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Excerpt for The Switch by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


The Switch

By

John Dodsworth



Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2018 by John Wiber


Smashwords Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.






























Waking up to the grey gloom, that sort of bluish light winking through the window. His first thought is nothing but a muddled question: how much money do I need or have today? Ever since the separation, this same question surfacing each morning like a bloated corpse upon the ocean.

Rob a bank.

It was funny, until the day he actually started considering the notion…

Rolling from his Queen-sized bed, he pauses momentarily at the edge of the mattress, rubbing his eyes. What day is it? Wednesday. When is your first meeting? Nine-thirty. He reaches over and hits snooze. 

Ten minutes later... 

"WHAMP-WHAMP-WHAMP.

Gary pulls himself from the warmth of his bed and shuffles across the bachelor apartment, pausing momentarily to look back at the mangled mess which was the extent of his current existence: queen mattress and box spring lying upon the checkered linoleum floor in the corner; night-table from Ikea with night lamp (also from Ikea); a stack of novels sitting against the wall; a rotatable office chair with no desk to call a home; a sorry excuse for a kitchen buried in the opposite corner; and that was about it, save for the boxes filled with random and meaningless miscellaneous items from his former home stacked in haphazard piles by the door.

"BRR-ING-BRR-ING-BRR-ING."

"Hello?" 

"Gary?"

"Yes Susanne, it's Gary."

"Are you okay? You sound terrible."

"Thank-you. I am doing quite well in fact. Just trying to get ready for a big meeting this morning..." 

"Oh, well... good luck with that."

"What is it, Susanne?" 

"I just wanted to make sure you're still good to pick up Jenny from school..."

"Yes, why wouldn't I be?"

“Oh Gary, are you sure you're okay?" 

And it wasn't the fact that he felt patronized by her condescending tone and insinuations, and it wasn't the fact that he was still very much in love with her... his heart a bulging black mass since the day she told him she was leaving... and it wasn’t even the fact that Susanne, the love of his life since high school, had left him one cold winter morning out of the fucking blue because she’d apparently fallen love with her lawyer boss and his goddamn yacht, and like a cold wind it sends a shiver up his spine as he realizes the reason he resents the question to such a degree is because he was emphatically and undeniably NOT okay. But... who the fuck was she to presume? 

"I have to go... tell Jenny I'll see her at four..."

"School's out at three-thirty, Gary." 

"Three-thirty then."

Click. 

Commence morning ritual. Brew a puck of Keurig coffee. Scratch ass. Burp. Fart. Pour milk into coffee cup. Drink. Look at the ceiling and question the last ten years of your life. Sigh. Scratch ass again. Drink coffee and smoke cigarette out the window of your bachelor apartment on the tenth floor of a middle-of-the-road building on the outskirts of North York... a thirty-five-year-old man surrounded by students and refugees... how had it come to this? Back to the ritual... take a shit. Look up news article headlines while shitting. Feel a sort of listless frustration rise up as you see the same bullshit, different day. Brush teeth while in the shower. Turn the faucet all the way to the right and let the scalding hot water wash over the back of your neck as you stare down upon the stained off-yellow porcelain tub, watching as the suds from his body twirl and gasp as the drain devours them... three empty holes... blackness. Get out of the shower. Briefly stare at reflection in mirror. Take stock. Black bags under the eyes. Check. Receding hairline. Check. Reddish hue at the tip of nose? Double fucking check. Pot belly? Very much a check. Testicles? Hanging at least an inch lower than yesterday. Pubic hair? Formidable. 

He sighs deeply and in the back of his mind a voice whispers, 'Quit feeling sorry for yourself. Oh poor me... I was born in Canada and I have access to clean drinking water on a daily basis...'

Gary exits the bathroom and shuffles around the end of his bed across the checkered floor like a pawn being inched ahead in a meticulous chess match. He pulls on a pair of clean trousers, stopping to study the picture of his daughter and a different version of himself from her ninth birthday sitting upon the night-table... two years ago... him and Jenny sitting on a park bench off King Street by the old church, the sunlight all golden-yellow... and he whispers to himself his daily credo: do it for her. Bending over, he scoops up the half-empty bottle from the checkered floor beside the bed frame and takes a pull... ahhhh... that burning sort of sweetness, like ice... settling all black and rotten in the pit of his stomach... now...

Stare at bed and contemplate making it, and as the contemplation disintegrates into a disregarded whisper, you take one last look in the mirror, your eyes like bottomless pits as you attempt to hang-on to that very last semblance of self-identity you have left, and you wonder when was the last day you've genuinely been yourself in public? It didn't matter really though, when you really broke it down. There were losers and there were winners in this world. And the only difference between the winners and losers was that one simple choice; to be or not to be? Giving up.

