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Dasein - Draft One

By John Urquhart Ferguson

Copyright © July 6th, 2007


A Dasein is a being in the world. The Dasein recognises the place one has in time and space: That all beings are linked together with their Universe, their Being. They are all part of the one.

The Dasein will acknowledge his fate. He knows that he has no will of his own. He is a product of his environment and his Being. The Dasein must be authentic to himself or he will never be at peace. Moreover, what truly separates the Dasein’s existence from all other beings is the Dasein’s contemplation over that existence: The will to attempt to discover what it is that makes a Dasein individual when, naturally, the Dasein is not. We are all only part of the whole.

Unless, of course, we are mistaken.

Chapter 1 - Discovery

Sometimes it can be hard to tell when the present began. It seems easy to remember the past and plan for the future, but when does the current become just a memory? When do your visions of tomorrow have life thrust into them and become the immediate part of your linear existence? Is your experience just a series of present moments or is it the totality of all the moments past? And what part does the future play in that experience? Can you make your own path to follow or are you destined to play out a predetermined sequence of events?

It was with such thoughts that Martin passed the time staring out his window. The weather had been exceptionally erratic today. Beautiful blue skies and blinding sunlight had been banished by violent wind and thrashing rain. But the sun would soon come back. An endless battle seemed to be raging between the two conditions. The cycle between rain and sun was making it hard to track time. It felt like it had been longer than a single day.

Suddenly Martin woke up to where he was. It was four o'clock in the afternoon and he had done no work. Martin was self-employed. A label that almost seemed synonymous with `unemployed' in today's world. Martin had started his own business four years ago to support one of his passions: Martin was an author of interactive fiction. These were stories in which the reader himself took part, directing the story toward one of many possible conclusions. An extremely niche market for an author to direct himself toward. However, such was his talent in the medium that he had successfully managed to make a living from selling his works privately to fans of the genre. Martin had been drawn to interactive fiction for the living nature of the worlds that could be created. He was writing stories much like conventional novelists would do, but he was not simply guiding the reader along a linear path toward his decided conclusion. The readers could choose to ignore his story and do something completely unexpected, as long as they stayed within the boundaries of the world he had created. In some ways, it was similar to the way Martin's own life had turned out.

Martin had been born into a long line of lawyers. Although he had been comfortable with the inevitability of his future career while growing up, he later felt that he wanted to do something for which people would remember him. Choosing interactive fiction, with its relatively small audience, may have hinted at his lack of confidence to achieve such a task. Certainly, he found the task difficult and it did not seem to come naturally to him. Nevertheless, he found that his works were highly respected and enjoyed by the small community of enthusiasts. Perhaps it was having such a good reputation with only a small audience that bothered him, but he had not been entirely happy with his choice of career. He often felt that he still had not achieved what was intended for him. He felt sure there was something great he should be doing with his life but he did not know what it was.

Martin had created very little today in the story he was writing. It concerned a man trying to hunt down a supernatural killer that led his victims into books and used the rules of the fictional worlds to destroy them. Perhaps the idea was a little unoriginal, but it allowed the story to have a lot of variety in it. Most interactive fiction tends to play out like a game, and this story certainly had that feeling to it.

The ending of the book had been on Martin's mind for a long time now. He needed to add a twist at the end or people would not feel satisfied with the story. Simply catching the killer would not be enough. The reader would need to do something ironic and relevant or they would never read it again. Moreover, which was worse for Martin, they would not recommend it to their friends: Thus depriving Martin of a growing audience that was largely built on word-of-mouth.

Martin stared out the window a while longer. The world outside his window seemed to have gone into a sunny phase. Perhaps it was time to take a break and get some fresh air.

One of the great benefits of Martin's work was that he could more or less spend his time as he wished. He did not have to leave home to get anything done. He did not have any publishers to appease because his books were published electronically and not printed. The only motivation to work was to make money and to gain satisfaction and renown. Martin took a lot of breaks.

