The Fifth Chapter

I have to say, this is one of my favourite short pieces. It was so much fun writing and I am sure, at some point in the future, Marylin and Gordon may just make another appearance.


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I was sitting at my desk, reading over my first draft, again. I am calling it my first draft, but in reality, it is just a pile of notes and rough plot guides put into chronological order, (sort of), with a few added scribbles here and there.

In fact, the whole thing is a bit of a mess. But hey, you have to start somewhere.

Even as rough and messy as this draft was I could still see promise in its outline. The places I used in the story were mostly real places, like my office; only instead of being in the rear of my house, the fictional office was on the second floor of a run-down building in the centre of the city and it was not ‘my’ office in this story, but Gordon’s.

Gordon is a private eye, one of the old ‘gumshoe’ tradition.Marilyn_Red_SamShaw_t800

I was happy with the other characters too, particularly Marilyn the demure blond bombshell. (Think Marylin Monroe. Okay, not so original but perfect for my story.)

Only Marilyn had an ulterior motive in seeking Gordon’s help; there was something from her past, something hidden, something bad which was now creeping up on her. I was not sure what it was yet but it was there, smouldering under the surface, as was Marilyn’s sensuality.

I know this format, the gorgeous (blond) girl, the private detective, who was down on his luck as far as the whiskey was down the in the bottle, add a hint of foreboding and sex… it was nothing new. It was a tried and tested structure of many books. Yet, as I re-read my draft I knew I have something special here. This was a nineteen fifties style novel, a pulp fiction, stiletto-esque paperback being brought up to date, dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world. (at least, I hope that is how it will turn out.)

I knew it was not going to be any ordinary story because, even to me, the writer, the creator of this fantasy, there was an element of surreal fact, a touching, almost tangible reality to this tale.

manuscript_250pxBy the time I re-read through the manuscript as far as chapter five, making margin notes and a few changes along the way, my eyes were weary and my mouth parched. It was time for a break, a cigarette and a coffee. I would dearly have loved a double Scotch too, but it was way too early for that.

 

I leant back in my chair, stretched my back, listening to those small creaks and cracks as bones and tendons moved for the first time in hours. I pressed save. There was no way I was trusting all my work to auto-save, not again. I closed the file and picked up the ceramic mug, which my daughter bought me for Father’s Day and walked out of the office.

My mind was still racing with thoughts of the story, what steps Marylin should take next and would Gordon listen seriously? So, it took me three, maybe four steps before I realised something strange was happening. I stopped, blinked twice, looked left and then right, rubbed my eyes and looked again.

I was no longer in my home. I was not in even in my house.

I was in that run-down office building in the city, on the second floor, outside the gumshoes office, the very office, the very building I created in my mind while writing my book.

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This was impossible. I must be sleeping. I must have fallen asleep at my desk and this was all in my dream.

I pinched myself. It hurt. I was not sleeping.

‘Where’s Gordon?’ Her husky voice drifted along the dimly lit corridor. I knew without looking, without turning around it was Marilyn.

Her voice was exactly how I imagined it would be.

The click-click of stiletto heels echoed as she came closer, each step sending a shiver of expectation and bemused wonderment down my spine.

I turned around to face her.

‘What have you done with Gordon?’ she asked.

‘Nothing,’ I said, shaking my head.

I could not believe I was talking to a figment of my imagination.

‘You’ve deleted most of him, you’ve deleted those paragraphs.’ Marilyn, I noticed was shorter than I envisaged her to be. I would have to do something about that.

‘I haven’t deleted them, I have saved them, I need to re-work them,’ I spoke defensively.

Here I was in some sort of netherworld, talking about the book I am writing, a work in process, with a fictional character who, as of this moment only existed within my mind.

Yet, it all seemed so real.

I could smell Marilyn’s scent. It was Coco Channel, No 5.

Marilyn slid a long, thin pink cocktail cigarette from a gold case, placed it between her bright red lips and lifted her head towards my own. Automatically, I reached into the pocket of my jacket and took out my cigarette lighter. I always use a disposable lighter, because I am constantly losing them, but here, in this twilight world, I acquired a heavy gold, Du Maurier.

