People don’t live. Only stories live.
Jack Mathis, a bright young book editor in Chicago, has found the next great American writer. Yet this anonymous genius is inspired to create in the darkest way imaginable: he picks his victims carefully, murders them gruesomely, then gives them new life in the best stories Jack has ever
The writer knows all about Jack. All about his wife. Knows everything.
He has more stories in mind, too.
Jack wants them.
But what is he willing to do to get them?
“What are you doing to me?” the young man asked Cordell.
He was looking straight up at him, and Cordell could see him plainly, as far down as he was, because of the lights overhead, while he himself was no more than a shadow, he knew, a silhouette backlit by the brightness.
“Well?” the young man asked. “Well?”
His hands were still caught behind him with the tie-downs, and his feet still bound, too. But he was standing. Cordell had dropped him feet first into the well.
“Why are you doing this?” the young man demanded. “Just tell me. What did I do? You want me to be scared? You got me scared. I am good and scared.”
Cordell said to him, “You remember the Oakland earthquake in 1989?”
“No, I don’t. Come on, I was a kid.”
“Quite a few people died. Part of an overpass collapsed. You know, they have to clear away the concrete and steel and whatever holds up these roads, and then they have to deal with whatever’s left of the people who were crushed to death. Can you imagine what they felt, looking at what was left of people who had an entire road fall onto them? What happens when a person is trapped inside a tin can and a slab of concrete as big as a skyscraper falls on him?”
The young man in the well said, “I don’t know. I don’t have an answer. Why are you talking about this?”
“I couldn’t get rid of the image because what’s left doesn’t seem human after something like that happens. It’s garbage, basically. But this is what happens. People don’t last. People die. Stories last.” He stepped away from the well.
“Hey!” the young man yelled. “Where are you going?”
Cordell returned in a moment with a gasoline can. He tilted it so that all of the gasoline poured into the well and all over the young man.
“Stop it! Stop it, stop it, don’t do this!”
Cordell struck the match.
“Buddy, don’t do it!”
He dropped the burning match into the well and immediately backed away.
The young man’s screams were extremely loud and continued for nearly a minute.