 Walking down the sidewalk as the rain falls in soft pellets, the wind gusting in his face like an inconsiderate fart. We look like insects... a hive of zombie ants all walking in unison beneath the hulking gray shadows of skyscrapers, our minds all synced up to the fact that whatever we may want to be thinking about, whatever personal issues you may be having in your own life, whether it's happiness or fear or dread or sadness, well, unfortunately there's no time to be thinking of such things, because you have to get to fucking work - and undoubtedly your boss is expecting something from you... or if you're the boss, you're expecting something from your staff - and so in the end, we all end up expecting shit from one another... all these blank faces, like tinted windows, no view into the inside, our superficial minds well-trained to express ourselves through our name-brand clothing and expensive accessories. A man walks past Gary and bumps into his shoulder as a bus rumbles by within inches of the sidewalk, and in that instant Gary feels a pulse of rage which threatens to burst through his consciousness, like a snake lunging, to smash the man’s teeth down his throat and kick his head against the pavement with his heel, but he stifles the anger and snuffs it out with another played out platitude... I am no better than him... followed closely by… you are a pathetic weakling

Pick up Jenny at three-thirty... 

I need those reports by nine-thirty tomorrow Gary...

Jump... jump... jump...

Do it for her... 

Shelbourne Street is speckled with crackheads at this time of the morning, most of them coming down from last night's high and waiting for their dealer to return to his designated station, either in the park by the greenhouse or on the corner of Queen, which made them relatively harmless... but there are business men and women as well, walking with a brisk determination to make it to work before their morning coffee causes them to defecate inside their brand new Calvin Klein trousers from Moore's. There were construction workers walking with their yellow helmets and white-spotted blue jeans, their heavy steps punctuated by their tanned steel-toed work-boots. Worker ants... 

It's imperative that we find a sustainable solution to this development...

Three-thirty. 

Coffee... who is that walking behind me? Move slightly to the side and slow pace so as to allow them to pass... I don't like people walking behind me... a black man is walking towards him from the grass and he feels an inadvertent tensing of his muscles which fills him with a certain sort of shame, but the man passes and after looking over his shoulder, Gary continues towards Front Street, but before he can fully regain his composure, he notices a woman leaning against the brick wall of some faceless building and she is rocking back and forth with her hands clasped together in a twister tower, dirt covering her cheeks and the ripped up rags of what once was clothing, her elbows blackened, and her sunken eye sockets like two pits... the depths of hell could not compare with her despair…



"Daddy, daddy - dad!" 

She pokes him on the shoulder and he jumps in his seat a bit, turning his gaze from the computer screen. "What is it, sweetie? Daddy's working."

"What are you working on daddy?" she asks, her tiny eyebrows raised. Jennifer was ten years old, soon to be eleven, and she was precocious to say the least. She was currently missing her two-front teeth, and yet somehow remained adorable, not only in her father's eyes, but all their neighbors as well. 

"I'm working on my new novel."

"What's it about?"

"A sad man."

"Is the sad man you?"

And her question hangs in the air for a moment, like a dying screech... and he looks into his daughter's eyes with the firm realization that she is smart beyond her years, and this fills him with a certain sort of apathetic dread, because he knew what it meant to be observant and questioning and reflective...

"I'm hungry, daddy."

"Okay, let's go eat lunch."

The sun leaking through the window causes him to squint as he stands. He needed new curtains, the Venetian blinds which had come with his Victorian masterpiece of a house had ceased to go with the decor after his wife had painted the entire house last summer. He made a mental note to berate her later tonight about the fact they had yet to be replaced.

Together they enter the kitchen, a vast expanse of granite and polished hardwood floors, their wide-open living room just past the island counter and the wrap-around windows looking out upon the lake, and Jennifer has her father's index finger as she leads him towards the stainless-steel Samsung French-door refrigerator. 

"What should we eat, sweetie?"

"How about eggs and bacon!" 

"It's seven in the evening, Jennifer. How about a turkey avocado sandwich?"

"I don't like avocado..." 

"But it's healthy for you."

"Fiiiiine." 

As he makes two turkey and avocado sandwiches on marble rye bread, he ponders whether or not he has time for a quick dip in the lake before his wife returns from the hospital. He enjoyed stealing away into the water as the sun dipped below the horizon, submerging his head and watching the sun-rays flicker beneath the surface, the golden light dancing like a candle's flame caught behind a curtain of fog... he liked to think back to where he had come from. To what he had built.

