{After writing a fictional story about a conspiracy, a writer begins to suspect he is being followed by mysterious people who aim to silence him.}

 

 

Clock just past midnight, laptop running on a full battery as Steve eyes hammered at the screen. The soothing drops of rain outside only complimented his focus on the conspiracy Youtube Video.

“Although Marianas Web is said to be made up,” the youtuber explained, “what do you think?”

The video ended as Steve stayed seated in his sofa, mind buzzling with all he had heard. It was late, his eyes weary, feeling heavy. Not even the want for more entertainment from mind boggling conspiracies would stop him from wanting his bed. He had already tried his hardest to stay awake for the remainder of the videos, and now it was time to let his eyes rest. They had worked so hard staying up so late with the little sleep they had received the night before.

After turning off his computer, Steve dragged his feet to his room where he plopped in the middle of the bed, face planted right in his pillow. That was all he needed to instantly snooze. In his unconscious state of mind, the sub conscious went to work, exploring the conspiracies Steve had watched, filling his brain with ideas.

****

Steve instantly shot up from his bed. He had no idea how long he had slept. It felt like just a couple minutes as his eye lids were begging to be shut again, constantly moving up and down. That didn’t matter, for now Steve had an idea in his mind racing, keeping him up. He knew he had to put it to use.

Quickly, Steve rushed out back to his living room where he got back on his laptop, this time with a purpose.  He saw the digital clock that had 2:15 am on it. 2 hours, Steve thought. I’ll get more once I’m finished. He opened up the notepad application, and typed in, big bold letters, Mariana.

The next morning, Steve woke up with his body laid across the couch. The stiffness in his neck indicated he didn’t sleep in the proper position. He had fell asleep rather than preparing for it. The computer screen was still on, but with many paragraphs. A smile came across Steve’s face as he looked at what he had accomplished already.

After he turned off his computer, he made himself a bowl of Cheerios. Taking one spoonful of it, he quickly spat out the cereal in disgust. The milk had tasted sour. It was no surprise, when he checked the expiration date on the milk, and he found out it was 1 month expired. He decided to make himself some hot coca with water. Once it was finished, he took a couple minutes to wrap his hands around the warm cup the coca was in. Glancing at the heater in the living room, Steve shook his head before he drunk the coca.

Once he was done drinking, Steve proceeded to get dressed. He searched through the cluster scattered across his cramped apartment just to find his clothes. Thirty minutes had gone by, and Steve was finally dressed in his ripped blue jeans and a sweat jacket that wasn’t entirely zipped up. Steve left his apartment.

Going through the dimmed lighted hallway of the apartment complex, all Steve could hear was the loud music being blasted from the stereos of a group of teenagers who were smoking. Just rocking their head back and forth to the derogatory words of the song, not having a care in the world that it was too early in the morning to play such loud ruckus.

“Hey man,” the scrawny one of the group called out as he passed a joint to his friend. He took a moment to cough. “You got a couple dollars for us?”

The thick marijuana smoke filled into Steve’s noise. It was so thick, part of the boys’ faces were hidden in it. One of the boys were completely hacking as if he was going to chock to death on the smoke. It was too strong for him, but that was how the kids liked it.

“No, I have no money on me,” Steve claimed as he kept walking without even giving them a glance.

As the boys were behind Steve, he could barely make out the chatter.

“What a nerd. You see them bunk ass shoes he was wearing,” Steve heard one of the boys point out.

The boys started laughing as Steve walked further from them down the hall, relieved to finally evade the toxic smoke. Every single day, it was the same group of kids just posted in the hall. Steve had wondered if they might have went to a continuation school which would have explained why they weren’t in school a lot of times. However that assumption was put to rest, seeing how they were always chilling no matter what time of the day it was. They were just lost in their ignorant ways, not being aware of what was coming for them.

As Steve walked down the stairs, a little girl ran up to him.

“Stevie!” the little girl greeted with joy. “Do you have some money for me?”

