Henry Galley-A spotlight on one of /R/Nosleep talented writers

 

Henry Galley is an independent fiction writer living in the UK - He tends to specialize in horror, but is open to trying pretty much anything that takes his fictional fancy. His main inspirations are the endlessly weird world around us and the irrational fears he tends to experience daily. When not doing his best to craft creepy tales to haunt your dreams, he’s a big fan of comics and cartoons, and has a particular fondness for endearingly silly villains. We can live in a frightening world sometimes, and Henry believes that we might as well make the best of it - it never hurts to help!


http://henrygalleywriter.tumblr.com/

1. Henry besides specializing in horror writing do you find yourself drawn to other genres that you’d like to try out? What is it about writing horror that drives you for more?

Personally, I’m a huge fan of comedy! I think horror and comedy are extremely similar, because they’re structured in pretty much exactly the same way: you start with a setup, then you misdirect, and then deliver a payoff that subverts expectations. The key difference being that in comedy the payoff is a laugh, whereas in horror we get a scream. It’s all just the beauty of catching someone off guard, and driving them towards a very specific emotional experience. Though I’m open to trying almost any genre, variety is the spice of life.

I think I’m attracted to horror just because of the profound effect it’s had on me since I was young. It’s that kind of captivating, taboo mysteriousness of it all that draws you in, just because you feel almost like it’s forbidden. That, and horror is almost like tofu, you can mix it with pretty much any other genre. Horror and action? Aliens. Horror and romance? Spring. Horror and sci-fi? The Fly. Horror and thriller? Se7en. Horror and comedy? Tucker and Dale Vs Evil or Shaun of the Dead. The list goes on, it’s so fun and flexible.

2. What would you say has been the biggest influence to your writing style and stories? Are there specific creepy topics you like to look into more than others?

I think my influences are way too eclectic to pin down one or two definitive sources of inspiration - I try to take everything I read, watch, or listen to as a source of inspiration. Even if it’s awful, you can at least learn a little about what not to do next time. I’m a big fan of Junji Ito, works compiled by Ellen Datlow, and stories from the likes of Lauren Beukes, Clive Barker, and Jeff Noon. Really, I tend take in everything I can and see what the heck I can make from it. Though I think it’s fair to mention I would not be where I am today with my writing without the tireless efforts of my editor, Elisha Young, who has saved me from myself more times than I can even count.

As for creepy topics, I tend to revisit the themes of fatalism a lot. The idea of suddenly discovering that your choices aren’t your own, that everything is dictated, that terrible things are going to happen and there’s no way of stopping it. Blood and guts are fun to write and exciting to read, but if you really want to scare the reader in a way that stays with them, you need to start attacking the fundamental tenets of reality itself. What’s real, what’s not? What does it mean to be human? Does anything we do ever matter – or, worse yet – are we even the ones deciding what we do? Those are the ideas I like exploring.

3. Besides nosleep where do you like to share your writing? Are there other platforms you’d like to try and share your writing on?

This one is gonna be a relatively short answer, because I will give my stories to almost anyone who asks nicely/pays me for them! I try to get as much exposure as possible, and love working with other interesting platforms. Just as a stranger is a friend you haven’t made yet; a platform is just a friend I haven’t collaborated with yet!

4. Your well-known story- Two Facts You Should Probably Know got more than 6,000 upvotes whoohoo! What inspired you to write this piece?

At the risk of sounding pretentious, I came up with that idea while thinking about how important names are. Obviously, a lot of us don’t choose our names – but some do, such as transgender people who choose a new name that better lines up with their true identity. Those of us who have always had a name kind of take them for granted, and those who don’t have a name that fits them right off the bat will naturally appreciate their name a lot more. Hence, we have the story of Nate Wilson – a man who, due to his own bad decisions, is having a pretty bad lot in life. Nate, the story kind of argues is wasting his name with his bad decisions – so when someone else who is far more competent comes along, someone in search of a name, it leads to the question of who actually deserves the name more. If I say anymore I think I’ll ruin it, but that’s the rationale behind that story.

