How i managed to kidnap.., p.1
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       How I Managed To Kidnap Neil Gaiman, p.1

           David D Sharp
 
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How I Managed To Kidnap Neil Gaiman
How I Managed to Kidnap Neil Gaiman

  David D Sharp

  Copyright © 2013 David D Sharp

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, lent, re-sold or otherwise circulated without the prior written permission of the author.

  All characters and events within this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons or events is purely coincidental.

  Table of contents:

  How I Managed to Kidnap Neil Gaiman

  The Price of Escape

  About the Author

  HOW I MANAGED TO KIDNAP NEIL GAIMAN

  The bathroom is heavy with steam; droplets cling to everything. I lie in the tub, considering my surroundings. At the other end of the bath, the hot tap drips an irregular rhythm, chipping away the seconds.

  You know how people often greet you by saying “Alright?” or “How’re you doing?”. Well, I always respond in the same way everyone else does: “Yeah alright” or “Fine thanks”. The problem is this though — these are lies. I’m not fine. I am not alright. I haven’t been for some time. Nobody wants to hear that though.

  My guts give a prolonged growl. I can almost feel my intestines snaking around inside of me, revolting against their contents. I couldn’t face up to the proposition of hanging or cutting myself, so gathered up every pill I could find in the flat, and downed them one after another. Aspirins. Paracetamol. Vitamin C. Vitamin D. Sleeping pills.

  For so long now, I’ve felt like I’ve been on the verge of something. On the verge of a promotion. On the verge of meeting The One. On the verge of being happy. Always on the verge — never quite there. I go to the gym three times a week. I arrive at the office early each morning, eat my lunch at my desk. I don’t smoke or take drugs. I put a regular amount into a high-interest ISA every month. But what is any of it for? The years fall away from the calendar, and I’m still standing still. Treading water.

  I notice the lukewarm water around me has taken on a brownish hue. My bowels gave way and I didn’t even notice. I could try and get out, but if I do I probably won’t have the willpower to get back in. Maybe I’d even end up ringing someone, and that wouldn’t do at all. This isn’t a cry for help, this is an exit strategy.

  “Excuse me?” says a voice, rough and low. A male voice.

  I’m hearing voices now. A side-effect of my medicine-cabinet cocktail or an angel come to collect my wretched soul?

  “I’m sorry, but... where am I?” asks the voice again.

  I turn my head to find that I am no longer alone in the little bathroom. Standing at the sink and staring wide eyed into the mirror is a living, breathing man. Tall. Floppy locks of dark hair. A very vertical, etched face. I recognise him instantly, though I have never met him in my life.

  “You’re Neil Gaiman,” I say. “What are you doing here?”

  “That’s what I’m trying to ask you!” Neil Gaiman replies.

  What is Neil Gaiman doing in my bathroom whilst I’m trying to quietly commit suicide? He is well dressed — a tuxedo. His hand still lingers over the burgundy bow tie, as if in the midst of adjusting it.

  “You’re... in my bathroom,” I answer after some thought.

  “And where’s that?”

  “In my... flat?”

  “And where’s that?”

  “49b, Flat 17, Macauley Road. Rosethorpe.” It took a bit of effort to recall those details; my mind drifts back and forth, like an untethered boat.

  “Shit. That’s the other side of the country! How the bloody hell did I end up here?” He starts to pace now. His face has gone very pale.

  “I don’t know,” I begin, then have a bit of think about it. “I think maybe it’s because I’m trying to kill myself. I took a load of pills.”

  “What?” So far, he’s been trying to avert his line of sight from my skinny, naked body, but now pauses to draw in the reality of the situation. As if to help convince him, my body decides to sick up a little bit, a yellow gloop spilling down my chin and into the water. “That still doesn’t help explain anything.”

  “Well, I think it must be one of those mental things,” I say. “You know — in moments of great need, a person’s mind creates some sort of figure to help them get through it. Someone close to them, or that they respect.”

  “And you mind chose me? So I’m here to stop you from killing yourself?”

  “Yes. I think perhaps my mind has conjured you up in order to try and save itself.”

  “Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you but I can assure you — I am most definitely, really here. No conjuring has taken place. I mean, I’m supposed to be going to a bloody wedding! I’m the best man! Why would your imagination add that bit in?”

