couple of steps.

It gave me time to jump to my pain stricken feet, torturing them further. Peter looked surprised by my comeback he hadn’t expected it. In the book, he always succeeded in the killing, until the end. He obviously didn’t notice this was the end.

My hand clenched into a tight fist and I swung with every ounce of power I could muster. I connected with his chin and heard the breaking jaw. Peter stumbled back and hit the front door hard, knocking the dagger from his hand. His body dropped sideways striking the carpet.  

He groaned loudly as I turned my attention to the computer.

Not looking at Peter, I said, “I forgot to save the new file.”

“Please,” he whimpered.

“You want out of here. You got it.” I moved the mouse to the small disk picture.

“NO!” he screamed and somehow charged me. He had the dagger raised to shoulder height. The blade sliced through the air.

I clicked the ‘save’ button.

The dagger hit my sweater, ripped through the fabric and…vanished taking Peter into delete-land with it. Thankfully, he didn’t know about the restore feature from the recycle bin, or he’d be back.  

I stared at the empty screen.

My hands shook as I typed: 

 

The sound of night insects was louder than usual as Peter Clement put the last of the dishes in the dishwasher. He pushed the start button and left it to do its thing. It was eight o’clock and he was feeling more tired than normal on a Wednesday night.  Middle of the week, he told himself. But it was more than that and he knew it. After twenty long years, it was time for him to give his blood to the dark prince.

 

I’m a sucker for punishment.

 

END

 

 

       Web Site: Masters of Horror Writing

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Reviewed by Bayden Hammond 8/15/2008
"Stranger Than Fiction" meets the horror genre!

Excellent - I really enjoyed this. Fast-paced and darkly humorous ("After twenty long years it was time for him to give his orange juice to the neighbor." lol)

It is certainly an interesting concept - as writers, our characters certainly do become a living, breathing extension of us. After all, if they didn't, how could we expect them to be believable? Stephen King also captured this idea of living characters in his Dark Tower series, have you read these?

Anyhow, well done Jonathan - a pleasure to read!


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