A horror writer discovers a unique way to inspire himself.
|Mightier Than The Pen
The sky purged itself of an entire ocean.
The water fell straight down through the windless night, shattering the mirror-like puddles on the blacktop, and then gushed along the gutters in endless torrents.
Cameron Lomax loved the gray rain. Nothing better for writing a good horror story, he thought.
In fact, he couldn‘t wait to get started. Hurrying through the parking lot, ink pen gripped tightly in his right hand, he clicked the top over and over again as he moved in for the kill.
The shopper had found his keys, opened the trunk of his car, and stowed away the first of two plastic bags of groceries. Bending to pick up the second bag, he became aware he was no longer alone, turned his head and looked up from his bent position in time to see the sweeping arc of Cameron’s fist coming down on him. He caught the stabbing pen in the back of his neck and was pushed to the ground even as it was withdrawn, then stabbed again, this time in the left eye. The first wound probably killed him, but Cameron continued to strike over and over again.
Wasting no time to determine if he was observed, the killer struggled to lift the man off the wet blacktop, then dropped the corpse into the open trunk. The car rocked with the impact of the dead weight, the man’s one good eye staring up at him while the other dangled loosely on his cheek, punctured and free of its socket. He’d take care of the body later, he thought, once he reached the downtown area.
Taking the dead man’s wallet, he found a pleasingly thick sheaf of currency in it. Then slamming the trunk closed, he heard the keys jangle in the lock. He wiped his pen on his jeans, opened his parka, and replaced it inside his shirt pocket, making sure the clip fastened it securely. “I don’t wanna lose you,” he said. “You’re my favorite!”
Grabbing the keys, he jumped into the green Oldsmobile, cranked up the engine, and drove out of the parking lot, leaving the second bag of groceries sitting in the rain.
In the body of the night, the great heart of horror beat slowly in Cameron, reliably, like an eternal force. Feeling better than he’d ever felt before, he drove until he was in an area of expensive office towers and complexes, many of which seemed to be the regional or national headquarters of major corporations and publishing companies. They were set back from the street behind large and meticulously maintained lawns, flowerbeds, and swathes of shrubbery, all illuminated by artfully placed landscape lighting.
In front of Hawthorn Publishing Company, Cameron pulled to the side of the road. It was late, and the streets were wet-black and empty. Quickly, he popped the trunk and hurried to the back of the stolen car.
Waiting for him there was Peter Teller, the guy who turned down Cameron’s latest novel with the words, “A writer who writes only for shock value is nothing more than a lunatic with a pen.”
Teller, his one good eye bulging wide with astonishment, acted surprised to see his murderer again but wore a dead smile on his face. Cameron ignored the shit-eating grin, grabbed the publicist by the open lapels of his raincoat, and jerked him out of the car. He dragged the body behind a three-foot wall of shrubbery and dumped it there.
“What gives you the right to judge me, Mr. Teller?” he said, mimicking the words he used earlier that afternoon in Teller’s office. “Have a nice day, asshole!” He chuckled lightly. “Oops, I mean…afterlife.” He laughed again, his voice sounding eerily unlike his own.
Later, from a nest of shadows that gathered in the front seat of the car, Cameron drove across town thinking about the opening lines to his next story. His mind raced with almost prose-like descriptions and dialogue he would later write out in longhand with his favorite pen. He never used a keyboard; he thought it felt unrealistic, and everything about his writing had to feel real.
After every murder, Cameron Lomax would sit at his dimly lit desk writing feverishly, his turbulent mind like an inner tempest of blind hostility that he’d take out on the lined pages, as if his victims were speaking through him even as he killed them all over again. He smiled, knowing that sometimes a good killing said more than all the words he could ever marshal, and when he ran out of ideas, he knew he’d kill again, blatantly, and without remorse. But tonight he would sleep on it, and after dumping the stolen car in an alley not two blocks from his home, Cameron curled up in bed and slept heavily.
In the deepest hour of the night, he dreamt his usual vivid dreams of slashed throats, bullet-shattered heads, pale wrists carved by razor blades, and strangled prostitutes. He always felt soothed by these dreams, refreshed, and would awake ready to write.
But this dream was different. In this dream, the publicist, Peter Teller, sat heavily on his chest, inches from Cameron’s face, his speared eye waving to-and-fro, clicking the favorite pen.
Then he read loudly from Cameron’s composition book, lining out sentence after sentence, all the while working the pen.
Finally he stopped, put his mouth to Cameron's ear and whispered, “A writer who writes only for shock value is nothing more than a lunatic with a pen.” Cameron felt the man’s stench-filled breath hot on his neck. "What gives you the right to ever judge me, asshole."
