The sound of his cell phone ringing was driving Oliver up the wall. He'd been up all night and all he desired at the moment was a bit of sleep. But apparently, he wasn't going to get it. "What good is living another 10 years if I can't get one good night's sleep?" he growled, snatching up the phone from his bedside table. "Hello?"
"Hey Oliver, its Ethan. Did you hear about Ryan?"
Ethan's irritating voice was adding on to his terrible morning. "Ugh, no... what happened?" Oliver lied, struggling to stay awake.
"Cops found him on the Interstate, underneath an overpass. The car was on fire with him inside", Ethan replied. A grim, saddened tone plagued his voice.
For a moment, Oliver forgot that they had once been the best of friends, true brothers. For a moment, Oliver couldn't comprehend why Ethan sounded so melancholy. But then he remembered. He understood that he had just killed his brother, someone whom he thought would be there for him forever. Someone he knew he could confide in about anything. Dead. Killed. Murdered... by him. "Damn..." Oliver whispered in reply, "I... I gotta go, Ethan. I'll-" at this point, Oliver threw in a fake sniffle, "I'll call you later."
The phone was hung up abruptly, staging the feeling of overwhelming sadness. Oliver sighed and fell backwards onto his bed. "I... I killed Ryan. My own brother. The worst part is..." Oliver groaned, burying his face in his hands then ruffling his hair, "There's no turning back now, is there? I can't just stop now and say, 'Killing's wrong'. Like it or not, Ryan is dead by my hand. If I don't kill Ethan, this whole thing will have been just a big, pointless scheme. If I'm going to kill my brothers for life, I might as well kill both of them."
The phone rang once more, playing a theme song from a popular movie series. "Yes, Ethan?" Oliver answered, much more awake this time.
"Oliver, I have an idea. It might be weird, but it seems like it could work. You know the witch dad was talking about?"
"Yeah, from England, right?" Oliver replied.
"That's right. I actually bought her contact information online and got in touch with her. She says that if I fly to England tonight, she'll be willing to discuss a negotiation, to rid us of this curse."
If Ethan left, how would Oliver kill him? How would he take the life that was rightfully his? This stupid deal with the witch would never work. She was a malevolent, magical being. Why in the world would she make a deal with Ethan? "I'll have to cancel a few of my business meetings, but this is vitally important. Another thing though, Oliver... Ryan is dead. Do we... do we get the life he had left?"
A particularly stinging chill ran down Oliver's spine and he attempted to keep his composure. "I- I wouldn't know, Ethan", Oliver stammered.
"Oh... I've been thinking about it a lot. If we have a shared lifespan, then it should be evenly distributed at all times. Even after one of us dies... If it is true, then I feel really guilty. Regardless of whether or not intoxicated driving was what killed Ryan like the cops said, I don't feel like I deserve to have his life... It's like having someone else's blood injected into your veins, Oliver. Doesn't feel right. The very thought is freaking me out."
"Hey, come on Ethan," Oliver replied, "Ryan would've wanted us to enjoy life. The more of it, the better. But seriously... you're leaving for England tonight?"
"That's right," Ethan responded, "This deal should clear things up. If I get lucky, she'll disable the curse and we'll live out our natural lifespans. If something goes wrong, she'll probably vaporize me..."
"And you're going to take that risk?" Oliver scolded, "You have an empire in the making, with this business of yours. In twenty-one years, it'll be the biggest company in the country. You're willing to risk that for a few more decades of life?"
"That's right, Oliver," Ethan chuckled, "Wish me luck man. I have to go. Bye."
The phone was hung up from the other end of the line. Suddenly, Oliver began to laugh. Not a laugh of joy or a laugh of entertainment, but a sinister, dark laugh. One composed of the nightmares of children and burnt strawberries. An unsettling, inhuman laugh which would make anyone's hairs stand on end. "If Ethan scores the deal," he mumbled under his breath, "I live longer. If Ethan is killed by the witch... I live longer. It's a win-win for me, either way. How perfect."
All of his problems settled, Oliver began to focus on his work again. Primarily, the development of his novel's movie adaptation. "Hello, Mr. Jameson? ... Hey! Hey, this is Oliver Hartfield, the author of Griswald's Violet; how are you today? ... Good, good! I'm doing pretty well myself. So, how's the process going? Any good news for me? ... Uh huh... Uh huh. I see. No, no, I won't mind... That scene can be removed, sure..."
Turns out, this film was going to be one of those "loose" adaptations, a "based on the bestselling novel by" instead of a page by page adaptation. Instead of bringing Oliver's book to life, the company was planning on stapling a few extra pages onto it and making it their own. "Stupid, corporate idiots", Oliver hissed, "Wrecking my masterpiece... Who do they think they are? Who, do they think they ARE?!"
He kicked over a small trash bin and slumped back onto his bed. The phone rang once more, just to tick him off. "Hey, mom? Hi! How are you doing? ... No, no, it's fine, mom. Ethan's going to England to strike a deal with that witch. If he lands it, I live longer. If he gets killed, I live longer. Everything's fine, mom, don't worry about it."
Something said on the other line suddenly worried Oliver. "What? No. You're kidding. This, this isn't good. This isn't okay. I had no idea he was planning this, mom! Damn! I- I gotta stop him. I'm going to call him right now and convince him to stay, okay, mom? Okay, okay, I will... bye."