This Friday, officers Libby and Davis investigated a disturbance at Gerald Winters & Son Book Store in Bangor Maine. They found a disheveled man hurling rocks at the door, screaming “Let me in! Please let me in.”
When confronted the man screamed. “You don’t understand. They have the unpublished manuscript that I need to get home!”
It wasn’t until the officers put the man into the back of their vehicle that they realized he was Stephen King.
Officer Libby recounted the incident. “The plan was to drive King home and break the news to Tabby that he’d fallen off the wagon. On the way we tried to assess his sobriety and gage his frame of mind.”
Officer Libby kept her body camera recording the entire time.
“Hey Steve, isn’t that the restaurant where they found the eyeball in the fortune cookie?”
King grunted in the affirmative.
“Want us to turn on the radio? Which station do you own WKIT-FM or WZON?”
“Both of them.” King muttered out the window. Then he pressed his palm to the glass. “UPS is still delivering? That means we’re still in chapter 1. Shit doesn’t hit the fan until the murder hornets show up.”
Officer Libby chuckled. “Murder hornets?”
“Harbingers of the Crimson King. The third of seven.”
Officer Davis chimed in. “I thought seven was a good number.”
King grew irritable. “Who told you that? Odd numbers are always bad, especially prime ones, and especially seven.”
Officer Libby tried changing the subject. “So these harbingers are all insects?”
“No. The first takes the form of an pandemic. The second appears as armed protests. The third is hornets. The fourth is shootings over masks. The fifth is giant rats. The sixth is children murdering their parents.”
“Yikes.” Officer Davis squeezed the wheel. “What’s number seven?”
“When a crystal ball, known as Black 13, is unearthed from One World Trade Center.”
“Then what happens?” The officers asked in unison.
“The beams supporting the dark tower will break and the Crimson King will be set free. He’ll use the deadlights to find the Key World and begin unlocking things. Phantom doors will appear on every street corner and the Warriors of the Scarlet Eye will spill forth from the Outer Dark.”
“Sounds like a hell of a story.”
“That’s all it was supposed to be. I wrote it in a cocaine fueled stupor around the same time as The Tommy Knockers. I shelved it and the world moved on. That was until I found a door on my front lawn.”
“When was that?” Officer Libby couldn’t help but ask.
Officer Davis later admitted to taking the long way to King’s estate. He wanted to buy the author time to finish his story. In hindsight, Officer Davis admits this was a mistake.
“There was a creaking out front, like the gate was hanging open. I peeked through the drapes and saw something on the path. At first I thought it was a person, a tall man with square shoulders, hunched over in a long black coat.”
Officer Libby spoke over her seat. “I figured you’d have a top of line security. Especially after reading Misery.”
King shrugged. “The system wasn’t making a sound. I thought it was a trick of the light. Something phantasmagorical, like in the stories of Edgar Allen Poe.”
“Do you…see things often?” Officer Libby asked hesitantly.
“The opposite, actually. I’m losing my vision. I have a condition that blurs the center of my sightline. I have to look out the corner of my eyes. That’s why I went outside.”
Officer Davis spoke through the mirror. “When did you realize it wasn’t a person?”
“When I had my hand on the doorframe. It was sturdy, like someone had driven it into the cobblestones. It was a deep rosewood. The color of blood. I looked to where I thought I’d seen a face and my heart skipped a beat.”
“What did it say 1408?”
“No, it was a knocker in the shape of the Great God Pan. It had rams horns, curly locks, and a nasty scowl. Its teeth were jagged, its brow furled, and its nostrils flared. A knocker hung from its septum.”
“Did you knock?”
“I didn’t have to. The door yawned open. I tried to push it shut. I reached for the knob and got a handful of wind for my efforts. My depth perception is horse shit, but something else was throwing it off.
The door moved closer as the path grew distant. I strained to catch my breath. The air felt thin. Reality felt thinner. Then came a light beneath door. It swung open and that light was blinding.
When I opened my eyes it was broad daylight and I was standing in the center of the road. There was a cyclist in a surgical mask. He shot me a dirty look as he passed. That’s when I realized I was in my own Macroverse.”
Officer Libby interrupted. “Stephen, do you mind if I ask how old you are?”