"Daddy!" 

"What is it?" 

"Want to watch Fullre House with me?"

"Daddy's got more work to do," he says, squirting some mustard onto the sandwiches.

"Hey! I don't like mustard, mister! You know that."

"Oh, right." 

Using a knife, he scrapes the mustard off as best he can and slaps the top slice of bread upon the turkey and avocado. Jennifer takes a few bites but says she can still taste the mustard, so he throws it out and returns upstairs to his office while Jennifer goes to the living room to watch Fuller House. 



Gary snaps back to reality and finds himself standing on the corner of Queen and Shelbourne in front of a skeleton of a woman slumped against a brick wall as rain falls from a grey stained sky. She has her hand out and is staring at him with wide eyes made all bulbous from her emancipated face, her outstretched arm shaking like a twig in the wind. 

"Sir?" she says, reaching at him with her open palm. 

"All I have is this turkey sandwich," he says holding up the brown-paper bag containing his lunch.

"I don't like turkey," she says, her hand recoiling like a spring. And she stares at him with unforgiving eyes, a grim line drawn across her face. 

"Sorry."

Gary hustles down the street to escape her, and soon finds himself seated in his office staring at the home screen of his computer: Press CTRL + ALT + DELETE to Login. Control. Alternate. Delete. It was a strange progression, really, and left Gary's mind swarming with thoughts of mortality and religion and government. His office is located in the back corner of the suite, and although it did have a window, the bars installed behind it seemed to steal some of the charm, not to mention it looked out upon an Automobile Mechanic yard where smashed up cars were delivered on a daily basis. His desk was a cluttered mess, all papers and post-its and pens.

He notices his coffee mug sitting stagnant beside the seventeen-inch Dell computer screen, streaks like brown blood trailing down the outer surface of the cream-coloured bone-china, and he tips the mouth of the mug towards him to reveal yesterday afternoon's coffee with the faint beginnings of mold collecting in the top middle of the liquid like moss in a pond. 

Well, might as well go for my third cup of the morning. He sneaks a glance at the time in the bottom right-hand corner of the computer screen. Eight-forty-eight. Only nine hours and twelve minutes remain in the day. 

Halfway down the hallway towards the office kitchen, his boss, Mr. Salsbury, comes storming around the corner in his blue-striped Armani three-piece suit, his burgundy shoes shining in the florescent light, and his hair like a statue, unmoving and polished with globs of hair gel. 

"Rayner, with me."

"Okay, sir. I just need..."

"Now." 

Gary pulls a quick about-face and follows Mr. Salsbury down the hallway, up the three steps to his office landing. A woman in a pants-suit with her hair up in a bun sits upon the leather couch at the back of the room, clipboard in hand. Mr. Salsbury gestures towards her as he scurries towards his desk. 

"This is Heather, our new COO."

"Hi Heather."

"Hi Gary."

"Enough small-talk," Mr. Salsbury says, seating himself with a huff. "Gary, I always hate these sorts of meetings," he says, sliding a green folder across the desktop. "No point in beating around the bush, we're terminating you - without cause."  

"Terminating?" 

"Yes."

Heather nods as the rain continues to splatter against the window. 

"But... why?"

"We've had some complaints about your conduct."

"Complaints?"

"Yes," Mr. Salsbury replies, his eyes trailing off towards the new COO as he shifts back and forth in his chair.

"People say you aren't enthusiastic enough," she says. "And also, you often reek of alcohol." 

"That's... not fair though."

"Well, we can't prove you were drunk on the job, otherwise we'd be seeing you at a tribunal. However, we can prove that you make most of the staff uncomfortable."

"How?" 

"By refusing to drink around them." 

"Yes, Gary," Mr. Salsbury pipes in. "We don't mind if you drink, we just want you to do it with us." 

"But that doesn't make sense..."

"Also, Janice said you sexually harassed her," Heather adds, matter-of-factly. 

"Janice weighs three-hundred pounds." 
"Yes, and that's the point exactly. You showed sexual misconduct by refusing to engage with her because of her weight. Your refusal to hit on her was a direct violation of her rights." 

"But, you can't actually fire me for that..."

"Hmmm, you may be right..." Heather replies, biting at the tip of her pen.

"Maybe not, but we can fire you for showing up to the office in an un-ironed shirt and no belt. And for having coffee stains on your pants, Gary. I mean, Jesus Christ. This is a place of business."