“What do you need money for this time? I gave you a dollar last week.”

“I know, but I used it already for candy. Please, Stevie, I want some more.”

Steve sighed as he reached in his pocket and handed the little girl a dollar. She grinned, showing off her smile filled with silver caps. It was almost child abuse to enable the girl to continue to destroy her health with junk, but it was best to suffer fools gladly. Besides, Steve knew, if it hadn’t been from him, she would had gotten the money elsewhere for candy to rot her teeth furthermore.

Finally when Steve got to the first floor, he picked up his slow pace with an anxious hurry. As he sped past a door, the door opened by an old lady.

“Steve, come back here!” the old lady barked.

She wore glasses with lens that reached far past her cheek bones. She kept her hair in a bandanna, probably so people wouldn’t see what a mess it was. The large gown she wore that reached down to her ankles, begged the question if she was even wearing anything underneath.

“Yes?” Steve groaned, dreading what was to come.

“Don’t yes me.” The old lady placed her hands on her hips. “You been almost 3 weeks late on your rent.”

“I told you, Veronica, I’m going to have it soon, but can you at least fix my heater.”

“I’ll have it fix, when you pay me your rent. You have 1 more week.”

Veronica marched back into her apartment, slamming the door. Steve ruffled through his scruffy hair, feeling the bald spot in the middle. That was the worst kind of person he had to deal with, the one who didn’t have much power, but tried their hardest to assert it on those who had none. Steve moped out of his apartment building, trying his best to forget about his persisting worries.

****

“Check mate,” Saul calmly announced as he laid back in his chair.

Steve’s eyes were still fixated on the chess board as if he didn’t realize he had been beaten.

“You usually beat me Steve. Not in your element today?”

That was correct. Steve always defeated Saul in chess even if he had to be at his best to beat his older friend. Saul had a receding hairline and pores that covered his face.

“It’s just I’ve been focused on my writing lately.” Steve turned his attention to Saul as he started to become more enthused with the news. “I’ve came up with a new story.”

“Really?” Saul’s grey eyebrows raised up as he smiled. “That is wonderful news Steve. I told you, you just had to focus and one would come up. What is it about?”

Steve leaned in forward as he took the invitation with pride.

“It’s about a guy named Leon who obtains access to Marianas Web. I don’t have the complete story down yet, but so far I’m at the part where he is exploring what it contains.”

“What’s Marianas Web?” Saul wondered.

Saul’s curiosity didn’t poison his interest despite not having any idea what Steve was talking about.

“It’s the deepest part of the web that is only accessible with a quantum computer which only the government is believed to have. It has files on every secret and conspiracy you can imagine: aliens, Atlantis, secret weapons, and more,” Steve explained as his hands moved with his mouth. It helped him be more fluent in his presentation. “Now it’s nothing more than a conspiracy, the internet’s own urban legend, nevertheless it makes for a good story.”

“I’m surprise that a man your age would be interesting in new age internet conspiracies,” Saul chuckled.

“It’s hard not to be taken up by this one. I’m just so fascinated by it.”

The passion flared through Steve’s eyes as Saul took notice.

“Well the person who thought of that must’ve had some imagination. It’s good that you’re using this to put yours to use and to further your writing.” Saul glanced at the chess board. “One more match?”

Steve contemplated. The old man was too proud to end on just 1 win. He wanted to make sure it wasn’t by chance that he could beat Steve.

“Sure,” Steve responded causing Saul’s face to form a devilish grin.

****

Back at home, Steve continued to type away on his computer. He had begun the day with only a few pages, but now his mind ran wild with his imagination. Each stroke of the keyboard leading him closer to his finished creation. The evening’s cold had filled his heatless room, but that didn’t stop Steve, nothing would.

Steve took a break. He got his phone and dialed.

“What’s going on Steve?” Saul answered.