5. Are you currently working on any projects now or will be in the near future?

At the moment, I’m just writing stories like there’s no tomorrow, just trying to get my name out there more, practice my craft, hopefully refine my skills and building up an audience. However, I do have a few larger projects at the moment too. Currently, I’m working on a superhero comic book called Retroactive with a fantastic artist/writer called Robotsharks (creator of the hit LGBT webcomics Sharp Zero and Improvise, which everyone should check out. They’ve crafted some amazing comics here). It’s a departure from my more horror-oriented stuff, focusing on character, comedy, and fun – with some little forays into some serious emotional drama too. More of that coming soon, though.

I also work in a slightly smaller capacity as assistant writer for Bloody Urban, an animated pilot/show being produced by the awesome animator Meg Tuten. It’s a slice of life comedy full of supernatural creatures and satire of horror tropes, so I’m right at home! Meg’s the brains of the operation, but I’m delighted to be involved. I’m also in the very early stages of development for a new podcast – nothing is concrete at the moment, but I’m in talks with fellow horror writer Zeph and voice actor Atticus Jackson about it. Hopefully more on that to come too.

6. Are there any specific authors on nosleep or online that you like to check out often?

God, that’s a good question! I’m not as up to date with the online horror rounds as I probably should be, but I do have some authors whose work that I love, or that I’ve become good friends with, or both! Examples include Max Malone, Manen Lyset, Rona Vaselaar, Caitlin Spice, and Ashley Holzmann. As stories go, however, I mostly tend to read them on an individual basis rather than gravitating to the same authors on a consistent basis. I’m a big fan of variety.

7. What kind of stories scare you the most!!!

That’s a tricky one. Even as a horror writer, I have to admit that writing a story that genuinely scares people is really hard. The kind of stories that scare me are the ones that are very minimalist – stories that are big, flashy, and full of gore just have no impact on me. The stories that play on my mind tend to take place in suburban settings, with an element of mystery and isolation, and a monster or killer that you never fully see or understand. If the story is immersive to the point where I can put myself into that situation, and the concept is creepy and mysterious, chances are it might send a little chill up my spine.


http://henrygalleywriter.tumblr.com/

 

Two Facts You Should Probably Know

Here are two facts you should probably know:

Fact the first: When a human being is driven into a corner, you should never underestimate the levels of stupid and dangerous they will resort to in order to escape.

Fact the second: If a deal seems too good to be true, it is.

Normally, I wouldn't be the kind of guy you should be taking advice from. If I wrote an autobiography, it'd be called "Jesus Wept." But in this very specific instance, I have some valuable experience. It started, as most tragic stories tend to, with a series of short-sighted mistakes.

About a decade or so back, I was a few years out of college and trying to build a life for myself. I was single, educated, and driven - all the qualities someone needs to succeed in life. Well, not the "single" part, but you get the idea. I had prospects, some real potential - but, like Oscar Wilde once said, I can resist anything except temptation.

Yeah. I was an English major.

I didn't get hooked on meth or porn or anything like that. No, my vice was the thrill of chance. Gambling was the greatest rush I'd ever experienced - just giving up control, letting the gods of probability and randomness decide your fate. I got hooked, kept going to those damn casinos night after night. Looking back, I was naive, I was foolish. It'd take an idiot, blinded by a lust for sensation, to not realise another crucial fact: the house always - I repeat, always - wins.

To make a long, painful story short, at the tender age of 24 the local pit bosses had taken me for all I was worth and then some. As a result, I was indebted to some unsavoury characters who were not all that keen on giving me some leeway on the money I owed them. I managed to pull together just shy of a hundred dollars in a week doing odd jobs, but that was a fraction of a fraction of what I was in for.

At the time, it seemed like a better idea to just piss away what money I had at a local bar rather than carrying on my sad little exercise in futility. So that's exactly what I did, and by virtue of a few gallons of the cheapest spirits you can possibly imagine, I can't remember a great deal of what happened after that.

Next thing I know, I'm waking up in a puddle behind the bar, having been turfed out for making an ass of myself. The electric buzz of the neon signs above my head felt like I was taking a power drill to the frontal lobe, while the cold, filthy water below my face helped to sober me up a smidgen. Just enough to make me aware.

