Short fiction

This Story Might Kill You If You Read It: a deadly story by: GF Willmetts.

The legal department said I had to have a title name change. Originally, it was going to be called ‘This Story Will Kill You If You Read It’. That would mean most people would avoid reading this story and some, like those who would bungee without a bungee, read it just to prove me wrong. So, I have to edge my bets and call it ‘This Story Might Kill You If You Read It’. If you read on, your life is in your hands and I am not legally responsible should any of you die if you read on, during or after this story. Hope that’s clear as I don’t want to repeat myself too often. Please don’t confuse this story with ‘This Book Will Kill You’ by Alexander Gordon Smith and others which is more to do with demonic possession although, really, any heavy book swiped around the head with enough force can potentially cause concussion, brain damage, embolism and death without any demonic involvement. It, like many other things, has the potential to be a weapon. Please don’t try that at home or out to prove it. Your insurance won’t cover it. Insurance companies don’t believe in demons, let alone deities having a hand in whether you live or die if you hit someone with a book. That’s before the local police have a word with you and, no, it isn’t that word.

A lot of books give lessons. I learnt an important one when at school when news spread that there was a book in the local library that was mostly blank pages. Not so, it had about 30 with some text on. The other 250 were blank. Back then, it took a while to get its name, let alone find it. You can still find a copy and own one if you wish. It’s called ‘The Book Of The Book’ by Idries Shah. Unlike the rest of my class, I actually read the text. Didn’t take long and read it in the library and I still wonder how they found out about it. I doubt if, after its release in 1969, I’m giving away much of a spoiler by saying that the lesson learnt is that the content is more important than the length. A few decades later, I bought a copy for, well, why not. It had an influence on my life. It’s a lesson I’ve learnt well, even if I write mostly short stories and rarely go to novelette length, depending on how many words I need in the story. I might be verbose but I do show word control. You do have to wonder with doorstop books whether the precis selling the plot to the publisher carried the story better.

However, I did have a thought that if stories can have a powerful effect on people, why not kill them? Not with a swipe around the head, that’s physical murder as I said and I can’t responsibility or everyone with a psychotic bent would be blaming me. As this story is digital – unless it ever gets sold and released in the paper version – you can’t do things like that with it. Before you ask, hitting someone with your laptop or mobile appliance that you are reading this on does not give me limited liability especially as I’ve given a disclaimer in my opening paragraph that it is your responsibility as to whether you continue. Still with me? I imagine some of you will have left at this stage and just hoping the rest of you here aren’t just psychotic, willing to want to know which word in this story will kill you.

I didn’t want to make the entire story dangerous so decided it had to be a particular word in the text. No, you haven’t found it yet. Do you think I would put it in the paragraph that I’m telling you about it and only in so far? I’m not that cruel. No sneaking a look at the end neither.

Even so, there are certain words that have effect on other people and other uttered in whispered tones than say aloud in case saying it will be pass on the affliction to you. One of them is the Big C. No, not ‘C’ as a letter but as for a medical condition that if you’re unfortunate to get will be your own body turning on itself. Yes, you know that word and I’m just being polite not to write it here in case I upset anyone. That’s not quite the same as getting you to say the killer word, just a regard to some of your sensibilities. It’s not even an infectious disease passed on from person to person.

Well, that’s not entirely true but transplants are vigorously checked these days to stop that happening. Lessons learnt quickly. People like myself, who are diabetic, can receive kidneys but we aren’t allowed to even give blood because its sugar levels aren’t normal. I found that a bit odd because you would think a healthy or a sick person’s pancreas could still handle a blood sugar boost and use the energy. Then again, from a donor point of view, it is conceivable that losing a pint of blood might not be good for the diabetes. Complicated issue. Don’t try it. A diabetic vampire would need to drink normal blood to get the needed blood sugar.

Even so, it’s an example of how certain words are said in whispered tones. No one did that with covid, despite the number of people dying from the infection. You might say sorry if you hear that someone’s relatives had died of it. There are some exceptions like hearing about people who think that they wouldn’t get covid, not get inoculated and generally break all quarantine rules and most, if not all, are now picking up daisies. People don’t confuse covid with being a word that brings a dangerous infection as most people were susceptible. With the Big C, although many get it, equally a lot don’t as well.

Of course, it might not be down to the word itself but down to your own suggestibility. A few centuries ago, that kind of susceptibility could be put down to elements of witchcraft. Vudun or voodoo works out from that kind of belief when given the evil eye. You can’t see my eye here and there’s no light showing my laptop’s camera is on. I tried it out when I first got this particular laptop but, like social media, lack of interest didn’t pursue it. If I have an evil eye, then you’re not going to get it by me looking back at you. Zoom, to me, is still a British 3-flavour lollipop, originally created to cash in on Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s TV show ‘Fireball XL-5’ back in 1964.

Are you licked yet?

Will that be meaningless to many of you? If it is, then the helpful google might show one photo if you get the right combination of words. Is one of the words deadly? Probably not although you would be hard-pushed to buy a Zoom. The FAB lollipop is a close relative, linked to the 1965-1966 ‘Thunderbirds’ TV series. Hundreds and thousands would be way off the number of people who’ve actually eaten it over the years. I doubt if many modern people make the connection, let alone wonder why the original ads are never shown with the repeats on British TV as both were very much part of kiddie culture in the 1960s.

It does demonstrate one thing. The same words can be used for different things, so one of them might be deadly, you just might not be recognising it yet.

Should I tell you a joke? It has been said a good joke could kill you. Some comedians have died after their act but not because of their jokes. We can try one if you like. Did you hear about the man who couldn’t tell the difference between defecation and decaffeination? He made crap coffee. Other flavours are available depending on who you tell the joke to.