"But I do work... I come here and I work..."

"Yes, and your work is good Gary. Hell, it's great, but it's just... you've become a liability. What with the state of the social climate and all. You seem absent… that’s the main issue. That, and the drinking."

"Plus, you make people uncomfortable."

"Yes, and that."

"Look, I admit I have a problem... but, aren't there support programs in place? You know? Like, isn't there something in our benefits package that covers addiction therapy?"

"Well, there is, Gary,” Mr. Salsbury admits, shaking his head. “But the fact you just told me you’re an addict gives me the power to terminate you... you never should have said that..." 

 


"BRR-ING-BRR-ING-BRR-ING."

“Hello, Terrance Hunt speaking.”

“Terry! It’s Jay, sorry – the service is shit out here, can you hear me? How are you?”

“I’m good Jay, and yes, I can hear you.”

“You ready for some good news?”

“Sure,” he says, rubbing at his eyes and reading over the last sentence he wrote… you never should have said that…

“I’ve sealed the deal on your next advance.”

“Go on.”

“How does five-hundred sound to you?”

“You said we’d get a million.”

“Now, now, give me some credit baby. We will hit them up on the back-end for the other five-hundred k. It’s a long-game, you know this Terry.”

“Okay.”

“They want to do a press conference tomorrow night.”

“Okay, where?”

“Toronto, think you can make it?”

“Shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Great, I’ll call you in the morning with logistics.”

“Deal.”

Click.

Terrance leans back in his rotatable black leather chair, cradling the back of his head with his hands, and he stairs up at the ceiling with a subtle grin. Five-hundred thousand dollars. That was more money than he’d made throughout his entire twenties, and a good part of his thirties as well. He can feel that tingling rush, all hot and bubbling from below, threatening to burst from his mouth in an unrelenting wail of joy.

“Daddy?” Jennifer calls from the other side of the office door.

“Wh-wh-what is it, sweetie?”

“Will you come practice with me? I need to learn my lines for the play tomorrow!”

“Just a second sweetie,” he calls back, standing quickly from his chair and wiping off his hands. He opens the door to find his daughter standing with a script in her hands, her eyes all wide and searching, and he rubs her on the head as he moves past her. May as well grab a glass of wine for this…

“Will you practice with me?”

“Yes, sweetie. Let’s do it in the kitchen.”

“Okay!”

Terrance pours himself a liberal glass of Merlot and takes a seat at the counter. I can finally replace my Audi, he thinks to himself.

“Daddy!”

“Oh, sorry. Ah-ahm, ummm… oh, okay… ‘But who will save our princess?’”

“Only the chosen one can overcome the dragon,” Jennifer recites, looking up at her father, but he misses her glance as he takes a long pull from his wine glass. “Was that good, daddy?”

“Yes, very good.”

“And you’re still going to come to the play, right?”

“When is it?”

“Tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry sweetheart, but daddy’s got an important meeting tomorrow for his new book.”

“Oh…”

“Want to keep practicing?”

“No, that’s alright. I’m sleepy.”

“Okay, well go brush your teeth and I’ll come to your room for a bedtime story.”

“Okay.”

And off she bounds, her ponytail bouncing all the way, and Terrance smiles as he stands from the stool, yawning before he downs the rest of the wine in his glass. One more won’t hurt. He pours another and heads back to his office.



Sitting at a Starbucks on Front Street, Gary contemplates the impossibility of paying his rent and child-support for the end of the month as the ant zombies wait in line for their pumpkin-spiced lattes. You make people uncomfortable. How had he not seen this coming? Am I that oblivious?

A man in a trench-coat enters the shop and survey’s the room. His head stops at Gary, What the fuck? In long exaggerated strides, the man crosses the room and pulls up a seat across from Gary, removing his Ray-Band sun-glasses.

“Hi…” Gary says. “Can I help you?”

“Hello Gary,” the man replies, his face like a stone.

“Um… how do you know my name?”

“Oh, I know plenty more than that, Gary. I know where you live. I know where you work… or used to work, sorry, by the way.”

“Who are you?”

“I am no one Gary. I’m just another faceless drone, another stainless-steel cog in the machine.”

There was something wrong with his face. The way the flesh was pulled back, like it had been stretched out over the skull too tightly during the manufacturing process. His eyes were horrible; grotesque dots with flecks of red in them. Gary notices his exposed hand upon the table, the skin almost translucent it was so pale.

“I’m sorry, but… you’re making me very uncomfortable.”

“Really? Well I shouldn’t be, Gary. Considering I’m what you’ve been waiting for,” he smiles, leaning forward on the table.