Cameron Lomax awoke from the dream with the feeling of being crushed. Even after the nightmare shattered and blew away, he couldn’t move or breathe. Then breath came to him suddenly, explosively, and his paralysis broke with a spasm that shook him from head to foot.
Outside, the haunting light gradually arose, and the clouds trailing the storm appeared thin and torn, the sky bruised. Cameron crawled out of bed, wiped the sleep from his face and sat down at his writing desk, the dream now nothing more than a shadow of the dying night.
He noticed his favorite pen wasn’t on the desk where he had left it. Frantically, he searched through his clothes, and then his eyes caught a glimpse of the silver pen folded between the pages of his journal. He opened the book slowly, a feeling of apprehension washing over him like muddy water. Something was written on the page in red ink.
A writer who writes only for shock value is nothing more than a lunatic with a pen.
His mouth fell open. “What the…who the hell wrote this?" Then the dream flooded back into his mind. “Teller!” he said aloud. “That son-of-a-bitch must still be alive!”
Flipping through his journal, he saw every page had been scribbled on. Lunatic with a pen, it read. Lunatic. Every page. Lunatic….Lunatic….LUNATIC!
“This is totally insane.” His heart began to beat against his ribs, and he struggled to suppress the fear that swelled in him. “The man was dead! I know he was! Dead as a door nail!”
Regardless of what he thought, the writing was there, and the words were exactly what Teller had told him in his office--in his dream. He wiped the flat of his hand across the writing. The ink smudged, smeared, and then stained his hand. He clenched his fist, then noticed it felt sticky and not like ink at all. Cameron rubbed his hands together, trying to wipe them clean, but then both were marked with red.
Rushing to the bathroom, he turned on the hot water, and vigorously washed with soap, but no amount of washing would remove the stain. Briskly, he dried his hands on a white towel, and now it too was discolored with the red ink. “What the hell is this stuff?”
Finally, he took a deep breath to relax. He sat down to write, taking the pen in his hand and pressing down on the top to eject the inked tip, but it didn’t pop out--it felt as if it were clogged inside. He pressed the top again, harder. From behind him, just over his shoulder, he heard a Click-click.
He spun around, but there was nothing there.
Ignoring it as nothing more than the settling house, he pressed the button on top of the pen with all his might. This time, the pointed cartridge revealed itself, along with a glob of meaty flesh that splattered out onto the paper. Cameron recognized it immediately as pieces of Teller’s flesh, eye, and brain that had clogged up the barrel of his pen.
Looking at the clump of human tissue, he curiously reached out and touched it with his finger.
Cameron’s body jerked heavily.
Heart knocking hard, skin freezing with fear, the room started to spin out of control. He lolled back in his chair, holding on to the arms as a thin froth of drool formed at the corners of his mouth; his feet twitched aimlessly. Then a long, dying sound escaped his throat, and his eyes rolled up in his head, revealing bulging, glistening whites.
His hand flew to the desk, glued to the pen. The writing instrument touched the paper and began to write, pulling his hand along with it.
Finally coming out of his trance, he stared down at the words pouring out of his fist, his heart thumping so hard he felt the pulse in his throat. The sentences spilled out of him, and there was no feeling in his hand anymore. There was not even a remote sense of pressure in his fingers, although he could see he was gripping the pen tightly enough to turn his thumb and first two fingers white at the tips.
Reading the words, Cameron realized with mounting horror that he was reading an exact account of every murder he had ever committed…and this time it was not a prefabrication of the events, but the coherent, brutal narration of a killer’s confession.
The last thing on earth he wanted was to have anyone discover where he had gotten his inspiration. He looked down at the scrawled pages, full of horror and wonder. He remembered reading a piece about 'automatic writing' and how some people fooled themselves with a Ouija board that was actually guided by their own subconscious thoughts and desires.
Suddenly, his arm flew up again. At the same time, his numb hand flicked the pen with the agility of a stage-magician manipulating a card, and instead of holding it between his fingers most of the way down the barrel, he was now gripping the pen in his fist like a dagger. With a devilish grin, he brought it down hard and unexpectedly, burying the pen into his left hand.
Cameron threw his head back and clamped his teeth shut against the agonized howl which fought to escape his throat. The grisly pen withdrew and came at his face, and then stopped, just a fraction of an inch from his left eye.
Quickly, he grabbed his right wrist with his left hand, and with all his strength, he tried to stop the inevitable. But his left hand was weaker than his right, and he was losing. His grip began to fail and he felt like a man who hung by a thread over a bottomless chasm.
Winning the tug-of-war, the pen entered him, burying itself deep within his left eye even as Cameron’s possessed hand pushed it further and further into his head.
There was a horrible gurgling sound, and then he fell forward face first into his journal, driving the pen all the way home as it dotted the final sentence of his life.