My phone lights up, beeping loud enough that from their nest my sleeping birds stir in alarm. With my face in the pillow it takes me ten seconds to find the thing, and by then it’s buzzed twice more.

It’s stupid’o’clock and a bleary glance at the screen tells me that I’m currently receiving a novel in SMS form. There’s only one person it can be from at this hour. I unlock the phone and shoot off hello, shitlord before scrolling up to read what my best friend has sent me.

Okay but what if, the first text after we said goodnight to each other starts. I’m awake in an instant, glued to my screen as I skim her 3 AM rambling.

The thing is I’m a writer. As my partner in crime in all things, that means Aria—that’s her name, Aria—does a lot of editing for me. That’s how we found out she’s got this sort of direct link into my brain.

Think I’m kidding?

I was going down the regular path you’ve got with the story right now, the texts go on, just looking around in your head right? I was thinking about that stuff we were talking about with the butcher shop—also, I think you should add some more to that scene in the story because holy cow I hadn’t ever been down that road in your head before and your mind is painting it a hell of a lot scarier than mine was.

The bed groans as I roll over, fumbling for the notebook on my nightstand. Some people keep dream journals. I keep Aria notes. “Expand butcher shop,” I jot down, and in my hand the phone goes off again.

You know that trap door the butcher’s wife is standing on? she goes on.

Yeah, I answer, the one that has knots on it like a face?

Right, that one. It actually looks more like a skull than a face. But anyway I stopped following Emmit—that’s my main character—and after the wife left I went and looked under the trap door and what if the body was THERE?

…Oh my god. Oh my god and what if—

We both send and what if the butcher’s wife was the real killer? at the same time. In my head I can see it exactly as Aria’s describing, the trap door opening onto the snap-necked corpse neither of us had been able to figure out where to leave for the protagonist to find.

The phone keeps right on buzzing as I scramble to scratch this development down, grinning to myself in the dark. God only knows why she can step so literally into my stories, but I don’t think either one of us would ever want it to stop.

“Stupid’o’Clock” was awarded second place in the Sparkler “Share Your World” competition.