It was right then, in my lowest possible moment, that I met him.

"Hey there, buddy," He said, his voice pleasantly cheerful and melodic, "You look like you need a helping hand. Thankfully, I've got two."

There was a gentle tug on both of my shoulders, pulling me upright. He leaned me against a wall; I could finally take a better look at him.

To begin with, I wondered if I was hallucinating. He seemed so strange, so out of place.

My Good Samaritan was about six and a half feet tall, but he was built like a pack of uncooked spaghetti. A long, lean, string bean of a man. That being said, the black-and-white pinstripe suit he was wearing still somehow managed to be form-fitting, like it was just painted directly onto a featureless body. Above his collar - fastened to the top button and held in place by a large and ugly bow-tie - sat a pale, grinning head with black hair parted in the middle.

Truth be told, my initial thought after properly taking in the sight of him was as follows: holy shit, I died in that puddle, and this is death himself come to collect my pathetic soul. Sadly, that was not the case, I was, in fact, still alive.

"There we are, pal, that's a lot better, isn't it?" He said, kneeling down on his long, rail-thin legs to look me in the eye, "We'll have you feeling like a million bucks in no time. Never fear!"

While back then I just assumed that it was my drunken mind playing tricks on me, I remember his eyes seeming strangely...yellowish. They had a kind of jaundiced sheen to them, like sclera and iris just melted together into a single, formless mass. Eyes like goddamn egg yolks.

"It's always such a shame to catch folks in a pickle, such a shame," He said, largely to himself, I think, "Whatever happened to helping people out, you know? It's a good feeling."

"Who are you?" I managed to choke out.

The kind stranger smiled and turned his sulphuric eyes towards me.

"You're asking the wrong person there, amigo, I'd tell you if I knew. Honest!" He replied with a laugh, "What's your name, though?"

"Nate," I said, wondering if I was about to vomit or not, "Nate Wilson."

"Oh my god, that's such an awesome name!" The stranger said, as the sudden explosion of interest on his face told me that he wasn't faking his misplaced enthusiasm, "Nate Wilson. It has a ring to it, don't you think? God, what a great name. You're a lucky guy, Nate. Lucky to have such a great name."

"Uhh, thanks, I guess."

There was a long, awkward silence after that. I sure as hell didn't know what to say, and the stranger seemed more than content to just stand there and stare at me, grinning like a freak. It felt like it was my responsibility to break that irritating silence.

"Look, I really appreciate you helping me, buddy..." I began.

"Wait, you consider us buddies?" He asked. His tone was, at that stage, ambiguous.

"I mean, you saved me from breathing alley-water, so I guess so, yeah."

This might seem hard to believe, because I definitely didn't believe it at the time, but the stranger literally jumped up into the air and whooped loudly. A grown man, behind a dive bar, doing that. It was like something out of a strange dream that your one boring friend always wants to tell you about.

"This is fantastic!" He said, grinning ear to ear like he'd just won the fucking lottery, "It's so wonderful to make new friends!"

He extended a spindly arm towards me, his hand open and his spidery fingers outstretched.

"Put her there, friendo." He said.

And because that night wasn't weird enough already, you better believe I did.

"That's what I'm talking about," He said with another childish cackle, pulling me to my feet with disarming levels of strength, "Through the power of friendship, anything is possible."

Sure, he may have spoken like his only experience with the outside world was watching Saturday morning cartoons, but he seemed innocent enough. A benign weirdo, just trying to help people along his way. Though I must admit, the fact he was reluctant to tell me his name was somewhat of a red flag for me.

"Now, I'm going to be completely honest with you, Nate," He began, his amber gaze turned downwards in what might have been embarrassment, "There was a reason I followed you out here. It wasn't just a stroke of good luck."

My heart immediately sank. I knew he was too good to be true - this was when he stabbed me, cut me up, wore my skin as a suit and turned the rest of me into a makeshift lasagna. Nobody was ever that happy at that hour of the night if they had all their psychological ducks in a row.