“What I’ve been waiting for?” Gary replies incredulously.

“Proof, Gary. I’m proof.”

“Proof of what?”

“That it’s all a set-up. The entire system was designed to give you the proverbial run around. To fuck you, Gary. To violate your identity and prod at your integrity so that you resort to inhumane desires.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“No? What about the mortgage collapse of 2008? Huh? You remember how angry that made you? Do you remember how much money you lost on your condo down in Florida?”

“Of course I do, but…”

“And how are you ever supposed to dig yourself out of the ditch, huh? How can you be expected to make enough money to survive while paying off your debts… especially when you aren’t really paying off your debts… am I right Gary? You’re making minimum payments on interest. And eventually you’ll probably need another loan just to cover your interest payments. What happens then, Gary?”

“What is your fucking point?”

"Today, at two-thirty-five pm, a bomb will go off at Osslington Station, and fourteen people will be killed, with thirty-four wounded. These numbers are not random. They are planned from the beginning - orchestrated, by the benevolent conductors. There simulated chaos is a symptom of our fictionalized democracy, and by the time I'm finished this sentence, you will be irrevocably in considerable more danger than you have ever been in your life. Because we can hear you, Gary. Every word. It's only if we tune in... but there's certain words that trigger the system, like BOMB, or GUN, or SHOOT, or LOVE, or FRIEND..."

"Wait, why friend, or love?"

"Because, Gary. Love is the most dangerous thing known to man."

"I would have thought the nuclear bomb..."

"A close second." 

"Just wait a minute..." Gary exclaims, clenching his fists.

"No, you wait a minute, Gary. Okay? Listen to me," and the man leans in close, his voice dropping to a hushed ramble. "Tomorrow, your daughter will be taken. Do you hear me? She has been selected, and it is your job to protect her..."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" 

"Shut-up, Gary. It's your job to protect your daughter, okay? Obviously. I mean we all know that, but the only way you can do it, to really do it... is to make a sacrifice. Don’t be fucking selfish now, Gary. Let me ask you something, Gary, Do you think you’re going to be able to provide for your daughter going forward? Do you think you posses the means to give her the support she needs to go to a good school? Really, be honest with me now.”

“Well, I mean… I’ve got a bit saved up for her in an RESP…”

“Not nearly enough. I know how much you have in that account, Gary. Okay? It’s pathetic. And what if something should happen to her? God-forbid. Or you for that matter! Medical emergencies happen all the time, Gary. And you just lost your benefit package.”

“I…”

“And certainly, you can’t protect her on a more primal level either, right? I mean… look at you. If I wanted to snatch your child from your arms and sell her into slave labour, you could do nothing to stop me. And I’m a good man! Think about what some of the savages today in our society would do…”

And he pauses then, leaning back in his chair and staring through Gary with his vacant eyes, his oily skin gleaming in the incandescent light. “So that’s why you’re going to give us your daughter.”

“No… wait…”

“We will give you five-hundred thousand dollars.”

“Will I ever see her again?”

“No.”

Gary sits in a stunned silence as the man in the trench-coat peers over his shoulder, then the other.  “Well,” he says, “what’s it gonna be, Gary?”

“I don…”

“Good. We’ll be in touch.”

The man is up from his seat and gone before Gary can say anything.



Terrance stands from his computer chair and cracks his knuckles. Another solid chapter. He studies the time and realizes it’s quarter past nine. He heads past the staircase across the hall and peaks his head into Jennifer’s room to find her sleeping, a book clasped under her one arm half opened in anticipation.

“Good night sweetie,” Terrance whispers, closing the door softly and heading down to the kitchen to pour himself a glass of wine.

BZZZ-ZZZ, BZZZ-ZZZ, BZZZ-ZZZ.”

Pulling out his phone, Terrance checks the text message and is pleasantly surprised to see it’s Carol, an old student of his from the university. She was an audacious student, hungry for knowledge, and Terrance was always more than happy to oblige her insatiable appetite. Might be that she’s looking to learn a few things tonight…

What time is my wife going to be home?

Descending the stairs, he flips through his contacts until he finds WIFE.

“Hello?”

“Hey sweetie,” he says, standing in front of the open fridge, his hand clasped around the neck of the wine bottle.

“Terrance, what is it? Is everything okay?”

“Yes, of course, my love. I just wanted to hear your voice. I miss you.”

“Oh Terrance, I love you dear.”

“I love you too.”

“How is the little one?”

“I just put our little angel to bed. We practiced her play earlier tonight.”

