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Edit-da-fé

2125264_f496There came a loud and authoritative knock on the door.

Sometimes when you hear a sound like that, a rat-tat-tat on the door frame, the ring of the phone, you just know its something awful. Your stomach drops through the floor before you even hear the second knock or the bell tolls a second time.

This was one of those knocks.

“Shh.” I raised my finger to my lips and gave her a wide-eyed look of caution which she mirrored in her perfect, quivering eyes.

She backed up against the bookcase, swaying the leather-bound volumes as she sensed my fear, infectious and bowel loosening. For my part I stepped to the door and opened it on its chain, peeking through the gap at the person standing outside.

Severe is a good word. So is austere, even grim. I can never settle on what, quite, is the best word in these situations. Apart from the trousers and the sunglasses she could have been the stereotypical domme-secretary or imperious librarian escapee from Eroticopolis way. The badge put paid to that thought though. Flashing silver on brown leather, perfectly spaced helvetica:

“Amenda Wordsworth, literary division. Do you have a moment?” She looked at me over her sunglasses and my stomach dropped for a second time like the world’s worst rollercoaster, or an overworked simile falling flat.

I panicked.

I slammed the door in her face.

“Novella! Run!” I slammed my back against the door to try and keep the editor out, but I knew it was only a matter of time.

I lifted one arm to jab towards the window and watched her run, my perfection, my love, dear sweet Novella.

“This door seems a bit too strong and well protected for a flat in this area. I think it would be more realistic if it were battered and rotten.” I barely heard the words through the banging against the door, but it was enough.

There was a strange ripple and the door changed, cracking and splintering as the editor threw me into the room and onto the floor. The bookshelf rocked and heavy leather bound books tumbled and fell towards me like paper rain, transforming into paperbacks, the rarer volumes – from a lifetime of collection – exploding into lorem ipsum and scattering letters everywhere.

“Unauthorised fictogenesis, you’re in a lot of trouble, but maybe its salvageable.” She had one heeled boot on my back and I knew it was pointless trying to struggle, she was a Strong Female Character and clearly subscribed to Death of the Author – I shouldn’t push it.

In the mirror I could see the editor unholstering her gun, a massive, chrome-plated .44 Magnum Opus. Her heel ground into my back as she hand-loaded a couple of heavy looking paragraphs into the chambers. Then she stepped off me and moved to the window. I could still hear Novella on the fire escape, but she was endearingly clumsy and wasn’t getting away fast enough.

I struggled to my knees and watched the editor lean out of the window and line up her shot. I summoned every ounce of narrative agency I had left and threw myself against her. The first shot went wild, the leaden prose blasting an unnecessary bollard from existence on the street below. She backhanded me away though, smashing me back through what was left of the door into the barely-described hallway and all I could do was close my eyes tight and wish as I heard the second shot and Novella’s piercing scream.

***

I got away with a fine, twenty-thousand words of penance. ‘Due to past artistic contributions’ so the Publisher said.

Novella didn’t get off so easily though. She was stuck in limbo while they pieced her back together. She’d taken the paragraph to the face and fell three stories to the ground. The editor had called it in and after that it was out of my hands. I’d been in a cell, unable to do anything while they worked her over and it was only now I was allowed to see her.

I held her hand while the Designers unwrapped the bandages. It was horrible, not knowing what had happened to her. I closed my eyes and squeezed tighter as the wraps came off and finally steeled myself to open my eyes.

The horror of it was, she was even more beautiful.

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