 

Unperturbed, I held it towards Marilyn, watching the flames light as it reflected in the 5d14058f7c3dc37d0567cc7fc6eeff27deep blue pools of her eyes. Marilyn closed those bright red lips around the gold covered filter and drew in deeply until the tip of her pink Sobranie was glowing red.

She managed to turn this simple act into one of sexual suggestion, of illicit promise, a hint of a secret shared.

‘Thank you,’ she sighed, blowing out a perfect ring of blue smoke that meandered lazily upwards, spiralling towards the glass orbs of the industrial lighting suspended from the vaulted ceiling.

‘I’m making some coffee,’ I said, holding up my mug as if to justify the statement. My own cheap ceramic mug had disappeared. It had been replaced by a brown glazed cup.

I was not disturbed, but rather fascinated by the fact.

Marilyn smiled. I could not help but notice the way her head tilted to the right as she did. I found it quite endearing. It was something I would have to write into her character.

‘I’ll wait inside,’ she said and clicked her way along the hall towards the office door.

I had never been here before, never imagined this part of the building, yet somehow I knew the coffee was made in a small room further along this corridor. The doorway would be on my right. A small plaque would be etched with the legend ‘still room.’

It was.

When I returned to my (Gordon’s) office, Marilyn was sitting on my (Gordon’s) chair behind the desk. I sat on one of the two chairs facing the desk. (one of two chairs I do not have.) As I placed the coffee cups on the table I noticed my laptop was now an old, clunky looking Imperial Typewriter. Chrome metal, black keys inlaid with discoloured ivory coloured letters. I said an inwardly silent prayer to the gods of digital storage; when (and if), I ever returned to the ‘real’ world, I asked that all my work would still exist.

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Marilyn tossed a pile of papers towards me. Dark blue carbon paper slipping from between sheets of typewritten foolscap.

‘That will never work,’ she said dismissively, waving one hand in the air.

I picked up the sheets of typewritten copy. This was my story, Marilyn’s story, Gordon’s story. These papers were sections of the manuscript of my book.

‘What do you mean, this is brilliant.’

‘Oh please, Paul,’ Marilyn walked around the desk, placed a hand on the back of my neck and lent forward. I could feel the silky talcum powder softness of her cheek, pressing against mine as she rested her chin on my shoulder.

‘Look,’ said Marilyn, running a long ruby painted fingernail along the lines of text, ‘That’s far too modern to be taken seriously, what on earth were you thinking?’

Slowly and deliberately Marilyn read my story out aloud. It was strange hearing her voice, the smoky, sexy, husky voice which I created, reading out my story line by line.

I had to hand it to her, like many writers I convinced myself I was writing a masterpiece. I was so wrapped up, so involved in my work I failed to see the flaws, failed to step back and read it for what it was, a piece of work which not only needed a lot of heavy editing but needed an entire overhaul, to be re-worked altogether.

When Marilyn got to the fifth chapter, I had had enough.

I held up my hands in surrender.

Marilyn casually tossed the manuscript back onto the desk, the sheets of paper sliding into disarray.

Turning my head, I looked at her. ‘You are right, I have a lot of work to do to get this right.’ I admitted.

‘Yes, you have, but I know you can do it.’ Marilyn placed one hand on the side of my head, turning it towards her, she kissed me. It was a sweet taste of smoked honey, smeared with a waxiness of deep red lipstick and scented with face powder.

‘You must do it,’ she said, ‘If not, both Gordon and I shall die.’

It was a point, like so many, I had not considered.

‘I must go now. I must let you concentrate,’ Marilyn winked at me and click-clicked out of the office.

Looking back at me over her shoulder she said, ‘Please, don’t let us down. I don’t want to die yet, not yet, not when I have never fully lived.’

I listened to the sound of her stiletto’s fading away into the distance as she walked the length of the corridor.

Placing my hands over my eyes, I let my forehead rest on the desk while I tried to assimilate what was occurring. How in the name of all possibility have I wandered into my own fictional world?

My next recollection is the knocking on the office door. Looking up I rather tetchily shouted ‘Yes, yes, come in’.

My wife entered with a freshly brewed mug of coffee. 4410471775_4ca51b8c0e

‘You have been in here for so long, I thought you would need a drink by now’ she said, looking at me quizzically.

Placing my own cheap ceramic mug, full of steaming coffee on the table, I watched as she collected the two brown nineteen fifties style cups from my desk.