“It’s incredible,” Steve declared as he kept pacing back and forth with excitement. “I don’t know what came over me, but now I’m going crazy with this story. It’s getting so much better because now Leon has found out so much about aliens and other secrets. He has no idea where all the information came from, and it’s so much that it’s shocking him. He’s starting to believe that he is being followed by government agents.”

“Sounds incredible. Just keep on writing, and this story will be one of your best.”

“Thank you.”

Steve hung up, going back to his work.

****

The streets were quiet as Steve walked back to his apartment building. It was a very rare occurrence as usually there would be something going on in the neighborhood: dysfunctional couples arguing over bills, untrained dogs constantly barking because their owner left them outside, or any other kind of noise pollution from people who didn’t have a care in the world. This story is going to be so good, Steve thought as he turned on the street that his apartment building stood.

As Steve kept walking, he noticed a car behind him. He could hear the engine of the black SUV as it slowly crept behind him. He briefly turned back, not trying to make it obvious that he had taken notice of the car behind him. Maybe they’re not trying to follow me, he wondered, they could be looking for someone. The car continued to go at a slow pace, mirroring Steve’s. Soon, Steve’s heart began to pound a little bit quicker. He wasn’t sure if the people in the car were following him, but he could almost feel the driver staring at him. The feeling ran a cold sweat down Steve’s spine.

By now, Steve got to the door, and the car quickly sped off. Steve took a moment to look at the car. Not quite sure if the encounter was meant to be personal, but Steve was relieved.  Back to the story, Steve though as he rushed up the stairs.

****

Out of nowhere Steve woke up, moving his face off of his desk where his drool was at. He wiped it off with a nearby towel before he wiped his face. It was still night time. He looked at the laptop’s screen where the length of the story had grown. His vision was being realize and it felt wonderful to have an idea and see it come to life. He suddenly remembered what had woke him up. His house phone kept on ringing.

“Hello,” Steve answered after picking up his phone.

There was no reply. He couldn’t even hear the static, it was as if the other end was in a black hole.

“Hello?” Steve repeated to no prevail.

He hung the phone up, without thinking much about it. Things happen, besides thanks to the call, he could continue his story. Once Steve got back down behind the laptop, his phone rang. Steve went to answer it, a little bit irritated now.

“Yes?”

Still no reply. Steve sighed as he hung it up. Right before he had a chance to even turn away from the phone, it rang again. This time, Steve snatched the phone with grumpiness.

“Who the hell is this?” Steve breathed heavily as there was no reply. “Get a life, asshole.”

After hanging up the phone, Steve turned it on silent, assuming the prick would call back again. Nevertheless, his mind latched back on to his story. Behind the laptop, Steve did a quick read over it, quietly reading back the pages to himself. Suddenly, his voice stopped as his eyes beamed onto a small line in the middle of the page.

“He received 3 phone calls,” Steve read, “but all 3 times no one answered.”

The words sent a shock through Steve’s body as he leaned back from the laptop, sulking his body into his couch. He couldn’t move, completely frozen as if 1 move would shatter him. This has to be just a coincidence, Steve wondered. His mind raced back to the black SUV, wondering how it could all tie together. No, no, no, Steve thought. He ultimately pulled himself up to his bed, not feeling anymore better than he did in the living room. In his bed, Steve’s eyes stared at the ceiling, thinking hard about what was next.

****

Chess piece motionless, as Steve gazed at the board. His eyes were focused on the game, but his mind drifted elsewhere.

“Steve, it’s been a few seconds and you haven’t moved,” Saul pointed out. “Is something troubling you this time?”

Snapping out of his gaze, Steve directed his eyes to Saul.

“It’s my story. Someone called Leon 3 times, and no one was on the other end. Just last night, the same thing happened to me. I was called 3 times, and all 3 times there was no one there.”

Saul’s concerned looked vanished, seeing the real trouble behind his friend’s discomfort.

“Oh, it’s nothing. Things like that happen all the time. It could have been a prankster or something like that.”

Unconvinced, Steve rubbed his neck, the pestering continued.