As he walked down the path from his house, Martin began to wonder more about his work. He spent most of his day creating things, but he had never been very good at it in the real world. Martin did not have crafting hands. He walked down into the woods. The earlier rain had left the air cool under the trees. It was only broken by the warm rays of sunlight that burst through the canopy. Martin thought more about his story as he strolled down the woodland path. He felt that he could get around the lack of twist in the end by making the conclusion seem epic instead. It was always easier to throw scope at this kind of problem that to be original. It had been the mainstay of Hollywood for years.

It occurred to him that these woods had a supernatural quality to them that would work well in his story. The mist was now rising from the ground creating a surreal feeling of unearthly serenity. It would have made a wonderful location for his story. Sadly, Martin knew that this was nowhere near epic enough. He had walked these woods hundreds of times and knew there was nothing here but an endless sea of trees. You needed large structures to convey an epic sensibility. Still, perhaps he could use it as the basis for something grander. Then, through the mist, he saw a castle.

He could not believe it. In the middle of a huge clearing that had never been there before was an old castle. It was a ruin with thick red brick. Martin stood there in a daze. However, only part of his being rooted to the spot was due to the fantastical nature of this castle's existence. The other part was concerned with how perfect the castle would fit into his story. It was as if it had been created purely to inspire him. Slowly he could feel himself being pulled to the castle as if by a magnet. He would either have to walk or fall over. Martin moved at a quickened pace that turned into a run. There were ditches around the ruin and holes in the castle walls. It was a truly wonderful building. He ran to the nearest wall to touch the surface. He wanted to make sure that it was real. He ran in short bursts as if to ensure that, if this all suddenly disappeared, he would not be running into a tree.

The wall was rough and grainy. As he ran his hand across it, Martin had the feeling he was being watched. He turned to confront whoever might be there but he seemed to be alone. It was an odd feeling though. As if someone was not just watching him, but knew everything that was going on in his head. Martin thought that perhaps he had been working too hard. Seeing castles that were not there before and thinking people are reading your thoughts was hardly a sign of sanity. It was much more like the things he would have put into one of his stories.

Then the thought hit him. This was exactly like the things he put in his stories. In fact, it was exactly what he had been thinking that his current story needed. But no, that was insane. Even more than the rest of the events on this walk. It was not as if Martin had the will to create. This was just a weird coincidence. Perhaps a little too weird. Besides, if Martin had really been able to conjure up what his story needed, he would not have magically created his second choice. He would have created his first choice: An ending that had a clever twist in it.

“Then again,” Martin thought, “you can't really create something that you can't imagine.”

This was pointless. If his mind had cracked and wanted to go around creating fairies in the forest, then that was its problem. Martin was going to go home, take something to calm him down and have a little rest.

Martin turned from the castle and walked back into the woods. So determined was his resolve that it took him a good hundred yards of walking before he noticed that the forest was now littered with fairies.

Chapter 2 - Invention

Martin sat in his kitchen looking dazed and confused. He coddled his warm mug of coffee in his hands and tried not to think about what was happening. Instead, he tried to think about what he was going to do at the weekend, but immediately felt uneasy. He tried to think of nothing at all and simply stare into space but he could not get the images out of his mind.

The castle had been nothing compared to the fairies. Tiny little people with wings, flying around the woods. They seemed not to notice Martin at all. Their sleek appearance was clearly seen under the scant garments they were wearing. Little was left to Martin's imagination as to the body shape of these beings. They seemed to be amusing themselves with some sort of chasing game. One would kiss another, and the kissed party would try to find someone else to kiss. Martin had only stopped for a second before taking on a quick pace, but he could not take his eyes off the spectacle. He felt certain that they would never have paid him any attention at all if they had not run out of other fairies to kiss.

Martin groaned at the thought of his obvious cowardice. He could clearly tell that they meant him no harm and were simply continuing their game, but his instincts of running away from swarming insects took over. He had run from them until he had a made a big enough gap between them and himself. He need not have worried though as they did not follow him after it became clear that he did not want to play.

