Contest #216 winner 🏆

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Funny Thriller Mystery

"I was eight years old the first time I heard his name." Shifting in the hard plastic seat, my wrists are shackled to a metal chain link at the center of the table, limiting my mobility.

The officer observes my discomfort passively, already impatient and annoyed with my recollection of events.

"I was thinking a little more recent, Miss Clark. Like why you were caught standing outside his home with a bloody—"

"No, no, you don't understand. I need to start at the beginning. So you can understand," I enunciate, not trusting Officer Dougher, an overworked, underpaid, exhausted, dispassionate cop, to actually comprehend the beauty of my tale.

A tired sigh escapes me, not from lack of sleep but disappointment. Officer Dougher waves his fingers, gesturing for me to continue. I don't trust him, but this is the end of the line. The metal handcuff digs into my wrist as I adjust in my seat so I can really get into the story. Ignoring the pinching skin, I lean forward, welcoming him into my world.

I think back to that day, so many years ago now. Curled up in a ball on the lumpy, plaid couch, the edges of the cushions fraying, made worse when I ran my fingers along the seams. Shivering as the winds howled and rattled the single-pane glass windows of my friend's tiny cabin on Cliff Island, off the coast of Maine. 

The day started bright and sunny, and like all the other kids who lived temporarily or year-round on the island, we spent every second playing in the ocean and cutting away debris through the woods like explorers and marauders. My best friend Ella had a neighbor, a boy who was older than us, maybe only a year or two, but at the time, the schism of our ages felt enormous. 

He was tall. He spoke confidently and made fewer stupid jokes than the boys Ella and I went to school with on the mainland. Something about that island boy consumed me, and he was all I could think about as we explored the island that summer. I followed him bravely as we climbed up trees and leaped, clutching the makeshift swing as we flung ourselves into the water below.

As that particular day came to an end, I followed Ella, reluctant but resigned, back to her camp; the first dewy drops of rain wet our shoulders, and the shadows cast amongst the trees expanded. A storm was coming, you could smell it in the air.

By the time night fell, it was like a hurricane descended upon the island. Everything shook and howled and whistled, but the adults weren't concerned, and neither was Ella, so I forced myself to pretend I wasn't scared, too.

We curled up on the couch in the small den—Ella called it the inside-outside room because although there were four walls and a roof, the floor-to-ceiling rattling glass windows still made you feel like you were outside. Hovering together under mounds of blankets, Ella's parents flipped through the channels of their old TV—at that time, they could only get basic cable, and it sat like a gargantuan box on the floor, surrounded by towers of VHSs and DVDs—and landed on a movie. A lime-green light and eerie music set the first scene.

Ella's parents argued over whether they should let us watch it or not. In the end, her mom sighed and told her dad he could be the one to deal with us girls if we were up all night crying from nightmares.

That's not what happened, though. Because I was eight years old and about to learn the name of the man who would change my life forever.

'What's this movie called?' I whispered to Ella, who loudly reiterated my question to her parents.

Her dad responded between chews of soggy popcorn, 'Tommyknockers.'

It was a weird movie. I felt like my mind was being twisted and warped and corrupted, then pet gently to rest when the movie came to an end.

'It's a Stephen King. You girls've heard of 'im, right? He's a Mainer,' her dad announced proudly. As if we had a claim to him. As if we should know him.

"That was when my obsession started," I return to the present, explaining to the officer in front of me. His pen lifts off the yellow-lined notebook, sparking my curiosity. Why wouldn't he use a laptop to take my statement? Surely that would be easier? 

I like the drama of the pen and yellow-lined pages. Like we're back in the fifties, and he's trying to get me to talk by making the room a little too hot and the light too bright. Any second now, his partner, the good cop, will come in here and offer me a cigarette and a whiskey.

"Miss Clark," Officer Dougher prods, annoyed that I keep getting lost in my head. 

"I didn't play with the other kids the next day. I didn't care about the tall, handsome boy next door. After the movie ended, I asked Ella's parents about Stephen King, and her mom casually explained, while folding musty old blankets and picking up remnants from our slumber party in the inside-outside room, that she had a few of his books lying around somewhere. I just had to dig around and find them." I tell the story like I'm writing it down, with nuance and interiority.

"You see," I tell the cop—or is he a detective? His plain clothes point to the latter, but he's the same man who caught me outside the tall, gothic red mansion, handcuffing and stuffing me into the back of his cruiser. "I spent that whole summer, hell, the entire next year reading The Dark Towers. I didn't understand half of what I was reading, needing a dictionary to help me translate nearly every line. But it was nothing like the books we were reading in school. I became obsessed."