“Oh excellent! And you’re still able to make it tomorrow night?”

“Shit, I meant to message you. Jay called and I’ve got media to do tomorrow in Toronto.”

“Damnit! Terry, come on. You promised her.”

“I’ll make it up to her, babe. You come on, wait till you see the cheque they cut us.”

“Oh,” she says, her inflection backflipping. “Is it big?”

“Massive.”

“Oh Terrance,..”

“I know, my love. When will you be home tonight? I want to celebrate with you.”

“I’ll be a couple hours still. The Emergency Room is absolutely packed tonight.”

“Okay love, I’ll try and wait up for you.”

“Love you.”

“Love you too, bye.”

Satisfied, Terrance swallows a gulp of Merlot and heads back up stairs to finish off one last chapter, his fingers busy upon his cellphone’s keyboard.



Gary sits in his car parked across from the school, the playground visible through the chain-link fence. The empty mickey of vodka sits upright in the passenger seat, it’s lid loosely spun. Three-twenty-two. Eight minutes…

Will I ever see her again?

No.

Snatched. From your arms. You cannot protect her. You cannot provide for her.

Biting his lip, his grip upon the steering wheel tightens revealing the whites of his knuckles.

Another cop car zooms by with the sirens blaring. Gary grits his teeth and turns up the volume on the radio.

“Today, at approximately two-thirty, a bomb was detonated in the Osslington Subway Station. The death toll remains at fourteen, with the number of injured still climbing. This is the most devastating terrorist attack on Canadian soil in history, and already, questions are being asked regarding the security of our country’s transit systems…”

A bell rings out across the playground and children start to pour from the front entrance of the school. Gary takes a deep breath and exits the car, leaning against the roof as the rain falls

Five-hundred thousand…

Will I ever see her again?

Do it for her.

And suddenly, like a flash of lightening, all these memories swelling. Jenny’s first birthday, the way she kept pulling off her little birthday hat, and how she smeared cake frosting all over her face. Her first day of school, and he can still remember the exact outfit she wore, the plaid dress with the white ribbon in her hair, and her toothless smile on their front porch...

BRR-ING-BRR-ING-BRR-ING.”

“Hello?”

“Hello Gary.”

“Who is this.”

“You know who this is, Gary. We can see you, you know.”

Gary’s head twists frantically about as he surveys the street. There were dozens of cars parked along the sidewalk, and with all the emergency vehicles zooming past, it was complete chaos.

“Don’t bother, Gary. What would you do if you did spot us anyways? I’m curious.”

“What do you intend to do with my daughter?” he says, his eyes now locked upon the front doors of the school. No sign of her yet.

“Oh, we’ve got big plans for Jenny. In all seriousness, she’ll be much better off. I mean… life is all about options, right Gary? And we will give her an unlimited amount of options. You may even see her on the television one day… although, of course, you won’t recognize her. She will be changed.”

“Changed how?”

“Better.”

“Listen,” Gary begins, pausing briefly. “I… appreciate what you’re saying, what you’re trying to do. But Jenny is everything to me. She gives me a reason to get up in the morning. She’s just about the last damn thing on this earth that can make me smile. And I know it might be a struggle going forward… her mother and I aren’t on great terms… and of course it all comes down to money. I know it does. You’re right. But, maybe there are things in this world more important than money?”

“That’s just selfish Gary.”

“Well, I guess I’m a selfish man, then.”

“Gary, maybe you don’t quite get it, so let me explain it to you. You can either let this happen and be rewarded, or, we can go the other route.”

“What route is that?”

“It’s the route where we cut off Susanne’s head with a hacksaw and call child services to report that Jenny’s father is an unemployed alcoholic piece of shit. It’s the route where you get nothing and still lose her.”

“But… it’s the only route where I might be able to hang on to her…”

“Depends on how much faith you have in yourself, Gary.”

Do it for her.

Gary hangs up the phone and dashes for the entrance way of the school, swerving past the swarms of children and bumping into backpacks.

“Jenny!” he calls out to her as she emerges from the door.

“Daddy!”

He feels a hand on his shoulder and before he can react he is spun around with considerable force, and when the butt-end of the man’s gun comes in contact with his cheek he can hear the CRACK! Inside his skull, blood flowing from the gash all hot and wet down his neck. From the ground, he watches as two men in black suits force their way through the crowd towards his daughter. Jenny has stopped at this point, frozen in place with a look of horror plastered across her face.