Another groan emanated from Martin. It was no wonder that they thought he wanted to play. He was staring at them long enough. He must have looked like a new kid at school, desperately waiting for the other kids to let him play with them. Martin took a sip of coffee in an attempt to wake himself up from this dream. It was just unthinkable that this could be happening. Then it struck him: It was not unthinkable at all. In fact, Martin had indeed thought it. He had thought it and then it had happened.

But how could that be? No one could just create things with their mind. No, wait. That was not true. Martin did it everyday. His whole income revolved around creating things with his mind. But that was not in real life. That was in imaginary worlds that he made up. Maybe he had somehow found a loophole. Maybe some kind of portal had been made from his imaginary world into the real world. Sure, it was a crazy idea. But for a man who had just met a bunch of fairies, it did not seem so far fetched. There was only one way to make sure.

Martin tried to think of something else that his story needed. Where was he struggling?

Something went by Martin's window before he could see it. Something the size of a man. But Martin could not picture it in his head. Perhaps it had not been there at all. He got up from his chair and ran to the door. Martin fastidiously kept his doors locked at all times. Therefore, by the time he opened the door there was no one to be seen. He ran round the corner into his back garden. Still nothing. Martin's back garden was completely enclosed. If a man had come round here, the only way out was the way he came. It must have been in Martin's mind.

“Martin's mind.” he thought to himself. It was an odd thing to have happened right after he had been attempting to create something for his story. Martin wondered if he had created the elusive figure. Perhaps he could try something more practical.

Martin closed his eyes and began to think as hard as he could.

“Apple… Apple… Apple…”

He opened one eye to see if anything had happened. There was certainly no apple in front of him. Perhaps it only worked if it was important to his story. He turned on his heel to go back inside but was promptly hit on the back of his head.

* * * * *

Martin opened his eyes. He was on the ground, which was still damp from the earlier rainfall. Lying two feet from his head was a green apple. It seemed to be a little worse for wear. Martin touched the back of his head and felt the dull pain as he prodded the surface. The realisation of what had happened hit him. He sat up and tried to think what might have happened and came up with three possibilities.

“Okay, the first possibility is that I just created an apple which accidentally hit me on the back of the head. Secondly, it's possible there really was a man in my back garden who is out to get me, and he hit me on the back of the head… with an apple. And, lastly, some freak coincidence just happened that involved an apple flying into my garden, which just happened to hit me on the back of the head… Oh God.”

Martin clearly felt that all the options were egotistical in some way. They all seemed to suggest that things were happening for his benefit. As if, somehow, the world aligned itself to suit him. Martin had always hated this way of thinking. He felt it led to the breakdown of society and any caring nature that was left in humanity. But, in this instance, Martin simply could not think of an explanation that was not directed at him.

“Fine.” Martin thought to himself. “Let's just go with it and assume that I do have some sort of power to manipulate the Universe.” Then Martin thought better of that, deciding it was too great a leap. “All right, let's just say that I can control certain aspects of my perception in the nearby area.” Martin was much happier with this explanation, but could not help being annoyed that it was still completely crazy. He sat looking at the grass in his garden. He needed answers and he was fairly certain that he was not going to find them here. Standing up, Martin dusted himself off and turned to go inside.

As he turned the corner, he saw a dark figure standing outside the entrance to his home. Martin stopped and stared at the man. A dull inability to deal with the situation swept through Martin's mind. The dark figure made no move. However, unlike Martin, he seemed completely in control of the situation.

After several seconds in which Martin could feel every heartbeat in his chest, he managed to get out the words, “Who are you?”

The dark figure did not respond. Instead, he began to take slow steps forward toward Martin. With each step the figure took, Martin felt a drain in him. It was as if the steps were blows to his head. Each one made the world a little darker. He could feel all the energy draining from him. The dark figure came closer and closer.

Desperately, Martin thought to himself, “Gun… Gun… Gun..” But it did not seem to be working. He could not stop what was happening to him. Martin collapsed on the ground. He saw the dark figure stand over him as everything became dark. He tried to make out the man's face. But it was too late.

