Saturday, March 17, 2018


By Michael Cannata

Ray stood staring at, Chapter 12, with pencil in hand. Scribbling fiercely on the pad of paper he held tightly, he tried to control the trembling that made the words he was writing appear as though they had been scrawled by the madman that had nearly killed him in, Chapter 5.

The words of the killer still echoed in head as he desperately tried to recall where he had left the book. He replayed the day he lost it over and over, each time the result was the same. He could hear Einstein whispering into his ear, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

"Screw you, Albert," he muttered. Unsure of where he was going or what was waiting behind the page in front of him he struggled to make sense of his situation. “Where had everything gone wrong?” he thought to himself?

 It all started when he bought that damn book. It was just a simple book; a mystery novel with a catchy title, "Dead Lines." The blood on the cover caught his eye as he wandered the aisles of the small bookstore around the corner from his house in the Golden Gardens apartment building.

Wait… what? He didn’t live in a house. He lived in a large one bedroom unit in, Chapter 6. He started reading the book two… no wait… it was three days ago. Or was it? Even time made no sense anymore. From the moment he turned to the first page he found himself engrossed in a tale that seemed strangely familiar. The characters and the settings brought unexperienced memories to the surface of his churning thoughts.

The book terrified him from the moment he began it. The first two chapters had set a scene that frightened him and introduced a host of people that soon felt like friends. He had experienced a macabre thrill as each page became more demanding to comprehend. All he knew was that he had to finish it as fast as possible. It wasn’t just the feeling that he couldn’t put it down; it was a sensation, a connection, which seemed to pull him into the plot to the point where the book became his reality. Finishing it was all he thought about.

It was the scream that broke the spell the book had held him under. Ray had put the book down on his desk and went to his kitchen to order a sandwich and a beer. The waitress from, Chapter 4, the nice lady that had been killed in a holdup in, Chapter 3, was taking his order when he heard a woman’s piercing cry come from his bedroom. It frightened him in a way that made him rush to her aid even as he wondered what a woman was doing in his bedroom. He lived alone.

Entering a room he didn’t recognize, he saw a large hulk of a man standing over the lifeless, bloody body of his wife, which made no sense at all since he wasn’t married. He stared in horror at the battered corpse laying next to their bed… his bed. The madman turned to him and glared with a look of insanity in his eyes.

TURN THE PAGE!” the madman screamed as he raised the club that still dripped blood. “I need to know what I do next!”

“What? What the hell are you talking about? What are you doing here?” he asked curiously as he slowly backed out of the room. Ray felt a strange sense of familiarity tinged with fondness as he looked at the distorted face. He had liked this guy once, in a time he couldn't remember.

“You damn well fucking know what I’m doing,” the madmen mumbled as he started walking towards Ray.

Ray pulled the door shut and ran from his apartment frantically knowing his life depended on escaping the madman. As he passed an old lady on the flower lined walkway outside his front door she asked him a question that still troubled him.

“Did you remember to get the book? Finishing it is the only way out, you know.” She smiled at Ray as though she were talking to an old friend that didn’t need an introduction.

“What?” his head was reeling as he tried to explain what just happened. “There’s a madman in my apartment that has killed a woman in my bedroom. He tried to kill me! You need to get away quickly!”

“I intend to,” the old lady explained, “Just as soon as you tell me where I’m going.”

“How would I know where you’re going?” Ray shouted as he started to run towards the door on the sidewalk.

“You’ll know when you finish the book. I’m, Chapter 7! I’ll wait here until you get it. It’s right where you left off.”

Ray decided she was as mad as the killer in his bedroom and ran through the door slamming it shut behind him. A police car nearly ran him over as it screeched to a stop in front of him. The words, Chapter 9, were printed on the door. Before he could explain what had happened the officers grabbed him and threw him on the ground. He was handcuffed and roughly thrown into the ambulance. Ray finally relaxed as they began driving down the hallway.

Safe at last, he smiled and started laughing. The police officers politely refused his offer to buy them a beer. When they pulled up to a building that had the words, Chapter 10, engraved above the door, a man in a black robe opened the doors of the ambulance. Two men he knew well, but whose names he couldn’t recall, stood behind the man in the robe smiling.

“You’re almost through!” the man in the doctor's coat exclaimed happily. “Everything is going to be fine now.” The man in black turned to the men behind him and said, “We’re taking him to, Chapter 11, now. They’ll take good care of him and he’ll finally get to finish his book. Once he finds it. It’s right where he left off.”

Ray smiled at all the people that lined the sidewalk as the parade marched through the hallways to his next stop. He was brought to a room where he slipped into a long deep sleep. When he woke he was hungry again and asked the waitress to bring him that sandwich and beer.

Ray didn’t recognize the surroundings at first. All that was there was a bed, a desk, a pad of lined paper and a pencil with no point.  The pad was filled with pages of scribbled words that seemed senseless, but Ray knew exactly what they said. The last page was blank save for the words, “Chapter 12” written in blood at the top. Ray pulled the lead point from his hand and stared at the page for hours like he did every day until it was time for lights out.


The doctor watched Ray through the glass in the locked door as the nurse updated him on Ray’s condition.

“He was doing well this morning, but when we brought him his lunch he started demanding that we tip the waitress and asked for the book again. A new orderly gave him the pencil. He didn’t know it wasn’t allowed.”

The doctor shook his head sadly as he considered his patient’s hopelessly delusional state of mind. Nothing had changed. The new drugs and treatment had done nothing to help. He was as insane as the day they had admitted him. In the few therapy sessions he had had, Ray would talk about the book and explain how he could remember everything except, Chapter 8. Whenever they reached the point where the doctor asked about Chapter 8, Ray would start screaming and the session would end.

His agent and publisher had accompanied Ray to the asylum.

 “He was under a lot of pressure to finish his next book," his agent explained. "He stood to lose millions if he didn’t meet his deadline. He was the kind of writer that became absorbed, more like obsessed, by his novels as he wrote. Something must have snapped. He wrote murder mysteries. We never thought he’d commit one.”

“Ray” as his patient insisted on being called, had been a bestselling author until the murder. He no longer responded to his real name. The police had found him huddled in the foyer of his apartment building. Next to him was the bloody and beaten body of an elderly woman. She had lived in an apartment in the same building.

When they tried to question him all he would say was, “I have to finish the book. It’s in my apartment, right where I left off. But there’s madman up there waiting to kill me. Would you mind getting it for me? I have a deadline to meet.”

When the officer asked Ray who the dead woman was he replied simply, "She's Chapter 8," and started screaming.

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