This is a fiction short story about unfulfillment.

Eric woke up early. Something woke him up actually. A ring tone. No, that was impossible. He always turned the volume on his phone down for the night. And yet it was his phone that woke him up. Still, half-asleep Eric picked it up fearing some horrible news. A text message.

“You have 3 days to finish your book”

Eric stared at the screen for a while. He wasn’t a writer. He was a junior accountant for a big company. This was clearly some sort of network glitch. Except that he was writing a book. Well, “writing” was a big word. Every once in awhile he put some words on paper in the hope that when it was done, it would be the next bestseller. He wasn’t far yet either. He had the first chapter and he was agonizing about. He wanted every word to be perfect, every word to count. Writing took time. Good writing took forever. Thinking about his book made him irritated. What a dome thing to happen, on a day like today. He needed to be at work soon. Sharp and focussed. Today was audits day and he could finally let himself be seen.

The next morning Eric was even more irritated. Audits went fine. He was crushing it and… nobody cared. The clients or his supervisor. When he got to the office and opened his mailbox, there was one email that immediately had drawn his attention. A high priority email from a weird-looking address. It said:

“You have 2 days to finish your book.”

Eric froze. Cold sweat all over his body. This was not an accident or perhaps his colleagues were pulling his leg and playing some stupid joke on him. Except he had never told anyone about his book. Not his colleagues, not his friends, not his family. Literally, no one knew about his book. After a moment Eric wrote back:

“Who are you?”

And pressed send. The email came immediately back as “impossible to deliver”. The rest of the day Eric was restless and thinking about his book, about his life and career choices. He didn’t believe in any stupid bullshit like destiny or magic or whatever that was. It just got him thinking and that was all.

In the evening he sat down to his computer and found the file with his book. Well, with the first chapter of his book. He read what he had written before and flinched. It wasn’t good. It all sucked badly. He needed to start all over. That evening he deleted what he had and started again.

After a few minutes of staring on the blank page, he got up and got himself a coffee. It seemed it was going to be a long night. Then mercifully he got some inspiration and started to write. He was writing for a few hours till the very late in the night when he almost collapsed on his keyboard and fell asleep at his desk.

Eric woke up with his keyboard pressed against his forehead. It was Saturday, no biggy. He didn’t dare to read what he wrote yesterday. What if it was bad again. Instead, he went to the kitchen to fix some breakfast. While chewing his sandwich he was playing with his phone. Scrolling through news items and blogs about cats. This was going to be a relaxed day. Something caught his eye. As ridiculous as it was he actually noticed an ad on one of the blogs. The ad said:

“You have only one day left to finish your book.”

This stupid ad really unsettled Eric. He clicked on it in the hope of getting to the bottom of all this. But the ad had no link. It was just an image with some text leading nowhere. He was getting scared as well. What would happen on Sunday? Why had he only one day to finish? He had no editor, no deadlines. He went back to his computer and read what he had written the night before. It was not perfect but he was quite pleased with himself. Except he didn’t know where to go from there. He was staring at his text for a few minutes and then started typing. At first, he was correcting and editing as he went. Then his own story took him and he was not paying attention to typos or awkward phrasing. All he wanted is to go on. To finish.

After six hours the hunger struck him with the power of thunder. He had to eat but there was no time for cooking. He grabbed some bread and sausage. Without bothering to make a sandwich he just bit in the sausage and then on the bread. Bread crumbs were all over his desk and keyboard but he barely noticed that. All he wanted now is to go on. To finish.

After a few hours, it got dark. Eric was all cramped and stiff from sitting all day without any breaks. Everything started to hurt but he was making progress. He produced about twenty thousand words and came to one-third of his story. He had never been so far before. It wouldn’t be possible to finish the first draft today but he was glad nevertheless. It was five to midnight and he couldn’t keep his eyes open anymore. He fell asleep on his keyboard again.

Eric dreamed a strange dream. In his dream, he was standing in the middle of a desert and he held water in his cupped hands. Water was trickling slowly through his fingers. He was doing his best not to lose it. But inevitably, it was all gone at some point. Then everything went black.

***

After Eric did not show to work on Monday and also didn’t call in sick. His supervisor didn’t make much of it. After Eric still did not show up on Wednesday, the HR department tried to reach him by phone. Unfortunately, without any success.

A few days later a letter saying that he had been fired arrived at his doormat but no one had picked it up. The postman smelled something odd but didn’t make much of it and left quickly to his next address.

It took one more day that the neighbors started to complain to the landlord about the smell. Then the police arrived and the door to Eric’s apartment was opened. The smell of rotting flesh was unbearable. One of the curious neighbors was vomiting in the hallway.

Eric was still sitting at his desk with his head on the keyboard. Food rests all over his desk and body.

“Poor bastard,” said one of the policemen. “A horrible way to go.”

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