Sunday 19 April 2009

FORUM OF FURY - by Col Bury

You just never know who you're chatting to online...


Frustrated wannabe writer, Joe Barron, had no idea such a simple act could irrevocably change his life.

Just as he was typing yet another post, grumbling about his chronic writers’ block, on the online Writers Forum he frequented a little too much, he heard the slap of the mail on the hallway lino of his lonely two-bedroom flat. A flicker of excitement prompted him to exit his writing room - so-called as he was supposed to write in there, but seldom did - and he headed for the front door.

He subconsciously exhaled on seeing there were no brown A4 envelopes within the small pile of mail, which meant the dream was still alive regarding the three chapters and synopsis he’d sent out to the last wave of carefully selected agents on his list. He flicked through the mail: a mundane selection of junk, including a cheap-looking clothing pick up service pamphlet, some crap about double glazing, a couple of bills and, he was surprised to see, a white envelope with handwriting he didn’t recognise on the front.

Could this be some kind of response from an agent, maybe requesting the rest of the manuscript? Exhilaration swept through him, tempered by panic as he’d still not finished the ‘novel’ yet despite starting it three years ago. The idea of publication was what Joe dreamed of, but the discipline and hard slog of achieving it was another thing altogether. He hastily ripped open the letter and stared in shock at its contents:

Dear Mr Barron,
So now I know your name, you foolish, foolish man.
Did you really expect me to forget our disagreement?
You reap what you sow.
Expect a visit.
Yours truly,

For the rest of the day he stewed on the letter, but couldn’t make any sense of it. It had clearly been meant for him, though he had no idea who ‘HM’ was and couldn’t recall any disagreements he’d had recently.

The ‘expect a visit’ part was playing on his mind and he pulled back a curtain and glanced at the street three floors below. Everything looked as per usual; people going about their business, kids playing football against the graffiti-ridden substation wall and a solitary car parked up on the road. He didn’t recognise the car and strained to focus. There was someone in the driver’s seat: a man…just waiting.

His vivid imagination began to zoom and he chided himself aloud, ‘Joe, you daft sod. Stop being paranoid.’ He knew his excessive cannabis intake didn’t help with the latter.

Then the man looked up, directly at him. Joe retreated behind the curtains, his heart-rate speeding.

A moment later he checked again and the man was still sitting there, but not looking up. His head was dipped towards his lap; he was reading a newspaper, or was it a laptop?
You’re being stupid, Joe, he told himself. Sometimes having the mind of a writer was a hindrance: over analytical, reading too deeply into things and all that. He decided a chat with his like-minded virtual friends was required. They understood him, unlike his family, who just regarded him as the mad, pot-smoking writer!

Joe took a long audible drag of a freshly rolled joint, harsh on his throat, but its effect instant in chilling him. Flash Fiction Feline was online and the first to comment on the thread he’d created in the hope of reassuring perspectives on the letter.

FFF stated it was probably one of his ‘Friends messing about and not to worry.’
Writer Online was next: ‘You could go to the police if it’s bothering you, but as there’s no direct threat in the letter then they wouldn’t waste money on checking for prints, etc, so I doubt they’d take it very seriously.’

Creative Carl was more philosophical: ‘If this idiot was the real deal then he wouldn’t send a letter first. It’s like when people yell from the rooftops threatening to kill themselves – they never jump. It’s the quieter ones who commit suicide. I wouldn’t let it bother you, Joe.’

Joe felt much better and was glad he had such great friends, even though he’d never met any of them as they were scattered around the world. He considered having a stab at progressing his novel, but the thought filled him with dread as it had been like pulling teeth lately, so he made a coffee and returned to the computer for another chat.

Three more comments on the thread he’d started. He knew he was procrastinating - a disease perpetuating his frustration - and that if he carried on like this he’d never finish the novel, but he remained on the forum to read the comments regardless. The first two were pretty much reiterating the previous postings and then he came to the third.

Hatchet Man said: ‘You’re not fretting are you? I once knew a bloke who’d had an online argument, but nothing came of it.’

Joe responded: ‘Hi Hatchet Man, long time, no hear. That happens a lot, but it’s all part of the forum thing, isn’t it? Not everyone will agree all of the time.’

‘Yeah, but this guy got personal.’

Joe shuffled in his seat. ‘Was that on this forum?’

‘You know it was, you foolish man!’

Joe’s heart somersaulted. He glared at the screen as realisation kicked in. Hatchet Man…HM!
Joe’s hands were shaking like an MFI wardrobe as he typed: ‘Did you send the letter?’

HM: ‘What do you think, Mr Barron?’

Shit! He vaguely recalled coming home drunk and stoned about a year ago and having a minor spat with him about a topic so irrelevant he couldn’t even remember.
‘What did I say that’s made you so pissed? It’s been deleted by the moderator.’