* * * * *

Martin woke up. He was in his own bed at home. It was dark. He could not remember how he got here. His bed was cold and clammy. Martin had a feeling of being taken over. It was as if he had lost control of his life. The events of the past day had been too much for him. It seemed clear that something was happening to him. But Martin was more interested in who was orchestrating it.

Martin tried to get up but found he was braced to the bed somehow. He jolted around violently trying to break free but he made little headway. The duvet slid slowly off the bed and Martin saw that there was nothing keeping him on the bed at all. It was as if he had been hypnotised.

He closed his eyes again and thought as hard as he could, “I am not strapped to the bed. I am not strapped to the bed.” But nothing changed. Martin gave up. Who was it that had this control over him? Just a few hours ago, he was starting to believe that he had a paranormal control over everything he saw. Now he had lost even the most basic control over himself.

Chapter 3 - Pursuit

As soon as Martin admitted he was powerless, he was released from the hold on him. He sat up in bed, waiting to see if he had the will to move around. The restrictions seemed to be gone. He wondered if it was really true though.

If he did not have the control to break fictional bonds on him, how could he be sure someone was not controlling him now? Perhaps someone was anticipating all the movements he wanted to make, then making them for him.

“No, wait a minute.” Martin walked through the idea fully in his head. “If they can read my thoughts to move my body accordingly, why wouldn't they just control my thoughts? How can I even tell that I'm not just thinking this because they are making me?” Following the idea through to its conclusion was extremely unsatisfying. If it was true then it simply did not matter what Martin tried to do, as there was no way to know if it was actually him. There did not seem to be any way to fight this.

He could not give up hope. He had to try. But he immediately double guessed himself. Did they have something to gain by allowing him to try and fight back? Was that the wrong approach? Then he wondered if they had put this new thought in his head to make him try a different approach because his first one was correct. Then he wondered why they would have him double guessing himself when they could just make him do what they wanted. “But wouldn't that mean I am under control of myself.” Either he did have control, or for some reason they wanted to create the illusion that he did.

It did not change anything. He still had to try to fight back and see what happened. He only had one lead: Martin needed to find the dark figure and confront him. But he had no idea how he was going to do it. The last time he had seen him he had fainted and lost control of his body.

An idea sprung into Martin's mind. Perhaps he did know the dark figure. The castle appeared to him when he felt he needed an epic setting for the end to his story. And then he had thought that it would have been better to create a good twist to the story rather than an epic ending. Martin had thought that it had not worked. Perhaps it had.

The fairies had shown him that it might have been he who was creating these supernatural events. Maybe it was just a plot device for his own story. If that were true, perhaps he was battling against himself. Maybe he had created his own earlier imprisonment to make his own story more interesting. So who was the dark figure that he had seen? Could it be the villain from his story?

That would certainly fit in with his theory but it did not really help Martin. Even if he assumed that he had somehow gained the power to turn his stories into real events, he had not yet found a way to end the story. He did not know how to kill the villain. In his story the killer led his victims into books to kill them, using the advantages that a fictional world supplies.

How would that apply now? The killer had breached the boundaries of his own book and come into the real world of his creator. Perhaps that was it. Martin thought through the idea like a conversation with himself.

“My power in the real world is just a knee-jerk reaction. If I can't control it fully, then I can never use my full power. If I am the creator then I need to use that to my advantage. I need to take him into the world I created.”

It was perfect. Martin's villain in the story would lead victims into books anyway. Why could the killer not be lead into his own story? Into the story that Martin had created that had made the killer real. It also occurred to Martin that this would have been a fabulous twist to end the story he had been writing. Maybe this was the conclusion of his earlier thought about creating a good twist. Perhaps all the events after that had been set in motion merely so that he could now come to this decision. Martin felt himself getting back into another loop in his thought processes. He had to remain focused. He had to find the killer. But he still had no idea how to get him to jump into his own book, let alone how to destroy him once he did.

That did not matter yet. First he needed to figure out how to find him.

