The Manuscript
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Sabrina had always been a loner. From a very early age, she would be alone in her room reading while her siblings were playing with their friends outside. She never outgrew her love for books and those who knew her were not surprised when she chose a career in the Book Industry. She had worked her way up the corporate ladder and was now the Chief Editor of a large Publishing Agency. Because of her passion for books and reading, she never saw her career as work.

Tonight was Friday night and no different than any other night for Sabrina. She left the office around 9 pm and headed home where she would spend her weekend reading and typing reviews. Alone in her luxurious apartment after having sushi delivered; Sabrina settled down to read the manuscript by Thomas Martins titled ‘The Dark Night’. At 12:15 am she began typing her review to the author. Of course, she would be professional and subtle but would get the message across that he should leave writing to those who knew how. Once she was satisfied with her review she emailed it to him.

On Sunday she started planning for the week ahead. For the past seven years, her agency had been nominated to host the Annual Book Fair for all the Publishers. Sabrina would drive up to her cabin and enjoy the blissful isolation as she worked on the project. She had all her electronic gadgets to keep in touch with her P.A. But everyone knew she did not like to be disturbed while planning such an important event.

After a six hour drive, Sabrina arrived at the cabin. She stretched her legs as she breathed in the fresh unpolluted air. Ten years ago her realtor had found the perfect hideaway for her. The location of the cabin was hidden in the mountains surrounded by a forest. It allowed her the freedom to be alone, away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. Here she could spend her days with her books and projects. Everyone knew Sabrina enjoyed the company of books more than she did people.

For the past eight years, Sabrina had hired a caretaker. He made sure that everything was seen to before she arrived. When she walked into the cabin she saw a parcel lying on the table marked for her attention. She would open it later, all she wanted to do was have a long relaxing bath and go to bed. The journey up the mountain path had required her undivided attention as the mist and rain had accompanied her all the way.

She was awoken by a noise. She lay awake listening and heard the sound of movement coming from her kitchen. The bedside clock indicated that it was 2:11 am. She climbed out of bed and cautiously walked towards the kitchen. Sabrina saw that the fridge door was open. She turned on the lights and checked the windows. The cabin door was bolted from the inside. She sighed; perhaps she had not closed the fridge door properly. She decided to make herself some hot milk; climb back into bed and read the marketing ideas for their spring books.

When she awoke; she could not believe that it was 4 pm! She had practically slept through the whole day. Her head felt groggy so she decided to have a shower and go for a walk. The rain had let up but heavy gray clouds still covered the sky. While walking through the forest she had an uneasy feeling that she was being watched. After walking for 35 minutes she decided to turn back as it began to drizzle. When she reached the cabin she stopped dead in her tracks; lying by the front door was the package she had seen on the kitchen table yesterday.

She slowly entered the cabin and checked every room but found nothing out of the ordinary. She bolted the front door and looked out the window; all she saw was the approaching storm. Sabrina picked up the package and opened it. Its contents contained; “The Black Night” manuscript. A shiver ran down her spine. The walk back to the cabin had chilled her so she started a fire and put a pot of milk on the stove. In the bedroom, while changing into something dry and warm she could not shake the feeling that she was not alone.

Sabrina sat at the kitchen table drinking her hot beverage. She glanced at the manuscript remembering what an awful read it was. As she flipped through the pages her eyelids began to feel heavy. So she lay on the couch near the fireplace and fell asleep.

As her consciousness began to push through the fog she saw the silhouette of a man standing in front of her. She tried to talk to him but her tongue felt two sizes too large for her mouth. Her movements were restricted by ropes. She desperately wanted to stay focused but the darkness descended.

“Aaaaah there you are…. Eventually! I obviously put too many dormonocts in your carton of milk.” She was sitting at the kitchen table bound to a chair. The man sitting in the chair opposite her introduced himself as Thomas Martins. He spoke in a very polite controlled voice; “You and I need to discuss your review regarding my manuscript. You will publish ‘The Back Night’ and for the first run; print twenty thousand copies. If you feel the need to reject my request there will be server consequences to your decision.”

Sabrina burst out laughing. Who did this idiot think he was? Publishing a pathetic novel like that would ruin her career. Thomas walked towards her and in one swift movement picked up a crystal bowl on the table and smashed it into her face. Sabrina experienced an explosion of pain as she heard bones breaking. Blood filled her mouth causing her to choke; she spat out three of her teeth.

He put his face close to hers and whispered; “We can do this all night but I guarantee it is going to hurt you more than it will hurt me.” Now, are you ready to adhere to my instructions? Sabrina had not come this far in her life to succumb to the ridiculous demands of this psychopath. So she spat in his face; gaining pleasure seeing her blood splatter all over it. He walked towards the fireplace put one of the pokers in the flames.

Returning to the kitchen he opened his satchel which lay on the table and pulled out a meat cleaver. He grabbed hold of Sabrina’s left hand and one by one chopped off her fingers. She screamed hysterically as she saw her fingers laying on the floor. Thomas walked to the fireplace and removed the red hot poker. He held Sabrina’s left hand firmly; cauterizing her stumps. She felt herself slipping away and welcomed the darkness.

A horrible scent of ammonia assaulted her nostrils and brought her back to reality. Thomas was holding an axe in his hand. It was the axe that lay at the back of the cabin next to the pile of logs. He had placed her laptop in front of her. He untied her right hand and said; “Shall we get started on the email.” Sabrina now realised to survive this mentally disturbed person she needed to submit to him. She began typing an email to her P.A. instructing him to make the necessary arrangements to publish The Black Night by Thomas Martins. She explained where the manuscript could be found in her office.

He stood behind her as she typed the email. Once the email was sent, he raised the axe above his head. Holding it firmly with both hands he drove it deep into Sabrina’s skull.

Thomas looked forward to having his novel displayed in the bookshops. If his mother was still alive she would be very proud of him. But at the age of fourteen, Thomas was taken to a Mental Assylum for stabbing his mother thirty seven times. When the doctors asked why he had done such a thing. Thomas sadly replied, “She did not like the story I wrote for her”.

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