By K.W. Taylor
“Fame, fortune, everything. Luxury and security.”
Hands folded in a tent over the contract sitting on the desk. They were clean hands, Ellie noticed, too clean to be real. No dot of ink on the index finger, no nail polish leftovers. Clean, bone-white, chillingly perfect.
Just like this deal, she thought.
“How long?” Ellie asked.
A laugh. “You’re kidding.”
Ellie raised an eyebrow. “Seriously. How long?”
“Eight years, of course. You’re nineteen now. And obviously you know when it has to go down.”
Twenty-seven. Ellie felt like smacking herself on the forehead. “Right,” she said. A gong went off in her head. One, two, three, all the way to twenty-seven, the hallowed age, the hollow age of despair and darkness. That’s what they were angling for. “Right, it would be,” she murmured.
“But that’s way in the future!”
“Think of it this way, eight years ago, you were eleven. Do you remember eleven?”
Sort of, in a hazy way. Ellie shrugged.
“But now you’re hardly the same person you were then. You were a kid!”
“Sure,” Ellie agreed.
“Eight years from now, that’s another life! You’ll have everything until then!”
Beaming smile. Eyes that looked too big, too full, too eager.
The better to kill you with, my dear, Ellie thought.
“How’s it going to go down?” Ellie’s voice sounded very far away, even to her own ears.
Only now did the smile soften, the eyes grow less wide, less wild. “We will have to make it look painful, but it won’t actually be. Trust me, Ellie, we aren’t actually in the pain business. We’re only selling the illusion of pain.”
What’s the difference? Ellie wondered. Kids will think I’m hurting. Kids will think all kinds of awful things.
“No suicide,” she said. “No drugs, not in the end.”
“But those are proven to be effective to our target demo--”
“An accident,” Ellie interrupted. “Tragic, tragic accident.”
A moment’s hesitation, considering. “That could work, yes. That could work with multiple markets. I like it. Car? Plane? Oh, we’ll work out the details when the time comes. Let’s not quibble now.”
The pen rolled toward her. Ellie took it and scrawled her name, leaving moist palm prints on the paper and desk.
“When do my folks get their house free and clear?” Ellie asked.
The insane grin reappeared. “When you’ve finished your first recording session, my dear. Shall we?”
- - -
K.W. Taylor's first novella, “We Shadows Have Offended,” was released by Etopia Press, and her first short fiction anthology appearance was in the collection Once Bitten, Never Die, from Wicked East Press. Taylor teaches college English in Ohio.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
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