“I need to clear my mind,” Steve insisted as he got up. “I’ll talk to you later.”

****

At the coffee shop, Steve typed on his laptop. He had hoped that the coffee shop would get rid of the anxiety that had plagued him in his apartment and make him forget about the odd occurrence the night before. He didn’t need coffee to get his mind right, the scenery itself was enough for him to focus. Even with the sound of conversation and machines making the coffee in the half full coffee shop, Steve had found his place of solitude at the time being.

As Steve continued to work on his story, a full-bearded man with a grey flat cap on his head waltz over to Steve.

“Hey I saw you typing over there, and it look like you were typing a lot,” the man addressed as an uncontrollable and unusual smile came across his face. “What are you typing?”

Steve briefly glanced at the man before focusing back on the screen as he continued to type.

“A short story,” Steve responded broodily.

Appearing unhappy was Steve’s best defense towards unwanted wanderers who were just being nosy. It was a hope that the man would get the message.

“So you write,” the man continued.

“Yeah.”

The man looked at the screen, taking note of what Steve was typing.

“Marianas Web!” the man cheered as if he recognized the name. “I know all about that.”

The man scooted right next to Steve, invading Steve’s space as if he had no respect for it. Now Steve couldn’t keep his focus on his work any longer as the situation became uncomfortable. He felt forced to give the pestering man his attention.

“My name is Michael,” the man introduced as he stuck his hand out. Steve shook his hand with little regard. “So you know about it?”

“It’s just a conspiracy on the internet.” Steve placed his attention back on the screen, but he could feel his focus broken. He wasn’t typing as fast as before thanks to Michael’s interference. “That’s why I decided to write about it.”

“Oh no it’s not a conspiracy. It’s all real.”

“Yeah whatever.”

Steve kept typing as Matthew looked at it. The brief silence between the two made the situation more unbearable. Can’t this guy just fuck off? Steve thought.

“Hey, the story seems nice. Can you send me a copy?” Matthew asked.

“I’m not done with it.”

“Yeah, but can I just see it.”

“You can see it when I’m done.” Steve couldn’t believe Michael’s boldness to keep asking. The audacity to ask in the first place was so vulgar. They were complete strangers yet Michael acted as if they were buddies. Still, Steve had to treat him with some decency. “It’ll be on my website, stevewatson.com.”

“Well can you tell me what it’s about?”

Steve rolled his eyes, begging Michael would take the hint.

“It’s a long story.” Steve closed his laptop. “I have to go.”

Michael allowed Steve to leave the table. Irritated, Steve marched off. Not even the coffee shop was safe from disturbance.

“Well, see you later,” Michael called out with the same cheesy smile on his face.

As Steve left Michael behind, he thought, asshole.

****

Sitting down at the bus stop, Steve’s feet tapped endlessly. Impatience ran through him as he frequently looked down the street to see if the bus was coming. This is the last one, Steve thought. I know I couldn’t have missed it. Even when the schedule had read that the last bus would come in about 15 minutes, Steve still worried that the bus came early. With how jacked up the busses ran in the city, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the last bus had come at 10pm, an hour before it was supposed to come. There were no cars passing by, so the next headlight would definitely belong to that of a bus.

A bald man with a round nose and wrinkles on his face sat down at the bus stop across from Steve. Steve thought of telling the man that the last bus had already come, but he didn’t really feel like it. It was best to keep quiet, and let the old geezer find out on his own. As the man just sat there, and no cars came by, Steve got an unusual feeling as if the entire situation had been manufactured.  Empty streets, no bus, and the old man all seemed too timed perfectly to be a coincidence.

As Steve kept glancing back at the man, he wasn’t quite sure if the man was looking at him. Steve couldn’t tell because they were so far from each other however he felt like the man was peaking at him. It didn’t frighten Steve, but it did disturb him, made him feel bothered. Why is he really over there? Steve thought, and the more he thought, the more he became curious. Something was up, or maybe it was just Steve’s imagination. The wild imagination that was kept alive because his worries and insecurities allowed it.