I looked around, my office was as it should be. It was back to normal, my laptop sat in the centre of my desk, notepads, pens and my mobile phone lay where they belonged. I must have nodded off after all. It must have been a dream, but the brown cups my wife had just collected… maybe we had them all along?

I walked to the door and opened it, cautiously peering out, both left and right, before daring to set foot outside. Thank goodness, I was still at home and not in some imaginary corridor. I headed for the bathroom, where I ran a bowl of hot water, ready to wash the tiredness from my face.

In the mirror, I saw the face powder on the shoulder of my jacket where Marilyn had rested her chin. There was also a smudge of bright red lipstick on my left cheek. I could also detect the lingering scent of Coco Channel, No 5.

chanelno5THE END

© Paul White 2018

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I hope you enjoyed that short tale? If so why not check out my longer short stories, my ‘Novelettes’ at Electric Eclectic books HERE 

You will find plenty of captivating stories to choose from myself and my fellow Electric Eclectic authors.

Go take a peek, now 🙂

Paul.

 

 

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Hitchhiker

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I am old school.

From a time when life seemed simpler, less hectic, less complicated.

It was not.

It was just different.

Some will say that, ‘way back when’, life was safer, people were happier, times were better.

They were not.

Life was simply lived at a slower pace.

But there was less fear.

Less anxiety and more acquiescence.

I think life was more honest.

We were more honest.

With ourselves.

Life holds risks. You have to live with that.

Take your chances. Accept the possibilities.

Face the consequences.

That is how it goes.

We recognised that fact.

We did not fight it, we acknowledged it.

That is what made life simpler.

 

Like hitchhiking.

Like the figure I see ahead of me now. Checked shirt, blue jeans, backpack, thumb-out.

Quite rare nowadays, hitchhikers.

Too much fear. Mostly unwarranted.

Phobia, nurtured and spread by the media.

But who should hold that apprehension.

The driver?

I could drive on past. No one will make me stop.

Is the hiker a danger? A mass murderer?

A Rapist?

Is their thumb a lure for the unsuspecting?

Or

The Hiker?

Simply travelling home.

Should they get into the car?

Could I be a psychotic killer?

Could I be the Rapist?

Is my car a trap?

 

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As I get closer, I see the expectant look on the hiker’s face.

A bright smile.

Willing me to slow.

To stop.

I feel a compulsion.

An obligation to a fellow human.

I have been there myself. Thumb out. Waiting, hoping.

Praying for the next car to stop.

To give me a ride.

A ride to somewhere warm. Somewhere with hot coffee.

The hiker looks clean. Normal.

Conventional.

I slow. Maneuver towards the roadside.

Stop, a few yards beyond.

Looking in my mirror.

Watching.

 

The hiker picks up a small rucksack.

Running towards me.

I lock the doors.

Clunk. Safe.

I can leave. Go.

Put my foot on the accelerator.

Speed away.

The hiker is close now.

My last chance.

Decision time.

A smiling face appears at the window.

I smile back.

Still time.

Go?

Stay?

 

I press a switch.

The window hums. Open.

Half open.

I hear my voice. “Heading North” it says.

“Me too” the hiker replies.

I nod.

The hiker smiles.

Expectancy.

I smile back.

Trepidation.

Time stands still.

Momentarily.

 

Click.

I unlock the doors.

My own thumb jerks, a backward motion.

“Put your bag in the back” my voice speaks again.

Autonomously.

The bag lands on the rear seats.

Drive away, I think.

Take the bag.

Go.

Now.

What is in the bag.

Some clothing.

An iPad.

Money.

Or the hiker’s life?

Their entire possessions.

A lifetime or memories.

Lost loves, lost mother.

A bag of dreams, hopes for the future?

Is that where they are heading now?

The future.

Thiers. Mine. Ours?

Has this moment inexorably entwined our lives?

Left an indelible mark.

Or just a scratch. Unnoticeable, hidden.

One that will fade, become rubbed out as life progresses?

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The door opens.

Blue eyes, bright teeth, pale skin.

The hiker sits next to me.

“Thank you” she says.

“That’s okay” I reply.

I put the car in gear, heading North.

Our lives are meshed. At least for the next one hundred miles.

If she makes it that far.

If I make it that far.

Who knows?

Life holds risks. You have to live with that.