"Well, if you're being honest," I said, swaying on my feet, still too drunk to defend myself, "Would that reason happen to be my murder?"

He seemed shocked at first, then began to laugh.

"Do you think a murderer would be this friendly?" He asked.

"Molestation, then?"

"Jesus, no way, Nate. You're a good-looking guy, don't get me wrong, but you're not really my type."

"Then what does a guy like you have to do with a guy like me?" I asked, the needle on my internal emotive scale creeping from 'curious' to 'irritated.'

"Well..."

He paused again, as though searching for the proper words. He was looking at everything but me.

"The bar," He finally said, "How much of what happened in there do you remember?"

"Somewhere in the margin of nothing, I think." I said, now leaning against the wall for support.

"You were talking to the bartender. Loudly," He said, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, "I wasn't eavesdropping, not at all, I just happened to overhear. You were talking about some kind of...money troubles."

I'd almost forgotten about them myself, but the second he said it, all the memories came barreling into me like some nauseating tidal wave. I'd ranted and raved, screamed at the top of my lungs. Debt. Debt. Debt. I got belligerent when I felt they weren't showing me enough sympathy, and when I got belligerent, I was rightly thrown out on my inebriated ass.

"Oh, don't worry about those," I said, my cheeks reddening with shame, "That's not your problem. I'll deal with it."

"But Nate, you didn't sound like you could deal with it."

"What the hell is it to you?" I snapped back.

The stranger stopped talking, and began reaching into his jacket. I got a sudden flash of paranoia that he worked for one of the casinos, and he was going to put a bullet between my eyes.

"You're my best friend, Nate," He said, "And friends are meant to help each other out of sticky situations, aren't they?"

He produced a stack of bills from a pocket inside his suit, and passed it over to me.

"Will this be enough?" He asked.

It was at this point that I was most open to the idea of this all being some crazy dream. With the ferocity of a madman, I quickly counted the money this total stranger, calling me his best friend, had handed to me.

Twenty-fucking-grand. It could bail me out, and then some.

"Holy shit," I said, though I can't remember if it was out loud or in my head, "I...I can't possibly accept this."

"Please do," He said with another ear-to-ear grin, "You need it an awful lot more than I do."

A sober me might have been too proud to indulge him, but - funnily enough - drunk me had a far more realistic take on my level of desperation. I was a desperate, desperate man, trapped in a corner.

Fact the first: When a human being is driven into a corner, you should never underestimate the levels of stupid and dangerous they will resort to in order to escape.

"But why?" Was the only question I could summon.

He smiled and shrugged.

"Because I like you," He said, "And I like helping people."

"But you've only just met me."

"So what? A friend is a friend is a friend. Why overthink it?"

I collapsed back against the wall, holding the stranger's twenty grand. It was a way out of my dire situation.

"I'll pay you back. Every penny, with fucking interest, I swear to god." I said.

The stranger laughed.

"No need. I've got no shortage of money. Just take it and bail yourself out, okay? Then promise me you'll stop gambling."

There were big, swollen tears running down my burning cheeks. The stranger's kindness was baffling, but it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever experienced. He was a true Saint in flesh and blood.

"I'll never gamble another penny." I said.

Without another word, I lunged forward and hugged him. A long, warm, tight embrace. By the end, I could feel his emaciated limbs wrapped across my back.

"Thank you so much." I whispered, my tears dripping onto the shoulder of his suit.

"What are friends for, right?"

When I finally prized myself off of him, I just couldn't stop laughing - it was nerves, probably. The stranger watched me, a kind of eccentric joy burning in his big, yellow eyes. He seemed to like just observing.

"Oh, one more thing," He said, reaching into his jacket again, "A little something I wrote up in the bar, just to help you out."

He passed me a piece of paper, folded into the size of a pamphlet. I didn't even think to check it at the time, I just shoved it into the pocket of my filthy coat and carried on thanking him. I needed that money, lord knows I did, but I couldn't just take it without giving something in return.

"There must be something you want, man," I pleaded, palms open in deference to his generosity, "Anything. I owe you my life, man, you just name your price. I can't thank you enough."

The stranger grinned and stroked his narrow chin in contemplation.

