Authors: Edward Mullen
Tags: #friendship, #canada, #orphan, #fire, #discovery, #writer, #manuscript, #inheritance, #calgary, #alberta, #secret room, #cold lake
Copyright Edward Mullen
Published by Imperium Publishing at
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The Secret Manuscript
2014 by Edward Mullen
This book is a
work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, and events are a
product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to any person
(alive or dead) or event is purely coincidental.
No part of this
book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or
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exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a
Also by Edward
The Art of the
Ben pulled out
a knife from his back pocket and extracted the blade. Piercing the
sharp edge into a corrugated box, he slid the razor between the two
flaps that were being held together by a strip of tape. He
proceeded to slice off the flaps to prepare yet another box for the
For the most
part, Ben kept his head down and worked diligently and unsupervised
all morning. He fought the temptation to look at the clock as he
knew that would only make time seem to go slower. The only joy of
working in the stockroom of a grocery store was that there would be
several deliveries throughout the day, giving Ben a chance to be
outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, even if it was just
from the loading docks. The rest of the day, he was stuck in the
chilly stockroom under the dim lighting, contemplating his life
A small radio
played soft rock while he worked. Over the tunes, Ben heard a voice
shout to him.
“Hey, B.O., I
need you in aisle six!” his manager, Chad, demanded.
his knife and put it in his apron before heading onto the sales
floor. Chad had a disgusted look on his face as if Ben was the
cause of all his problems.
dropped a jar of pickles,” Chad said.
get right on it,” Ben replied.
deducting the cost of the pickles from your paycheque.”
can’t do that.”
“First of all,
don’t talk back to me,” Chad said aggressively as he approached Ben
in threatening manner. “Second, someone has to pay for those
pickles. Pickles aren’t free you know.”
It was the
worst logic Ben had ever heard, but he decided to let it go.
Unfortunately for him, he needed the job to support his meaningless
“Yes, sir,” he
Ben hung his
head low and begrudgingly walked to the back to retrieve the usual
clean-up supplies. He returned to the sales floor, wheeling a mop
and bucket with one hand and carrying a broom and dustpan in the
other. The resentful look on his face caught the attention of an
attractive girl who was about his age. She must have overheard the
discourse between Ben and his manager because she approached him
and offered some words of encouragement.
about him, he’s a jerk,” she said.
replied. He looked at the woman in awe. In his mind, he quickly
made the following deductions — attractive woman in Cold Lake, must
be from out of town, must have a boyfriend, probability of getting
her… zero. Whatever Ben’s confidence was before he started mopping
up pickles in his dorky uniform had now been reduced substantially.
The only sensible thing to do was to forget about her and get his
work done before he got into any trouble.
As Ben pushed
the dirty mop back and forth through the sticky pickle juice, a
thousand thoughts ran through his mind. He questioned whether the
flack he received from Chad was worth it. Being a stock boy for the
local grocery store was not how he envisioned his adult life, but
he took solace in the fact he was at least not making minimum wage.
For all that the job did not offer, there were a few perks. The
main one being the discount he received on all his groceries.
Having that reduced his cost of living, making it seem like he was
earning more money than he actually was.
It was a
task-based job comprised mostly of stocking shelves, handling
incoming shipments, and doing the occasional clean up. He could
simply come into work, put his head down for a few hours, and not
have to deal with people. In fact, he enjoyed the solitude. That
way he could get the real work done — creating characters, plotting
stories, and developing dialogue. He would store all this
information in his head throughout the day, then after his shift,
he would go home and write.
one-time dream of being a published author was being crushed with
every waking moment. The reality was that he lived in a small town
of less than 2,500 people, so being anything other than what he was
— a menial worker — was an unlikely prospect.
completing high school in Cold Lake, kids usually did one of three
things: move to a bigger city to attend college, move to a bigger
city to find work, or stay in town and work some dead-end job. The
latter was what Ben had chosen to do — the typical choice of the
unaspiring working-class citizen. Nobody really wanted to stay in
Cold Lake, Alberta. Those who did slowly withered away leaving
behind a hollow legacy of nothingness. Ben did not want that to
happen to him. Instead, he wanted to find his purpose, a reason for
existing, but from his current standpoint, his future looked
matters worse was the grocery store manager, Chad. He was a few
years older than Ben and by this point in his life had worked his
way up to a management position. The gross abuse of power was
evident in nearly every decision and directive he made. For the
unaspiring, having authority over others quickly fostered delusions
of grandeur. Those who wielded the minutest of power rationalized
their position as having a natural superiority over their
subordinates. Chad was no exception. He made everybody’s life there
a living hell, especially Ben’s. Ever since Chad was promoted, Ben
had been looking for a way out — any way.
