A long time had passed since last he’d seen Alan Venar, but John was convinced he was writing. The date for the next manuscript was upon them and he’d come to collect. Sure, he could have come by with a pat on the back or just a friendly visit, but something held him back. Was it work? Was it Catherine? Or maybe it was just life itself. Yes. Life had become his way of living and consumed him without protest. He’d barely had time outside of his rigorous job to do much else. There were a few nights with mates from work and increasingly so, but for the most part he’d spent his days at home in the comfort of his soon-to-be wife and the quietness of his own living room.
John took his bag from work and made his way down the sidewalk and to his car where he found the other manuscripts Alan had written placed on the floorboard just below the seat. All of them wrapped in a cocoon of bands and the grit of the dirty floor. He drove to the estate with a spunky, but lilting tune beaming through his speakers. An acoustic guitar and an energetic voice sang a song about flashlights. Most sad sounding music made John scoff, but for some reason he kept it on. It played him through to the small estate where Alan was no doubt inside involved in some kind of artistic panic. Maybe even a celebration? No, that wasn’t him at all. Even in his successes he wasn’t one to celebrate. He was more the kind of man to drink in order to forget his failures. And did he drink! John thought on the consumption levels of his friend and how drowned in pathetic sorrow he had looked the last time they met. Hopefully he was focused now and put the bottle down.
John opened the door and could smell something old and rotting. Just like Alan to get so busy that he forgot to do the essentials. The trash had to have been there for weeks. Slowly he made his way through the opening of the door and put his coat on the rack. He contemplated the darkness of the house and in turn the words he had spoken to Alan before. It was harsh but poignant. Something Alan needed to hear. Must have spurred him into an artistic fury.
“Hello? Alan, I’ve come for the manuscripts! If you’re naked again, please don’t be.” He called out with a string of soft laughter trailing off the end.
The house was quiet and nothing seemed to stir. He made his way down the hallway trying to shake the growing stench of trash, but stopped halfway at a letter taped to the ground with his name on it.
“Oh so we’re playing games again? Alright, I’ll bite.” He said as he furiously opened the letter.
I’ve come to terms with it all and I understand your frustrations now. I’ve been a burden on you and everyone else in my life. I cannot repay your kindness for putting up with me this long. You even went so far as to take my manuscripts to be published when we both know it would never be nor was it ever. I’m not a good writer. I’m not even a good artist. Or a good human being. I’m just a mediocre person trying to convince myself I’m above average. I should have done more, I know, but I just don’t want anything really. There’s nothing I can give this world that it doesn’t already have or that won’t come from someone else. You were good to make me believe it so long, but, however dark, I have to face the truth. I was dead long before I killed myself. Thank you for all you’ve done and for letting me mean something lasting to just one person. That’s all I ever wanted.
He knew. All that time he knew that his book had not sold. That no publisher wanted it. That there was nothing in store for him or his career. John shook his head and tossed the letter behind him. “How very sentimental of you. Thank you for saying so, but you’re not a bad writer, just…”
The stench grew as he made his way to the back room slowly. The study door was open and he could see inside. Suddenly he couldn’t breathe and the air seemed to bind his entire body. Convulsing, he fell to the floor pulling his shaking fingers to his mouth. There was no light to comfort him from the dangling shadow and the soft creaking. Creaking slowly left, then right. Right then left.