“I don’t care if the sun is up or not,” the man sang across the street. He must defiantly meant for Steve to hear him for whatever twisted reason he had in mind. Of course people sang to themselves, but not out loud on an empty street at night. “I’ll love you until I rot.”

Come to think about it, the man could sing. He hit the notes perfectly, and his voice sounded like one of those classic jazz singers from the 50’s; it was deep with rhythm. Nevertheless, it didn’t freak out Steve, but now Steve was concentrating on the man, seeing what he was going to do. The man kept singing words that Steve didn’t pay attention to until the man suddenly got up and walked away. Steve watched the man until he walked out of eye sight. Steve didn’t know what to make of the little display. He didn’t think much about it when he heard the engine of the bus nearby.  Finally, Steve thought, it came.

****

Approaching his apartment building, Steve instantly stopped as his heart jumped a bit. He saw the same black SUV from a few days ago, this time parked across the street from the apartment building. Steve proceeded to walk, but this time with a timid manner, head tilted to the ground, trying to get a glimpse of the SUV without the people inside noticing. As Steve got closer to his door, the tightness of space closed in around him, he could sense at any moment that something would happen. He got to the door, and once inside, he looked behind him. Once he saw the SUV still there, he hurried up the stairs to his room.

Inside his room, Steve looked out the window where the SUV was still parked. He began to pace back and forth, thoughts rushing through his mind. The old man at the bus stop, Steve thought. Is he in the black SUV? Everything seemed suspect to Steve at this point. He checked out his window again, this time he saw the car taking off. It didn’t serve as a relief to Steve who felt like it wasn’t over. He didn’t know what to do, so he just laid in his bed. In his bed, Steve thought of so many explanations for the weird recent events. As he did, he forced his eyes open until he could no longer do so.

****

Steve came barging into Saul’s house in a sweat. He kept panting as Saul looked confused.

“Steve, you look like you haven’t slept. What’s wrong?” Saul worried as Steve kept pacing back and forth.

“It’s happening, Saul.” Steve went over to Saul’s kitchen to get himself a glass of water. “People are after me just like in my story.”

“What are you talking about?”

Steve marched back to Saul where he placed his hands on Saul’s shoulder, and he looked him dead in the eye.

“Everything I have written in my story is happening to me.”

Saul appeared unamused now, seeing what the trouble was again.

“Steve we already talked about this.” Saul rolled his eyes. “The phone calls are nothing.”

“It’s more than the phone calls. The same black SUV been around my house recently, and last night some man was on the opposite bus stop from me, where there were no more busses coming to that side. He didn’t even get on a bus!”

“Steve this is all just a coincidence.”

“How can it be a coincidence? Whatever I write that happens to Leon in the story, happens to me in some kind of way. I don’t know why or how. Maybe some agents from a shadow government caught wind of what I was writing about and now want to silence me. I’m serious.”

At this point, it was no use to explaining to Saul. His mind was already made up with his lack of interest in Steve’s claims. On the other end, Steve was so entwined with them, he would go to the end of the world to make Saul believe him, no matter how crazy he sounded.

“Steve have you been taking your medication lately?”

A dumbfounded look came across Steve’s face.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Steve questioned.

“Have you.”

“No,” Steve sighed. He knew what Saul was going to imply. He didn’t want him to go there, it vexed him. “That doesn’t matter.”

“It does matter.” Saul turned his attention elsewhere, getting his coffee as Steve followed him. “You know what happens when you don’t take your medicine.”

Vivid memories of Steve’s meltdown came back into his mind. He had felt embarrassed and weak just like he was feeling now.

“This isn’t last time,” Steve muttered, not feeling completely confident in what he was saying now.

Seeing Steve’s head facing the ground, Saul confronted him. It was time for comfort.

“I understand how you feel,” Saul began. “I know how driven you are when you find something to latch on, like your story, but that’s all it is, just a story. Please don’t take it too seriously Steve. You have a good thing going on. Take your pills, and just write your story.”