HM: ‘I can recall it word for word.’

Joe: ‘Well, whatever I said, I didn’t mean it.’

HM: ‘Even the fact that I am supposedly a “Mummy’s boy,” and you were, “Gonna hunt me down and kick my arse”?’

Joe didn’t respond. He couldn’t deny it. He’d had a few ding- dongs in the pub that night and had had a right one on him.

HM: ‘Well, there’s no need to hunt me down now is there? The last man who messed with me isn’t here any more. Fancy changing your pen name on here, you fool.’

Joe jumped out of his chair, clattering it backwards, and ran to the window. He saw a tall man dressed in all black, alight the car. Closing a laptop, the man glanced over both shoulders before placing it in the boot. He again gazed up at Joe and walked purposefully towards the entrance to the flats.

Joe clasped his hands on his head. ‘Oh, fuck!’ He felt his adrenaline pumping, making him feel nauseous. What are the chances of having an argument with someone on the net and them hunting you down? Trust me to find the only lunatic on a forum for supposedly intelligent people! And why the fuck did I change my pen name to my real name?

He called the police, but struggled to find the right words as he was that scared and stoned. When he began swearing down the phone the silly bitch hung up! He threw the phone in anger and it smashed onto the laminate floor. Scrambling on his knees he tried to piece it back together, but it was useless.

He heard a deep voice echoing in the outside corridor. Looking through the spy-hole he saw a distorted face staring back at him. Joe jolted back from the door.

Three loud bangs on the door. Hatchet Man would have only gone this far for one reason. He ran into the kitchen and grabbed a kitchen knife. This man was clearly a fuckin psycho. Three more louder bangs on the door. I’ll show the bastard.

Joe opened the door and lunged at Hatchet Man with the knife, plunging it straight into his stomach. The scream of a woman was followed by a door slamming across the corridor. Hatchet Man slumped to the floor, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, both hands clutching the protruding handle of the knife. A leaflet wafted to a stop beside him.

Breathless and numb with shock, Joe stared at the leaflet. It detailed a smart-looking bathroom suite with free fitting. He looked down at the man who gurgled then lay motionless.

Joe’s gaze fixed disbelievingly on the growing pool of claret on the carpet and it began to trickle down the stairs. Like a zombie, he trudged into his writing room and checked for any further messages on the forum.

HM: ‘I meant the last man I argued with isn’t on the forum anymore. He’d obviously had enough.’

HM: ‘Joe, are you there?’

HM: ‘Okay, Joe. This has gone too far now. The letter was to spook you, that’s all. When I’d seen you’d put your full name on I just couldn’t resist it. I admit it was a childish revenge. Shall we call it quits, mate?’


The cell was cold, smelly and very basic, but at least he wasn’t sharing. And with no internet connection, maybe now he’d finish that damn novel.

Col Bury is currently writing a crime novel and his ever-growing selection of short stories can be found on TKnC and A Twist Of Noir. He blogs and interviews crime authors here:


  1. Hey Col, scary stuff this one. It's a lesson for us all to remember that we don't know who we're conversing with on some sites on occasion. I loved the paranoia in this story. Creepy stuff that makes you think twice. God help the next salesman who turns up cold on my step!

  2. Bill here.#
    A riveting read, Col. Excellent. This is your best writing so far. And so clever to use 'the forum'. A s Matt said, a good unputdownable portrayal of paranoia.

  3. Cheers Matt,
    I did door-to-door once, but never quite had a reaction like this!

    That's a lovely thing to say, mate. I'm very pleased you liked it.

  4. An excellent read, good build up to the twist at the end. You summed up the writing process (for me anyway) wonderfully.

  5. Thanks, Susie!
    Nice of you to comment.

  6. Terrific - really enjoyed it, thanks! (And yes, I really should be writing...) :)

  7. Hi Julie, write something and we'll post it on here. Pretty much anything that thrills or chills is welcome (oh, and there can be kills too ;) )

  8. Clever one, Col - what's your release date?!

    Reading your stories is bad for my paranoia - don't forget I know your address but you don't know mine!!!

    Seriously, I agree with Bill, your writing's getting tighter and better - you've become much more adept at creating suspense and delivering the twist - making it seem much less effortless (I'm sure it's not!) and predictable. Your hard work is paying off!

  9. Julie,
    I reiterate Matt's comments. Our email addresses are on the right!

    Your observations are much appreciated as I know you've read my 'looser,' earlier stuff. It's all good - thanks for the feedback.

  10. They've let you out already!!

  11. Hey,
    It wasn't me - it's just made up stuff!

  12. Since this story was basically inspired by my ongoing visits to Writers News Talkback (Forum), it's only good n proper I post a sample of the feedback from there...

    Dorothy D:
    Nice one, but oh ... blood and guts! Brilliant stuff, Col B!