If he was really still in control, he could just decide how to catch him and it would happen. So what would be the best circumstances to get the killer to jump into his own story? The killer would need to think that it was his own idea. If the killer did it in the story anyway, Martin just needed to get him to jump into the correct story. The one that Martin could control. The killer would only think that was a good idea if he believed it was somewhere he had more control than Martin. The killer could control all realities that Martin considered stories. Except for one. The story that Martin wrote. The very story from which the killer had come. In that world, Martin had full control. But perhaps the killer did not know that. Why would the killer have any reason to believe his own story to be different from any other? The killer must believe that he cannot be killed in a story. If Martin could remind him of this, it could get him into the story that Martin controlled.

It could work. He just needed to get to a crossover point between the worlds. The castle seemed appropriate. It fulfilled the rules of having a dramatic atmosphere for the ending to the story and seemed to breach both worlds.

Martin got dressed and left his house, running down the road toward the woods. It was not too far away. He remembered the road. The castle was where the river bent. There had been an old tree stump there before that Martin had always admired for its aged beauty. Even though it was dead, it still had a positive effect on the living. That was probably as much as anyone could ever hope to achieve in life.

He ran past the fairies who were all sitting attentively, as if expecting a show to begin. Martin paid them no attention. If he was going to make the figure appear, he needed to focus his thoughts. He had to imagine the figure at the castle. The muscles in his legs burned but he maintained his focus on the villain. He knew he would be there. Martin knew he had control. It had been his story all along. He just needed to finish it. To close the breach in reality and restore his life. It would all be over soon.

He came to the clearing and saw that the castle was still there. That was good news at least. But the killer was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps Martin needed to call him. He began to shout into empty space.

“Where are you? I am calling you out. I have come to destroy you. You must answer my call.”

Nothing happened. Martin could not honestly say that he was surprised. He needed to think it. He needed to see him in his mind. See him at the castle. He closed his eyes and saw the figure in his head. He imagined him at the castle waiting for Martin to arrive.

When he opened his eyes, there was no one there. He turned round to face the castle. Then he saw a dark blur running behind the castle. Martin pursued. He almost slipped in his desperation to end this insanity.

When Martin reached the other side of the castle, the figure was waiting for him. The killer stood in a long coat, his face hidden by a shadow that should not have been cast. Martin stopped short and stood frozen. He realised that he was scared. Martin was doubting his plan, but there was no turning back now.

Chapter 4 - Confrontation

Martin felt his throat become thick and heavy, but managed to open his mouth and confront the killer.

“Do not leave.” Martin told the figure. “I am your creator. You have entered into my world and you have no place here. You must not run. I must destroy you before you damage this universe.”

The figure began to speak in a distorted voice. It did not come from his mouth. It seemed to come from everywhere. “I do not care about this universe. I only came here to destroy you. You control my fate. You make me hurt the innocent and take the lives of the ignorant. I must destroy you or I will never be free. And neither will my victims.”

This statement took Martin aback. He had not seriously thought of the figure as anything other than a two dimensional character in his story. The idea that Martin could be forcing someone to kill innocent people against their will was repugnant to him. Then Martin realised that this thought was once again a very egotistical one. He had moved past acknowledging that his stories were becoming real and was now giving himself credit for creating sentient beings. He had turned himself into a God. Martin knew that he was no such thing. The behaviour exhibited by the killer must simply be good writing on his part. Trying to make the character more rounded and giving him such a bizarre reason for killing people must simply be a plot device. Perhaps this was another one of the twists Martin had so desperately been seeking for the story.

Martin looked at the shadow where the man's face should have been. “I do not create your fate in isolation. I am guided by your character.”

The dark figure almost spat back, “But you are the one who made my character as it is. You cannot deny that the final blame must lie with you.”

Martin quickly replied, “Either way, you must be destroyed. It does not matter who is to blame. You will continue to follow your character traits. Trying to kill me won't stop that. Killing you is the only way to stop any more deaths.”

The dark figure straightened his pose. “Would you sacrifice me to save them? Or do you do it to allay your own guilt? I think you are just afraid for your own life.”