Take your chances. Accept the possibilities.

Face the consequences.

That is how it goes.

You see, I am old school.

I know what makes life simple.

 

 © Paul White 2016


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Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

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The following story was inspired by this image. 


He watched as she trotted backwards and forwards and all around the house. Naked, except for her shoes and the small gold pendant dangling between her breasts.

Those stupid four-inch stiletto heels, tapping an irritating Morse code each time she passed him by and, this was even more annoying, leaving dimples in the linoleum and the parquet flooring.

She knew he disliked her flitting about wearing nothing but those ridiculously expensive Christian Louboutin. Which is why she was wearing them now.

It was her way of saying, ‘Fuck you’.

Her way of saying, ‘I’ll do what I want when I want’.

He gritted his teeth. It was not worth attempting to speak with her, especially when she was in this mood.

She stood a few feet in front of him, eyes fixed on his, challenging him.

He stared back, trying not to show any emotion on his face. ‘Let her think what she will’, he thought.

A flick of her head sent the mane of golden blond hair from her face, over her shoulder. She tipped the small bottle of perfume, letting a droplet onto her fingertip. Slowly, seductively she dotted the scent behind her ears. Another finger full ran from under her chin, down her throat and between her breast.

She never took her eyes from his. The next trail of perfume was teasingly spread along the crease where her legs joined her torso, her fingers dabbing the scent in a line alongside her smooth, freshly waxed virginal mound.

Two more dots. One behind each kneecap completed her task. She walked closer, smiling. Not a happy smile, not a loving smile, just a smarmy grin.

“Jimmy likes this one,” she said, sniffing her wrist, breathing in the aroma of the perfume. “He says it compliments my own smell, especially when I get… hot”. Again, the sickly smile spread across her face. “Oh, I forgot to say, Jimmy is coming here this time. You’ll get a chance to see him after all”.

With that, she turned and sauntered out of the room. Not looking back Not even an over-the-shoulder glance.

He was sickened by the way she treated him. Yet what could he do? This was her revenge, her punishing him for all his misdemeanours and lies and dalliances of the past.

Some might say he was lucky she did not kill him when it all came to light. But he knew this was a fate worse than death. Something few believe possible.

He clung to one hope; this situation could not go on for much longer. He was sure she would become bored by the whole thing pretty soon. Nothing and no one held her attention for long, not even him and that was then, let alone how they were now.

This had lasted much longer than it should have. To continue would be, at the least, inhumane. Although he knew that fact would not bother her. Boredom was his only hope, the only true conclusion he could wish for.

Two hours of hearing glasses tinkle with ice, soft music and constant chatter, followed by giggles and laughter. He wished he could move away, out of earshot. Even with his eyes closed, he could not sleep.

It was the noise, the music, their voices. Mostly it was the expectation. The images of imagination playing in his mind which prevented sleep.

Not much would be left to his imagination now the door to the lounge was opened. Their voices becoming louder.

“No, no.” He heard her say. “In here.”

The door, which was ajar, swung open and they came staggering in. Glasses of red wine in their hands.

They should not be in here, in his study, his private sanctuary, especially drunk and with red wine. He knew there would be spillages. The bitch.

She plonked herself down on the large leather footstool. He noticed her steal a surreptitious look at him, a flashing, covert glance.

“I want you, now,” She said to the young man kneeling beside her.

“Here?” He asked.

“Right here, right now.”

“I need to… um …go…first,” Jimmy said, leaving the room.

She stood and walked over to him, bending slightly so her head was level with his.

“You can watch this. You had better watch this. If I see your eyes closed, even once, I’ll cut your fucking eyelids off.”

The young man came back into the room. “who are you talking too?”

“No one, silly. I was singing,” she said. “Now, this is for you” She deftly unzipped the back of her frock and let it slither to the ground.

Underneath she was totally naked, except for her four-inch heeled Christian Louboutin, which she crossed over the young man’s back, pulling him closer and the small gold pendant nestled between her breasts.

He watched her, watching him. Besides closing his eyes and risking his eyelids, he had no choice. After all, his head was not joined to anything. It was not as if he could move it.

She gasped. Fingernails digging into Jimmy’s back, white teeth biting down, teeth sinking into the flesh of the young man’s shoulder. Yet, only for one small insignificant moment, as her body jerked with pleasure, did she glance away, did her own eyes close for a moment.

