The victim waited in darkness and silence. It was faceless and formless, without past or present. Yet, the victim infinitely preferred the nothingness of the void to what it knew inevitably come after. Time did not exist here, yet the victim was aware that the void would give way, must give way, to the other world and that the time of the other world was passing. And so, it came and would come inexorably after. In the other world they were moving; they were living and thinking their dark, soul-born thoughts. They were plotting, whenever and wherever they were… they never stopped plotting.

The writers were merciless, hateful, and deadly without exception.

It always started in the same way. It always started with the name. It was incantation, enchantment, the black and white magic of the writers. Bound in flesh that lay heavy on its non-existent frame, the victim walked through the door into its bedroom from the void. Its name was Melissa Hunter.

Its form was crude for the moment, shifting as it moved across the room, its flesh more pliable and fluid than true human flesh. Its creation was not yet complete. As the victim walked across the room, furniture appeared as the writer willed it; its wand spilling black lies onto the page that became real in the world of the victim. A bed appeared, generic and indescribably bland, nothing more than a receptacle for a tossed handbag by an unknown designer. The victim looked at the bed suspiciously from the corner of its eye. Time was always different here; details were rich in the writer’s past, lavish and speculative in its future. The details of the bed, of the room, of the victim, were sketchy and ill-defined; it was the writer’s present were things were known and therefore needed little explanation. Still, the bed was disturbing. There was rape before death in the beds of the writer’s present world.

A dressing table appeared, stocked with generic and nameless paraphernalia, then a desk with a computer. The victim sat at the dressing table and looked at itself in the mirror. Its flesh solidified at the writer’s command, the details becoming compelling. The victim was young; its death no doubt meant to be more shocking, more terrible, when it was judged as a theft with a value in years that would not be lived.

The victim, having died uncountable times, viewed all life as equally precious; a moral standpoint that was easy to maintain when the victim’s life was under the control, the very whim, of the unseen but omnipresent master of this world. The true crime was the the writer could create any life that he wished, any world that he wanted, and that with all this power at his command he chose to populate the world with victims created with such care so that every life was a tragedy when lost.

The victim watched as its face solidified and hair grew from its scalp to tumble down to its shoulders. Clothing sprouted and spread across its shapeless figure, only for the material to pinch and bulge as the god-head of the writer spun its thoughts into unreal flesh. It was so often the mirror, as if the writer knew his victim was something more than a creation of ink and thought and limitless imagination, and that he wanted to taunt the victim’s true mind as much as he would taunt the mind and torture the flesh that he would give it. The victim had always considered the writer to be as the victim considered itself, as gods were so often men in this world.

The victim turned away from the mirror, having brushed its hair and dabbed vaguely at its makeup. The mirror had done its work for now, turning its dead glass eyes over the world, reflecting details that had not been there before. The victim’s head filled with thoughts, memories of a a day just passed that had not truly been. A job, friends, a family far away, a hobby too often neglected and self deprecating thoughts of all the things missing from a life filled with nothingness and lies. The victim realised that this was the life it was about to lose. A gift, of sorts, from the writer.

The victim’s head, full to bursting with memories that belonged to its life but that felt as awkward as borrowed clothes, turned towards the computer. I walked to it, watching as it sprung into a life of its own. The victim’s reflection appeared on the black screen for a moment, whilst the victim became dimly aware of a new memory of switching on the machine, crudely pasted in retrospect into its mind. The black glass eye of the writer reflected the world for a moment more, etching details into the face of the victim.

The computer’s modem hissed and screeched and crackled. The victim’s hands reached out and splayed across the keyboard. All the keys were blank, as the writer had not told them to be otherwise. The victim started to type; the movement was effortless, one movement and one moment flowing into the next, awkward physical realities ignored with a pen-stroke. The victim didn’t know if the room contained one chair or two, if it had turned on the computer with a switch or a button, if the electricity had been on or off beforehand. In so many ways, the world created by the writers was purer and more potent than the world that they themselves inhabited. The victim did not pity them thought, only longed for its void, for its world, and for an end to the torture of flesh and weight, false thoughts and shallow memories. Could the victim have learned to love this world, as it loved the timeless void that existed in the lapses between the whims of the writers? It would never know, for its purpose was only to live and to die and to live and to die, again and again; its death always more vivid and long lasting than its life.