"Now that's an irresistible offer," He said, almost jokingly, "You drive a hard bargain, Mr. Wilson. Leave it with me, okay? I'm sure I'll think of something."

He began walking away after that, whistling - of all things - "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" as he did so.

Now I was laughing again. Half out of giddiness, half in acknowledgement of the sheer strangeness of the events transpiring around me. Right then, as I sat outside a shitty bar, covered in dirty water, my own tears, and more than a little puke, I was the luckiest human being on the planet,

"What do you give to the man who has everything?" I said aloud.

The stranger looked over his shoulder at me one more time, his odd eyes meeting mine.

"Almost everything, Nate," He corrected, "Almost everything."

And just like that, the stranger was gone. Almost funny, isn't it? How someone like that can have such a profound impact on your life, then just up and disappear just as quickly. Like a comet, just trailing past. You only catch its light for a brief instant, then it's dark again.

Using the stranger's money, I paid off my gambling debts in full, and still had a little left over. I swore to stick to my promise, for my own sake and his. In the ten years that've passed since that day, I haven't gambled a cent.

Once I was all square with the house, I finally took a moment to check the piece of paper that he'd left me with. At first I only sort of skimmed it, and it didn't make a great deal of sense to me: just a list of dates from 2007 to 2017, each accompanied by a sentence fragment. It was only when I sat down and took a long, hard look at what those fragments actually were that I realised the stranger couldn't possibly have been human.

No, he was so much more than that.

It was a list of instructions, specific down to the days, minutes, hours, and seconds. Where to be and what to do in order to maximise success at that given moment. He'd left stock tips for companies that didn't exist, but would come into existence exactly when he'd predicted they would. He'd left exact instructions on which house to buy, and how to get it at the best price. Clothes to wear, jobs to take, friends to make.

Fifth of October, 2009. Go to Starbucks in town. Meet Jessie O'Brien. 3:51:17 PM.

Two years later, Jessie O'Brien became Jessie Wilson. The stranger had even engineered me meeting the love of my goddamn life, precise to the exact second we'd first make eye contact.

I invested in the right stocks and pulled out of the wrong ones, avoiding company deaths and market crashes like some financial Houdini. My capital skyrocketed and my personal wealth just grew greater and greater.

Eighth of June, 2011. Buy House 10 Aspen Way. Don't Rent. 6:14:43 PM.

And so I did. Jessie and I moved into that big, gorgeous house once our honeymoon was over. We were wealthy, healthy, and deeply in love - but something was missing, something the stranger had accounted for, too.

Seventeenth of August, 2012. Conceive child with Jessie. 8:31:19 PM.

Our little girl is called April. The stranger picked it, not me. She's four now, and I love her with all my heart.

The stranger, a man who I'd known for less than an hour, had steered the entire course of my life in the best possible direction, out of nothing more than the kindness of his heart. He'd saved me, he'd saved all of us. Even though it'd been ten years since that day and I was drunk out of my mind at the time, I remember every detail vividly.

That's why, as I was walking down the street this morning - my arms full of grocery bags - when I heard someone singing "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" a few feet behind me, I recognised the voice instantly.

"Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, everything that's wonderful is what I feel when we're together!" His melodic voice sang, his tone screaming joviality, "Brighter than a lucky penny, when you're near the rain just disappears, dear, and I feel so fine!"

Without a moment's hesitation, I turned to face him. It looked like that strange, strange man hadn't aged a day in an entire decade. He even wore that same pinstriped suit that he had on the first night I met him.

"Just to know that you are mine." He finished the verse with a smile, and threw open his arms.

"Jesus Christ," I said, my face cracking into a smile impossible to hide, "It's actually you."

"The one and only, baby," He said with a laugh and a grandiose hand gesture, "How's Jessie, by the way?"

I opened my mouth to answer, but he raised a hand, as though to politely silence me.

"I'm sorry to drop in after - gosh, has it really been ten years? Jeez Louise, time really does tend to get away from me," He said, "Anyway, the reason I'm here is because I finally figured out what I wanted from you."

"Beg your pardon?"

