When asked what he was writing, Jason West usually replied crime fiction.
“Books or short stories?”
“So what are you working on now?” And he would try to explain to the person who asked, but it wasn’t always easy. Most of the time, at least for Jason, writing a description of a story was much easier for him than trying to describe it in spoken words.
“Can I read one of your stories?” the person often asked.
Hoping the enquirer would find his story a great read, Jason usually said yes. But so often, after giving one of his stories to someone to read, their lives would go crazy, and it might take days, if not weeks, before they could finally get to it. Jason became accustomed to this, but what happened next, was not something he could have imagined.
Her name was Jane. She was the middle-aged receptionist for the company where he worked. He had given her a copy of a story about a receptionist and her bank robber lover. “Enjoy!” he called as he walked away.
The next day, she said, “I’m sorry, but I haven’t read your story yet. Last night was just so crazy!”
“That’s okay,” he replied, knowing that it might take her several weeks to get to it. But the next morning when he arrived at the office, a stranger was sitting at Jane’s desk “Where’s Jane?” he asked, jovially. “Is she out sick, or is she taking a vacation day?”
The stranger’s expression turned solemn. “You haven’t heard?”
“She was killed last night. A gas explosion at her home. Something having to do with her oven.”
Suddenly, Jason felt as if his whole body was an elevator that had just plunged ten stories. “I’ll miss her,” he replied sadly to the replacement receptionist.
A couple of months later, Jason was at a party at a friend’s house when someone mentioned to the person Jason was talking to that Jason was a writer. “Oh, yeah!” the man’s eyebrows shot up. “Anything published?”
“What are your books about?”
“Not books. Just short stories. I write mostly crime fiction.” And then he had to try to explain what he was working on.
This was when the person asked the inevitable. “Can I read one of your stories?”
Of course, Jason said yes.
A week later, Jason heard that the person to whom he had given his story had been killed in car accident. “Drunk driver ran a red light.”
Jason felt queasy, but didn’t think of it as anything but bad luck, until he sent his most recent story to a contest requesting crime fiction, and discovered from an article in a writer’s magazine that the contest had been discontinued due to the death of the publisher sponsoring it. That’s when Jason began to wonder if there was some weird connection between his stories and the deaths.
Three people had died after receiving one of his stories. He tried to convince himself all three deaths were just coincidences, until a fourth person died. After that, Jason refused to let anyone else read one of his stories, not even editors at magazines. Instead, he just kept plugging away, creating new stories, but not sending any of them out.
And then something happened that changed his mind.
It was the President. The opposing party was trying to impeach him. There were televised hearings, during which false charges were being bandied about like tennis balls. The more Jason watched, the more pissed he became. And then one day, he decided he had enough. And that’s when the idea popped into his head.
Doggedly searching the internet, Jason managed to scrounge up the addresses of all the people bringing false charges against the President. Stuffing envelopes with copies of his stories, he included a twenty dollar bill with each, writing on the outside of the folded manuscripts this message: You can keep the twenty if you promise to read my story. On the front of each envelope he wrote the words, donation inside. After mailing them, he waited. It didn’t take long. The impeachment perpetrators began dropping like flies, mostly due to various gruesome accidents.
Although the authorities suspected that something or someone was killing all these people, they couldn’t figure out how or who. It remained a mystery, even after the President was re-elected.
As for Jason and his stories? He continued to crank them out, but decided to collect them into an anthology, which he self-published.
No one else need die, he thought—at least he hoped no one else would die.