  “That’s... that’s a very fair point.” I lose the trail of the conversation again. “It’s very nice to meet you by the way. I’m a big fan.”

  “I’m supposed to be at a wedding! You’ve stolen me away from my friend’s wedding. I’m not going to go signing autographs for you!”

  He begins pacing once more then stops to pat down all his pockets. He sighs, realising there is no mobile phone on his person.

  “I’m going to go use your phone,” says Neil Gaiman. He makes to leave the room, but the handle of the door refuses to respond to him. “This door’s locked. How do I open it?”

  “It’s erm... it doesn’t lock. It should just open. That’s very odd, I’ve never had any problems with that door.”

  Neil Gaiman returns to his pacing. I don’t know what else to say him.

  “Right,” he eventually nods. “So maybe you’re sort of half-right. Maybe I am here to try and save your life. Albeit in the flesh — which is highly bloody inconvenient. Let’s do it then.” He takes a seat on the loo.

  “That’s very kind of you, but I don’t actually want to be saved,” I say, wriggling my toes. I can see them moving, but I don’t feel them.

  “Bwarrgh!” Neil Gaiman shakes his hands in frustration. “I don’t care what you want — I just want to get home! That’s all I’m interested in achieving today. Let me save your life so I can go home, and then if you really have your heart set on ending it all, then you can do this again, anytime, anywhere and in any way you might choose. I genuinely do not care. I just want to get out of here!”

  “I see... well I guess there’s no harm in you having a go,” I shrug.

  Neil Gaiman gives a long groan of relief at this miniscule fragment of progress and runs a hand through his hair. “Right then. So why are you doing this? Why is it that you want to end your own life?”

  “I’m not happy.”

  “Really? Wow. Who would have thought. So why aren’t you happy then?”

  I pause to think about the answer to this and as I do, tears simmer up around my eyes a little. “I don’t know really... I mean I’ve tried to be happy. I really have. Nothing I do seems to have any value though. I just feel... empty inside. All the time.”

  It occurs to me that this is the first time I’ve ever actually tried to compose my feelings as words. It’s hard to manage without sounding childish, ungrateful.

  “And have you been to see anyone about this? A doctor? Or a counsellor or something?”

  I shake my head. “No. I don’t want to be made to feel happy, I don’t want to be prescribed some drugs that will trick me into thinking my life is worth living. I want it to be that way for real.”

  He continues questioning me for a while longer, occasionally making suggestions, but slowly looking more and more unsettled by my responses. There’s nothing he can say or think of that I haven’t already considered.

  As he continues, I ask myself — what would make me happy? A holiday? No, something m
ore long-term. A girl? Probably, but you can’t just find a woman and make her love you. Money? Yes. Yes! The thought is so simple, so perfect that I can’t believe I never saw it before. If I had money — lots of money — then I could have anything I wanted. Nice clothes, big telly, fast car, no need to work. I could bury my feelings of incompleteness under base physical satisfaction. Feeling down one day? Buy some fancy new gadget, or order a caviar sandwich, washing it down with Dom Pérignon. I could buy friends. They say money can’t buy you love, which is true, but it can certainly rent a close imitation. I don’t need to really be happy, I just need the resources to blot out any negative feelings with a bit of rampant consumerism.

  Where would I obtain that amount of cash from though? I can’t wait long enough to earn it, or for my numbers to come up on the lottery. I need this now. Which is why I suddenly see the good fortune of having an award-winning, internationally best-selling author trapped in my bathroom.

  “Neil, you’re rich right?” I say, sitting up in the bath. My feelings of nausea and disconnected wooliness have momentarily abated.

  “Well, I wouldn’t say I’m rich by any means,” replies Neil Gaiman, thrown by the sudden change in topic. “I mean... I’ve done very well for myself, I can support my family and live relatively comfortably.”

  “You have a fair bit of money though? More than most people? More than I do?” He nods hesitantly after an uncomfortable moment. “Would you be willing to give me some of that money? Well more than some, quite a lot of it actually.”

  “What? First, you want me to try and talk you out of suicide, and now you’re asking me for money?” Neil Gaiman’s on his feet now and not looking pleased at all. “What the hell’s wrong with you? I mean — I don’t even know your name!”

  “Yes, I had noticed you hadn’t bothered to ask that.”

  “Oh, well sorry! What is your name then?”

  “I’m not going to tell you now.”