"Ten years ago, you said you owed me something, anything," He replied, though I almost heard it back in my own voice as he said it, "I couldn't decide at the time, but I think I know now."

"Oh, of course! That's wonderful to hear, man," I said, my heart filled with a sudden trepidation, "So, uh, what is it you want?"

The stranger gave that same ear-to-ear grin that he was wearing back behind the dive bar in 2007.

"Well, I've thought about it for a long time, amigo, and I've finally made my decision," He said, "I know what I want from you, Nate."

He paused to take a step closer to me. His eyes were just as golden in the daylight.

"I want your name, Nate."

I almost laughed to begin with, but I soon realised he wasn't joking. He was deadly serious.

"My name?"

"Yes, Nate, I've always loved your name, it's so wonderful," He said, wringing his hands with glee, "See, I've never had a name myself, and it's always left me feeling a little left out, you know? I've wanted a name for so long, and I decided just recently that the name I want is yours. I think it'll fit me just right."

This man had given me my entire life. He saved me from getting killed by casino sharks back in '07, and every wonderful success I'd had since I owed entirely to his decade-long itinerary. With all this in mind, who was I to turn him down this last batshit crazy request?

If he wanted to go around calling himself Nate Wilson too, what right did I have to stop him?

"Sure thing, buddy." I said with a smile.

He leaned forward and embraced me, almost crushing the groceries against my chest.

"You have no idea how happy you've made me."

"It's the least I can do after all you've done for me." I replied.

The stranger - or rather, Nate Wilson - extended another spidery hand towards me.

"Let's shake on it." He said, his voice elated.

And I did.

We went our separate ways after that. I walked home, and he ran off into the city, singing and cackling with mirth. It brought me some peace of mind to know that my debt to him was finally repaid, and that some simple token gesture was all that I needed to do it.

When I arrived back at 10 Aspen Way, I saw April playing around with her toy lawnmower in the front yard. I smiled and called to her, but she didn't respond. She was too wrapped up in her fictitious duties.

I made my way inside with the groceries. Jessie was in the kitchen, cutting up carrots. Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows blasted out of the radio. Today just kept getting weirder and weirder.

"Hey, babe," I called to her, putting the groceries on the kitchen table, "You'll never guess who I ran into this morning."

Jessie didn't respond. She just carried on chopping, and hummed to the tune.

"Babe? Everything okay?" I asked.

Still no response. At this point, I was beginning to get a little...worried.

With a peculiar heaviness to my every movement, I walked over to Jessie, and placed a tentative hand on her shoulder.

It just went straight through. Straight though her goddamn body - like she was a hologram, or I was. I recoiled with a short, sharp yelp, and fell against the kitchen table. Again, no response from Jessie.

What the hell had happened?

"Honey, I'm home!" I heard a familiar voice call from the hallway outside.

Jessie suddenly perked up, turning her head towards the noise.

"Hi, sweetie," She said, "You were a while out there. I was beginning to get worried."

The stranger walked into the kitchen, a smile stretched across his waxen face.

"Sorry about that, honey-bunny," He said, "I met an old friend in town. We had a little catch-up."

As he said that last part, he threw me a sickening wink with one of his piss-yellow peepers.

"Huh," Jessie said, "Anyone I know?"

She leaned forward and gave the stranger a kiss. The kind of kiss she always gave me.

"Nah," The stranger said with a chuckle, "I don't think you've ever met him."

I felt like my mind was going to implode. Nothing going on was making any kind of goddamn sense. The whole world had gone crazy.

April called from outside, something about the grass.

"You mind taking over the carrots for a sec, babe?" Jessie said to the stranger, "I better go check on April."

"No problem, honey." He said, taking the knife from her hand and giving her another kiss.

Jessie left the room, leaving just me and the stranger, all alone. I quietly fumed, and he chopped carrots.

"What the fuck is going on?" I finally asked him, when I'd gained the modicum of composure required to do so, "What have you done, you crazy fucking weirdo?"

He carried on chopping the carrots. His eyes never left the chopping board.

"My name is Nate, stranger," He said, "I'd really appreciate it if you called me by it."

