“Your stories always have a hope element to them. Try to write something that is bleaker.”

What? I thought, though my face conveyed my emotions perfected.

“Every story that you have submitted has had a downside, a problem, but there is an undercurrent of hope. Something will happen for the better. There must be a way out of this. And that is fine. There are some great novels out there with a hope undercurrent. But I want you to stretch yourself. Write something dark, and we’ll publish it in time for October.”

Oh brother. Clearly, my editor wasn’t reading my stuff. Didn’t she see what I wrote for Canada Day? it was all bleak. Almost prophetic when you think about it.

But, fine, if she wants dark, I’ll write dark. I’ll write dark and scary, bleak without a hope undercurrent. It will be so dastardly and evil, we’ll have to change the name of the month. It won’t be October. Nah, that’s for kids. This will be Darktober!

Alright. A new, dark, Darktober story….hmmm.

He reached into his suit coat pocket for a handkerchief. A wave of relief come over him as he pulled it out and proceeded to clean his knife. A knife this old and this special shouldn’t be stained by the blood of a criminal like this, he though.

It had been a tougher fight than he had anticipated. His Intel had told him that there would be four guards, armed, but lacking any real hand to hand combat skills. Clearly, Intel needed to do a better job. Four guards turned out to be….

Wait…am I really writing James Bond with a knife? That’s terrible. Let’s try again.

His breathing was heavy. Intel had done a poor job scouting out the 13th floor of the Yokatomi Building. There was supposed to be four lightly armed guards. In actuality, it was closer to 15 heavy armed guards. Well trained guards at that.

He wiped off the beading sweat from his forehead with his arm. It had been a while since he had worked that hard. A long time, almost 10 years long. He stretched out his right shoulder back. The pain from the fight was starting to take its toll on his aging body.

It used to be easier to swing a knife, he thought.

Then he brought the knife up to his face and breathed in deeply the rich iron smell…

Woah. That’s creepy. Dark, sure, but messed up. Is that what my editor wants? Is that what Darktober is about? Sick and creepy stories? I hope not.

I understand what she is looking for, but I don’t think that I can give it to her. A dark story, for the Halloween season or not, has to have an element of hope. The chance that evil may be vanquished is what helps propel the story forward. It was “A New Hope” that gave the wind to the Rebellion’s sails and finally defeated the Death Star.

My chair squeaked under my weight as I leaned back. Could I write a hopeless story? Could I craft a tale where everything was bleak, even the best option for a protagonist? Maybe, but would it be any good? Would it be worth reading?

Let’s scrap knife-wielding James Bond. Try something else.

The lone gunman stood in the centre of town, waiting for his foe to emerge from the saloon. The sun beat down on his weather hat, adding to the aggravation he was feeling. He yelled out the name of his wife’s killer.

“HAROLD MCCOY!”

Everything within him was on fire. The rage that fuelled him was overwhelming. Yet, somehow, he waited on the dirt street.

His voice echoed for a moment, then was whisked away on the dry country air. The door to the saloon remained still.

“HAROLD! You come out here, and face me like a man.”

Another pause, with no response.

“HAROLD! You killed my wife. You’re gonna answer for that.”

The small town seemed to be deserted. Still, there was no response.

The lone gunman began to huff. That was the last straw. If Harold McCoy wasn’t coming out of that saloon, he was going in.

He took a step forward, then he heard glass bottles clinking. There was movement in the saloon. His already furrowed eyebrows lowered over his piercing eyes. He took another step forward.

There was more movement in the saloon. He could hear boots moving on the old wooden floor. He took another step closer to his vengeance.

“HAROLD!”

This time, he knew that there would be no response, but he wanted to instil some fear into the saloon patrons. A smile slowly crept across his face, as he continued to march on.

He reached down for his trusty gun.

POOMB!

The next thing the gunman knew was pain. Ungodly, horrible pain. It started in his chest and was creeping everywhere. He went to put his hand over the shot that hurt, but it wasn’t a shot. It was a hole.

He had been shot.

He was in the midst of crying out for help when he saw him. Harold McCoy standing in the doorway of the saloon, rifle in hand, grin covering his face.

“Well, look at what we got here. A poor old man wounded from battle.”

The lone gunman looked for his gun frantically.

“Oh, don’t you worry about your gun, friend. I know exactly where it is.”

With that, he heard the familiar sound of his gun’s hammer being pulled back.

“See, I don’t take kindly to anyone threatening me or accusing me of doing stuff. Even if I did riddle your wife with lead.”

The pain was excruciating, but the overwhelming feeling of failure was causing the lone gunman to tear up. He wouldn’t be able to avenge his wife’s death. And he would die.

The shot rang out through the town, as Harold McCoy walked away.

Yeah. I like that, nice and dark. Hopefully that sets the mood for Darktober.

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