(what you are reading right now is the first version of my one-shot story "Paper I used in one of the CCCs. Enjoy.)
Only two years old and Image Magazine had become the paper of record for the pop-culture-newsertainment-hungry public that treats celebrities like royalty and tramps on the same day.
Lois Kane, editor-in-chief and founder of Image Magazine was a force of nature. He fought a never-ending battle in an age where print media was considered a dying art. He was dedicated to a fault, meaning that he would sometimes spend hours in his office long after all his other employees had left the building. Including the cleaning staff.
But even a force of nature needed rest it seemed. Kane yawned and decided to finally call it a day. As he closed his computer, he took a quick look at the yellow notes he had plastered all over his desk with small messages he had written for himself, such as:
Meeting on Friday 15:30
Buy more yellow sticky paper
You shouldn’t have fired Tom
Buy new phone
Kane bottomed his jacket, double-checked his briefcase, and was just about to leave the office as he realized that one of his yellow notes was a bit… odd. He re-read them one more time and found the one he couldn’t remember that he had written, nor did he understand WHY he had.
You shouldn’t have fired Tom.
Tom Wood was the guy who made comic stripes for the magazine about Snowy the Leopard. “Was” being the key-word as Kane had him fired last week as he began to demand a higher salary, two pages for his comics instead of a half and he refused to use a graphic design program that would save time. He claimed that his comics HAD be drawn on paper with pencils. That it was “important for the craft."
Prick acted as if he was god damn Picasso. He was just a guy who made funnies about a Hawaiian-shirt wearing white leopard who hates Sundays.
Kane had to call in security as Tom became hysterical once he was told that not only was he fired but that Kane kept the rights to Snowy. Kane had no moral quarrels with this. Tom had signed the contract that clearly said that all the comics he did while working for Image Magazine was the magazine’s intellectual property. Kane could understand if the man was upset, but he acted as if Kane had set the building on fire and yelled out things such as: You have no idea what you have done!
Well, Kane was rid of him now. Did it mean that the writing for the comics had dropped a bit in quality? Sure. Tom Wood was a prick, but his stripes were damn funny and had clever yet subtle social satire. But he wasn’t replaceable, and Sarah Lee, the woman they had hired as Tom’s replacement, was not half bad either.
Kane took the You shouldn’t have fired Ted note, crumpled it into a ball and thew it in the paper thrash can next to his desk. He took a glance at his phone and was surprised by how long he had stayed at the office. Geeti was gonna be peeved once he got home. He left his office and walked to the elevator.
But as he got to the elevator, he found a note being plastered over the door, saying: out of order.
Odd. it had been working fine all day. It must have happened recently and the cleaning crew must have left the note as they had finished cleaning up third floor. Kane shrugged as he took the stairs. Suited him fine, as his legs were a bit stiff. Sitting in front of a desk for hours did that to your legs. So Kane went through the door that led to the stairs instead.
And was met with quite a surprise as he came to the door that would lead him into ground floor of the building. On it was ALSO a poster that said: Out of order. Kane grabbed the door-handle, but to no use. The door was locked from the outside. It didn’t move, not one inch. Kane groaned as he grabbed his phone… that he NATURALLY had forgotten to charge up and had just ran out of power. Kane cursed as he had to return to third floor to get to his office and charge up his phone so that he could call for help.
And then his night got a whole lot stranger.
Kane thought the cleaning staff had done a nice job cleaning up third floor. Apparently, he had overlooked the dozens of crumpled paper that he kept stepping on. Why would anyone waste that much paper? Why would anyone on his staff use that much paper to begin with? Most of the work was done on computers.
Kane made a mental memo that he had to call into a staff meeting the next day to discuss the problem. But he forgot all about it as he entered his office.
Someone had plastered paper all over the walls inside his office. And each piece of paper had the same word written on them with big, fat letters:
Kane’s heart began to beat a little faster as he fumbled with his phone charger. The sooner he could call for help, the better. Afraid that he might not be alone, he carefully opened his door and looked out at the empty working space. The beating of his heart grew even faster as he was unsure what to feel about the floor now being clean again. There was no paper balls to be seen.
Deciding that enough was enough, he opened his drop drawer where he had a gun. His wife had told him that he was being silly for owning one in the first place, but it sure didn’t seem silly now. Kane stepped out of his office, feeling a bit better with a weapon in his hands. He looked left and right, trying to see whether he was alone or not.
“Hello?!” Kane decided to try and call for whoever it was that was playing tricks on him. “Anyone here? I’m armed!”
Kane went to every table in the working space, looking for… something, anything. After three minutes of searching, he returned to his office. But on the door was a new note. It said:
That gun won’t do you much good.
“Who is it?!” Kane’s grip on the gun grew tighter as he kicked the door to the working space open as if he was the actor of a bad action movie. No one was to be seen. Then, he turned around and aimed his weapon at nothing as he tried to find whoever was messing with him. “Who are you?! What do you want?!”
Kane dropped the gun as he was hit on the left side of his head by a ball made out of crumpled-up paper. Kane tried to spot the assaulter, but no one was to be found. Slowly, he went down on his knees and picked up the gun as well as the paper-ball. He folded it out, and on it stood:
I’m a guy who hates Sundays.