In my state of fury, I tried to grab him by the shoulder and turn him to face me. I could actually touch him, but he wouldn't budge. It was like trying to move a mountain.

"That's my name. This is my house. And that's my wife," I said to him, rage and confusion rendering my voice a crackly mess, "I want you out of here and out my life."

The stranger chuckled.

"See, that's where you're wrong, slick. All that changed hands," He said, "This is Nate Wilson's house. Jessie is Nate Wilson's wife, and this is Nate Wilson's life. And, by the terms of our recent deal, I'm Nate Wilson. And you, good buddy? You're nobody."

"I won't accept that." I yelled, slamming my hand down onto the kitchen countertop.

Without another word, Nate Wilson rammed the knife through my hand. There was no pain, no blood. It just phased through, as though I no longer even existed.

"Word to the wise, stranger, reality marches on regardless of whether you accept it," He said, as I pulled my hand away from the knife, "Everything you have, everything you've tricked yourself into believing you earned, you got from my instructions. You never owned this life, stranger, you just rented it from me, piece by piece. Now, it's mine, and there's not a thing you can do about it."

He stuck the knife into the chopping board and turned around to me.

"Except, of course, leave, and let me, my wife, and my daughter get on with our lives. Do you understand, stranger?"

I stood in crushing silence for a minute or two.

"But can I see them again?"

"Sure you can, you can see them any time you like, but only I can see you. Just like, up until around an hour ago, only you could see me. It doesn't feel good, does it? Being nobody. Being nameless."

The gravity of it all was finally closing in. I fell onto my ass and began to cry.

"God, I was so fucking stupid," I said, "How did I fall for all this?"

Nate Wilson shrugged and ate a piece of carrot.

"Don't blame yourself, buddy," He said, "I was waiting for centuries before I found someone who I could interact with. It isn't your fault you happened to be that person, or that you had such an awesome name at the time."

"My name..."

"You were only going to waste it, friendo. If I wasn't there that night, a heavy would have broken your legs the next day, you'd have gotten into painkillers, and OD'd a few months later. Nate Wilson becomes gravestone fodder. What a waste that would have been, huh?"

"But what do I do now?"

"What I did, stranger," Nate Wilson said, eating another piece of carrot with undue relish, "Ask around, find someone you can talk to. Might be this afternoon, who knows? Sure, could be a week, month, year, decade, century, but I'm an eternal optimist."

"A century?" I said, trying to ebb the stream of tears flowing out of me, "I can't wait that long."

"You'd be surprised, pal. Patience is something you'll learn, being nameless. When you finally do manage to wrangle yourself a name, you'll appreciate it a little more this time. You'll make something of yourself."

Fact the second: If a deal seems too good to be true, it is.

"So is that it?" I asked, "Is that all you have for me?"

Nate Wilson nodded.

"I'm afraid so, good buddy," He said, "But you seem like a nice enough guy. I'm sure you'll figure something out. You can always depend on the kindness of strangers, don't you know."

As the man who had just stolen my entire existence carried on hacking up vegetables, I left the room, walking out of the kitchen, through the hallway, then out of the house entirely. I stole one last look at Jessie and April, my - no, his - family, playing on the lawn, totally carefree. All smiles. They'd never even know that I was gone.

Perhaps it was better that way, no heartache.

I whispered a goodbye that they'd never hear, and closed my eyes in a pointless attempt to shut off the tears I knew would be coming either way. I set off into the city after that, walking alone, in search of something - hell, anything - to call myself.

And that was that. The story of my un-naming. Perhaps Nate was right, perhaps it was his life all along. Maybe he'll live it better, live it kinder. He might be a better father, a better husband, a better Nate.

I don't feel so attached to that name anymore.

But, if you know all this now, that means one good thing: you can read what I'm writing. If you can read my words, perhaps you can hear them? And if you can hear them, perhaps you can reply.

If so, I hope to hear from you soon. We have a lot to talk about, you and I, a lot to discuss. I think I can do some great things for you, dear reader, dear friend. I'll help you out of any bind you need, and I'll barely ask for anything in return.

Barely anything at all...

 

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