Dougher reacts to this word. Obsessed. It's a trigger word, a small point against me, an indication that I wasn't quite right in the head.

"That led me to other authors, of course. Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert, Clive Barker, Douglas Adams. Then, as I got older, it became Atwood and Nin, Vonnegut and Palahniuk and Bukowski. I lost myself in—"

A gruff throat clearing interrupts my train of thought, and I glance up, wide-eyed and mystified, suddenly immersed in all those unspent feelings of my youth, trapped in a miasma of misanthropy and bibliophilic lust. 

But Officer Dougher and his graying, whiskery, late-shaven face is disinterested in my passions. He wants the crux of the story, the meat of it, the spoilers. He doesn't want the prose or tension. Just give it to me, his eyes scream. Just admit what you did!

He would truly hate reading Tom Robbins.

He releases a long, suffering sigh when the door creaks open behind him, and a second officer, this one clad in standard blues, enters the room, holding a clear plastic evidence bag.

I wince when I see the contents.

The new cop drops the bag unceremoniously on the table between Dougher and me, then turns to leave. I look up, making eye contact with the camera in the corner of the room near the ceiling, the little red dot trained on me, recording my every move.

They'll later use the footage as evidence of my guilt; they'll tell people I bared myself open on the table, as raw and exposed as the smashed plastic and metal drone, now covered in dried blood in the plastic evidence bag, the camera above capturing my every thought and memory. 

My erratic behavior, the evidence bag, and a signed confession are all Dougher wants from me, though, so I relax; he's only got two out of three.

Ignoring his impatience, I smile wistfully. "That was when I began writing. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I took creative writing classes, I got a degree in English and Communications. But I kept getting rejection letters. Over and over again. And then one day," I lean forward, lowering my voice, pleased when Dougher mimics my posture, finally intrigued.

"Then one day, I was in Bridgton at a Walgreens, and who's up at the prescription counter but Stephen fucking King."

Dougher lifts his eyebrows, not getting it. Not understanding

I grunt. His ineptitude is exhausting. "Anyway, when he walked past me, I couldn't help it; I tried to talk to him and I was so awkward, stumbling over my words. But he was so kind and polite. I told him I was writing horror, like him, and that he was my inspiration. That I fell in love with writing because of him, but I just couldn't get published. And do you know what he said?"

"What did he say?"

"He said, 'Not everyone can be scary.' And then he smiled that stupid, toothy smile and left."

Finally, finally, understanding dawns, the doughy man’s cracked lips pressing together thoughtfully.

"And that hurt your feelings? You wanted revenge? That's why you flew—"

"No, of course it didn't hurt my feelings. It motivated me."

Dougher's pen stills on the yellow paper once more, glancing at me beneath his lashes. He's trying not to spook me or slow my momentous storytelling, but he also doesn’t want to admit he’s still confused.

"Look. I was his biggest fan. But his last few books," I lift my palm, bound as it was to the table, and made a 'so-so' gesture with my hand. "I think he just needed a little inspiration. It was kind of poignant, too, don't you think? Very Annie Wilkes of me." I smile proudly, but this idiot still looks confused. 

"Misery?" Still, nothing. "Kathy Bates?" 

Recognition passes his face, and I don't resist the eye-roll.

"That's the one about the woman who's obsessed with the author, and she kidnaps him and makes him rewrite the story, right?"

"Very good, Dougher, even if you did get that from the movie. But did you know that Misery was inspired by another short story of a similar premise?"

"I did not. So… you identify with this… Annie Wilkes character, then?"

I shrug. 

"Miss Clark… what I really want to know is… what happened when you arrived at Mr. King's Bangor home at 12:36 AM this morning?"

I glance back at the evidence bag, the broken drone, which I lost control of, and the smattering of blood on the plastic casing.

On the one hand, I could tell him the story of how it all went so sideways, not at all according to my plan. 

Or, I could tell him what actually transpired while adding narrative, a creation of my own making.

"Alright, Mr. Dougher. Here's the story of what happened last night when I arrived at Stephen King's mansion…"


September 16, 2023 20:08

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91 comments

Delbert Griffith
14:42 Sep 22, 2023

Love, love, love it! Wow, what a fantastic MC you have here. Her attitude is priceless; you want to love her, scary as she is. I'd love to see this person in other tales, Hazel. She's that memorable. Major kudos to you for the cameos by Palahniuk and Bukowski, and especially for the Tom Robbins mention. The inclusion of Douglas Adams and Vonnegut just rounded out a spectacular list of authors I love. You nailed the prompt, totally. This, IMO, is your best tale to date. Nicely done, Hazel. Nicely done indeed. Cheers!

