Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bleed For Me

Jenny attached the manuscript to an email and breathed a sigh of relief. Her eyes felt heavy and her back ached, but she was used to the discomfort of working long hours. Usually she enjoyed her job, but every once in a while a writer came along who challenged and frustrated her. Rose Felman's writing was a nightmare of incorrect tense usage and bad punctuation, but her dialog was sharp, the plotting fast-paced and filled with tension and the characters were so real that it was hard not to get involved in the story.

Jenny was always tired when she finished editing a Rose Felman book. The excitement she felt after reading a Felman novel lingered, and she opened her instant messenger.

She was sure to get a reply soon. Rose Felman hated seeing her work marked by the "editor's pencil." She fought to keep her manuscripts intact and unedited, arguing over every little correction. Most of the publisher's editors hated working on a Felman manuscript; hated the shouting and the irate phone calls, the snarky little emails and the insincere thanks received on publication, but Jenny blew if off, enjoying the knowledge that she'd polished a good novel until it was perfect.

* * *
Rose downloaded the attatchment, ignoring the rustling of wings behind her. "She won't butcher it this time, Thantos," she said, turning to eye the restless crow.

"And if she does?" The crow's black eyes stared at his mistress, sitting in front of the desktop computer. Her long, red nails gleamed in the soft light of the lamp and he fluttered his wings, thinking of deep, rich blood. "Your words are your children. You've told me so many times. She slashes at them with her red ink. Cuts them. Disembowels the story and sends it to you, bleeding and disfigured."

"If she does it again, we'll fight. This time I won't give in."

"You should go to another publisher."

"They won't be any better," Rose snarled, her sharp nails scratching the desk's dark wooden surface."I can't get my point across to any of those fools." Her eyes narrowed, she touched the mouse, moving the pointer over the screen, clicking the "Save to Disc" option and choosing a file. "It makes me sick how the pompous idiot can destroy my work. Sick."

The crow flapped his wings and hopped over to sit on the corner of the desk. "They don't know how it feels. They carve into you with the color of death; slice into your soul, mistress. You should show them what it's like."

Rose opened the file and her eyes saw the red ink, like open wounds on her manuscript. Her thin body flinched and she sucked in a deep breath.

"Damn her!"

"Use that passion!" The crow's eyes gleamed. His beak snapped and he squawked. "Use it!"

Rose clenched her hand into a fist and drew blood, scoring her flesh with the wicked nails. "How?"

"Find something she has written. Change it."

Rose turned to look at the crow, then laughed. "I could do that. I know where her website is." She found the site easily, and followed a link to one of Jenny's short stories. "What now?" she asked.

The crow scratched at the wood with his beak. "You know this rune. Copy the story, then print it. On the paper, use your blood to sketch this rune."
Rose worked silently, her hands shaking, her throat tight. "Done."

"Now edit it," hissed the crow.

Laughing, Rose opened her desk and pulled out an editor's red pencil. She began slashing at the words on the paper. Jenny's words. Jenny's heart and soul.

Rose gutted the story, scratching out whole sentences, marking through paragraphs with bold, angry lines. Blood red lines.

* * *
Jenny waited by the computer, expecting a message tone. Her muscles tight, she leaned back in the chair and rubbed her stomach, frowning. A sudden stinging sensation took her breath away. She jumped and a long, angry red line appeared as the skin on her forearm opened and blood spurted out to splash on the monitor screen.

Jenny managed a gasp and sat forward but the pain in her stomach, sharp and deep, wouldn't let her rise. She groaned and reached for the mouse. Her hand scrabbled for it and she clicked a button.

The email she'd just sent came up on the monitor, then another site flashed on, bright and pulsing. Jenny tried to focus but her throat felt raw, as if someone was scratching at it. Blinking, she looked again. She felt confused, bewildered. Why was a story from her site coming up on her screen, and who was editing it?

She tried to lean over, gripping the edge of the desk. Burning, stinging pain, like acid, ripped across her stomach and a gout of blood poured out, drenching her. As she passed out, hateful laughter filled her ears, and the fluttering of wings carried her into a cold, silent place. Her body slid to the floor. Blood streaked down the seat of the chair to pool on the rug under her.


Written by Susie Hawes who can be found at:


Whispering Spirits Digital Magazine

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  1. Very good. Reminds me of a little scene I wrote back in 2005, waiting for the annual torment that is NaNoWriMo:

    They say "write what you know." But who the heck wants to read about a happily married tech writer with two kids? Ah. "Embellish," you say? There's a thought.

    Tina sighed as she waded through stacks of paper covered in blood. Red ink, of course - but to Tina it was the blood of her hard-birthed manual, the love child of Engineering, painstakingly researched and written, now cut to shreds by Marketing. As Tina reached into the drawer, rummaging for a bottle of white out, her fingers found the Exacto knife. She smiled in satisfaction. Nice and rusty and dull.

    Naah. Definitely needs a sprinkling of space aliens and a dash of ninjas. And more caffeine!

    Tina sat, glassy-eyed, in front of her monitor, waiting for the chime that would signal arrival of the 'ratings' from a horde of equally glassy-eyed reviewers. She bit the ragged edge of a hopelessly frayed nail, thankful that she hadn't invested in a pricy French manicure. Fingernails on a keyboard were only slightly less irritating than fingernails on a chalkboard, anyway. Tina dreamed of the trashy-but-entertaining fiction she could be writing, as opposed to the dry-but-equally-fictional technical documents she'd be editing to the truthful nuggets at their core in the wee hours of the morning. Ding! The first of the reviews announced its presence in her inbox.

    Tina tested the blade with her index finger. A ragged cut, only a few epithelial layers deep, appeared. She was able to squeeze a drop of blood from it, but barely enough to fall, splat!, on the page. Next, she stood in front of the heating vent and did jumping jacks. Once she'd worked up a good sweat, Tina leaned over her tattered draft - now covered in red ink, toner smears, and a pathetically anemic drop of real blood - and dripped. Just then, her boss walked by and noticed her office door was ajar. No look of horror, no raised eyebrow at the sight of a wild-eyed, sweat-soaked technical writer wringing blood from her own finger - she noticed the rusty Exacto knife in Tina's hand and said, with a small smile of self-satisfaction, 'Good! I see you're going to cut it as I suggested a week ago!'

  2. And I thought I had a dark side!
    Great post today, Susie,

    Morgan Mandel

  3. Reminds me of when I first met hubbo and visited his stained glass studio. I was walking by a work bench that had a quatrefoil point sticking out and sliced the back of my hand as I walked by. I bled like a stuck pig! Red everywhere. His response was, "it's a glass cut, it'll heal fast." Huh? That was almost the end of that relationship. Decades and many glass cuts later, I've learned he was right. Glass cuts are sharp and painless. Use that bit of trivia in a story!


  4. What a hoot. Glad I wasn't that editor.

  5. Great story Susie. It is fiction - right?

  6. Cute post. Thank goodness it's fiction. If edits really caused bleeding, there wouldn't be many editors -- or writers asking for edits.

  7. Very apt. And I'm also LOL at Holly's story.


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