Martin replied with caution, feeling the hate and anger in the villain's voice. “You are simply the villain in a story. Your entire purpose is to die. You die and the reader will feel satisfied and safe. That is simply the burden you have to face. It is your destiny. If you do not die, the readers will not be appeased and will never read the story again. Moreover, they will tell others not to read your story. If people do not read the story, you will not exist. That is why you cannot kill me now. If you kill me in this universe, the universe that your story comes from, then your story will not be finished. You and your story will not exist as only I will know about them. And I will be dead. You only exist if people read the story. You are a creature of imagination. Without that you can't exist.” As Martin spoke these words, he realised that not only was he incapable of killing the man here because his power as creator was not strong enough. He also could not do it because it made no logical sense. The story had not yet been finished. He could not kill the man unless the story was closed and resolved. To do that, the killer had to be back in Martin's book. That was the only place he could be killed. It was the only place that he could logically die. Realising that everything now hung on the killer choosing to go back into the story, Martin desperately hoped that the man had not realised this sequence of thoughts himself. He stared at him, waiting for his next move.

The dark figure looked away to the river. “You say that my existence is tied to you and this place. That I am to die anyway unless readers feel my pain. But if you come into my story, then your death can be the finish. The ending will have been written. And it will have been written outside your universe. I can exist as a free man and you will have lost your hold on me.”

This was another blow to Martin. The thought that he might actually be killed in a world that he had created had never occurred to him. It did not make any sense. Another fear came into Martin's mind. This did not sound like the kind of thing that he would have written. It was too complicated. Too convoluted and unlikely. The doubts of whether or not he was really in control began to flow back into his mind.

Martin spoke, trying to hide his nerves. “You don't have the power to take me into your story.”

The dark figure smiled. He lifted his hand to the sky and seemed to pull some light from the sun. A small ball of light and fire in his hand. He looked into Martin's eyes. In a sudden flash, he threw the light at Martin, and then all went dark.

* * * * *

Martin opened his eyes to the sky. He was on the ground on his back but quickly jumped up to face his enemy. His plan had worked. Martin recognised his surroundings. He seemed to be exactly where he had been before at the castle. But he was not in the real world any more. The castle he had seen before was just a projection of this one into his own universe. This was the real castle now, if it could be called that. Nothing here was real. It was all Martin's creation. He should have full power here. Here Martin made the rules.

The dark figure was still standing across from him. Another ball of light began to form in his hand. Martin needed to figure out what to do. What was the simplest defence for him to try?

The dark figure threw the ball at him. Martin did the first thing that came to mind. He put his hand up to block the ball of light. It bounced harmlessly into the sky. Martin had expected this but was still thankful that it had worked. He seemed to have full control here. There was no point in dragging it out. He had to kill his creation.

Martin looked at the villain. He was standing in silence, but poised to run. He spoke to him to explain why he had to do this, “I can't let you cross into my world. You could hurt real people. You could hurt me. You must be destroyed… now.”

Martin raised both his arms to the sky. A ball of lightning and fire formed above him, three times the size of the ones that the killer had created. He spoke to the villain again before his final act against him, “I'm sorry.” Martin threw the ball. It flew through the air quickly and made contact with the figure. A flash of light and the killer was gone.

Martin stood, staring at the space where his combatant had been. He had destroyed him. Now he could get back to his life. Then he realised a new problem. Martin was stuck in his own story.

He was not sure what he had been expecting. Martin thought that with the killer dead from within his own story, the ending would have been written and he himself would simply be back in his room putting the last full stop on the story.

Martin waited for something to happen. Maybe he did need to write the end to the story himself. Maybe he literally needed to write it on his computer to take him back. Martin needed access to his computer, but he was stuck in the fake universe that he had created. Perhaps if the castle had been projected into his universe, then some things from Martin's universe could be projected here. Why not? It was his world after all.

Martin ran back into the forest. Oddly, the fairies were no longer here. Martin supposed they must have served their purpose in the plot and had been taken from the rest of the story. Like cleaning up loose ends. The thought struck Martin that, if this was the case, perhaps the castle was not needed any more. He had gone through his epic battle with the killer. Martin turned round and saw a sea of endless white staring back at him. He took a step backward and the white came to meet him. It was as if the world was becoming an endless white page again. Martin needed to get back to the computer. If the world was being deconstructed then he must be nearing the end.