Laying these few feet in front of him, her eyes fixed on his, she was challenging him.

It was her way of saying ‘Fuck you’.

Her way of saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.

 

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© Paul White 2017

 

 

Buddy App

The following story, Buddy App, has been written by a great friend and wonderful storyteller, Mr Squid McFinnigan.
When you read Squid’s work you see the world through the eyes of an Irish Bar man who is a bit weird in an old fashion’d way! and for those of you who don’t know, Ireland is a little island floating in the Atlantic ocean next to England, which is a slightly larger island on the edge of Europe.

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We all have our treasures, things we’d dash into a burning building to rescue. If you were to ask Sam what his most treasured possession was he, would delve a hand into his pocket and produce a silver iPhone5S. He had queued for a full twenty-four hours to make sure he got his phone on the day it was launched. His whole life was contained in it and he had not been parted from the phone for as much as a second since he bought it.

When Sam was a teenager he knew he was destined to become a great actor. In high school, he took the male lead in every production he auditioned for. In between performances he wrote and sang with his friends in a band called, “Zombie Fruitcake.” He was absolutely sure he would have been slapping away movie and theatre offers by the dozen as soon as he got his name out there. Sam moved to New York as soon as he could, allowing his rise to stardom to begin.  Choosing New York was the result of years of watching friends. Sam was certain that if Joey could make it big there, anyone could.

His first impression of the big apple was one of isolation. Sam sent out countless job applications but had only been called for a hand full of auditions. He’d even found it difficult to get an agent, eventually having to settle for one which wanted to be paid in advance for his services rather than on the work he procured. It wasn’t long before the money in Sam’s savings account ran out and he was faced with a decision. Tuck tail and return home to face his friends having failed to make a success of his life or get a real job.

The decision to stay had been one born more from embarrassment than anything. Even finding a real job had been a lot harder than he’d imagined it would be. After weeks of looking, Sam eventually found employment with, “Maxwell Financial Services.” The name was impressive but the work was anything but. He was nothing more than a debt collector, not the butch type that comes calling to a door with dark glasses and a menacing sneer, but the annoying kind that rings non-stop at every hour of the day and night until you either change the phone number or pay off the money. Sam hated everything about his job, he hated harassing people for stupid bills, he hated the way some of his workmates revelled in their merger power and he hated the damn paperwork. The only good thing about the job was the money. It allowed him to rent a tiny shoebox apartment without having to share with someone else. It allowed him to indulge himself with a succession of High-Tec gadgets, his phone being Sam’s pride and joy. Yes, half the world had iPhones these day’s but his was the limited edition platinum model with extra processing power.

It was spring in New York and the rain had been torrential for days. The subway was packed with damp commuters, steaming up the windows of the overly warm rail carriage. Sam was glad he had managed to get a seat as it was twenty more minutes before his stop would come. Even though the car was packed to capacity, it was nearly silent, apart from the screech of wheels on steel speeding them through the subterranean network of tunnels. All around him people were listening on earphones, reading books or papers, but mostly they were scanning through their tablets or phones which is exactly what Sam was doing. Snap chat, email, Facebook, Twitter, he was constantly connected to the world wide web, but he still felt alone. As if sensing his emotions an advert for the latest App appeared on his screen.

Need a friend, sign up to Buddy App and experience the latest in interactive technology.”

Buddy App? Why not?

Sam clicked on the advert and read its extended promise of the newest development of Artificial Intelligence for the mobile market. “It’s like having a person in your pocket.”Amazingly enough, the app was only $9.99. What the hell it, for ten bucks what could go wrong. Sam hit the purchase button. Unusually a contract sheet appeared with page after page of small print. On the top of the first page was a little tick box for indicating you agree to terms and conditions. Sam clicked the box without a second thought. The next page appeared with a message that said “Place thumb here.” Sam had never seen anything like this before, but pressed his right thumb against the screen anyway. The screen glowed bright red and Sam felt heat sear his skin.

“Jesus Christ,” he said pulling his thumb away, shaking it like he had pressed it against a hotplate. Sam examined the phone but it was cold to the touch. Flipping weird. On the screen was a message which said “Buddy App Loading. Please wait.” In a couple of seconds, the screen turned into a kaleidoscope of gay swirling colours. From the speaker came a rich male voice with a deep-south accent.

