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“She knows, Al.”
I closed the door of the motel room behind me. Al was sitting cross-legged on his bed with his eyes closed and his brow slightly furrowed. He looked like he was meditating, but I knew better. He was going through the pictures in his iris-cam.
He opened his eyes to look straight at me. “What?”
The expression of horror on his face told me he knew exactly what I meant.
Still, he asked- “What do you mean?” Maybe some tiny part of him was hoping I was referring to something else.
Al sat with his head in his hands, cursing under his breath the whole time I was telling him how the Creator knew who we really were.
“No teenagers believe in magic,” he said when I’d finished.
“Apparently, those who’re writers do.” I shrugged.
“Did you really have to use Brad Arnold, Spruce?” he looked at me accusingly.
“I had to come up with a name on the spot! I said the first that came into my mind.”
Al shook his head. “What did you tell her about Rennie?”
“I told her she was looking for a way to get us back home.”
“Did she buy it?”
“I think so. She didn’t ask any more- just told me to tell Rennie to lay off her research for a while and come meet her.”
“Now that is just offensive.”
“But it proves one thing- the Creator doesn’t have total control. We do have some free will.”
“Well, aren’t you just a bundle of sunshine.” He slid off his bed and stood up. “Now we’ll have to be even more careful.”
“Killing her, dummy.”
“We can’t do that now, Al.”
“Why not? Just because she knows us doesn’t change a thing. Rennie’s still gone and our world is still messed up.”
I sighed. “Do you know what she did when she realised we were her characters? She screamed and jumped on her bed for a whole hour.”
“Now that just means she needs help.”
“It’s not funny.”
“I’m not laughing.”
“A whole hour, Al. Do you realise how happy a person has to be to do that? She was so excited. She even insisted to come with me and see you and Rennie. I don’t think she’s ever been happier in her whole life.”
“I’m sure you’re exaggerating.”
“If I were, she’d be dying of joy.”
Al sat back down.
“Her being happy doesn’t change the fact that she killed your parents and countless others.”
“The mutants did that.”
“And she made them do it.”
“But she didn’t know it was happening.”
Al’s expression said that he was tired of hearing that. “Suppose we’re lost in a jungle, with no food and water for days. Finally, you find a bush growing with red berries. You’re starving, so you don’t think twice and eat them before bringing them to me. I eat them too. Turns out, they were poisonous berries and both of us die. Who is responsible for killing us both?”
I was quiet for a moment. “The berries,” I said finally.
Al facepalmed. “You, Spruce. That counts as involuntary manslaughter.”
“Right, but now that she knows we’re her characters, maybe we could convince her to change everything?”
“You’re being unrealistic. No writer would ever change their story just because someone tells them to.”
“We’re not someone. We’re-”
“Her characters, I know. I hear ya. But what if she becomes a professional writer in the future? She’ll have to change it back, then. Nobody likes fluffy stories where nothing happens. And everyone in our world will be screwed again. The safest course of action would be to finish her once and for all.”
“Why are you so determined to kill her?”
“Why are you so bent on saving her?”
‘Because I have a heart,’ I wanted to say. The Creator was ecstatic at having met us. That meant she was attached to her characters, even if only through words on a piece of paper. To harm her in any way would be backstabbing.
On the other hand, Al was right- she was guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Convincing her to give up writing was ideal but impractical. Nothing we said could be that powerful.
Then it struck me. In the context of writing, I’d heard of the ‘Show, don’t tell’ rule many times.
“I have an idea, Al. We should take her to our world.”
Al looked at the calendar hanging on the wall. “November 8th, 2018. The day Spruce Marlow officially lost his brains.”
“Just hear me out. Telling is never as powerful as showing. If she sees for herself the suffering in our world, she’ll give up writing about it. Nobody can bear to look at the troubles of a whole world, learn that they’ve caused it all, and continue causing it.”
Al thought about it. “That’s a terrible plan.”
“It’s the only one we have.”
“No, we don’t. We could, for example, kill her.”
“It’s a second chance. She deserves at least that.”
Al clasped his hands and rested his chin on them, frowning.
“Also, we still have the midnight man to take care of. If we take her with us instead of killing her, we won’t have to worry about him,” I added. “Maybe he’ll even leave us if we change worlds.”
“Wishful thinking, Spruce.”
“But you have to agree that we could safely forget about him for the moment. Take up one thing at a time.”
Al was quiet.
“Maybe we could even get Rennie back with her help once we’re there.”
His frown grew more pronounced. The room was quiet for a whole minute.
He finally unclasped his hands. “One chance. If it doesn’t change her heart, we kill her and I never listen to you again,” he finally said.
“And wipe that ridiculous smile off your face, or I’ll do it for you.”
I didn’t stop smiling.
Thanks for sticking it out for more than a year with me, folks. KTC ends here.
Now you must be thinking that it feels a bit unsatisfactory, and you’re right. A lot of things are to come. But I’m ending here precisely because of that. The plans I have for this story won’t be justified by ten or even twenty more parts. Through the course of 13 months and 20 parts, I’ve grown quite attached to Al and Spruce.
So attached, in fact, that I plan on converting KTC to a novel. And I will. I will continue to write until the story is properly fleshed-out and feels like a complete novel. I just won’t be posting it here. I might launch a season 2 sometime, but I don’t know for sure.
Many writers know their story inside out before they start writing, but I’m not one of them. I write as I go, and I think that’s part of the fun for me. I’m just as clueless as you about what happens next, and I enjoy being in this dual role of both a reader and a writer.
For all those who made it till here, thank you for being patient and putting up with my cliffhangers, my irregular posting, and being involved with the story.