The Empty Page
By David Eccles
William was incapable of multitasking; his mind worked like that of a hunter—or your average male! He could only concentrate on one thing at a time, and right now that one thing was the completion of his latest horror story. All he needed to do was figure out a way to kill off the antagonist.
He stared at his computer monitor, mesmerized by the cursor at the top of the empty page in his word processing software as it disappeared and then reappeared with measured regularity. He had been unable to write a single word for days, but it was not through lack of trying. Constant distractions interrupted his train of thought: there would be a knock at the door; the telephone would ring or a compelling television drama would draw him in, then he would forget the plot that had been milling around in his head. Keeping a notepad and pencil close to hand was always good practice, fellow writers had told him repeatedly; it would enable him to document those rare moments of inspiration, and so it had become a force of habit that he now carried those items with him wherever he went.
William sat at his writing desk, drumming his fingers on the green leatherette covering and gnawing at his bottom lip, a look of deep concentration on his face and his brow beaded in perspiration as he tried to force the words out of his head and onto the blank monitor screen. His efforts came to no avail. Sitting and staring at an empty page was getting him nowhere, William realised, and so he got up from his leather executive chair to stretch his legs and enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee. William began making his way to the kitchen, but he had only taken a few steps before he was halted by the sound of the doorbell chiming.
He could feel the anger rise up within him; he heard the blood rushing in his ears, his heart pounded furiously and the throbbing in his temples became unbearable.
“You’ve got to be joking! Sunday morning, and I can’t even enjoy five minutes’ peace with a cup of coffee!” he growled through clenched teeth. Spinning on his heels, William closed the gap between himself and the front door in just a few seconds before yanking it open.
“Good morning, sir. Do you ever take the time to think about Jesus Christ, and to consider what he would think about all of the trouble going on in the world if he was to return and walk among us today?”
William had no recollection of what transpired after he opened the door to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, nor did he know just how much time had elapsed. It was all a complete and utter blank to him. He was aware, however that he was sitting at his writing desk once more. It was then that he happened to glance up at the computer monitor. The cursor no longer flashed at the top of the page. The screen was filled with words—words that he did not remember typing! Reading hurriedly through the prose, he saw that it was written in his own unique style. William read on, all the way to the story’s conclusion. He felt physically sick by the time he had finished reading. He had somehow managed to write the perfect ending, but just what exactly had been the inspiration behind it? The horrible truth of the matter slowly dawned on him.
William searched through the pockets of his denims, patting himself down; the utter dread that he felt grew by the second as he became suddenly aware of just how sticky his hands felt. “They’re not there,” he mumbled. “Oh, God! Where are they?”
Wiping his bloodied hands on his shirt, William erupted from out of his chair and stood glancing around his study, paying particular attention to the floor as he noticed the semi-dry crimson spots that increased in size the closer that he got to the hallway.
Cautiously, he craned his neck around the door.
William knew instantly from the man’s apparel that the body lying in the hallway was that of the Jehovah’s Witness. He was uncertain as to what had happened to the dead man’s colleague, however. He/she had probably fled the scene and alerted the authorities; William could hear the wail of approaching police sirens in the distance. Copies of “The Watchtower” and “Awake” lay scattered both underneath and around the corpse; the pages had soaked up a tremendous amount of blood, William noted. To the casual observer, if there could ever be such a thing where a corpse is concerned, the pencil that protruded from the man’s eye socket would appear to have been the logical choice as to the main contributing factor in determining cause of death, but in this instance, that assumption would be incorrect. Cause of death would later be correctly attributed to asphyxiation due to the large amount of notepaper that had been crammed down the Witness’s throat.
All the strength seemed to have left William’s body, and he staggered back against the living room doorframe and slid to the floor, where he remained until the police arrived to read him his rights and place him under arrest.
There was no murder trial. William was sent to a secure unit for psychiatric evaluation where it was deemed that he could not be held criminally liable because his mental functioning was impaired. The need to finish his story had simply driven William mad, it seemed, though I’m sure William would disagree. He’d probably say that carrying a pencil and notepad was excellent advice. After all, he couldn’t have finished his story without them!