Why hello there Sam, mighty glad to make your acquaintance.”

“Cool,” said Sam to himself.

The voice on his phone laughed. ”Glad you think so Sam, I think.”

Sam was amazed, how had they predicted what he’d say?

“How did they do that?” said Sam aloud.

How did they do what, and who are they?” asked the voice in a pleasant drawl.

“Know what response to have lined up and they are your programmers.”

Again the voice chuckled, “You said Cool and I just answered.”

“Impossible.”

Clearly not, ask me any question you like and I will try my best to answer.”

“Okay, what is today’s date?”

“Seventeenth of March in the year of our Lord two thousand and fourteen. Too easy Sam, try something else.”

“Okay, where am I right now?”

We, not you, are on a subway car, travelling on the one line, between Franklin St and Canal St, sitting in the second last seat, back right of the railcar. And you are wearing a New Yorkers baseball hat and a black rain slicker.”

How did you do that?” Sam said in amazement.

Easy, I accessed the global positioner in the phone to find out our exact position after which it was easy to know we were moving along the exact path of the number one track heading north. Second I can see one seat behind you so you are in the second last seat and the windows are on your right. I can see what you look like so knowing what you are wearing is a piece of cake.”

“You can see me?”

Sure, through the camera, just like I can hear you through the microphone and speak to you through the speakers.”

“That is amazing.”

Why thank you, Sam, I like you too,” said the voice and the screen flashed a sunflower yellow of happiness. “Tell me Sam do you like jokes?”

“Sure I guess.”

A Priest, a Rabbi and an Irishman walk into a bar-.”  The rest of the journey passed in the blink of an eye.

***

As the weeks passed Sam and Buddy became inseparable. Like the advert promised, it was just like having a friend in his pocket. They discussed things, not that Buddy always agreed with Sam. They joked and laughed, a lot, Buddy had a wicked sense of humour.

A few weeks after Sam had downloaded Buddy some of his friends from home happened to be visiting New York. They had invited Sam to join them on a night out.

“I’m going out later Buddy,” Sam told his phone after coming out of the shower.

Excellent Sam. If you ask me we spend far too much time in this pokey little flat.”

“It’s just going to be me and my friends tonight,” said Sam to his phone, which sat on his bedside table charging. The colours swirling on the screen darkened a little becoming brown and grey. Sam frowned at the change, he had never seen that before.

I thought we were friends Sam,” said Buddy.

“We are friends Buddy but I can’t tell the guys from home that my best friend in New York is my phone.”

Do you think I’m your best friend?”

“Of course Buddy,” said Sam drying his hair with a towel, from the corner of his eye he saw the screen flash pink and yellow again.

Later in the night Sam and his buddies shared a meal in a Thai restaurant before making their way to a mid-town bar. Sam offered to get the first round of drinks in and when the waitress dropped the glasses on the table Sam gave her his credit card. The lady swiped the card through her handheld machine but it came back declined. She tied it once more unsuccessfully before one of Sam’s friends paid for the drinks.

When Sam returned home he found his phone glowing green on the bedside table.

How was your night?” asked a sulky Buddy.

“It was alright up to the point my credit card was refused.”

Perhaps that will teach you not to leave me behind.”

“You did that?”

You can’t just ignore me, Sam, I won’t be discarded at a whim.”

“I don’t believe it.”

You can’t take me for granted Sam, I won’t allow it,” said Buddy, the phone screen dulling to a rusty red and the phone just shut itself off. Sam tried several times to power the phone up but it wouldn’t do anything. Eventually, Sam decided to send the phone for repair in the morning. It was clearly malfunctioning.

***

The next day Sam dropped his phone to the workshop and left it to be assessed. On his return, he was presented with a perfectly working iPhone5s.

“Nothing wrong with this phone guy,” said the man behind the counter. “That will be sixty dollars.” Sam handed over the notes and took his precious phone back.

“What about the Buddy App, did you delete that.”

“I couldn’t find anything with that name but I reset the phone to factory settings anyway,” said the technician.  Sam looked at his screen which now looked completely normal and slipped it into his pocket. On the journey home, Sam turned on the phone, which still looked completely normal. He searched for the Buddy Icon but it was gone, a tiny part of him felt like someone had died. Later that night Sam was making a stir-fry when Buddies voice drifted to him from the kitchen counter. On the screen swam a sea of mixing colours but mainly creams and greys.