Steve looked back at Saul.

“Maybe it is just in my head.” Steve guessed.

“Where are you at now?”

“Leon is certain that some government agents are following him, either that or people part of an organization.” He was saying it with enthusiasm, partly due to the relief that Saul had just given to him. “All he knows it that they’re in suits, and they have followed him and appeared at his house.”

“You’re making good progress.” Seeing his friend back on track, made Saul happy. “Go home, and let your mind lead you through the story.”

The two smiled at each, before Steve walked away, feeling a new sense of joy and pride.

****

With a glass of water in his hand, Steve walked slowly back and forth in his living room as he thought. For the first time in a few days, his mind was relaxed. He could concentrate on his story because of passion rather than because of fear. Let me take my pills first, Steve thought. Everything was at the right place at the right time. How the story was unfolding, how he was going to take his pills to soothe himself; it felt like it was supposed to be as if he was meant to write that story.

Suddenly a knock came at the door. Who could it be at this time of the night? Steve thought. If it was Veronica, he was screwed as all the time he had spent writing, he had totally forgotten about her. Hopefully she would forget like last time which had allowed Steve to pay the rent.

When Steve got to the door, he looked through the peep hole. His heart jumped as he took a haunting step back. He saw two men in suits waiting outside of his door. One was short and fat, while the other one was tall and skinny, just like in his story. It was all coming back to him now, the brief solace he had in believing it was just in his imagination was gone and replaced by fear. No too many coincidence, Steve thought, there’s no way it can all be a coincidence now. He was frozen, not knowing what to do. They knocked again, disturbing Steve more, but he couldn’t move; he didn’t want to. He heard the men walking away, but it didn’t provide for any relief. Now, he believed they were onto him.

****

Sitting in the same coffee shop as the noon sun shined, Steve drank his caramel cappuccino. Two empty cups were beside him on the table. It had been a long time since he had any coffee. Now it was much needed with the amount of anxiety he was feeling. He hoped that the caffeine would soothe his mind, allow him to think clearly. He eyes constantly shifted directions, surveying the coffee shop, trying to see who was on to him. I can’t be making this up. I can’t be making this up, Steve thought as he kept tapping his feet. Who were those people last night? Is my story that serious?

“Hey Stevie!” Michael cheered out, spotting Steve as soon as he had entered into the café. Michael sat on the opposite side of the table. “How’s it going?”

“Fine,” Steve quickly responded as he kept looking around, not focusing on Michael. “And my name’s not Stevie. It’s Steve.”

“No problem.” Michael briefly backed up, indicating agreement as he kept his smile as if nothing ever broke it. “Where’s your laptop? I see you didn’t bring it with you.”

“It’s at home, I came here just for some coffee.”

“How’s it going so far?”

“I’m stuck.”

Michael leaned in closer, taking the answer as a welcome to indulge.

“Let me help you with it.” Michael’s grin grew wider. “With us both writing it, it’ll get finished and be good.”

“No,” Steve snapped.”  That was the q to leave for Steve as he stood up. “I work alone.”

Steve walked towards the door as Michael stood up.

“Alright, Stevie, see you later!” Michael called out.

The nerve of that guy, Steve thought as he shook his head and sighed.

****

More than 30 minutes had passed, and Steve stilled stared at the laptop from the corner. Should I write? Steve thought. If I stop, will they stop following me? What if that’s what they want? The story he once loved so much was now something that worried him. Too many questions, and no answers; he didn’t know who to look to.

Screw it, Steve thought as he took a deep breath and walked over to the computer. Fear would not be the determining factor for him. Although he didn’t know what exactly to write next, he could feel ideas coming up in his mind, getting closer within his reach. He knew eventually, he’ll find the best route to take for his story. When Steve clicked on the document of his story, his smile slowly faded away to a look of disbelief.

“Where the fuck is it?” Steve gasped as his eyes moved back and forth across the screen.