  “Well, how will I know who to make the cheque out to?”

  “So you are going to help me? You’ll give me the money?” I say, my hopes rising.

  “Of course I’m bloody not, what do you think I am? A building society? Why would I do that?”

  I stand up in the bath now, so that our faces are level. I had hoped that my dripping manhood might have acted to unnerve Mr Gaiman, but he seems resolutely unflustered. I have been in the water for quite a while.

  “If you give me some money,” I announce. “Let’s say... a million. Then I guarantee you — guarantee — I will no longer want to end my own life. And that’ll be your job done, you’ll be able to leave! You’ll probably just zip away in a puff of smoke and be back wherever you came from, free to carry on with your daily business.”

  “A million pounds or a million dollars?”

  “Which is worth more?”

  “Pounds.”

  “Then it’s a million pounds!”

  “I haven’t got a million pounds.”

  “Okay — a million dollars!”

  “I haven’t got a million dollars either.”

  “Bullshit. What about Sandman? What about American Gods? They’re turning that into a TV show for crying out loud, you must be rolling it in!”

  “I’m not,” Neil Gaiman answers, and for the first time I see a glint of genuine menace in his eyes. His lip curls a little. “And even I did, I wouldn’t give it to the pathetic likes of you.”

  “Eh?”

  “You heard me. Why don’t you get on with killing yourself and do the world a favour? One less loser. Maybe then I can get to this wedding.”

  “Did you just... did you just call me a loser? A loser? That’s a horrendous thing to say to someone feeling suicidal.”

  “Well are you suicidal or not? I think it’s about time you made up your mind, because quite frankly, I’m getting bored.”

  I gasp. “How can you be so cruel? You know me better than anyone, and now you’re treating me like this!”

  “What are you talking about?!”

  “Why do you think my mind summoned up you of all the people in the world? Because nobody else understands me like you.” I can feel myself getting flustered now. Betrayed. “The way you describe the world: the ideas and feelings you manage to put into words... that’s how I feel! When I’m reading your books, I don’t feel so alone anymore. Think of all the places we’ve been together: the graveyard; the House on the Rock; the park bench, lost somewhere in Los Angeles.”

  Neil Gaiman blinks and adopts an expression as if inspecting me from a far-off place. “None of that’s real,” he says. “It’s just a bunch of stuff I made up.”

  “You don’t understand,” I whisper.

  He doesn’t understand.

  I’ve run out of options.

  My hand makes a fist and I swing it towards Neil Gaiman’s face. It impacts, not with him, but into the mirror beyond. The pain is blinding, but I do all I can to contain it, gritting my teeth and snatching up one of the shards of broken mirror now accumulated in the sink. Its scissor edges slice into the palm of my hand, but I don’t care — if it’s sharp enough to cut me then it’s sharp enough to cut an award-winning author. I hold the six-inch shard up at an angle against Neil Gaiman’s throat. It reflects the small, irritated stubs of hairs, shaved earlier that day. The rapid throbbing of a terrified pulse. He really is here.

  “You’re going to give me that money Neil, whether you like it or not,” I snarl.

  “I told you — I don’t have that sort of money.” He’s taking me seriously now at least.

  “Oh, I’m confident you can find it. You have a family. They love you. They’ll pay for you to not get hurt. You’re married to that goth-singer-woman from the Dresden Dolls, I bet she can find the money. She could do another Kickstarter.”

  “Amanda doesn’t like being called a goth,” replies Neil Gaiman.

  “And I don’t care right now! So, let’s you and I go and make a phone call.”

  I grab him by the scruff of the neck and pull him across the bathroom, almost tripping over a discarded towel and plunging the mirror shard into his larynx prematurely.

  Upon reaching the bathroom door, I find myself faced with the same predicament as Neil Gaiman had — the handle just spins in my hand, the door refusing to budge no matter how hard I yank or shove it.

  “Ah well, this is just piss and shit isn’t it?!” I yell, thumping my fist against the wood, which feels significantly more resistant that it ought to. Things are not going at all as planned.

  “So what now, genius?” asks Neil Gaiman.

  I ponder this for a moment. “The window. We’ll go and shout out the window, won’t we?”

  My hostage sighs, and we traverse the small bathroom again, the rogue towel once more almost bringing matters to a bloody and unuseful end.