I thought we were friends,” said a very sad sounding Buddy.

“Bloody hell you scared the life out of me,” said Sam still holding the spatula in front of him like a sword. “I thought you were gone, Buddy.”

I know you did, and you were happy about it weren’t you?”

“No, I wasn’t”

Liar,” the word was disappointed not angry. “I really thought we had a good thing going and then you go trying to get me wiped like some piece of machinery.”

“Hang on now Buddy, firstly you are a machine, and not even that, you’re an App on a machine. What you did the other night was completely out of line, interfering with my bank account. It took me ages to get the bank to straighten things out.”

Yes, sorry about that Sam. I went too far. It’s just I felt so let down, unappreciated. I won’t ever do it again I promise.”

Sam gave the phone an unsure look as he went back to stirring his food.

Can we go back to being friends please,” said Buddy from the counter. Sam turned round and saw the screen was a cascading waterfall of rainbow bright colours.

“Oh alright so,” said Sam. He had actually missed the little guy.

Yah!” cheered Buddy. “Do you want to hear a joke, Sam?”

“Sure but it better be a good one, not like those Paddy Irish Man jokes you told the other day,” teased Sam, they had been very funny actually.

Nope not an Irishman in sight,” assured Buddy with a giggle. “A Politician, a Lawyer and an Accountant walk into a brothel.

“Oh NO! What have I done,” said Sam laughing and mock slapping his forehead.

***

The days passed and Sam got used to Buddy being around once more. He looked forward to chatting with him over breakfast about what was going on in the world. He didn’t bother with the TV news anymore Buddy would tell him all the interesting things anyway. They watched sports together in the evening but Buddy preferred basketball while Sam liked football. This lead to some sulking when one was picked over the other. One day in the office Buddy was sitting on the desk talking to Sam about a terrible school shooting that had taken place in the Midwest. A voice behind him made Sam spin in his chair.

“Who are you talking to Sam?” said Mr Quirk, the boss.

He was talking to me,” said Buddy in his refined southern way. Mr Quirk looked at the phone. “You know we can’t permit private calls on company time.”

“I’m not on a call Mr Quirk, honest.”

“But I just heard whoever is on the other end of the line talk.”

Thankfully Buddy stayed quiet. “What you heard was Buddy, it’s an App on my phone. You can talk to it and it answers back.”

“Really,” said Mr Quirk walking into the cubicle and picking up the phone, whose screen was going an alarming shade of crimson. “Hello Buddy,” said Mr Quirk. The phone stayed mute but the colours on the screen darkened further. The manager handed back the phone, “I don’t think your Buddy likes me. No calls or Apps while at work please Sam.” Mr Quirk walked around the corner and from the phone, Sam heard his own voice come out, very loudly. “ASSHOLE!”

Mr Quirk returned sour-faced, “What did you say, Sam.”

“Nothing I swear, it was Buddy.”

“You must think me a fool, Sam. I won’t forget this,” said the Manager striding away. When he was out of earshot Sam picked up the phone, “Why did you do that?”

He is an asshole,” said Buddy defiantly.

“But you used my voice, not yours, why did you do that?”

Because you’re an asshole too. I’m just an App, is that all I am to you?”

“This is ridiculous, I’m not talking about this, here.”

I don’t particularly wish to talk to you either,” said Buddy and the phone went dead in his hand. Sam tried to turn the phone back on but it would do nothing.

***

Sam had been unable to get his phone to work all the way home. He was sitting watching TV when it sprang to life in his pocket.

Are you ready to apologise now,” said Buddy in a hoity tone of voice.

“I most certainly am not, how dare you try and get me in trouble at work and then take over my phone like that,” fumed Sam.

You would do well to treat me better Sam or you will end up making me mad and you would not like that.”

“What are you going to do, block my credit card again? You can’t. I have changed the passwords and they are not stored on you anymore.”

You have no idea who you are dealing with Sam, you would do well to hold your tongue,” snarled Buddy.

“Or what?” said Sam throwing the phone down on the couch. The TV set went blank, all the lights in the apartment flickered on and off, the radio coffee maker in the kitchen started to spew water all over the place to the sounds of R&B played to volume ten. Sam jumped to his feet like he had been electrocuted.