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Hazel Ide
15:55 Sep 22, 2023

Wow thanks so much Delbert! This one was really fun to write. And I agree re the authors, obviously all amongst my favorites too. Plus, anyone who can get away with calling a book Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates deserves a nod.

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Delbert Griffith
16:05 Sep 22, 2023

LOLOL THAT is actually my favorite Tom Robbins book! He was more mature in his writing, but he still had his trademark similes and irreverence. You're one of the very few people I know who appreciates Tom Robbins. I bow to your taste in literature. Cheers!

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Hazel Ide
16:17 Sep 22, 2023

Likewise!!

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05:56 Sep 30, 2023

Great story. The slightly condescending voice this was told in, and all the writers jokes, really painted a picture of a hyper-intelligent slighty unhinged but mostly harmless (?) stalker. Reading both Margaret Atwood and Charles Bukowski feels like the Barbenheimer of opposites! "Or, I could tell him what actually transpired while adding narrative, a creation of my own making." haha brilliant sentence at the end of a writers story, we can all relate to that.

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Hazel Ide
13:48 Sep 30, 2023

Thank you for reading, Scott! I'm glad you picked up on that. Yes, the MC is pretty arrogant yet completely oblivious at the same time. And re the authors, haha, I don't know, I feel like when you're young and discovering literature, though specifically Atwood and Bukowski are so different, they both lead you down a path of self-examination, opposites be damned. Anyway thank you again for the comments! Cheers!

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Steffen Lettau
22:51 Sep 29, 2023

This does read like an opening for a Stephen King chapter, before we begin the ride from the top of the roller coaster. It definitely left me in anticipation of, "What happens next?" But it is the ambiguity of the whole ordeal that leaves me wanting to keep things as mysterious as possible while still being entertained. Thank you for this!

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Hazel Ide
13:43 Sep 30, 2023

Thank you for the insight Steffen! I agree, sometimes things are best left unexplained. Cheers :)

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David Sweet
22:05 Sep 29, 2023

Congratulations on your win! I thought the story was a potential winner the moment I read it. I hope you will gain momentum from this win and continue to contribute outstanding stories.

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Hazel Ide
22:51 Sep 29, 2023

Thank you for your encouraging words, David. There's so much talent on here, I feel like it's hit or miss every week with how good everyone's stories are but I was really grateful for the inspiration this time. Thank you again, cheers!

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Marty B
17:05 Sep 29, 2023

Great story, and for a community of writers (and readers) this is perfect. I want to go visit Stephen King! I could bring my drone too, and my pliers, a sledgehammer- ;) congrats!

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Hazel Ide
17:54 Sep 29, 2023

Thanks Marty! Haha yeah now I kinda want to go there too 🤔

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Jeana Budnick
22:03 Oct 19, 2023

I loved this! Had me on the edge of my seat! I want to know more!

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Hazel Ide
22:48 Oct 19, 2023

Oh, thanks very much Jeana!

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Ken Cartisano
17:11 Oct 18, 2023

A little off topic but -- I love your bio. It's so succinct. I'm reworking mine, but having a little trouble with my origin story. Am I a hominid, a hominim, a hominem, a homunculus, a hoi polloi, or just plain hominy?

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Hazel Ide
19:47 Oct 18, 2023

A reasonable question. I would write another story for your bio defining yourself as just plain hominy. Imagine the possibilities.

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Justin Luhman
15:50 Oct 18, 2023

is there more to this story? i wanna finish it lol. it definitely kept me interested.

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Hazel Ide
19:48 Oct 18, 2023

Thanks Justin! There's a little more but haven't decided how to present it yet. We'll see. Thanks for the read!

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Geir Westrul
16:48 Oct 17, 2023

... but, but, but ... now I REALLY want to know what happens next! Hazel, what a perfect way to address the prompt with an open ending. I was also amazed by the clarity of how you set the scene right from the start ("... my wrists are shackled to a metal chain link at the center of the table, limiting my mobility"), built tension by opening a loop ("... standing outside his home with a bloody—" that interruption leaves the reader wanting to know "what's bloody? whose home?"), and then the elegance of how you effortlessly dropped into and ...

