tagHumor & SatireDead Writer's Society

Dead Writer's Society

byNom_de_guerre©

Nathaniel Winthrop sat at his computer reading the most recent entries from the on-line Halloween contest. 'Not bad,' he thought to himself as he finished the last story. There isn't a whole lot I could say negative about the story itself, or the way it was written. I guess I have to fall back on attacking the author.

He opened the comment window and began typing. "Who ever told you that you knew how to write? I have seen better drivel from the crayon of a third grader. You are the worst loser in the history of hack writers. Why don't you do the world a favor? Delete your account, draw a warm bath, and slit your wrists to put us all out of your misery. And remember, it's cross the road to call for help, down the road to find freedom."

He smiled as he clicked on "Submit as Anonymous."

As he was still sitting there smiling, he heard a soft voice behind him say, "Aren't you are repeating yourself?"

"What?!" he exclaimed, looking at the speakers of his computer.

"I said, you are repeating yourself," the voice re-iterated. "You have used that exact comment at least twice before."

"Who's there?" he yelled, now realizing that the voice came from behind him.

Nathaniel thought he was alone in his basement bedroom. He knew his parents were asleep upstairs. Spinning around quickly he looked for the source of the voice. There was no one there, but he wasn't alone. A variety of white, smoky, swirly shapes were behind him. As he watched, the shapes slowly became more and more dense until finally they became almost people.

They weren't people. He wasn't sure what to call them. They were... almost people. They looked like people dressed in costumes for a party of some sort, but they weren't quite solid. They had stopped shimmering and swirling and were now like very dense, colored smoke.

"Let me introduce ourselves," said one of the figures. He appeared to be in his late fifties or early sixties and was dressed in a toga. "We are The Dead Writers Society."

When Nathaniel didn't respond he suddenly blurred through the air to directly in front of Nathan's face and said loudly, "Carpe Nocturn!"

"What?" sputtered Nathan.

"He means 'Happy Halloween,'" said one of the other smoky figures. "But he's been dying to say that to somebody ever since he saw that movie years ago."

"What?... who are you?"

"As I said," the toga-clad man continued, "we are The Dead Writers Society. Each of us, in our own time, in our own way, were famous, or at least good, writers. Now we are all dead, and we have banded together to watch over writers of the world today."

"So what do you want with me?," Nathan said, somewhat derisively. "Have you come to give me a writing award? Or, perhaps because it is Halloween, have you come to kill me in some grotesque and perverted way?"

"Kill you?" said a smoky figure dressed in an old-fashioned suit with very wide lapels. "We would never KILL you." He laughed softly. "No, no, no, there are much more interesting things to do to someone than kill them."

"So, what then brings you to me?"

"That would be me," answered a young woman dressed in a modern-looking black dress. Her's was the voice that had originally spoken. She held out her arms, "I took your advice... down the road to find freedom." There were long, ugly scars following the veins on the inside of both of her arms.

"You always posted several comments on each of my stories. I thought they were from different people and that my stories were terrible... and that I was terrible. I believed what you told me. I did what you said to do. But when I got to the other side, I found out that it was only you, and that you say nasty things about every story you read, regardless of who wrote it. Because I would have eventually been a great writer had I lived, I was invited to join The Dead Writers Society."

"As were we," said several voices. The voices sounded very odd, almost hollow, and as they spoke, several paler, smaller, smoky figures came to the front. One was an older gentleman; two were middle-aged women; one was a young woman; another was a boy barely out of his teens. The rest of the figures formed an indistinct crowd behind them.. "We did not take your advice about the warm bath and razor blade, but you killed us nonetheless. We are the writer within that you murdered with your callous comments."

The young boy spoke. His higher-pitched, hollow voice sounded especially eerie. "I know that I had a lot to learn. Sometimes my grammar wasn't what it should have been, and my plot lines needed help and cohesion, but there are ways to tell me that without destroying me. The dead cannot go back to the living or I would go back to myself and show me that I could be, if not a great writer, at least a decent writer. But writing is dead within me now. ... because of you!"

"If the dead cannot go back to the living," snorted Nathaniel, "then what are all of you doing in my bedroom."