The page was completely blank as if the last few days of him writing had never happened. His heart began to race as his breathing sped up.

“No! No!” Steve stood up from his couch. “Where did it go?” he yelled.

In an uproar, Steve kicked the nearby chair. Pacing back and forth, Steve groaned in frustration. Defeat hanging over his head, his eyes became watery.

No,” Steve whimpered as the sadness took over his anger. Feeling helpless he dropped to his knees in front of the laptop. “Why?”

At that moment he bawled as the tears clouded his vison of the blank screen. He kept looking at the screen, pleading as if the words would magically reappear. On the ground, Steve wept, wondering how much the universe could hate him to serve him a dish of shit. He thought back to all those hours he spent writing the story, thinking of more ideas to put into it, and telling Saul with joy about it. All those moments were gone now.

Almost 45 minutes had passed; Steve began to slowly get to his feet, just wanting to stay down. With all the tears out of his red eyes, his mind allowed some level of thought. The document was there, but the words were gone, so it wasn’t like he accidently deleted the file or moved it to another folder. He remembered saving the file. He had saved it every minute or so just in case something had happened. Any explanation related to technical difficulties was out the window. It went deeper than that.

Those men who followed me, did they do it? Steve thought. Them or that man from the bus stop? But if they did do it, why wouldn’t they just destroy my laptop? Unless they wanted me to be confuse. The more Steve thought, the more he gained focus and forgot about the sad emotions. It was time to be on the offensive. Michael, he wondered more, what if this was him? Why was he so interested in my writing? That nosey bastard. I should call Saul.

Steve went for his phone. He pulled up Saul’s contact, but stopped right before pressing the call button. Could Saul be the one who did this? He always disregarded my claims about the men following me. Maybe they’re all in on it. One giant conspiracy, and they’re laughing at me, saying, “We got that dumb son of a bitch didn’t we!” I can’t trust nobody.

With a new sense of vengeance, Steve went back to his laptop, and began typing. He couldn’t remember his entire story word by word, there were some alterations, nevertheless he knew how he wanted his story. As he wrote, he kept saving the file, making endless copies of it. He even emailed himself the attachment of the file just to have it saved in another location. He continued to write until he was stuck at the same spot he was before.

“Damnit!” Steve barked.

If he hadn’t spent so much time rethinking his story, he could have finished it by now. That’s what pissed him off the most. Rewriting the story for the most part wasn’t that difficult, but he was lacking the ideas to finish it. Whoever deleted the original story, had robbed him of the satisfaction of completing an intriguing story. He was back to square 1, sitting in his living room in front of his laptop at night, not knowing what to do next.

****

The next morning, Steve walked through the crowded sidewalk of the downtown area, trying to clear his mind.

“Stevie!” he heard a familiar voice call out.

When Steve turned, he saw Michael fast walking towards him. Michael pushed right past a few people to get to Steve as if he didn’t care for their personal space. What does he want? Steve thought as he kept on walking, trying to not be bothered by Michael. It was no use, the eccentric guy caught up with Steve, and he was now by his side.

“I didn’t see you in the coffee shop today,” Michael stated with his same electric attitude.

“I didn’t go.” Steve kept his eyes in front of him, not paying attention to Michael who tried his hardest to keep up. “I had other things to do.”

“Well how’s your story going?”

Steve didn’t answer. He had heard the words, but didn’t feel like answering anymore.

“Have you finished?” Michael persisted, not taking the hint. “When can I see it?”

That was the moment where Steve had a break. In a quick move, Steve turned around and shoved Michael up against the wall. Surprisingly, not many people paid attention as they kept walking.

“Hey man,” Michael chuckled, making it unclear if it was a nervous chuckle or if he really found the situation amusing. Nevertheless, he didn’t seem all that frighten by the sudden move. He didn’t even bother to put his hands up. “What’s the problem?”

“You’re my problem.” Steve’s grip on Michael’s shirt tightened. “Why are you always in my business? Did you delete my story off my laptop?”

