With an unexpected amount of calm Doug smoothed the paper flat against the desk top, mahogany he thought though through the grime there was no way to be sure, and took a deep and shaky breath. Certain he was alone and would remain undisturbed, this time, he carefully, painfully, thoroughly reread the page. The result was the same. As Doug finished the last word of the last line he felt nothing less than… aghast.

There were very few ways the page could be interpreted, and none of them particularly positive. He, Doug, was either the butt of a joke being played, in what he considered very poor taste, caught in a unique moment of coincidence, which while preferable was less than plausible, or insane. Unfortunately, the later was the most likely, at least he was sure that would be the popular opinion, if he started telling people he had stumbled onto a story about himself in an unfamiliar study which hadn’t been used in at least a decade.

Leaning forward onto his elbows Doug considered each possibility. He had mentioned to Bob and Jack, back at the office, that he might rummage through the house as it was slated for demolition at the end of the week, but he could not remember if he had said where it was located. Even if he had told them it was on Laurel Lane he wasn’t sure they could have thought the prank up and put it into motion so quickly. Besides he was sure there was no way they could know he would visit the study. With a quick jerk of an imaginary pen Doug crossed bad joke off his list. Now Doug was not as good with sums as he was with words, but he really didn’t think the probability of a man named Doug who walked into a dilapidated house and happened to stumble onto a story about a man named Doug was even worth calculating. Which just left insane. Angrily he punctuated the air with his finger before throwing his hands up in despair. “But I’m not crazy,” he said to the paper, “so what other option is there?”

Doug sat very still with his head cradled in his right hand palm. His eyes were locked on a smudge of soot just to the left of the destitute mantel which suggested that the last person who worked the fireplace had then stood there, leaning against the wall, as lost in thought as he was currently. Somehow the empathy he shared with the unknown person was comforting nearly as comforting as… “Lists!”

No longer aware that he was doing it Doug once more allowed his internal dialogue to take voice as he riffled the desk drawers for paper. “I’ll make a list. I’ll write out each of the major tidbits from the… the… thing, and then I can prove once and for all what it is, and what it means, and… that I’m not crazy.” Doug, however, was not in luck. There were no extra sheets of paper, ink pens, or even pencil stubs to be found in the old desk which aside from the dust was immaculately clear of office debris. Unwilling to admit defeat in this his best, and only, plan of action Doug’s eyes fell on the offending page. Hesitating ever so slightly Doug flipped the paper and wound it onto the forgotten typewriter. His hands shook as he stretched them over the keys, and punched the 1 key experimentally. The clack of the number one as it was pressed into existence was thunderous. Doug peered closely at the 1 on his otherwise blank side of the paper. It was a bit faded, but it had worked.

The need to reread the page in order to find the first point of his list was as repellent as it was tempting so Doug opted to go from memory. He decided to start simply typing the line His name is Doug. He continued on with He is being watched, He is in trouble, and He is stuck/trapped. Doug paused for a moment before switching tactics. The Doug in this ‘story’ is sure that he is being watched. He is depicted as a selfish man who interacts poorly with others. He is shown to be greedy, dishonest, and morally reprehensible as he continuously chooses to help himself at the cost of others. This ‘story’ is told in the first person while Doug sits alone in a room. Doug laughed at the absurdity of it all. His summary, in true primary school fashion, said nothing of the ‘story’s’ climax as if he the only reader didn’t want the ending spoiled. Finally he typed Doug is locked in an asylum.

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By Jeannette Woitzik

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