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Fantasy Romance Mystery

Callie thought she should have been happy. She was at a party with all her friends. Robert was here. He winked when he caught her looking his way. Her best friend Taylor was floating across the white carpet, bringing her a drink the same lemon color as her dress, and most importantly, she had recently defeated her enemy.

 What?

"What's wrong, girl? I'm not seeing your smile. You're always smiling," Taylor told her.

"Am I? That doesn't seem quite normal. Even the happiest of people don't smile all of the time."

Taylor laughed and turned to watch the other party attendees.

The drink had no taste again. The author never remembered to describe flavors. Eating and drinking must have been unimportant to her. Callie set the glass aside.

"What's going to happen now?" she asked Taylor. "Am I going to die?"

Taylor laughed. "You are so funny tonight. Of course, you're not going to die. At least not yet. We've only moved to the second chapter. It's Robert's birthday, remember? But you're right in that something exciting is about to happen. If it doesn't, people will get bored and watch television."

Callie could tell that Taylor was about to drift away. That's how this author moved people about at parties. They drifted away. Callie wanted to run away. She wanted to scream somewhere. She wasn't real, and she'd known it for some time. If the author wrote well enough, she might come alive to some people, but this author didn't write so well. Deborah K. Channing had changed the ending of this particular story three different times before deleting the entire thing and starting over.

In the first two versions, Callie had been murdered. It was hard enough to experience horrid death the first time, but the second time was far worse with knowing what was about to happen. No one wanted to die.

In both versions, she'd died before finding out who murdered her.

During the third rewrite, when she found herself trapped in the same dark and abandoned house, she realized if she didn't do something, she'd be killed off again.

That's why she'd grabbed the gun from the hand in the dark.

To the author's complete surprise, Callie shot her would-be murderer while police cars with flashing lights moved in to surround them. 

That's why she'd gotten a good look at the killer. Detective Abernathy had shined the flashlight into the lifeless face. A few drops of blood dribbled from the corners of her ruby lips. Long eyelashes framed her eyes. It was Averi—Robert's jealous ex-girlfriend. Even in death, she was a beauty, but then so was Callie in the first two versions.

Averi Pearson's death was why Deborah K. Channing had to start the story all over again. She'd wanted to plead a case where true love was a reasonable excuse to remove any obstacles. In addition, she needed to add a lengthy trial for the word count.

So, just as Callie was being celebrated as a heroine, Deborah deleted the entire document from her laptop.


Now, here she was again for the fourth time. Glancing around at the party guests, it seemed Deborah had retained all the same characters. Callie recognized all but one. He was a shortish man with startling eyes like emeralds.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"I'm Lanni. I did some dark magic in her last short story. She liked me. I guess that's why I'm here."

No doubt, Deborah planned to do things differently this time. Callie would have to keep on her toes.

A gunshot sounded from the kitchen. Callie and the other characters crowded in.

Oh no! It was Robert. She and Robert were supposed to fall in love in Chapter Six—her favorite chapter. It was here where she would melt into his arms for the first time.

"He's dead," said the same character who had been the first to die in the earlier versions. His name was Theo. Theo was killed before because he knew a secret about Averi. Now, Averi was crying her heart out over Robert. Her tears fell onto his handsome face as her flowing hair brushed through the blood on his chest.

Everyone turned to Callie.

She was holding a gun. Where had it come from? Hadn't she rushed in with the others? Deborah wasn't usually this bad a writer. Had she been drinking again?

Taylor took a step toward her.

"Put the gun down, Callie," she said. "I know you haven't been yourself lately."

Callie turned the gun on herself.

Bam!

Chapter Two began anew.


Callie never got Robert back. He'd been poisoned instead of shot in the kitchen of Chapter Two, but though Detective Abernathy had questioned everyone, there were still no obvious suspects.

Despite all that, Callie breezed cheerfully through Chapter Six. This time, she melted into Theo's arms. He wasn't tall enough for her to stand on her toes to kiss, but his kisses were passionate and thrilling, and he was strong enough to carry her to the bedroom. But for all that, Theo's best quality was his ability to cook. He was a restaurant chef.

It turned out Deborah had a true talent for describing the luscious, delectable food. Why had she never done this before? Callie had never been happier than she'd been in this chapter, cutting into a perfectly seasoned medium-rare steak that melted like butter in her mouth or drinking strong bitter coffee with a sweet and chocolaty concoction that tasted like heaven.


So far, Lanni had appeared in every chapter, and Callie couldn't help but be suspicious.