“What?” Michael began to laugh momentarily. Now he saw the silliness in Steve’s manner. There was no need for Michael to take the confrontation seriously anymore. “You make no sense.”

Steve’s eyes caught sight of two men walking towards him. They were the same men who had been at his door a couple nights ago; the short fat one and the tall skinny one. Being spotted by Steve, the men picked up their pace causing Steve to let go of Michael. Steve began to back away as he kept his eyes on the two men.

“Steve, you alright?” Michael wondered.

Steve started to walk fast. When he turned around the men were getting closer.

“Steve, what’s going on?” Michael asked.

“Steve, wait!” the short fat one called out.

Shit! They know my name, Steve thought. At that moment, Steve took off running through the people on the sidewalk, causing the two men to run after him; the chase was on. He knocked down a nearby women trying to get through.

“Hey!” the woman yelled as she fell to the ground.

Steve didn’t care about the people he was pushing aside. He didn’t know what the hell would happen to him if the men got their hands on him, and he wasn’t going to find out. As Steve kept running, he continued to think, I knew I wasn’t making this up, but what do they want from me? He decided to run across the street, almost getting hit by a taxi that honked its horn and stopped.

“Asshole!” the cab driver barked as Steve got to the other side of the street.

The two men tried to follow, but the street was too packed with ongoing cars, so they stopped. Steve who kept running, turned around to see the two men who seemed frustrated that he got away. His run turned to a slow jog, seeing he was far from the two men, but he couldn’t stop completely; danger was everywhere.

****

Steve raced up the stairs to his apartment door. Barging right into his apartment, Steve slammed the door. He started to pace back and forth like he had always done whenever he had been nervous. Not even the outside cold had prevented him from sweating due to his racing adrenaline. Sweat still came down his face as he breathed heavily, wiping it off before it came back.

“What do I do? What do I do?” Steve whimpered, feeling the need to cry.

Maybe I should get rid of the story like they wanted me to do, Steve wondered. That would stop them from harassing me. After all when it first got deleted, they stopped following me until I wrote it again. Steve went over to his laptop and turned it on.  When he clicked on the document containing his story, he took a look at where he had left off. The same part he had been at before the story was deleted.  After all this time, he still couldn’t come up with a way to end the story, but it didn’t matter now. Only 1 option appeared logical. It seemed like the only way to make the anxiety stop. All the constant looking over his shoulder in public, looking out his window to see if the black SUV was still there; Steve would do anything to make it stop.

With the entire document highlighted in blue, Steve’s finger went towards the Del key. His finger moved down in a slow manner, giving himself enough time to think about the self-destroying action he was about to commit. It was going to hurt him, destroying something he held on so much, but he believed in the end it would still save him. Wait, Steve thought as his finger stopped. He sat there staring at the computer. I still have to end this story. I must, he argued in his mind. But I don’t have enough time. I must finish it and upload it before they get to me, but what the fuck do I write?

After moments of contemplating and sweating, Steve took the highlight off and finally typed. After a few minutes of typing, he stopped. The last few words on the document read, The coroner said, “He died of a heart attack.” After reading those words again, Steve uploaded the story to his website.

That was it, it was finally over. Steve leaned back into his couch, letting out a sigh of relief. He placed his palms on the back of his head as he looked up at the ceiling. A new sense of freedom poured over him, something he hadn’t felt since he had begun to write his story. It makes sense to have Leon die of a heart attack unexpectedly, Steve thought back. That way, the story hints at the possibility of government agents killing him and covering it up. Steve rested there, continuing to look up. There were endless possibilities for his life now. He could do anything with joy, now that he had finished writing. No trouble to him was too grand to overcome. A sharp smile came across Steve’s face as the days looked bright for him.

****

The corner walked around the table where a naked corpse laid. The toe tag on the corpse read Steve Watson. The corner got on the phone.

“Hello?” the corner spoke. “Cause of death, heart attack.”

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