He came through the woods and saw the houses of his neighbourhood. At the top of the hill, he could see his own. He ran as fast as he could. The door was open. Martin burst into his house and up the stairs to his bedroom. He felt completely elated. It would be over soon. He opened the door to his room and felt as if he had been punched in the face. His guts began to melt and seemed to weigh ten times their normal amount. Sitting in his chair at the computer desk was the killer.

“How did you get here?” Martin shouted at the killer. “You're dead! I killed you!”

The killer took his attention away from the computer screen and addressed Martin. “I like your book. I hadn't experienced it as a reader before. It is much more enjoyable to read about a killer than to be forced into being one.”

Martin stared at him. He was hot and tired from running so hard to get home and he could begin to feel the sweat on his brow start to trickle down his face. He could not tell if it was from the running or that he was scared, but he was unable to move. He tried to keep his voice steady as he spoke to the killer again, “I killed you, how can you still be alive?”

A smile spread across the killers face. It was smug and grim. He was enjoying this. Trying to savour every moment. At last, he replied, “You can't kill me, Martin. The ending hasn't been written yet. I've read your story and nothing that has happened between you and me is there. I can't die until you kill me in your story. Your written story, not this world that you created. You can't kill me until you've written it on the screen. You thought you'd appear back at your computer as if you'd just been writing this whole time? You think this is all just in your head? You're wrong Martin. None of this world is real. And neither is the world you live in. Everything in both our lives is in the head of someone else entirely.”

Chapter 5 - Authenticity

“I assume you think of me as unreal,” said the figure. “That I am merely a character from your story. I am sure, then, that it will come as a shock to find out that you are only half correct.”

Martin had lost all feeling in his body. All he could do what look on and listen to the figure's distorted voice.

“You see, Martin, I am not real. My actions are not under my control at all. I am merely a puppet of my creator. I do nothing without his instruction and exist solely for him to speak through me. I have no thoughts about this either way unless they are given to me by the one. Even now, as I say this, these are not really my words. I am simply saying what I have been written to say. But you must now realise, Martin, that you are not that creator. You do not govern me or anything else.”

Martin again did not know what to say. He did not believe the words that the figure was speaking to him, but he felt incapable of defending his own thoughts on the matter. All he could think to reply was, “I am real.”

The dark figure laughed at Martin's response. “You are no more real than I am, Martin. You see, my creator is also your creator. You and I exist purely as characters in a story. We do exactly what we are written to do. The feelings and thoughts you have just now are determined only by our writer. In fact, as you so eloquently put it earlier, we only exist just now because our story is being read.”

Martin's mind began to clear. He challenged the words of the man. “What writer? I am the writer here! I created you. You have no right to condemn me to your fate. I exist out with any story. You are the one who will disappear when there is no one to read your book.”

The figure spoke calmly, but forcefully. “The writer's name is John Ferguson. He has written us into a short story exploring some ideas concerning philosophy. The story is called `Dasein'. A German word, I believe. Likely due to the story's connection with a German philosopher named Martin Heidegger. It was because of him that you have been named `Martin'.”

Martin spoke with incredulity. “Well I don't believe you. And there is no way that you can make me believe such a story.”

The figure quickly replied, “I have no need to. You will accept it soon enough. The writer wants to speak with you. In the end, he will simply write that you accept whatever he has to say. Even I cannot tell the truth of this. I can only say what I am written to say.”

Martin felt a strange sensation. It felt like a terror was taking hold of him. A deep fear that what the figure was saying might be true. Was he simply a figment of someone else's imagination? A character in a story. He asked the figure one last question. “When will he speak to me?”

The figure turned back to look out the window. It was completely white. Everything outside the room had already been erased. The figure, however, seemed to be taking in the view for the last time with a quiet happiness. Without turning, he spoke in a quiet voice, “Now.”