“Run!” he screams at her,

She goes scurrying across the lawn of the school towards the street as Gary scrapes himself up from the pavement, his head ringing and a sour taste of metal in his mouth. One of the abductors is in hot pursuit of Jenny, knocking a young boy onto his ass as he dashes towards the street. Do it for her.

You cannot protect her.

He can feel blood leaking from his face in hot torrents, but no matter. He begins to sprint across the lawn, and leaping, he tackles the man just before he can grab a hold of Jenny’s backpack. Falling to the ground in a torrent of gasping breath and blood, they splash upon the soft soil, mud and grass flying in the air as they tumble back and forth, Gary expending every ounce of strength left in his body… fuck you fucking monster piece of shit…

Gary rolls the man onto his back and pins him down at the shoulders. Blood drips onto the man’s face, and Gary is dully horrified to realize this man’s eyes are lacking pupils, all white and empty, but this disturbing factor passes through his numbed mind as his primal instincts kick-in. Survive. Kill. Protect.

Screams erupt from all around them as some of the children run in terror, while the more courageous ones stand around to witness the chaos with their cell phones out. Gary brings his elbow down upon the man’s face, knocking his bottom row of teeth from his jaw in a sickening crunch. Take that you fuck.

Something strikes Gary in the ribs, sending him sideways onto the ground, gasping for air and coming up with none. He can feel a stabbing pain in his side, a broken rib most likely.

“Daddy!” Jenny screams from the street, her eyes all wide and red and crying.

“I’m okay sweetie, just keep running,” he calls back to her, gasping.

From the ground he watches his daughter scamper across the street, only to be met by a silver Mercedes Benz which pulls up sharply in front of her, blocking her in.

“No…” he whispers, his voice on a momentary hiatus.

And the man from Starbucks steps from the driver’s side door, smiling at Gary and nodding as he sweeps Jenny up into his arms, and in an instant, he is shutting the Mercedes door and the tires screech as he peels away.

“No!” Gary cries, pushing himself up from the ground, only to be met with the cold steel of a Desert Eagle, he can feel the nozzle digging into his head.

“Say goodnight,” a robotic voice says, and Gary looks around to see the grim sneer upon his face, and the fact that he was clearly enjoying this made Gary’s stomach churn.

Sirens blare from down the street, and the other man pulls at his partner’s arm. “We have to go,” he says. “We’ll deal with him later.”

And off they go, disappearing behind the side of the school, leaving Gary all gasping and clutching upon the cold wet ground…



RING!

Terrance pushes himself away from the computer at the sound of the doorbell. That’s enough for one day. Poor Gary. He really was a sucker. It was a romantic sentiment. Downright wholesome. But in the end, Gary was a loser.

Gotta give the people the what they want. And they want to read about the losers. About themselves. Hell, they were willing to pay him five-hundred thousand dollars for the loser. But wouldn’t they get a surprise at the end, when it is revealed that Gary has suffered a psychotic breakdown and has kidnapped his own daughter…

It would be a glorious ending… filled with bullets and blood and tragedy. Queue the tears.

RING!

Terrance bounds down the stairs, hoping beyond hope that Jennifer did not stir. She’s a deep sleeper….

He stops and surveys himself in the front hallways mirror before proceeding to the front door.



Jennifer wakes to the sound of the doorbell. Weird. Why would mommy ring the doorbell? Jenny checks her cell phone. Ten-thirty-eight. She slips from her bed and the unread book falls to the floor with a thud. She freezes, listening for her father’s footsteps. He never came for bed-time story. She can hear sounds coming from somewhere in the house. Downstairs. The sounds were coming from directly below her, in the living room.

She tip-toes her way to her bedroom door and steals out into the hallway. The sounds were louder now. She could hear her father. He sounded funny. Like he was in pain almost… but, he didn’t sound mad or scared. He sounded happy.

I guess that’s why he missed bedtime story. That’s okay though. He’s my daddy and he loves me, and he loves mommy too because he tells her that all the time, and even though he misses bedtime story or school play tomorrow, he still loved me. He said so…

Jennifer creeps to the staircase and steps softly down the first two steps, remembering to skip the third one because it creaked when you stepped on it. Keeping a grip on the railing, she crouches down, peering through the staircase railing into the living room. Her father was on the couch with someone, a woman, and they were lying down together with their faces very close like they were going to kiss each other the way that she had seen her parents do…

“Achew!”

Oh no! She tried to stop the sneeze, but it was too late. Her father’s head snaps in her direction, and she freezes, paralyzed by the way his eyes were so piercing, all wide and frantic, his pupils the size of marbles. She was about to say sorry, to call out to him, but before she could he had already looked away, back into the eyes of the woman who wasn’t her mommy.