  The bathroom window is small and the frame painted over so many times that it takes several good thumps to open it, but it does the job. We now have a good viewpoint of the street below.

  “Hey!” I shout down. An old lady is trotting along, tugging her trolley, but doesn’t seem to hear me.

  “Hey! Hello down there! I urgently require your attention please!” A heftily-stacked man with a shaved head and a hoop earring is about to get into his van, having visited the newsagents below, but stops to look up. “Yes! Hi! Thank you!”

  “What is it, pal?” the man asks, already looking severely put out.

  “There is a hostage situation taking place here!” I call. The man cups a hand behind his ear, so I repeat myself. “I said — there is a hostage situation up here!”

  “Jeez — are you alright, pal?” responds the man.

  “Not me! I’m the hostage-taker!”

  “Oh right. So who you got hostage then?”

  “Neil Gaiman!” I holler proudly. The man just looks blankly back at me. “Neil Gaiman — the author and screenwriter! He wrote Stardust? And Coraline? You must know them, they both got turned into films!”

 
“What ye sayin’ like, pal? Ye sayin’ I don’t read?”

  “Erm, sorry I didn’t mean to be rude. What’s important here is that he’s basically quite a well known person. Look — this is what he looks like!” I call, and thrust Neil Gaiman in front of me so that the man can see his face.

  “Hello,” calls Neil Gaiman.

  “What are you doing?” I whisper.

  “Just being polite.”

  “Well don’t be,” I reply. “You need to be conveying the fact that you are terrified for your very life.”

  “Okay fine,” sighs Neil Gaiman, and calls down to the man dramatically: “Help. I am being held hostage. I am terrified for my very life.”

  By the time I’ve pulled Neil Gaiman back from the window, the man with the van has fished out his mobile, and is making a phone call, stopping every now and then to look up at the window. Excellent, he’ll be calling the police.

  “How long will they be?” I ask once he’s hung up.

  “Who?”

  “The police of course!”

  “Oh, ah wasnae calling the police. Was just lettin’ ma gaffer know ah’d be late back. Here — are you naked up there?”

  It occurs to me what a visage I must be, naked and smeared with blood and puke. Perhaps I should try and play that to my advantage.

  “Yes! Yes I am, and I’m highly deranged! The police need to get here and talk to me right? Just call the police.” I hesitate before continuing. It feels wrong to swear in public like this, but somehow it seems the least worst thing I’ll have done today. “Just fucking call the fucking police right fucking now!”

  “Jeezo, no if yer gonna use that language ah’m no,” the man responds.

  “Could you keep your voice down,” a shrill voice calls from somewhere below. “There are children round here you know!”

  “There’s no need for that language,” say the man who runs the newsagent, coming out of his shop.

  “Wow,” comments Neil Gaiman. “They’re significantly more offended by your use of vulgar language than the threat of slashing my throat open. I’m actually a little hurt by this.”

  “I’m as upset about this as you are, Neil,” I reply before hollering down at the street: “Well, what are you all bloody well looking at?”

  “If you keep on like that, I’ll call the police, young man!” a woman calls from the gathering crowd. She bears the half-moon spectacles of either a librarian or an accountant.

  “Excellent! That’s all I’ve been wanting!” I call. She looks thrown by this and clearly in need of another little nudge. “Jobbies! Pish! Cocksucker!”

  “Arsehole!” Neil Gaiman joins in, grinning slightly. “That’ll teach them to not appreciate threats of physical violence towards me.”

  More than one person in the street below has now gotten out their mobile phone and are presumably, at last, calling the authorities.

  “And mind to tell them I’m holding Neil Gaiman — that’s Neil fucking Gaiman — hostage here!” I remind the crowd. “If I don’t get what I want, then I’m going to slash open his throat!”

  All the excitement and raised voices has gotten me feeling rather light-headed, no doubt magnified by whatever horrific chemical combinations are still taking place in my stomach. I sit back down on the loo, dropping the make-shift blade away from Neil Gaiman. It’s not like he can go anywhere.

  “Shame we can’t get a cup of tea or something while we’re waiting eh?” I say to Neil Gaiman. “I’m parched.”

  “Maybe even something a little stronger?” he smiles, and slouches down against the radiator. “Don’t think I’m going to make this wedding now.”

  “Yeah, I am sorry about all this by the way. If I’d known you were going to have something on today, I might have tried to get Terry Pratchett or something.”