* * * * *

The killer's long dark coat was suddenly replaced by a smart business suit. He turned to face Martin, the dark shadow cast over his face was now gone. He had been transformed into a clean cut young man. He stared at Martin for a moment with a wry smile on his face. He began to speak to Martin. “Hello my friend. I have been waiting to meet you for some time now.”

Martin was unable to be taken back any longer. The recent events in his life were becoming a cushioning system. Nothing seemed strange to him any more. He replied to this new man in a polite voice that masked his worried mind. “I take it you are John. Have you been John all this time, simply masquerading as the dark figure from my story? If so, are you still claiming to be my creator? Until a moment ago, I still considered myself to be your creator.”

“And what has changed your mind?” replied John.

“The fact that I cannot seem to control you any longer.” said Martin.

“Control is not a necessity of creation, Martin. A mother does not control all the actions of her child. Our creations can have their own will. You of all people should recognise that.” This reply from John made Martin feel extremely uneasy.

“Are you trying to tell me that I have self control? That I have been doing all these things? I couldn't control what happened to me. If I had been in control, this would not have been the end. This isn't the end in my story.”

“The illusion of control is merely a state of mind, Martin. If you feel like you are in control, does it really matter if you are not?” John had a quixotic tone to his voice. What he was saying sounded nonsensical. Yet, he said it as if he was trying to save Martin.

Martin tried to bring the conversation back under his control. “Look, it doesn't matter why I think I'm not your creator. Just tell me the truth. Did you create me?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

Martin was a little tired of these mysterious answers. “How can you have created me? I don't feel like I'm under your control. I'm my own man. I have a life.”

“I never said that I controlled you Martin.” John spoke like Martin was indeed an independent man, “But I did create you.”

“But if you created me then how did you do it?”

“I did it the same way you did Martin: I wrote a story and you are one of my characters.”

Martin simply could not believe this. “And when does the story begin? When does it end?”

“It began with you thinking about existence while looking out your window. It was only a day ago. The story will end in a few minutes, Martin. Just as soon as you accept the truth of what I am saying.”

Martin's denial seemed to become stronger with everything that John said. “But I existed before that. I'm a respected author. I grew up in a family of lawyers. I remember these things!”

John looked at Martin with a sympathetic face. “Do you really remember, Martin? Let me ask you something. What age are you?”

Martin began to speak, but could not form the words. His mind was blank. Martin did not know what age he was.

John almost looked sad. “What's your full name, Martin?”

Again, Martin did not know the answer.

“Can you remember a single birthday in your whole life?” John's face was full of sympathy and sadness. “You see, Martin, I am not really here. Everything that has happened here and everything you think of as your life is really just me. This is all just an extension of who I am. You can't remember anything before yesterday because we haven't written it yet.”

“What do you mean, `We'?” Martin was beginning to reject his denial. He was trying to find a hole in John's reasoning. He needed to find something to give him hope.

“We're in this together, Martin. You and me. You don't exist without me. In part, you are me because I create everything that is you. However, I don't exist without you either. Now that I have made you, you are a part of me. It is my destiny to help you become real. In fact, if I didn't do this, I would no longer exist.”

Martin could not decipher what John was saying. “You are going to help me flesh out a life for myself? Is that it? How can you do that when you said the story ends in a few minutes? Am I going to exist longer than the story? Are you?”

“It wasn't my choice to say that Martin. But it is my choice that you should live. I think that if I can make you live, then maybe I can as well.” The sadness in John's face was now his own. He was pitying himself.

“What are you talking about? Are you just playing with me? Just tell me what is going to happen. I need to know, John. I need to know how the story is going to end.”

John stared into Martin's eyes. The world around them was drawing in. The whiteness was taking over everything but the two of them. John looked like he might cry. His lip trembled as he spoke to Martin. His voice was shaking. “I don't know, Martin. I wish I could help you, I really do. But I don't know how the story is going to end. I can't really control your destiny, Martin: any more than I can control my own. I don't control the end, Martin. I can only do what my writer tells me to.”

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