Holding her breath, she backs up the stairs, exhaling as she returns to the safety of the dark upstairs hallway. Who was that? Why didn’t he come read to me? Was he reading to her? Where’s mommy? Ouch! She stifles a cry, rubbing at her pinky toe. She always stubbed it on the railing corner, and one time she even hit it so hard she started bleeding. The blood scared her because it was like watching herself fall apart… like when an arm came off one of her Barbie’s.

I want to call mommy.

Jennifer returns to her bedroom and dials her mother.

“Hello?”

“Hi mommy,” she whispers. “I miss you.”

“What’s the matter sweetie? Is everything okay? It’s very late…”

“I’m okay… daddy forgot to do bedtime story again.”

“I’m sorry sweetling, I will read to you when I get home if you’re still up.”

“Okay,” she says, smiling. “Daddy is busy anyways… he’s got a friend over.”

“A friend?”

“Yeah, they are on the couch?”

“What friend?”

“I don’t know, mommy. She’s a lady.”

“Fucking bastard…”

Click.

“Mommy?”

She hung up. Her mommy hung up on her. Why didn’t anyone want to be with her? Jennifer felt like crying, and she had to go pee too, so she went back out into the hallway.

She can still hear her father grunting and breathing heavily, and the woman is making tiny sounds now too, so she plugs her ears and starts making her way to the bathroom, but she stops at her father’s office door which is open a crack, and she can see the glow from the computer screen dancing upon the carpet.

She nudges the door open wide enough to slip inside…



Gary gets up from the soggy ground. He wants to cry, and his toe hurt. The bad men were gone and Gary felt very sad. He cried as he walked down the street because he was upset by what had saw. It was hard to understand. He was still bleeding and that made him scared. It was scary to bleed. He missed Jennifer. She was all he cared about in the whole world. It started raining as he walked home, making him all wet.

But when Gary got home, he was surprised. He saw Jennifer’s shoes sitting on the mat by the front door.

“Hi daddy!”

He was so happy to see her. He smiled very big and hugged her very tight.

“Jennifer, where did you come from?” he asked her.

“I came through the computer daddy. I was with another daddy before, but I wanted to switch.”

“Okay, I’m very happy.”

“I’m very happy too.”

And Jennifer and her new daddy lived happily ever after and on one ever tried to make them sad again because her daddy was there to protect her and he wouldn’t trade her for the whole wide world, and he never missed bedtime story or her plays, and when she came home from school he always had snacks ready for her and even though he didn’t have a job, he loved her very much and she was going to be a doctor because she got very good marks in school since her daddy was always helping her with her homework now and reading all the time. She missed her mommy but new daddy found her because Jennifer brought her in through the computer too and they all smiled all day long…



The Toronto Star

August 11, 2018


FATHER ARRESTED IN MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARENCE OF HIS
WIFE AND DAUGHTER


A spokesperson from the Toronto Police Department has confirmed today that Mr. Terrance Hunt was arrested from his lakeshore home in the Muskoka’s two days after the province wide search for his wife, Mrs. Cynthia Hunt, and his daughter, Jennifer, was finally called to an end.

“We believe we have enough evidence to detain and formally charge Mr. Hunt for the murder of his wife and daughter. There was blood found at the scene, and an eye-witness has confirmed that Terrance was acting erratic the night of their disappearances.

“He just kept saying they were gone. He said the computer ate them.”

The spokesperson denied to comment further on the case, but indicated there was further substantial evidence against Mr. Hunt. Neighbors have come forward with speculations that Mr. Hunt may have been unfaithful to his wife, but these allegations have yet to be confirmed by the authorities. It is estimated that Mr. Hunt’s net worth exceeds two million dollars.

“I’m telling you, it wasn’t me!” Mr. Hunt was heard proclaiming as he was led to police cruisers in handcuffs today. “Like I said, she wrote herself into my story. I know it sounds crazy, but read it! Is that the writing of a New York Times best-selling author? It’s clear a child wrote those fucking prose… She went into my office and fiddled around with my new novel… and somehow… she went inside it. Just read it!”

Our requests for access to this supposed novel have been repeatedly denied by police.

“The idea that a person could write themselves into a story is preposterous, and we will not dignify it,” Toronto Police Chief Anderson said in a statement. “The evidence is what it is, and we will be moving forward with charges against Mr. Hunt.”

The first court date is set for late September, when the Star hopes to have gained access to further information.


THE END.



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