A Figment of my Imagination…Or is it? I P
It started with a site I found on the Internet, a site for writers to post their work. How fantastic is that, I thought? I love writing and this seemed like a golden opportunity. Of course, no one used their real names and nobody knew where anyone lived. It was all quite anonymous so I started to post some of my work and I was amazed to find that some of it seemed to be well received. Then there was one writer who always seemed to comment on my work. Nothing nasty, quite the opposite in fact, so I was happy to have his comments, particularly as his work was very, very good. Much better than mine and so if he suggested any alterations I usually went along with them. After I had been posting my work for little over a year I found this writer was helping me more and more and as a consequence I felt my writing was improving to such an extent that I wanted to meet him face to face. After all the effort he had put in. But he never replied whenever I suggested it.
When I first started to post my work I had been delighted to receive a great many comments from other writers on the site but now I noticed no one else was commenting only the person I now considered to be my mentor. He seemed to be guiding my work in a certain direction, prompting me to write in a certain way. I was happy to do this as my work was being picked out for special mention by the editors so I was grateful to, onlydoitmyway, which was the name he wrote under. As I mentioned earlier we all wrote under different names to keep our anonymity. Then on one occasion I had posted a fictional story about a murder but I was upset to see my mentor did not comment. No word of encouragement or any advice or any corrections. This had never happened before I didn’t know quite what to make of it. Eventually I thought, perhaps he was ill so I posted directly on to his page asking him if he was all right and if he was had he read my story and if so what did he think? Nothing!
I couldn’t understand this he always had so much to say. I know this story was a bit of a departure from what I usually wrote but even so…I thought he would have something to say but no. Nothing. I waited almost two weeks but not a word. Then one day I got an email from someone who used to comment a lot when I first started posting. Jollyjapes he/she wondered if I was having trouble with my page as it would not accept comments. I thought this was strange because my mentor had not had any trouble… well not up to the point where he just stopped commenting. I couldn’t understand this so I contacted the editor of the site to see what the problem was. He emailed me back to say I had blocked my comments box to everybody except my mentor. I emailed him back to say this was the first I heard about it as I had done no such thing. He said he had my email instructing him to block everyone except my mentor. I was bewildered. What was going on?
Then one morning I was reading the paper and there was my story only it was not fiction it was a true story. A murder had been committed in exactly the way my story had described in very great detail. My story was almost like a blueprint for this murder. A murder that had now been committed. I felt responsible. Ridiculous of course. How could I be responsible for something I had no control over? I pushed it to the back of my mind. Don’t dwell, forget it. Go back to your writing.
It was sometime, however, before I could bring myself to do any writing but eventually I got myself together enough to write a little piece and wondered if I would get any comments. Just one. Yes, you’ve guessed, it was my mentor! He said how much he liked the piece but there were one or two places where I had mixed my tenses something I used to do a lot when I first started posting but under his tuition I had not done it for quite some time so I was a little disappointed to find I had slipped into bad habits again. Still, at least he was back. He didn’t mention anything about not commenting on my last piece and I was just grateful to have him on my side again so I said nothing.
Over the next couple of months I posted quite a lot of stuff and he always commented and gave me the benefit of his advice. He also started directing my writing once again prompting me to go in this direction or to approach the subject from a different angle but always his comments were constructive and I felt comfortable to follow his lead. Then he started suggesting what subjects I should write about but I was not as comfortable with that as I felt he might just as well write the story himself but once again I said nothing and did as he suggested.
Then I thought to hell with this I want to write about the subjects I choose not just what he tells me to write about so I wrote what I thought was a well written piece about a couple who were on holiday in Australia and while journeying in the bush got flagged down on a highway by a motorist who had broken down. The couple pulled up their camper van to help but when the man got out of his vehicle to see what was wrong the other man pulled a gun and shot him. Then as the girl got out he grabbed her and tied her up and threw her in the back of his truck but she managed to escape and hide in the bush until eventually the man drove away. The girl was picked up by a passing motorist in a very distressed state. When later she was questioned by police they did not believe her story and she was held under suspicion for quite some time. Eventually however she was released through lack of evidence.
I posted my piece and happily sat back to await my mentor’s comments but no… once again. Nothing! Not the next day or the day after. The days spread into weeks but still nothing so now thoroughly disheartened I stopped posting all together. Then one night I was watching television when on the news that night there it was, my story. A couple had been attacked while on a travelling holiday in Australia. Every detail of my story was there. I was beside myself it looked like I was the prophet of doom. My story had killed that man or so it seemed to me. I didn’t know what to do. I was frightened to go to the police because once again my story seemed like a blue print for this terrible crime.
I wanted to go on the site and tell my mentor about my concerns but he hadn’t commented for weeks now. I think he lost interest when I dared to write about something he had not suggested. Then after much soul searching I thought this is ridiculous how can I possibly be responsible for something that had happened all those miles away on another continent? So I turned on the computer and set about writing an amusing little piece, well I thought it was amusing, about Names and Their Importance in Literature. I was absolutely over the moon when the editor picked it out for special mention. This was the first time work that I had written without any help from my mentor had been picked. I was ecstatic. I didn’t need him any more. If he was going to be sniffy just because I had dared to write a story about a subject he hadn’t suggested then so be it. I could stand on my own two feet as a writer now. Hadn’t I just proved it by getting my story picked for special mention? But then the next day there he was again…commenting! Well he could go to the end of his house because I was not going to comment back. I was finished with him. I didn’t need him anymore, anyway. That doesn’t seem quite right. I think he would say that sentence was a little awkward. There you are I said to myself you really don’t need him you can recognise when something is wrong all by yourself now. I was very pleased with this realization but then niggling doubts started creeping in. Where my writing is concerned I had always been crippled by self doubt. Until, that is, my mentor had convinced me I could write even though up until this last piece it had always been with his help.
