It's Written in the Words

"You're astute," said the girl in the red dress, smiling faintly. "That is a useful trait." She looked down at her mug for a moment, frowning. "Mr Bentley," she said, with a small swallow. "What I about to tell you will seem... absurd. I ask you keep an open mind while I explain to you to nature of my request." The girl glanced up at him with an almost fretful expression. Derek's mind darted back to the few late-night TV shows he'd watched.
"Is this the part where you tell me monsters are real?" he asked. For a moment the girl looked confused, but in a  second had recovered.
"Oh, no!" she said with a chuckle. "Well, I mean, I suppose it depends on your definition, and of course they will always exist somewhere. But not here, and that is a simpler truth compared with what I am going to tell you." She paused, looked out of a window, took a breath and looked back to him. "You are in a story," she said pragmatically, and paused again. Derek blinked, but said nothing, so she continued. "You are a figment of someone's imagination, written on a website called Protagonize. As am I, for that matter.
"In the real world, someone has found a way to... loosen the bonds of reality, allowing characters to escape their stories. This includes all the criminals and villains, who seem to have vanished as one. Thus far the effect is restricted to this one website, however there are still thousands of stories there with their villains missing, roaming the real causing who knows what havoc." She paused again, glancing at him, still lent back in the chair, a mix of incredulity and indifference on his face. "The job before you," the girl continued, "is to roam the pages of Protagonize and find out who is missing, that way we may have a chance of preparing ourselves against whatever they are planning. We have a man on the outside, but well, there's only one of him. We can give you whatever you wish in payment." The girl, finally done, sat back expectantly. Derek sat forward on his chair
"You were right," he said pushing the chair back. "It sounds nuts." He stood. "I think a shrink'll help you more than I can." Derek walked around the table and made to leave but the girl touched his arm and he stopped.
"I suppose that is your choice," she said, "you still have some modicum of free will. But you were written for this very reason." She dropped her hand. "At least think about it." In answer Derek shrugged and walked out.


Back in the real, Dru sat back from her PC. "Damnit," she muttered. "Whoever said characters don't have minds of their own should meet this guy..."


Across the road, in the council car park, Derek sat in his stationary vehicle. You were written for this.  The words kept running through his mind. Not 'you were born for this' or 'this is your destiny' but written. He sat back, his fingers rolling another cigarette. But what did that prove? Only that her delusion ran deep. But what if it was truth? He did this thing and they really could offer him whatever he wanted? He'd be a fool to turn something like that down. He shut his eyes and rubbed at his forehead. Derek had never had anyone actively ask him for help before. Usually his jobs came from Detective Harding - outsourced by an underfunded, overworked police force. He stuck the roll-up in his mouth. Sure would be nice to have a match right about now, he though, tasting the tobacco through the paper. He rubbed at his head again. The girl had said characters in these stories could leave them. If she was telling the truth, then it should follow he could will himself to 'the real', as she put it. Derek opened his eyes and stared out at the familiar building of the council offices, the ill-kept shrubs and litter-lined pavement.
"To hell with it," he muttered. Derek got out of the car and locked it. He stood, his eyes closed. I want to see my author.

The End

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