In Chapter Three, he was waiting at a bus stop. Callie spotted him from the café window where she was enjoying another tasteless meal with Taylor. "Oh, look," she pointed. "Isn't that Lanni from the party in Chapter Two?"

"Who's Lanni?" Taylor asked.

In Chapter Four, Callie thought she'd spotted him in a grocery store, but he ducked behind the next aisle and disappeared. Earlier versions of Chapter Four had Callie buying groceries for an elderly neighbor, showing her off as a kind, I-want-to-feed-the-world, beauty queen type.

In this newest version of the chapter, she was in the pharmacy section reading the backs of several medicinal labels marked with toxic or poison warnings.

In Chapter Six, Lanni peered in through the bedroom window. Theo, who hadn't seen him, went on the chase anyway but returned without finding so much as a footprint outside the window. Deborah never said whether the ground was soft enough for that.

Callie didn't appear in Chapter Five at all, something that was always a cause for concern. Things happened that only the reader knew.

"Were you in Chapter Five, my darling?" she'd asked Theo.

"Maybe. It was extremely busy in the restaurant that chapter. I may have seen Lanni having dinner with Averi. I'm not sure, though. My memory is vague."

Averi had a breathing attack in Chapter Seven.

She died in Chapter Eight. The cause of death was pending a toxicology report, but everyone knew Averi had been poisoned the same as Robert.

Paranoia was building.

Chapter Nine was mainly about Detective Abernathy, his beautiful wife and children, and his theories on the murder.

Chapter Ten was the abandoned house chapter.


Deborah K. Channing was Callie's enemy. She knew the author hated her and wanted to send her to jail. From there, she would be made to suffer through the multiple chapters of a murder trial while living on prison food. Meanwhile, Theo would cook for all her friends. Taylor would probably end up married to him in the end.

As the other characters shillied and lollied around, waiting for Chapter Nine to end, Callie cornered Lanni.

"What exactly did you do in that last story?"

"I was an enchanter. I enchanted things."

"What kind of things?"

Lanni explained.

"Can you do spells, as well?"

"I can do anything."

"You know the author is just using you to set me up, don't you? I imagine you'll be my next victim—you're the only one who makes sense for me to kill. You saw me looking for poisons, didn't you? You were following me, weren't you?"

"How did you know? I thought I was being so careful, but you're right. She's probably going to kill me next."

"I have an idea," Callie said. She explained what she wanted him to do. "Will you do it? Wait. Before you decide, I have something for you."

She bent down and kissed him. In all the earlier versions of the story, her kiss had been magical.

"I'll do it," Lanni said after the kiss. He smiled at her with his emerald eyes. 


Chapter 10

Callie crept through the darkened house—the house the locals called The Ghost House. No one had lived here for years. How had she gotten here? Someone had clouted her on the head, but who?

Creak!

A sound from the floor above. Callie climbed the stairs. She had to find Lanni, who was hiding behind the second door on the right.

It was almost time.

Sirens crooned from somewhere far away, but they'd soon be screaming outside the windows.

Now!

Callie opened the door.

Lanni pointed the gun.

Bam!

Deborah K. Channing lay dead on the floor.

-The End.


Callie and Lanni toasted champagne at her desk, looking into each other's eyes, smiling at each other's smiles. It was the best-tasting champagne Callie had ever sipped.

"Thank you! I couldn't have done it without you. Deborah K. Channing was getting much too powerful. She thought she was real. She nearly had me convinced that I was the character. The story couldn't have ended any other way. I'll sell it as a novelette."

"You're welcome, of course," Lanni answered. "What are you going to do next?"

"I'm not sure," she answered. "But first, I'm going to kiss you."

Once again, Callie bent toward Lanni's lips, and afterward, he drifted back into his short story entitled The Magical Kiss.

Now she was alone.

She put her feet on the desk and pondered whether she should give up writing. Her characters were trying to wrest her life away from her. It was only a matter of time before one of them succeeded.

"As long as I end up somewhere I like," she mused. Callie smiled, thinking about Chapter Six, the explicit food descriptions, and the feeling of melting into someone's arms.

Still smiling, she opened her laptop and began to type.


July 23, 2023 22:33

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2 comments

Susan Catucci
14:37 Aug 03, 2023

I loved this, Karen. I admire that you had so much happening and yet was able to keep track of it all. That's not a simple thing - and to hold a reader's attention. The concept was excellent - characters come to life through the reader's energy. I especially enjoyed the characters being all too familiar with the author's writing habits and lamenting the lack of sensory detail, like with food! :D Great work here.

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Karen Corr
15:02 Aug 03, 2023

Thank you so much! I really appreciate your kind words.

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