Ben sat alone
in the dark, drinking a glass of cheap Scotch and staring at his
computer screen. This time, the words did not come. The little
cursor kept blinking on the white page, taunting him. He looked
around his crumby one-bedroom apartment, hoping inspiration would
magically come to him, but it did not.
No matter how
hard he tried, he found it incredibly difficult to write about
experiences he had not actually been through. Since he had lived in
a small town his whole life, he had not experienced much. He wanted
to write a happy story as a form of escape, but there were not too
many happy memories from which he could draw upon.
What am I
doing with my life?
the twenty-four year old asked himself.
mind was not occupied with some task, it would default to
self-loathing. He was on the cusp of one of those instances, and
the booze and writing were not enough of a distraction to hold back
the tsunami of pity that was heading his way. Eventually, it
occupied his mind and completely stifled his creativity. Instead of
fighting with it, he tried to use it as inspiration for a story —
in a sense, ride the wave.
he dictated as the words emerged on the screen. “Ben was a pathetic
man, a waste of existence, really. Both of his parents died when he
was a boy and…”
Slumped in his
chair, Ben cupped his hands over his face and exhaled a deep
breath. He felt trapped, as if the weight of his situation was
pinning him down. He shifted his attention to some meaningless
tasks to distract him. He checked his email — there was nothing —
watched some YouTube videos, searched IMDB, then took another
drink. Now holding an empty glass, Ben was looking for a remedy for
his despair, but the alcohol only seemed to make him feel
Ben got up from his computer desk, went into the kitchen to pour
another glass of Scotch. He looked at the clock on the microwave;
it was nearly 1:00 a.m. Deciding to go to bed, he walked over and
turned off the computer screen. A twenty-year-old television
flickered in the background, providing the only light and sound.
The evening news was replaying; they were announcing the week’s
winning lottery numbers.
jackpot is an estimated twenty-million dollars, Alberta’s largest
jackpot. It has created quite the buzz. We took our cameras out and
asked people what they would do with twenty-million dollars, and
here’s what they had to say….”
continued to play as Ben shuffled a few papers aside, looking for
his ticket in the dim lighting. His apartment was a mess, which
made finding a tiny piece of paper next to impossible. Ben went
over to the TV and turned up the volume. As he continued to search,
he could hear the broadcast in the background
number in tonight’s mega jackpot is… 40,” the news anchor said. He
continued to read out the numbers as they came up. “The next number
The next four
numbers were read out, “30… 18… 20… 1”
odd set of lotto numbers
, Ben thought. Fortunately for him,
they were easy to remember. As he scrambled to find his ticket, he
kept repeating the numbers over and over in his head, 10, 20, 30,
40, 1, 18 — 10, 20, 30, 40, 1, 18 — 10, 20, 30, 40, 1, 18…
found his ticket, which was in his wallet, and recalled the numbers
one last time. After cross-referencing the numbers on his ticket he
found he was not even close. He had not even gotten one number
Last time I
play the lottery
, he said to himself as he crumbled up the
ticket. He shoved his wallet in his back pocket and attempted to
throw the crumbled ticket into the garbage bin. Even though he was
standing less than two feet away from it, he missed completely —
reminding him of yet another thing he was not good at.
kitchen, he walked across the room and turned off the TV. The room
went black. Being slightly inebriated, he tried his best not to
bump into anything as he stammered through the small apartment. He
ploughed through the doorway in his room and flopped face first
onto his bed. With his clothes still on, he passed out into a deep
At around 4:00
a.m., the fire alarm sounded, causing blaring bells to ring
throughout the hallways of the four-storey apartment building.
Panicked tenants quickly shuffled out the nearest emergency exits
and gathered on the front lawn in their robes and slippers. They
stood with fright as they watched their homes being engulfed by
flames. Evidently, the fire had started on the third floor and was
quickly consuming the upper levels. Windows shattered from the
immense pressure, allowing clouds of black smoke to billow out.
back!” one resident shouted.
One of the
rescuers had entered Ben’s apartment and found Ben still lying face
down in his bed. He had not moved since passing out a few hours
earlier. Ben lived on the fourth floor and his bedroom was directly
above a blazing inferno, so it was imperative he woke up.
After a few
forceful nudges, the man finally woke Ben up.
“Come on, Ben,
wake up. We gotta get out of here,” the man pleaded.
A groggy Ben
rolled onto his side and was startled at the mysterious man
standing at the edge of his bed. He reeled up in a defensive
position as he was not accustomed to having strange men suddenly
appear in his room in the middle of the night.
“Who are you?
What are you doing in my room?” Ben asked.
is on fire, we have to get out of here,” the man yelled over the