The number of people who die of natural causes every day is quite high. Anyone dying by saying the right…er…wrong word will always be hidden in such statistics. I doubt if anyone ever notes how many people die with a swear word on their lips, mostly by surprise that it had to happen then when they least expected it. But who can tell when the heart has had enough or a brief rest while someone restores its circulation by giving it a massage or electric shock.

There are words that are just magical but still don’t really work. Has anyone opened an non-electronic door with the words ‘Open Sesame’? They don’t work any more than saying ‘abracadabra’. A creation word but doesn’t match the deed as conjurers also use it and ‘Hey, Presto!’ to make things disappear. You’ve just thought the word but you’re still here. There are a lot of fake words out there. Have I got you worried that you might have gone past the deadly word without realising it? That would be telling.

But do words have power if we just say them? They convey information, sometimes to initiate action that can kill but that’s more an order than anything else. A word without weapons is impotent. They can’t destroy. At most, they can threaten. Not deadly words other than intent. That probably precludes most words in most dictionaries.

Still thinking what deadly word I’ve come up with? Not going to ask me? That’s wise. No sense blurting it out and you repeating it in surprise before shock at what you said sinks in. Why finish my story early? Where would the fun be otherwise.

Would I enjoy seeing a number of you out there dying? Hell, no. I need all the readers I can get. The same reason I wouldn’t deliberately give it you as well. I might not want to bump anyone off but who’s to say you would instead? Maybe not for deliberate murder but I’m sure some of you would just want to test the word to see if it works. If it doesn’t, you just shrug your shoulders and think I’ve lied or you’ve said it wrong and go around for days looking for the right pronunciation. Except for one small detail. Its the person who says the word that gets to make his or her maker, non-deities are there for those of you who are atheists. There’s no proof of resurrection.

Of course, I could be dishonest. Tell you to take the opening letter of each paragraph and there’s a word hidden in there. Maybe even a combination of letters across the words of any particular para. I could probably get this story the most hits ever if it was true. Did I ever tell you that one of my early SF stories ‘Eat Me’ got one of my highest ratings on Google associated to my name? How was I to know when I wrote the story that I honestly didn’t know it was a sexual expression? The story was about an alien wanting to save a human on an alien planet but to do that, it had to be eaten and the human was resisting doing that. How could it be anything else after I told you that?

So, I’m mostly honest. The story of my life. Do you think all of this text is a distraction so you couldn’t find it? Did we discuss how long it would take to affect you? We never discussed a time limit. For all you know, it might take your lifetime before it affects you. Think of yourself being on your deathbed like Dave Bowman in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and your last careless word might be the right one and you’re dismayed that there’s no monolith waiting there to resurrect you.

Ah! I can hear you cry, that isn’t really the promise of an instant death by saying the deadly word as advertised…er…nearly advertised in the title. Then again, you’ve said all the words in my text and you’re still reading. Think a moment, you thought the words. I did say say it aloud. Hands up all those of you went back to the start of this story and read it aloud before getting back as far as here. You’re still here. Of course you are. I said the word was hidden. You just haven’t said it, maybe mispronounced it or failed to see. A lot of readers jump over words in a sentence. Did you spot the double ‘say’ in this paragraph? People will jump past duplicate words which, editorially, you should never end and start the next sentence with the same word. People often ignore forewords or prefaces and endwords of afterwards in books. They might also miss anything in italics as your head has been conditioned to think they are less important words rather than add significance to them. On-line, since improvements in HTML, italics and bold can be used to raise the significance of words in a sentence although it was a bit too late then as most people realised a capped word or sentence means you’re shouting. So is the acronym ‘HTML’ a shouted word, only you can decide as you’re only saying the initials than as a composite word. Then again, do you hate seeing people using acronyms as words like ‘Nato’ instead of ‘NATO’ or ‘Nasa’ instead of ‘NASA’? Standards are dropping. Capped word acronyms remind you what they are, made-up words. Saying that, especially in our genre, a normal word is turned into an acronym like ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ or whatever but dots are also put in to remind you it’s a changed word.

Then again, do you miss the italic pieces I put at the end of my editorials, despite using bold as well and should I change it? Mayhem in the comments in SFC editorial expected except HTML makes italics the same depth as normal text so its not as though they are harder to read anymore. So why doesn’t the print model do likewise these days or is that a fault of the printing process? The same kind of reasoning is down to colours on a computer screen don’t necessarily resemble the printed version simply because of a difference in videocard and a printer combining 3 or 4 colours and black. If you want to see a difference between videocards have a videoclip on the computer and TV at the same time, if you have the technology, and you’ll see a difference in skin tone. None of this is to suggest that it’s hiding a killer word, is it? The difference between ‘isn’t’ and ‘is it’ is only an ‘n’. Ditto marks should give their own emphasis.

Of course, by now, with all the comments on words you could be screeching by now but that isn’t a word, just a noise of pain expressed as a form of word. I can’t speak much for other written languages, but English calls them onomatopoeia. That’s a word to conjure with but doesn’t include abracadabra or hey, presto! No wonder ‘Ouch!’ sounds so painful although that’s not a killer word.

Another of course, being careful not to start successive paragraphs with the same word, there are a lot of killer words out there. You know the ones: murder, manslaughter, suffocation, torture, asphyxiation and so on. A spike sounds pointed. They all sound deadly but that’s onomatopoeia. You don’t necessarily suffer from them by saying them aloud. Try it and see although warn anyone nearby in case you think they’ll be upset or think it an open invitation. No, that’s not a killer word.

Found it yet? Don’t spend too many hours re-reading or you might find the experience a killer. Now there’s a thought. Content over length. You’ve survived so far but there’s still time.

The End

© GF Willmetts 2023

All rights reserved

Ask before borrowing

No words were hurt in the

creation of this story.

UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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