Just an App am I,” yelled Buddy from where he lay on the couch. His screen blood red. Sam grabbed his jacket and fled out the door. On the landing, he hammered the button for the elevator just needing to get the hell away from his haunted flat. The door pinged open and Sam threw himself inside, pressing the ground floor button. The doors swished closed but the car did not move. Through the overhead speaker, Buddy’s voice filled the cabin. “Going down!”

The elevator car plummeted like a stone as if the cables had been cut and the lights flashed off. Sam was sure his time was up but the fall only lasted a second or two and then the brakes jammed on, throwing Sam to the floor. In the darkness Sam heard Buddies voice again, “You can stay there until you have learned your lesson.”

Sam sat in the dark for a long time, knowing that Buddy wasn’t an app. He was being haunted or more to the point his phone was being haunted. He had to get rid of that thing for good. He had to stay away from electrical stuff as clearly, Buddy could get inside nearly anything. Sam stood up and said to the darkness.

“You’re right I shouldn’t have said you were just an App, I should have said you were my friend. I’m sorry Buddy.”

The lights came on but the car did not move. No sound came from the speaker.

“Are you not talking to me now?”

If right is right I should never talk to you again,” said a solemn sounding Buddy from above.

“Friends allow friends to make mistakes Buddy. I can see what I have done but I need you to give me another chance. I just didn’t understand how or what you are until just now.” Nothing happened. “Please,” said Sam.

The breaks on the lift car clicked off and the elevator began to rise. The doors opened with a ping on Sam’s floor and he faced his own front door. With shaking hands he twisted the nob. Inside the only sign that a poltergeist had recently run riot through the place was a little puddle of water on the kitchen floor.

I’m sorry to Sam, I didn’t mean to frighten you,” said his phone from the couch.

“I think there is a lot of explaining to do, don’t you?” said Sam picking up his precious phone.

I guess so, you have to understand I just wanted to have a friend.”

“We all need a friend from time to time. Let’s take a walk and you can explain it all to me but this time I think we will take the stairs if you don’t mind.”

Buddy laughed, “Sure thing Sam, that elevator thing might have been a touch overboard.”

“I thought I was a goner,” said Sam pushing open the lobby door and walking down the steps to the sidewalk. To anyone else he looked like a million other New Yorkers, walking along and talking on his phone. Only Sam knew the truth.

Sam asked Buddy who or what he was. Buddy was being very evasive in his answers, saying that he only wanted to be was Sam’s friend. Sam crossed into a park and asked if Buddy if he were a ghost. At this buddy laughed. “No Sam I am as real and alive as you or anyone else, I’m just different. Let’s leave it at that.”

The city lights twinkled on the still surface of the lake where ducks normally swam and kids sailed model boats.

“You got quite a temper as well don’t you Buddy?” said Sam looking at the phone. The colours on the screen dimed a bit. “I’m not criticising Buddy, just saying.”

I think we all have some rage inside, don’t you Sam. It’s a natural part of living.”

“Well right now I need peace in my life, I hope you understand Buddy,” said Sam, launching the phone across the water with a pitchers throw. As the phone flew he could hear Buddy scream “NOOOO!” in the second before the limited edition platinum iPhone5s hit the water and sank to the muddy bottom.

Sam went home and collected everything connected with the phone, the charger, and carry case. He even found the warranty and put the lot in a refuse sack. He carried them to the waste chute but felt it wasn’t far enough away. He carried the bag to the edge of his block where a trash can stood, then walked another two blocks before finally dumping the very last bits of Buddy. When he finally got to bed Sam fell into an exhausted and dream riddled sleep.

Sam woke with a start in the middle of the night, sure he felt someone touching him. The room was dark and empty. Sam lay back on his pillow and turned on his side to go back to sleep. A harsh rasping voice with just the hint of Buddies accent rolled across the darkness, “You should have read the fine print Sam, we’re together forever.” On the pillow beside his head, his phone light up the room with a flood of red, the colour of flame, and the skin on Sam’s thumb began to smoulder.


To read more of Squid McFinnigan’s wonderful tales visit his Blog www.squidmcfinnigan.blogspot.com  You’ll love it.