King balled his fists. “I’m not having a senior moment if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Officer Davis let out a long patient sigh. “Yeah, but why would we know you’re a writer if this was happening in one of your stories?”
Dejected, King craned his neck all the way back into the headrest. “My stories exist within my stories. I hold the Guinness world record for most film adaptations. It’d be hard for readers to believe a story where people haven’t heard of me. Christ, I’m appear in three of The Dark Tower entries.”
Officer Davis gave that a considered nod. “But if you write all this meta fiction, isn’t it possible this is all in your imagination?”
King waved that notion away. “Who’s the president right now?”
The officers exchanged a knowing look. “Donald Trump.”
“It’s Clinton where I come from. Donald Trump was my invention. He’s a modern spin on Greg Stillson, the politician, from The Dead Zone. Stillson was a charlatan folk hero. With Trump I wanted to see what would happen if a reality star became president.”
“And this pandemic is also your doing?” Officer Libby humored him.
“I came up with The Stand after I read about a chemical spill in Utah. I came up with The Coronavirus after I read we’re no closer to a cure for the common cold.”
Officer Davis smirked. “What inspired Dream Catcher?”
Officer Libby put her palm to her forehead to hide her grin. “So where are we in this coronavirus story?”
“Has Trump gone on TV to prescribe a malaria drug to the general public?”
“Uh-huh.” The officers said in unison.
“Has he told everybody to drink bleach?”
“Has he postponed the elections until 2021?”
King nodded self-assuredly. “Then there’s still time.”
At this point Officer Davis felt certain King was putting them on. He couldn’t help but chide the author over his body of work. “Hopefully this one has a more satisfying ending than Under the Dome.”
“Or Secret Window.” Officer Libby added.
“Or The Mist.”
“Or It: Chapter 2. They killed the clown by calling it names?” Officer Davis scoffed. “That was so lame.”
King raised his eyebrow. “That’s not how the book ends.”
Officer Libby rolled her eyes at her partner. “How does this one go again?”
“Or better yet,” Officer Davis let go of the wheel to look back. “How were you planning to get home?”
“Through a breach in reality.” King looked out the window. “I just don’t know where it is.”
Officer Davis seized on that apparent plot hole. “You ought to know you wrote it.”
King gave that a maniacal laugh. At this point the officers reported feeling uncertain that King was putting them on.
“Have you seen my bibliography? Do you think I know those stories by heart? There’s one copy of the manuscript and you are driving away from it.”
Officer Davis turned the patrol car in the direction of the Gerald Winters & Son Book Store. Later he’d admit to doing this to call the author’s bluff.
“Hmmm.” Officer Davis pondered.
“What?” King crossed his arms.
Officer Davis let the wheel go again. “How could a manuscript exist within the story itself?”
Officer Libby turned back as well. “You’d have to have written it in, but then you’d have to write one into that one and another into that one and on and on and on.”
“Like Russian dolls.” Officer Davis nodded.
King’s eyes widened.
“What is it? Did you forget to write the manuscript into the manuscript?”
King pointed ahead. “Door!”
Officer Davis jerked the wheel. The squad card hit an obstruction and flipped end over end. Footage captured by the on-board camera system show the road was clear. Clear right up until the moment a rose red door materialized out of nowhere. A close examination of a freeze frame reveals a knocker that’s dead ringer for the Greek god Pan.
Officer Davis and Officer Libby came out of the crash, with a few broken bones, more or less unharmed. Both were cleared of any wrongdoing and are aiding with the investigation.
As for Stephen King? He hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
Meet Noelle, a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. She’s on the verge of moving back into her mother’s trailer when her agent convinces her to take a meeting at the Oralia Hotel. Enchanted by the art deco atmosphere Noelle signs a contract without reading the fine print.
Now she has one month to pen a novel sequestered in a fantasy suite where a hack writer claims he had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well, he has many names: Louis Cypher, Bill Z. Bub, Kel Diablo. The Devil.
Noelle is skeptical, until she’s awoken by a shadow figure with a taste for souls.
Desperate to make it Noelle stays on, shifting the focus of her story to these encounters. Her investigations take her through the forth wall and back again until she’s blurred the line between reality and what’s written. Is there a Satanic conspiracy, is it a desperate author’s insanity, or something else entirely?