The story appears in Journey Into the Unknown: Deluxe Horror Edition
Howie Bonham opened the box that he had just received in the mail. Inside were thirty copies of his latest novel. He grabbed a knife from the kitchen counter and carefully opened the box. He pulled one of the books out of the box and smiled. Six months writing ten thousand words per day went into the labor of his latest self-published novel. He stared at the amazing cover that was designed by somebody he found on the Kindle forums. The book had been live on Amazon for two weeks now without a single sale. He didn’t know why he couldn’t get anyone to purchase the hard copy or even download the eBook. He knew horror was hard to sell these days, but at least one book should have sold already. He spent most of his spare time promoting the book on Twitter and Facebook. He also had his own Weebly website where hundreds of people were reading his weekly blog each month, but none of that hard work equaled any sales. He just couldn’t understand it. He knew it was hard to sell on Amazon without any reviews, but you couldn’t get reviews without sales. The chicken or the egg scenario.
He glanced through the first chapter. Even though he was disappointed in his lack of sales, he still had a sense of accomplishment holding the book in his hands for the first time. There was a local author’s book fair coming up in a couple weeks, and he was confident that he could convince someone to purchase a copy. He looked at the box the books came in. It looked too unprofessional for transporting them back and forth from one book fair to another. He needed a plastic tote. He decided to take a trip to Mega-Mart.
Mega-Mart was packed as usual. He grabbed a cart and headed for the office supplies. He grabbed one of the small plastic totes and walked over to the magazine section. He grabbed the latest issue of Writer’s Digest and a small flyer fell out of the magazine and landed on his left arm. He looked at the flyer closely in shock. There was a picture of his latest novel with an excellent review written about it. On the bottom of the flyer was a message that read: If you want reviews similar to this one and a lucrative writing career, then Mezol Sharks is the man you seek. He will make you a famous writer. I wouldn’t let this opportunity pass you by. Come visit my shop at:
666 Devil’s Lane
Howie pinched his arm real hard to make sure he wasn’t in the middle of a dream. He was wide awake and the flyer was real. He didn’t understand how something so specifically written for him could fall out of the magazine. He had goose bumps all over his arms, and he could feel the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. He stared at the flyer for several minutes and decided that it wouldn’t hurt to take a drive to Chicago to check this Mezol Sharks out. What was the worst that could happen? He fell victim to some elaborate prank?
After an hour drive, he pulled in front of Mezol Shark’s shop. The place from the outside looked run down. He got out of his car and walked up to the front door. A large black spider was in a spider web by the front door. The garbage can fell over as he startled a black cat looking for food. He grabbed the door knob, which was hot to the touch, and opened it. The room was poorly lit by a couple of torches attached to the walls. He could see cockroaches crawling everywhere. A black mouse ran passed him. In the middle of the room was an old wooden table that held a skull with smoke coming out of its eye sockets.
“May I help you?” a deep voice asked from the back of the room.
Howie made his way to the back of the room until he noticed a dark figure sitting in the dark. He couldn’t see the figure’s face. “I found this flyer…”
The figure began to laugh and brought his face out of the darkness. “I already know the help you need. You want to be a famous writer. Sell millions of books.”
“How would you like to sell more books than the most established author? But before you answer that, I must warn you that all wishes come with a small price. Heh! Heh! Heh!”
“What sort of price?”
The dark figure looked him over closely. He grabbed his chin and inspected his face. “As long as you have the ability to write, everything you write will make you millions. I have a special place in my decaying heart for writers. I do my most successful business with them.”
“Again, your price?”
“Why your soul, of course.”
Howie looked around the shop. “Is this some sort of joke? Am I being punked?”
“I’m not the humorous type. This is a one-time offer,” he said and slowly walked away.
Howie thought about the lack of sales he was having. He would love to be famous. He imagined going to the movie theater one day and seeing one of his novels brought to life on the big screen. He wasn’t a religious man. He didn’t believe in Heaven or Hell or eternal damnation. “I accept your terms.”
“Excellent!” the figure’s voice echoed throughout the shop. He walked back into the room carrying a novel-sized stack of papers and slapped it down on a nearby desk. “I just need your signature to make it legal. You don’t need to read through it; you wouldn’t understand a word of it.”
Howie stared at the stack of papers. “All that paper for our deal? That’s longer than my book.”
“Most likely, not as exciting. Trust me, it’s all pretty straight forward stuff. Just sign on the dotted line on the last page.”
Howie pulled a pen out of his pants pocket and signed it.
“Nice doing business with you. You can show yourself out,” the figure said and then vanished.