The upshot of all this self analysis was that once more I crept back on to the site and replied to his comment. I asked him outright why hadn’t he commented on my Australian piece. He replied that by coincidence he was himself holidaying in Australia and as he was travelling in the bush he couldn’t get an Internet connection.
Alarm bells started ringing at this news but then I thought don’t be ridiculous just because he was in Australia at the same time as this awful episode had taken place. I was getting overwrought because of the similarity of the case to my story but there the connection ended. So, once again, I pushed all this to the back of my mind and started posting my work for my mentor to comment. This he started to do quite readily but now his comments were quite sharp if I got something wrong. He said he was looking for perfection and he thought that was what I could deliver. I must admit to feeling rather pleased then by what he said and it went some way to taking the sting out of his comments.
He was by this time allowing me to choose the subjects I wanted to write about although I must admit I was heavily influenced by the suggestions he had made to me earlier. Anyway, one day I submitted a story about a young woman and her mother who had got shot during a robbery on their Jeweller’s shop. The mother was shot trying to shield her daughter from the gunman. I was quite pleased with this story and I thought he would like it too as it was written very much in the style he thought I was best at. Once again, nothing! Not one word from him so I was left stewing once again. Then one day, there was a loud knocking on my door and when I answered a uniformed policeman and another man who I assumed was a plain clothes policeman, were stood on my front step. They asked to be allowed inside and of course I complied.
After some initial questioning they said they wanted me to accompany them to the station as they wanted to question me further. Somewhat bemused I had no choice but to do as they asked. Once at the station I was taken into a small room and offered a cup of tea while the plain clothes officer rustled through some papers taken from a file. Eventually he looked up and said the reason I had been brought in for questioning was that someone had reported to them that my stories bore a great deal of similarity with some recent cases in the news and that my stories were posted on a writer’s website just before the incidents took place. I was shocked. This looked to me like they thought I had something to do with these incidents…that I was in some way directing them. This was serious stuff.
They had copies of my stories and the details of each case and they pointed out that all the details in these three cases were identical to the details in my stories. I was becoming increasingly frightened by all this. I just didn’t have an explanation for how or why this was the case. They said that they had studied my earlier work and noticed it was quite different from how I wrote now. Ah, now I could explain so I told them about my mentor and how he had directed my writing but they didn’t seem satisfied with this explanation at all.
Then, to my horror they said they had spoken to my mentor and that he had told them that I was very manipulative and that I was always trying to get him to help me write a certain kind of story, something that in real life would make the news. He said on several occasions he had to stop commenting on my work because he didn’t like the direction I wanted to go in. I was in shock. This was so far from the truth but how could I defend myself. It looked to me like they thought I was the one lying to cover my tracks. I was getting more frightened by the minute as the questioning went on for hours but then quite suddenly they said I was free to go. I couldn’t get out of that place fast enough.
Once home, I switched on the computer and went straight on the site and on to his page and left a message. He never got back to me.
Several weeks passed and in that time I had three visits from the police but, thank God, I wasn’t taken in for questioning again. I didn’t know what to do with myself until in the end I thought I would try to take my mind off things by writing a story and who knows, my mentor might just comment. No, nothing!
Then, one night coming home from work a bit later than normal I turned the key in the latch and as I went to step inside suddenly I was pushed from behind and to my horror there was a masked man in my hallway. ‘What do you want’ I asked fearfully.
‘I’ve got very little money on me or in the house but you can have it all! Take it” I said thrusting my purse into his hands.
He just looked at me and then he said ‘You shouldn’t have posted that last story. You know I always do what you say in those ridiculous melodramatic stories you choose to write.’
‘So’ I said ‘It was you. I thought it was…but why? I don’t understand.’
‘I haven’t spent all this time grooming you to become a serious writer only to have you throw away every chance I have given you.’
‘You can’t be serious’ I said. ‘This is crazy I only wanted to improve my writing to the extent that I might get something published one day.’
‘Then before you accepted my help you should have paid attention to the name I write under.’
‘Onlydoitmyway is the name I write under and you should have known that I was serious. Now because of that last stupid story you posted I am going to have to kill you just like the murder in your last story. See, here are the scissors…’ and he brought out a large pair of mean looking scissors. ‘Now it really is going to be your last story. You should have known that this would happen if you were foolish enough to write a story about a woman writer who gets murdered by another writer because she doesn’t follow his suggestions to the letter. You should have known I would come for you.’
‘She did know’ said a strong male voice from the darkness at the end of the hall. ‘She was acting on our suggestion.’
The masked man went to make for the front door but it was blocked by another policeman who stood with handcuffs at the ready.
‘How did you know?’ he asked.
The policeman replied 'That story you told us about the young lady manipulating you just didn’t hold up…not when we saw her earlier work. She just didn’t have the talent to be the one doing the manipulating.’
Oh, I thought, thanks a bunch! They obviously hadn’t carried out their investigation rigorously enough otherwise they would have known that my Names and Their Importance in Literature had made Story of the Week no less! And they needed to go to Specsavers because even in the gloom of my hallway they should have been able to see that I was far from being a young lady! Then, if that wasn’t enough, imagine the shock I felt when I heard…
‘Tony Cook I am arresting you for the murder of…’
Only jesting…or am I?