    That was good, I honestly didn't think it was going to be a salesman rather than an irate writer.

    Nice! But that bathroom suite salesman had it coming! Evil things! EEEEVVILLL!!!!

    I enjoyed it too, I felt so sad at the end though!

    Susie M:
    Great writing and very entertaining (unfortunately your description of the writer was too near the knuckle - what with the procrastination and the distractions). That's me writing this afternoon.

  13. Coll. Just read this and really enjoyed it. Bit close to home..remember your ABC : Always Be Closing!

  14. Cheers, Paul.
    Ah, the salesman connection!
    It means a lot that someone with your writing ability really enjoyed it.

  15. Enjoyed that very much Col, I agree with the other comments, your best yet...

  16. Cheers, Chris, and thanks for popping over from your top music blog!

  17. More feedback from my fellow Talkbackers...

    Richard S:
    Good one Col. Liked that.
    Now do the characters resemble anyone on here.....

    That was great Col!
    I completely agree with the whole having a writers mind is a hindrance - my mind immediately leaps to the worst possible scenario and then works its way slowly backwards to the simplest and more likely!
    Although not quite to the extent of Joe!

    Island Girl:
    So why DID you change your online forum name, you foolish man?
    (ps. Loved the story)

    Enjoyed the story, Col B; it's well written.

    This was brilliant loved it you should have sent it to a comp and made some dosh or to WF I'm sure it would have won.
    (love the bit about the MFI wardrobe)

  18. More from Talkback, including a good point from Dwight about 'Author Intrusion,' but I just couldn't resist!

    Nice one, Col. Unfortunately I liked the MFI wardrobe joke as well, but it's the only spot that I (as a writer) saw the author appearing in the story. The author was telling a joke; or am I seeing something which doesn't exist? I always have to criticise something. Sorry, Col.

    "Trust me to find the only lunatic on a forum for supposedly intelligent people "
    Clearly not REALLY meaning the forum was TB !
    Good story, Col

    Louise: I chuckled over the MFI wardrobe bit too . An excellent modern shortstory. Send it off somewhere.

    Amanda: hi colb, i really enjoyed the story.... i'm off to change my name......

  19. More from Talkback & Facebook...

    And you were worried I may be too young! Jeesh what IS the world coming to?
    I liked it Col. In fact I loved it!
    Now, where can I go write a story like that? Hmmm...What kind of stories do you accept on there Col? I might write one.

    Maya: I read your blog Col B and loved your Forum of Fury. Felt sorry for the salesman.

    Wilts: Just picked up this thread. Really enjoyed your story Col B. Off to read Dorothy's now.

    Michelle Hunt:
    Please send me your home address!??

    Lisa Tracey:
    I wont be coming round to your house to sell you anything!!


  20. Hi Col,
    Good read mate. Your writing hs come on leaps and bouns since our little "writing school, snooker and beer get togethers". I'm in the process of polishing up some of my earlier shorts, so may post a couple myself. Keep it up pal!! David Barber

  21. Dave!!!
    My first writing buddy!
    I recall with fondness all those years ago when we used to fantasize about becoming authors. We were heavily into horror then: you - Shaun Hutson, me - James Herbert.
    Times flies, mate. Have you settled okay in Scotland?

  22. Hi pal,
    Scotland is superb. Where we are living is 2 miles from the cabins where we used to stay. Always took my laptop and got some words down (The place is totally inspiring!!) BUT....then kids come along!?!? :-) Good to see you're getting on with the writing. Impressed mate!! Can't recall if we ever had a bet to see who got something published first, if so looks like you may be onto a winner (50 pence springs to mind???). Got to say though, have dusted the cobwebs from my fingers and have been tapping away since you've been in touch.........could almost say you have inspired me pal. Take care and speak soon. Keep it up mate. David Barber

  23. Dave,
    If I've inspired you, it's because others have inspired me. It's great that you're back.
    My email is on the right if you wanna continue this chat till the day we die!

  24. Hi Col
    This is awesome - you do need to get a contract with someone at some point as you clearly have the knack for it. really enjoying reading what you put on here keep going mate.
    sarah xxxx (Lee's wife x)

  25. Hi, Sarah.
    Easier said than done, as there are loads of cracking writers out there (just look at this site) but that's the aim!
    But your words of encouragement do serve to strengthen my resolve and are greatly appreciated.

  26. After that story there is no way I'm ever going to use my real name on the internet again. Thanks, Col. Scarred for life, me. :)

  27. That wasn't my intention, IG. Honest. But, as I've said before, you never know who's watching...
    Glad you 'enjoyed' it!

  28. Enjoyed Immensly Col ;-)

    Thank you so, much for sharing ;-)

  29. Cheers, Susie. Really pleased that you enjoyed it! ;-)