"Ah, yes, we are here, aren't we?" said a man dressed in a dark, 19th century suit. "Like bells ringing in the night. Bells, bells, bells, bells, bells,..."

"Edgar!" shouted the man in the toga. "If you say tintinnabulation I am going to smack you so hard that you won't coalesce again until next Halloween."

Turning to Nathan, the toga clad man said, "You will have to excuse Mr. Poe. He wasn't that stable before the rabies brought him over to this side and occasionally he gets carried away in his own prose."

He smiled and continued, "But he is essentially right. No one of us can come back from the dead to the living, but all of us together, especially on a night such at this, can do many things."

"That's the how," replied Nathan with obvious contempt in his voice, "But WHY are you here?"

"To punish you," said a very foppishly dressed man with a fur-trimmed cape hung carelessly over his shoulders. "We argued for weeks about exactly how to punish you for extinguishing the light of promise in so many young and gifted writers. I personally thought you should be thrown into a dark and squalid prison with the low life of London."

"We heard you, Oscar," said the leader with a very tired voice.

"I voted for bricking you up in a wall... or strapping you to the floor with a giant scythe swinging above you."

"Yes, Edgar, we heard that, too."

"But they liked my suggestion best of all." It was the young girl with the mutilated arms.

A man in a white suit with a bushy white mustache said, "Normally I don't quote Scripture to anyone about anything, but what she suggested reminded me a great deal of Second Samuel, chapter twelve, where the prophet Nathan tricks King David into condemning himself for his actions with Bathsheba. David thought he was condemning a wicked neighbor who was stealing sheep, but he was actually condemning himself for stealing Bathsheba by murdering her husband."

"Samuel... uh, Mark, I don't think he gets it," said the leader. Turning back he said, "Nathan, let me explain it clearly to you. You punished the writers and their writings for no reason - unless you count the sick satisfaction you get from making others suffer as being a reason. So we have decided to let the writers and their writings punish you."

"How?" Nathan snorted.

The man in the wide lapels stepped forward. "You know, some mugs just need roughing up. Let me and the boys have a couple of minutes with him and he'll start to see the light."

"Oh, I think he is starting to see the light, Mickey," said the leader. "He just needs a bit more wisdom to realize what it means."

He again did the blurred swoosh to suddenly be face to face with Nathaniel. "What it means is this. You are going to live out every story which you tried to destroy this year-- the excellent ones, the good ones, the bad ones, the terrible ones-- it makes no difference. If you tried to destroy them, they get to destroy you. If you did your anonymous assassination on one of a writer's previous stories, tonight their Halloween story gets a chance to return the favor. You might find pleasure; you might find terror; you might find pain and suffering; but you will experience each and every one of those stories from the inside."

"Here's a particularly good one," said the man in the toga. "The plot is about this man who has to dress as a woman for a Halloween party and gets a little more than he bargained for."

"Ooh, I like this one," said the fop, "It has the feel of a stage play and it concerns Vampires in London."

"Me and the boys vote for this one," said the smoking figure in the gangster suit. "It's all about some dead mug from the 20's who finally gets his rocks off in a hotel room in Iowa." He took a long draw on his cigarette and added, "I'd kind of like to see how you handle getting screwed by a ghost."

The man in the white suit pulled the thick cigar from his mouth and said dryly, "Myself, I'm a little partial to this one. A Halloween party behind the gates of hell would be a good place to start."

Nathaniel grabbed his head and began screaming as things that only he could see began happening around him... and to him.

As his screams filled the house, a balding, late middle-aged man stepped forward and looked around as if he were preparing to address an audience from a stage. He took a pocket watch from his trousers. As he slowly wound it, he muttered, "Hmm. Midnight in Grover's Corners."

He then raised his hand and gestured toward the basement bedroom scene which had just played out before him. "So ends our Halloween tale," he began. "Please vote and make comments, but before you do, pause to remember the difference between 'instructive' and 'destructive' or perhaps next Halloween the voices of The Dead Writers Society may swirl around you..."

"... like the tintinnabulation of the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells!"

"Edgar! I warned you!"

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