Howie took a last glance around the shop and walked out the front door. As the door closed, the shop vanished. He was standing in a large alleyway. Where the shop once stood was a large dumpster with a homeless man sleeping slumped next to it.
After a long drive, he returned home. After bringing all of his bags in, he checked his account on Createspace. To his surprise, he sold over three hundred copies of his novel. He checked his novel on Amazon.com. There were six hundred and sixty-six five star reviews. Those that had downloaded the eBook had loved it so far. He couldn’t believe that he had gotten so many reviews so fast. Were people speed reading through it? He didn’t care. The book ranking was increasing and the higher it went in ranking, the more people would be willing to purchase it. He went on Twitter to post the good news, and he had thousands of new followers with most of them retweeting his tweet about the release of his book. He could feel the drool forming on the side of his mouth. Mezol Sharks had promised that anything he wrote would make him millions. He opened up the writing program on his computer and spent the next several hours writing a new sixty page short story for an eBook release. After finishing, he was amazed that the program found no grammar mistakes. He read what he wrote and it was perfect. It was ready for publication already. He found the perfect picture for the story on a royalty-free website, and then used one of his photo programs to make an eBook cover out of it. After uploading his new eBook, he went to bed and slept.
He dreamed that night he was on a large book promotional with millions of people attending in order to get his autograph. He had gorgeous, twin blonde girlfriends, his goddesses. He was living in a mansion with a large amusement park in his backyard. He walked out of his mansion and headed over to his warehouse sized garage, housing a vintage car collection that would make Jay Leno jealous. He sat in one of the red sports cars and looked into the mirror. Yes, his life was one of luxury. He snapped awake. It was only five in the morning. He walked over to his laptop and checked his Createspace account. He had sold a million copies of his book overnight. He checked his emails and he had an email from Amazon congratulating him on becoming the current top selling author.
A few hours later, the phone began to ring with several publishing companies wanting to sign him to a contract. He had become an overnight sensation. All this was thanks to the deal he made with Mezol Sharks.
“My soul. I won’t need it when I’m dead,” he said as he poured himself a glass of champagne. “Since I’m now rich, I might as well become a Republican.”
The money poured in quickly. He signed a contract with a major publishing company that handed him a hefty advance for his next novel. The company arranged for him to do a national book tour. His first appearance at a major book chain was a complete success. He signed over a thousand autographs. The bookstore had to turn people away because too many people showed up. No author before him had ever had a following as big as his.
Howie thanked an elderly lady for purchasing his book and handed the book to her. As she walked away, a large, tall man with thick reddish hair approached him.
“Hello. Thanks for purchasing my book. Who should I make this out to?”
“Write this for me. From your biggest fan above and below the earth — Mezol Sharks.”
Howie looked up at him in horror. “Mezol Sharks?”
“You didn’t forget about me did you? I told you that you would be a famous writer. You are the true King now.”
“No, I thank you. Your soul is so tainted now.”
“My soul is meaningless. Fame and fortune is what defines a man.”
“True, Howie, true. Thanks for your signature, and I don’t mean the one you just signed for me. I’ll see you real soon,” Mezol Sharks said and walked away.
“Who was that?” Collie, his agent, asked.
“An old acquaintance,” he said.
After the autograph signing, Howie got in his limousine and told the driver to head for the hotel. As the limousine was heading down the highway, it hit a sheet of black ice on the exit ramp and spun out of control. It rolled off the exit ramp and crashed into the roadway below. It exploded.
Howie awoke several days later in the hospital. He could barely see or hear anything. He was in excruciating pain. He struggled trying to look down. He was in a body cast. Both of his arms and legs were gone, severed completely off in the explosion. The doctor was talking to Collie.
“He will never be more than just a shell. What is remaining of his body is completely covered in fourth-degree burns.”
“What’s that in the jar over there?” Collie asked.
“That would be his tongue.”
“He’ll never be able to write again?”
“I’m not sure he will ever be able to communicate with anybody again. I’m surprised he’s still alive.”
“Doctor, his head is shaking,” one of the nurses pointed out.
“What’s happening?” Collie asked.
“I recognize that. It’s Morse Code,” the doctor said.
“What’s he’s saying?” Collie asked.
“Kill me. Kill me. Kill me.”
Michelle McGill-Vargas says
What writers wouldn’t do to be recognized for the craft. I know this is horror, but as a writer myself, this was hilarious! All the signs of what WOULD happened and the main protagonist igned anyway. The ending surprised me. I expected him to die, but not being able to write? Ever? There’s the horror!