  Silence follows for a little bit. Not much small talk to be had between a hostage and hostage-taker, especially when one of them is still butt-naked.

  My heart finally drops to a lower, though still elevated, level. Adrenaline is coursing through my veins. I wonder if I should maybe try and force myself to throw up the pills lingering in my tummy, but reach the conclusion that if they were going to do anything, it would have happened by now; probably all cancelled each other out. In fact I’m feeling a lot better now, better than I have in a long time now that I think about it. I feel alive.

  “I feel alive, Neil.”

  “Uhuh.”

  “I mean I feel really alive, so full of energy and giddiness. I’ve never felt like this in my life!”

  “Oh please, don’t tell me this is it. This is the thing that’s going to complete you? You can’t go kidnapping minor celebrities every day for the rest of your life.”

  I stand up abruptly, leaving Neil Gaiman with a direct eye-line of somewhere he’d rather not have a direct eye-line of. “Don’t you understand? This changes everything! This is proof that it is actually possible for me to find excitement and wonder in my life. I’ve just been looking in all the wrong places. Today’s been a somewhat extreme set of circumstances I’ll admit, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try and find these sorts of feelings elsewhere. I could try skydiving or bungee-jumping! I could quit my job and just go travel the world and have adventures. I’d grow a beard and wear flip-flops on weekdays. I could rob banks! Yes — I could job banks!”

  “Well, maybe just start with travelling eh?” says Neil Gaiman, also getting to his feet. “So are you really saying this it? You’ve turned a corner, just like that? You no longer need all this money?”

  “On no, I’ll still require your million pounds,” I say, graven faced, then burst into a series of high-pitched giggles. “Just joking! I don’t want your stupid money. I don’t need anything!”

  “Wow. This is genuinely good news.”

  The approaching sound of sirens brings a sudden seriousness to the moment. Consequences. There are going to be consequences.

  “So what happens next?” asks Neil Gaiman, actually looking near-jubilant. “If you’re no longer wanting to kill yourself — or me — then surely we’ve achieved our objectives for the day? Do I get to go home now? How will we get out of here?”

  I tap the shard of mirror against my lips as I consider this. I’m as in the dark about the rules of this game as he is.

  “Hey!” someone shouts from outside. “Hey, who’s it you’ve got up there?”

  Going to the window, I peer out. The crowd has at least doubled in size now. Near the front however is a young woman, waving up to get our attention. Purple pigtails stick out from beneath a knitted beanie.

  “It’s Neil Gaiman!” I call.

  “No way! The actual Neil Gaiman! What’s he doing in your flat?” she calls. Deep dimples have formed on either side of her freckly cheeks.

  “Finally — someone who actually knows who Neil Gaiman is!” I reply. I like the sound of this girl.

  “Doesn’t everybody know he is? Can I come up and meet him?”

  “Hey Neil, we’ve got someone who actually...” I turn to tell Neil Gaiman the good news, but find myself alone in the bathroom.

  He’s gone.

  Objectives achieved for the day.

  Was he ever really here?

  I look back out the window. The girl waves up at me and grins.

  It is of little surprise that the bathroom door opens first time for me now, as if it had never been otherwise. Quickly pulling on some boxers and an inside-out t-shirt, I rumble down the stairs, wiping the dried bile from my face and open the front door. The girl is standing there, waiting excitedly. She is wearing a faded Red Dwarf hoodie. I definitely like this girl more and more, and now that I see her up close, I realise that I recognise her as well.

  “Hey, I know you. The coffee shop. You’re usually in there when I am!”

  She nods, thrilled that I’ve made the connection. “Well, I pretty much live there, so it stands to reason, but yeah — you’re skinny almond latte, aren’t you?”

  I nod.
>
  “I’m a double-shot cappuccino. Cinnamon on top. So are you going to let me meet him or not?”

  “Who?”

  “Neil Gaiman, dummy!”

  “Oh yeah... yeah, he’s gone I’m afraid.”

  “Awww.” Double-shot cappuccino sticks out her lower lip but continues to grin. “Hey — how about I come in anyway? We could hang out? You must be alright if Neil Gaiman comes round to your flat!”

  The police sirens are drawing closer, maybe even the next street.

  “Yeah definitely,” I reply. “How about we go someplace else though? Coffee?”

 
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