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Hazel Ide
19:49 Oct 18, 2023

Wow thank you Geir for that insight and comment! Really great and specific, it's so helpful as a new writer to read feedback. And it was so fun to write. Cheers!

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Tom Skye
06:37 Oct 17, 2023

This was fantastic, Hazel. So much fun. The MC's detachment from the severity of what she has done makes her seem like a real psychopath, but she is still somehow likeable. I liked her more than I did Annie Wilkes anyway :) Nice sprinkle of references throughout made this an enjoyable writer's museum. This was awesome and a worthy winner. Thanks for sharing

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Hazel Ide
11:52 Oct 17, 2023

Thank you Tom! Yeah she was very detached, almost naive in a way. She was fun to write. Thank you for the read and comments!

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Ken Cartisano
02:08 Oct 17, 2023

Really Hazel, I got so caught up with your eye-jinx, that I forgot to mention that the funniest bit of this story is the part where the mc meets Stephen King at the Walgreen's. I read that section to my 'cell mates' (the other fish in the aquarium with me, of course) and that bit and that line, ('Not everyone can be scary...') is so totally Stephen King, I could imagine him saying exactly that, in the way that you described it. If you made that up? It's fucking genius. You totally nailed him. It's a very funny story to begin with, and that i...

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Cora Van Wyk
23:12 Oct 16, 2023

I loved this story so much! Wonderful job, it's marvelous.

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Hazel Ide
19:49 Oct 18, 2023

Thank you so much Cora!

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Michael Novak
18:27 Sep 29, 2023

Nice! Love all of the literary references and in-jokes.

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Hazel Ide
22:51 Sep 29, 2023

Ha, thank you very much!

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Hazel Guzman
18:05 Sep 29, 2023

This was AMAZING! I really want to hear more from you. You did an AMAZING job with this short story. Good job!

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Hazel Ide
22:52 Sep 29, 2023

Thank you Hazel! That's so encouraging!!

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Karen Kinley
16:50 Sep 29, 2023

Wow, Hazel! I am a NEW FAN of yours! I love, love, love your writing style. I was drawn in right from the beginning! So much conveyed in such a short piece. Your word choice is DELICIOUS! I also adore your voice in this story. I want to meet your MC...she was so real and funny without trying to be. Loved the ending (although I really, really want to know what happened...I have a feeling I would be laughing!). Congrats on the win. Well deserved!!

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Hazel Ide
17:53 Sep 29, 2023

Thank you so much Karen!! Such kind words! Cheers 👏

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Karen Corr
16:39 Sep 29, 2023

It’s everything you said. Funny, mysterious, thrilling! A good read! Congratulations on your win!

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Hazel Ide
20:12 Oct 11, 2023

Thank you so much Karen!

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Nina H
16:23 Sep 29, 2023

Fantastic! I think all the book lovers here may relate to this MC as she throws out authors hoping for Dougher to “understand” 😂 This was such a great read, so well-written, and well-deserving of the win! Congrats! 🎈 ( <—- get “it”?) 🤭

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Hazel Ide
16:39 Sep 29, 2023

🎈 🎈 yes!!! Haha - thank you!

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Dragon The Poet
16:21 Sep 26, 2023

I love the use of comedy spun into mystery! A fan who's perception of their favorite author went awry!! I wanna know what happened now hehe

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Hazel Ide
17:46 Sep 26, 2023

Thank you!! Yeah I do too haha

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Mary Bendickson
04:02 Sep 26, 2023

Oh, so open ending! Very good. Thanks for liking my Walking to California Congrats on the win. This was so good.🥰🎉🥳 Thanks for liking my Where the Wild Things Aren't

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Hazel Ide
11:28 Sep 26, 2023

Thank you Mary and of course! I enjoyed your story as well!

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David Sweet
16:25 Sep 23, 2023

Awesome! I actually got to stand outside his house at night once back in 1987 when I was in college in Maine on a visit. The house is intimidating. Great read. You captured so much in a short story. Fantastic use of the prompt.

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Hazel Ide
16:36 Sep 23, 2023

Thank you David! I've actually never been but I live in Maine and everyone knows where he lives and what his house looks like, I've heard it's pretty creepy. Especially this time of the year this close to Halloween! Thanks again, cheers!

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David Sweet
16:39 Sep 23, 2023

Maine is beautiful. We were there last October, but just around Acadia. It is a beautiful state. Keep up your writing. It is very good!

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