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by Heckyspice 

Posted: 15 December 2004
Word Count: 2318
Summary: A weird tale and sort of inspired by Portraits of his Children by George RR Martin. It's a bit rushed so this is the first draft.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Linton McCall waited for his 2nd born to visit and fill his heart with more home truths. The prospect of what she was going to tell him made his skin freeze and the hair on his head tried to burrow into his scalp. It would be another chilly night, regardless of snow or wind.

So he waited. A glass of whisky by his side. It did not have the power to deflect the vengeance of his children but it made him relaxed before the battle commenced. He sat in the dark without any distractions; it just seemed the way to do this. Perhaps they would be angrier if he had the lights on or music playing.

“Hello Papa.”

The voice was huskier than he realised. He saw Jessica detach herself from the darkness in the corner. How long had she been there?

“Jessica, what have you come to say?”

“Straight to the point, Papa,” Jessica prowled across the floor, “I suppose you accept what is happening now.” She was more magnificent than the panther he considered her to be. A great swirl of black hair tumbled over her shoulders as if she was Medusa, come to turn him to stone. No doubt her words would be equal to task. She wore a long black overcoat that sucked darkness into her, taking away his command of the room.

“You look good,” Linton said.

“I know.”

“Do you have the scars?”

Jessica opened her coat and even in the darkness Linton could see where clothes had been torn. He shuddered. “I am sorry. I wish you had come to me before this happened.”

“It was my choice to come like this. It seemed to be the sensible thing, the middle of it all and that. I did think that perhaps you would prefer me as I was at the beginning, or maybe my end. .Papa. ”

“Don’t say that.” Linton had to shift in his seat.

“Oh, Papa. Don’t you realise what you have done? Surely Branson told you this, what to expect.”

Linton looked at the table by his chair; a picture of Branson, his first son stared at him from the cover of a book. Branson who could have been the perfect hero looked back, half his features in shadow. He had failed Branson and could not devote the time to him. Then, Jessica had been his great hope but she had become too holy to push further. That left his final child, Torque, his most brilliant prodigy but also his most violent. The though of him visiting with knife or blowtorch made Linton’s bladder shrivel.
If he could make amends with Jessica then perhaps Torque would not come.

Jessica held out her hand. “Come with me.”

Linton hesitated. When Branson had visited, they had just talked. Or rather Linton had listened as each damming truth was spoken. Branson had proven himself to be a very effective nemesis, using the disappointment of his life to wrap each word in barb wire. Despite the hurt, it was easy for Linton to shrug off the verbal abuse. Facing Jessica was different and the pressure of an erection was down to her.

“If you want I can show you how I was just after the attack.” Jessica seemed to say this to the room.

“No, it’s Ok, I’ll come.” He scrambled to his feet. “Do I have to hold you hand?”

“If you want to. Papa.”

Please don’t say that, thought Linton.

The room turned into a coal sack. Linton though he was shrinking and Jessica was growing. He seemed to be pulled inside her coat and then he was smothered. A lullalby or nursery rhyme could be heard, then car horns and the chimes of a clock. For a moment he seemed to be in a swimming pool alone at midnight and then there was sunlight.

He was standing in meadow, a picture postcard heaven where a poetic stream and willow trees could exist outside the ink on a page. In the distance he could see a church with a flat tower. It was the colour of dreams. In front of the church two people were walking. He knew that the tall black haired woman was as much Jessica as the woman standing beside him.

“My next life,” she said, “I sometimes glimpse it when you sleep and dream of what I could have meant to you.”

“What are you doing?”

“Exploring the hearts of those in need, like I was meant to. So many would have joined me if you had shown the balls to carry on.”

Linton shrugged, “So what, there was no reason to push on with something that had no future.”

“But it did have a future, Papa.” Jessica pointed to herself walking by the church, “A very bright future that would have made you.”

“The adventures of a girl vicar! Yeah that would have made me a bucket full of money.” Linton gestured toward the church, “What’s the plot here? Cat lost or someone stole the tea party money?”

“Papa, you have no idea of the damage you have done, just watch.”

It happened fast. From behind the church emerged a man. He was stocky thunderbolt, brawny armed wielding a knife, his head swathed in a scarlet bandana. The attack was furious; the man ripped apart the other Jessica and her companion as if they were cobwebs. Red cobwebs. Linton was transfixed. The attacker turned to see who was in the distance. When Linton saw his face horror was replaced by fascination. It was Torque. And then Torque ran, a scream announcing his intention. It rushed toward Linton with the promise of agony.

Torque the ex U.S navy seal tuned biker, a maverick hero that had earned him 3 bestsellers. Torque was a vicious bastard not averse to using wicked tools but he was not a senseless killer.

“He is now, “said Jessica. A tear touched her top lip.

“He is coming this way,” Linton suddenly realised he was holding Jessica’s hand. “I don’t want to meet him.”

“He hates you now, Papa.”

“Jessica, please can we go.”

