"And how does that make you feel?"
The shrink looked up from her notepad, taking a moment to adjust her glasses and ignore the fact that she had just asked the same question for the umpteenth time. I wasn't sure how many or how much an ump was, but I felt pretty sure that it captured how many times we'd gone through this. Oh, it must have been two umps at least. If I had an ump for every time she asked that question, I'd be an umperor, ruling over my... umpire.
"What are you thinking about, Mr. Detective?"
"Really, what kind of sports?"
"And how does it make you feel?"
"Like hitting... things."
"I'm sensing some anger, which I think is a misdirected cry for help. Do you... want me to help you?"
"You can't. You can't help me. You're in the same boat as me, lady."
"Alright... what if I told you that we were in an office. There's no boat here. Do you feel like you're in a boat? Maybe you have a sinking feeling. Is that what you're saying, Mr. Detective?"
Mr. Detective. I used to wear that label like a badge. But now? Now, I was wearing it like a scoop of choc-mint ice-cream on a hot day. Coming apart in the sun, streaming down your face and reminding how damn stupid you were to put it on yourself in the first place.
"Look lady, I'm not your Mr. Detective. I ain't anybody's stinkin' detective! I'm just a character in someone's creative writing, a pawn in some guy's paragraph! Same as you!"
"Lashing out at the man upstairs is a completely natural reaction. I wouldn't -"
"No, you don't get it, lady. There's nothing godly about this guy, this blogger. He controls all of us. If he wanted to turn you into a manatee right now, he could."
When I finally got out of her office, it was back to work -- or what I used to call work. My office was a total disaster. It looked like it was paid a visit by a tornado, one with construction workers and jackhammers spinning inside. The way I slumped in my chair was a great visual metaphor for the state of my life, and the fact that I was seeing visual metaphors in chairs was depressing.
I thought about killing myself, again and again. Once would probably be enough though, but I couldn't even manage that. Every time I picked up a knife I ended up with a sandwich. Every time I picked up a sandwich, I ended up less hungry. And every time I picked up a gun, I ended up with a dead clown. There's nothing funny about a pile of dead clowns.
"Good heavens, is that... is that a pile of dead clowns?"
A flimsy looking man stood at the door, his hand trembling as it pointed at one of the less desirable elements in my office.
"What's it to you?" I barked.
He was tardy in his 50's and wearing a jacket that was several sizes too small. The sleeves barely made it past his elbows, looking like a tweed python struggling to consume its prey.
"Well, you know, it's not something you see every day."
"I know. Pity, ain't it?"
He opened his mouth as if to say something and paused, an index finger still spinning an invisible plate in front of him.
"I... what happened to your arm?" he queried whilst pointing at the relevant limb.
"Oh, it's a manatee bite. They're not as friendly as you would think."
"That's a bit of a surprise. Do you get bitten by manatees often?"
"No, I don't. Did you come here to interrogate me about aquatic life, or did you want something?"
"Ah, you see, I actually have something that you want."
"Is that right?"
"Yes, but it is also wrong, as I'm sure you'll learn soon enough. My name is Trunkle McBlottington."
"That's not your real name."
"No, it isn't. The only relevant personal details I can provide are as follows. Number one: I'm a professor of post-modernism on the S.S. University, a sort of sailing educational facility. Number two: I once saw Terry Pratchett coming out of a public bathroom. Number ump: I'm here to tell you what to do with the rest of your life."
"Wait, why did you skip to ump?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Isn't ump a really high number?"
"No no, it's just three."
"Oh. What was that about the rest of my life?"
The rest of my life. My life. Could I really reclaim what I once thought belonged to me? Could I snatch my own existence away from the hands of another?
"You can take control of your life, gumshoe. But you'll have to take the life of another."
"Yes, him. You have to kill him. And I can tell you where he'll be. All you need is a gun."
"Will that work on him? A gun?"
"Well, you'll need bullets, obviously. Also, the ability to aim and pull a trigger. Oh, and being able to not fall down is a good one."
"I can do that."
And so I waited. I kept glancing at my watch which, despite its name, only ran slower when my eyes were on it. This writer, this puppeteer, was meant to come strolling around the corner at any moment. The alley was dark and uninviting, like a bear in...
"Hmm... yeah. I haven't figured that one out yet. I'm trying to say the alley is unfriendly. And bears are unfriendly, right?"
He was a short and distinctly unimpressive man. How did he gain so much power? How could someone like this be in a position to toy with people's lives... for his own amusement? It was like handing an amoeba a stick of dynamite and telling it to go play with the other children around the campfire.
"Oh, I like that one. Blowing people up with dynamite? Totally hilarious."
"You're a sick man. And I know just how to cure you."
"Yes, that would be the gun in your pocket. Curing and shooting -- I don't think you can really put those two together."
"If you know I have a gun, why aren't you running?"
"Well, isn't it obvious? This is all supposed to happen. I'm writing it like this. See, I thought it would be funny if you, the protagonist, ends up killing the author of the story."
"I won't do it then. I'm taking control of things now."
"Yes, you are. You're ending the story, which makes you more powerful than me."
He was right. And I shot him.