The victim’s fingers continued to rattle across the unmarked keys, and the monitor that had been the eye of god was filled with images of another world that did not exist within this world that did not exist. Words began to fill the screen, a dialog designed, drafted and choreographed to move the victim towards its end at the hands of the as yet unseen killer. The victim watched and keyed the responses that the writer demanded. Every sentence added another layer to the victim’s history, an extraordinary cruelty as the false mind that the writer created threatened to overwhelm the victim’s own.

Once before, when being torn from the void was still unexpected, the victim had been fooled into forgetting itself and had lost its own mind inside that of the creature that was weaved and sculpted around it in flesh and false histories. The loss, the abandonment of identity had been so total that the victim had not know the void when it returned to it after the stinging kiss of the grave had brushed lips that the victim believed to be its own. But in the void there is no time and so the memories of the otherworld could not exist, fading instead like the night’s frost from a window pane come morning. The victim’s own timeless mind returned as its naked form spun within the infinite emptiness of the void until it had lost all shape and didn’t look like a person at all.

That had been the most bitter death by far and even though the details of that lost life so loved now came only in flashes when the victim’s mind was not quite filled with the shadow fiction of a life new-born in ink and ideas, it knew that it must never forget itself again or risk feeling the icy pain of death as keenly as it had done once, when it had let itself become a person.

More words were spun and the victim began to wonder if this computer, the neglected hobby, was to be the route by which it would meet its demise. Silver-grey memories of other lost lives flicked at the corners of the victim’s mind, dread images of what had been in other times and other places that somehow intruded into this unreal world. The victim knew that the electric world, the world behind the screen, was where the predators of the writer’s world prowled, where its degenerates stalked its innocents and evil lurked beneath the glittering surface of zeroes and ones. The victim waited for the next incantation, waited for the inevitable words that would transform the scene and the world around it. The victim waited, feeling the moment bear down on it, the time of this world taking physical form.

“œWhere are you?” The victim typed the question and hit a blank key, sending the question into the electric ether, a small piece of bait in its un-life long search for love and companionship. The victim’s heart fluttered in its chest, as the mind of the other, the Mellissa-mind, filled with fantasies of romance. The writer sent words from the tip of its wand to the flickering screen …

“œBehind you.”

The victim didn’t move. Time was frozen; the screen held in mid-flicker, the stream of words to it and the world around abruptly ended. Sometimes, the victim had learned, there were moments like this before a change; before the hand of the writer reached back into the minutes and hours past and changed this reality. What wrinkle, what detail, was changing? A lost set of keys appeared in the victim’s memory as perfectly as if they had always been lost and the victim knew this as surely as it knew its name was Mellisa Hunter and all the details that went with this life. Something else appeared in memory, a forgetful friend who knew that she had the keys… œsomewhere. A new face appeared in the victim’s memory and superimposed itself over the face of a friend who no longer existed. To be edited out of existence, how the victim longed for that calm and painless dispatch back into the void.

Time began to move again, sluggishly at first, the universe moving like a sleeper roused from a dream. Words began to flow into the present again, the writer’s pen no longer dipped into the shallow ink well of the past. Time’s gears meshed with a crunch that only the victim could hear, and everything started to move again.

Melissa Hunter span around in her chair. Crouching on the bed behind her was the hulking form of The Killer. He was dressed completely in black and a ski mask with ragged eye holes covered his face. In one gloved hand he held a palm top computer with a glowing blue screen, in the other an eight inch knife with a serrated edge. Melissa scrambled out of the chair and tried to run for the door. This was a time that lasted the longest, the agonisingly detailed time of the kill, the time for the death of the victim.