Torque was less than a hundred yards from them. Linton could feel how sharp the knife would be. Jessica had only been mauled by a bear, which would seem like a mercy compared to the skill and coldness of the warrior approaching them.

The meadow vanished and they were back in the room. Linton stumbled over the table, he fell to the carpet. Here the shadows seemed darker and bulging with unwanted shapes.

“He is not here,” said Jessica, “Not tonight.”

“What is this, what is this? It’s a dream.” Linton pulled himself up, “It’s a just a dream.”

“Papa. It is not a dream. Torque is angry with you, he invades the dreams you do not remember or the images that you cannot give words to. He will poison your mind until he gets his chance to breach the forbidden and enter the world.”

“I don’t understand, what is this to do with me?” Linton threw a slug of whiskey down his throat. “I gave him a conscience. He was the hard man that could settle the scores weaker men could not.” He cradled the glass. “I did not make him a killer.”

“No you did not.” A new voice came from the darkness. A perfectly cast New York cop. It was Branson, his first character. The weary face, the crumpled suit, he was every inch the typical dogged detective. Nothing new, nothing special, which was why Linton had decided to create a new character that, could sustain a series. Only Jessica had not shown any prospects either. Page 3 meets the vicar of Dibley, the reviews said. There was enough of a reason to dump her also.

And then Torque. A hero to outdo, for a short time the sales of Lee Child’s novels.

“You got a right mess here,” Branson of course smoked Red Apple cigarettes as he spoke. “Shoulda stuck with me pal. My only problem was an affair with Angie Landini, sister of Tony Knuckles. Or it could have been.”

“Oh,” Linton just did not know what to say. He wanted Branson to be the voice of reason now.

“Yesterday, I tried to make you see into what makes you tick, all the crap and bile.” Branson offered Linton a cigarette, it was refused. “If you could accept how petty and cruel you are then it would have been enough to throw that one little switch.”

“Switch?” Linton wished had taken a cigarette now.

“Yeah, a safety circuit in your imagination. It would have calmed the beast. Look now it ain’t to late pal to sort this mess out. There are a hundred stories in your dreams that we still live in. Each one a universe but they collide occasionally. We know about each other but usually we just get on with our lives. As characters we still live on. Maybe one day we can be more but for now we get on with it.”

Branson stubbed his cigarette out on the carpet. “I love the dreams where I get to screw Angie.” He nodded to Jessica, “I bet you don’t know she was going to get a boyfriend in the second book, an antiques dealer or something.”

Jessica said, “Jonathon Grace, a TV antiques expert. But we don’t get the full on sex that you might have written for Branson.”

“Angie, she’s hot,” mused Branson, “But I kinda digress. So you get it that you still think about us. Anyhow you also think about Torque, only it’s the way Torque really is, a total nut-job. He doesn’t like the way you show him and he don’t like us. When Torque’s universe hit ours he flipped like Bruno flips burgers at Tino’s deli.”

Linton felt like he was swimming in treacle, “I don’t get this, how can Torque be this way, I spent weeks preparing his character. He was meant to be like the cook in Under Seige.”

“Jesus, you don’t get it do you.” Branson had now gone to page 5 of the interrogation manual. “You gave him a fucking blowtorch to fight with in the first book. He fucking burned that guy’s face off. Is that a sane man? I don’t think so.”

Jessica put a hand on Branson’s shoulder, “Papa, the true Torque invades the space we have, and he wants you to think only of him. He keeps stalking us. And when he finishes us he will make his way into the real world. He will be all that you can think of, he will be everything that you want. Torque will not be in your head. You will give him your life.”


A blade had been drawn.

“No motherfucker moves.” The voice was pure engine oil. Torque was now in the room. He brandished his knife; the serrated edge was his grin. “Hi Pops. You gotta give these kids their due. They tried to warn you.”

Branson and Jessica had gone.

Torque was wiping the knife. “Don’t worry Pop, you ain’t gonna dream about them anymore. I finished the job. Branson was a bit of hero, he saved that Angie before I gutted him. As for Jessica, well she ain’t no virgin Mary if you know what I mean.”

Ice and nails formed around the heart of Linton. He looked at the evil hulk that stood in his room. Torque was like a bull, unrestrained. Linton knew he was going to die. This had to be a nightmare. He prayed this was just a nightmare.

Torque finished wiping the blade. “I ain’t no do gooder. I was in the Gulf and Bosnia and shit holes like that. I like killing and that’s it. No grand reason I just like killing. But well, you kinda write me like I am Clint Eastwood. Well that’s plain wrong.” The knife was at Linton’s throat.

“I created you, I know you.” Linton thought he was crying but could feel no tears.

“Nah, you just wanted a movie deal.” Torque moved around the chair so that he was behind Linton. He could rest his face by Linton’s ear and pull the knife close to the skin. Linton was surprised how cold Torque’s breath was.

“What are we gonna do Pops? I could cut you from ear to ear. Give you the slot that I gave some Towelheads. Maybe not, what about an eye. Folk squirm like nothing else when you threaten to pop an eyeball.”

