Short Story: Two Rules

Stories are my life. Not a day goes by where I’m not considering a new book, revising a plot, digging deeper into a character’s backstory, imagining a distant world, or creating something totally different.

My usual creations are novels, plays, or poetry. It’s been years since I dabbled in the art of short stories. I dusted off this part of my brain when I decided to enter a short story contest with the prompt “I have two basic rules.” Although I didn’t win, I still got the privilege to read my writing. The image is of me reading this story to a captivated audience at the Rutgers Writing Conference.

It won’t surprise many of you that I’ve chosen to write on the dark side. I took inspiration from Stephen King’s rules on writing from his book On Writing. If you’ve never read it here’s a link to another blog stating the rules: scroll down to rule #17, read it, then enjoy my creepy story…

My Two Rules

By Laura Gibson Kudey

The room smells of alcohol and ammonia. Two similar scents to the untrained nose; one pungent, the other a sweeter sensation. Both tantalize my nostrils with a burning thrill as a deep inhale transports me into a comforting trance.

“I suppose you are all wondering why I brought you here.” I fold my hands behind me and weave around the tables and chairs. The air conditioner whirrs to life, and the beads of condensation on Dr. Anderson’s forehead quiver. The slim middle-aged man scrunches his face and mumbles a prayer under his breath.

“I find myself with an impossible deadline; six weeks to write my sequel. I expect you all to be just as cooperative as the last bunch.” I raise my finger to the curvy woman to my right. “And don’t you worry, Matilda, I remember the promise I made.”

My heels clip along the concrete floor and echo across the plastered walls. Pearl-white paint peels along the ceiling tiles. A short man to my left tries to rise to a sitting position. I grasp his pale shoulder and press him back into place.

“The rules of my process remain the same.”

The man’s elbow thumps against the hard metal. “P-p-lease –”

My neck cracks as it twirls toward him. “Don’t interrupt me, Mr. Keen.”

He whimpers in submission. The vents quiet. The room stills.

“As I was saying, my two basic rules remain unchanged.” I open my laptop. The screensaver flashes a picture of Stephen King standing in front of Paul Cezanne’s “Still Life with Skull” painting before revealing a blank document.

“Rule number one: to start, all my characters, my precious darlings, must be alive in one room.”

“Wha-what about her, then?” Mr. Keen gestures to Matilda with a shivering hand. She lies silent and flat on her metal table.

“There are exceptions to every rule, Mr. Keen. She’s my returning character. Act your part well, and you too might be so lucky.”

The short man, Alexander, raises his head. “What did you promise her?”

All six figures cast their eyes on me. I take in the attention of the moment. They are all at the mercy of the master writer, waiting with bated breath for me to write their story.

“I promised I’d grant her last request and give you the courtesy of revealing my second rule before we begin. She swore knowledge would make the process smoother.”

I can see the book unfolding before my eyes. A cast of characters finds themselves trapped in a morgue. The antagonist gives them one mission; to discover the identity of the protagonist. The winner returns for the sequel. At least in body.

The family of six wrestles with the shackles on their wrists and ankles. Three brothers, two wives, and their old man, all looking from the corpse of their mother and wife to the creator of her story.

“Rule number two: in the end, kill all my darlings.”

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