The Killer leapt from the bed, dropping the computer and reaching out for Melissa with his free hand. It clasped around Melissa’s shoulder, pulling her backwards. Her blouse fell open as she toppled; the victim looked down at the naked flesh of its, of Melissa’s, body. The Killer fell down on top of Melissa, the victim could feel its ribs being crushed as the air was forced from Melissa’s lungs. Beyond its control, the victim’s hands clawed at The Killer and its legs thrashed weakly from side to side. The Killer took a handful of Melissa’s hair and pounded her head against the floor; once, twice, three times, more, until stars filled the victim’s vision and its limbs grew too weak to claw or thrash. Melissa’s consciousness started to fade. This was not death, the victim had felt this softer, warmer sort of fading before. This was unconsciousness, a gift of peace from the writer before it plunged the victim down into some greater horror.

The Killer shifted its mass from the victim’s weakly fluttering chest. Melissa coughed up blood; the victim felt the a warm sticky bubble pop between its lips and splatter on its cheek. Only when you have died in so many, many ways can the taste of blood in your mouth grow familiar. The fireworks and falling stars faded from Melissa’s vision. Her eyes were pointing at a picture of her family who lived so far away. They had no faces, no features or clothes; they were just concepts, abstracts. Everyone’s father, everyone’s mother, everyone’s sister or brother or dog. Just a photo of another normal family, its purpose nothing more than to produce, raise and eventually grieve this victim-child.

The cold top of The Killer’s knife rested on Melissa’s bare abdomen. Her flesh goosebumped and quivered underneath it. The victim lay rigid within Melissa’s flesh, feeling the cold touch of the metal, the involuntary movements of its body as commanded by the writer. Melissa’s head swivelled slowly and uncertainly to face The Killer; her eyes and the victim’s eyes behind locked with his. Were they wild, The Killer’s eyes, feral and animalistic? Were they cold, they eyes of a fiendish calculating machine? What drove this killer, what mystery could be found behind these poorly framed and rendered windows onto his soul?

The victim had been killed in more ways that it could count, by more killers with more dark and twisted and sickening motives than even the timeless and endless halls of purgatory could hold. And yet, this moment was different. The writer’s pen executed the stroke into Melissa’s soft belly, the knife blade following seamlessly behind, and this was no different to the many cuts and punctures that had come in the times before. The gushing blood the pen painted, that splattered onto The Killer and spread out like an ink blot on tissue paper across the floor, was as rich and as warm and as deep a red as ever. The pain… the pain flowed from the tip of the pen as it always had, Melissa and the victim screaming together, but this too was no different than any of the times before.

The difference was in the eyes of The Killer. The writer’s pen had crafted them with the same care he had taken to fashion eyes of Melissa so that she could see her killer and lock eyes with him at the moment of her death. From behind Melissa’s eyes, the victim stared into the eyes of the killer and found something that staring back at it from behind those very eyes. The victim locked eyes behind eyes with a creature that it could tell a had killed as many times and in as many ways as the victim itself had been made to die. Something passed between these two time-lost thought-melded creatures then, something beyond the power of the writer’s pen to shape and control and dictate in this world of lies and shadows that lay outside the void. It was a shared history; a history of violence, cruelty, perversion and death. All the victim’s past lives and deaths, but seen from the viewpoint this time of the creature behind the eyes of The Killer. A slave, just like the victim, but one who’s task was not to live and to die again and again, but to kill and to rape and to torture and defile. A black history of murder to match the victim’s uncountable lost lives.

The victim felt the life fading from its body as the last droplets of pain were committed to the page. It could feel the perfect emptiness of the void opening up to receive it again; a child unborn back into the womb. Would the memories of this life be lost, like all the time and place spun stories, or would the victim remember what it had shared and learned in these past moments? In either case, as the victim faded back into the void, as Melissa Hunter was no more, it felt the painful strokes of the pen less keenly. The victims would be born into lives worth losing only to die and to die again; but there were other ways, far worse ways, to be a slave and a victim of the writer’s whim.