The tip of the knife was pushing against the eyelid. Linton squirmed.

“Easy Pops, I ain’t Joe Pesci., laughed Torque.
“What do you want, I’ll do anything you want…..anyhting….”

With undoubted strength, Torque swung the chair round so Linton was facing him. “You know this is the problem. If I kill you I die. If I force you to write the real me, then the books may not sell and then I die. So the main thing is to make sure the critics never see anything you do.”

“What do you mean?”

Torque smiled as if he had eaten the devil. “Here is what we are gonna do. You gonna keep on writing, only just for me. You can get a job working in a shop or some shit hole but at night you write for me and only me.”

Torque withdrew the knife. “You and I Pops, we are going to get along just fine.”

Linton tried to imagine Branson bursting through the door, guns blazing. There was nothing there. Only a vague shape. He could not see the face.

“Those pesky kids have gone Pops.” Torque picked up the book that had Branson on the cover, it was smudged as if a water had been poured over it. “Like I said we are going to get along just fine. Just the two of us.”

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Comments by other Members

Dee at 18:25 on 15 December 2004  Report this post

SSSScary, Heck, and compelling.

There are some typos but you know that, as it’s a first draft.

I confess I felt a little disappointed when I realised where the story was going but curiosity kept me in there. I couldn’t stop reading, and I'm glad about that. There’s a strong shade of Stephen King’s ‘Dark Half’ here.

Love the resolution at the end – I often feel some of my characters are manipulating me like that!


Nell at 19:11 on 15 December 2004  Report this post
Hi David. I thought the ideas in this piece very clever, and it did draw me on. When I realized what was happening I wondered how you'd manage a satisfactory end, but you did, and I specially liked the idea of the author writing only for his character and not publishing anything, and the thought that if the character killed the author, then he'd also die. This is a first draft and I guess you'll leave it for a week or so and possibly tighten and polish when you come back to it. I thought ...the panther he considered her to be... a little odd (she resembled?), but then you throw in the Medusa image which confuses the other. A few typos which you'll find easily enough, and barb wire should be barbed wire. I found the other named characters slightly confusing as I kept trying to remember them in case they proved important later on. I suppose you do need them? I did find them a distraction. Some evocative turns of phrase - my favourite was ...She wore a long black overcoat that sucked darkness into her, taking away his command of the room... Nicely dark.


Mrbyte at 08:57 on 17 December 2004  Report this post
Hi Dave,
Very good, it had me thinking of 'A Christmas carol'at the start but then it got very ....different.
liked it a lot a real different, and clever idea.
maybe a little confussing with the characters but otherwise loved it.

Heckyspice at 16:43 on 18 December 2004  Report this post
Thanks for the comments.

Dee, I am not familiar with the "Dark Half", but I guess if there was another influence for the story it would have been "Mr Fiddlehead" by Jonathon Carroll. A fantasy character comes to life through the grief of a a real person.

Nell, there is scope here for a novella and I think the other characters would prove to be necessary, as the pace will be measured and you would get a feel for the ideas that Linton had for stories. Also the menace the of Torque could be a constant threat rather than a sudden attack.

Steve, glad you liked it. It could have easliy been a Christmas carol pastiche and to be honest it was not until I got the idea about Torque it could have been heading that way.

Thanks once more,


Dee at 17:05 on 18 December 2004  Report this post
David, The Dark Half is about an author who has written a series of novels centred around a particularly nasty character. He decides to kill off this character and has a mock funeral as a publicity stunt. Unfortunately the character doesn’t like the idea of being killed off and digs himself out of the grave… I must read it again!

If you develop this story into a novella I’m sure it has massive scope.

Good luck with it.


Heckyspice at 12:18 on 20 December 2004  Report this post
Hi Dee,

I will have to put it on the list of books to read. If you have not had the chance, I recommend the Jonathon Carroll story which is included in his book, "The Panic hand" (which is probably out of print but available on Ebay).


scoops at 09:35 on 07 February 2005  Report this post
Hello Hecky, The writing in this piece kept me reading long after I'd lost interest in the characters. I think the first half is really strong and very compelling. Once the dialogue got going, and going, and going:-( the narrative started to lose its pace and the ending felt more convenient than planned. I think you need to make this much tighter if it's to work in its current form, and there needs to be more light and shade - there is scope for some serious spooking here as well as observation about the relationship between a writer and his characters. I really loved the first few paragraphs, I thought they worked fantastically well and was really quite disappointed when it became apparent that Jessica was a figment of his imagination:-) I think it would benefit from reworking because so much is so good. Shyama

Heckyspice at 14:00 on 07 February 2005  Report this post
Hi Scoops,

Thanks for the comments. Looking back over the story I do see the weak points especially the ending being convenient and the pace slackening. It was rushed towward the end as I got into the flow but did not edit.

I do think the idea is a strong one and is one I do want to explore, perhaps from the point of view of the characters. I can imagine the characters waking up and feeling incomplete, having their worlds vague and inconsistent. The nub of the story is about relationships and not just a monster on the loose.



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