Kane blinked. He had been so nervous that he had forgotten to blink for who knows how long. Then, his eyes narrowed as he began to suspect who his late-night visitor was.
“Tom? Tom Wood, is that you, you damn S-O-A-B?!” Kane made a forced smile. “So you get fired and then you assault me at the middle of the night with this childish BS?”
No answer. And no Tom Wood to be seen. Kane checked one more time that his gun was ready and tried to spot the cartoonist who apparently could move like a ninja. Either that or something bizarre was going on in the building.
“Tom, this won’t change anything! You won’t get your job or the copyrights to your comics back! Now, come out, and I might be nice enough to NOT call the police on you!”
Deciding to stop playing cops and robbers, Kane went back to his desk for his phone.
His phone was gone. Instead, he found another piece of paper. It said:
I’m not Tom Wood.
“Then who are you?!”
Just as Kane had asked, he was hit in the back of his head with another paper ball. He picked it up, folded the crumbled paper out and read:
I’m not the one you stole from.
“I didn’t steal anything, and you know it, Tom!” Kane began to feel desperate as he went out to the working space and tipped over every desk and chair he got near, searching for his tormentor. “You read the contract! I hired you! I was the only guy who actually saw some potential in your dumb comics about that stupid, white panther! If only you had stopped being such an arrogant schmuck and… and… oh my god.”
Kane lost his voice as a piece of crumbled-up paper rolled on the floor all by itself and stopped by his right foot. Kane’s hand shook as he picked it up. The message on it was:
I’m a leopard, dummy!
On the bottom left corner of the paper was a tiny drawing of a cat-like character with dots on it’s face. It was wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
That was the sound of the elevator. Kane turned around and saw the elevator at the farthest end of the room open and out of it flew paper despite there being no wind in the room.
And then the paper flew toward him as if they where throwing stars. And they felt like it too! One of the pieces of paper flew past his right cheek, leaving a bleeding rift. Another made a deep cut on his shoulder. Kane ran to the bathroom so that he could lock himself inside it and hope to keep himself safe until the morning when people would arrive in order to get to work.
But he could feel some…thing grabbing his left arm and pulling in him. Kane saw to his great terror that it was part of the wallpaper that had grabbed him as if it was an arm. On the wall was a drawing of Elouise Caracal, Snowy’s neighbor. Next to her was drawn a speech bubble that said:
Paper on the walls, too. Nowhere to run, buster!
Kane pulled and pulled and ripped off the hand of the wallpaper arm. He finally reach the toilet and slammed the door once he was inside. He stood with his back against the door so that it couldn’t be opened as he prayed to a god he didn’t believe in.
And then he realized that he was an idiot.
Out from the booths rolled toilet paper rolls. They rolled out and moved toward Kane as if they were the tentacles of a paper octopus. Kane decided to take his chances and left the bathroom. He opened the door and dodged as a couple of paper airplanes were about to hit him in the face. He threw himself on the floor, rolled and managed to get underneath a table in the naive hope that he wouldn’t be found.
And it… worked. Apparently.
All the paper that flew around in the air went inside the bathroom. Large pieces of the wallpaper tore itself off of the wall and followed.
One minute passed.
Two minutes passed.
Kane allowed himself to be brave enough to get up and run for the elevator. But as he got back on his feet, he heard a sound similar to boots stomping in mud. He turned around and saw three, large lumps of wet paper about as tall as a person. And they moved toward him. Kane tried to run, but one of the lumps got an hold of him and forced him up against the wall. Kane stared at the three lumps of wet paper as they began to take form. The one to the left took the form of Elouise Caracal, the one to the right looked like Barney the Blankey Octopus. And the one in the middle, the one holding Kane by the throat with his disgusting wet paper hand was Snowey.
The paper monster that looked like Snowey began to pop his newly-gained lips. Then, he smiled and said:
“Three-dimensional, eh? A leopard could get used to this.”
“Please! Let me go!” Kane’s heart was beating like a heart of a dying bird. “I… I will rehire Tom! With a HUGE raise! And-And he will get the copyri-”
“Oh, it’s WAY too late for that, Louis Kane.” The papier-mâché creature with the appearance of Elouise looked at Kane with a displeased look on her cat-face.
“You insulted our maker, stole his art, and now you think that you can pay your way out of it?” The cartoon octopus crossed four of his six arms and used the remaining two to fix his bow-tie.
“And then you made that two-bit HACK draw our stories! And she… she…” Elouise ripped a piece off of herself and used it to dry her eyes and blow her nose with the force of a tiny storm. “She draws our comics with a COMPUTER PROGRAM instead of on paper! She has NO respect for the craft at all!”
“What are you gonna do to me?” Kane’s throat felt as if it was tying knots on itself.
“Not sure. Hmm.” Snowy scratched his nose as he looked at the human he despised so much. Then, he made a wide smile, revealing his big, silly, pointy comicbook teeth. “Guys, Snowy got an idea.”
The police never found Louis Kane. They searched the office where he had last been seen, but found no clues to his disappearance with the exception of an odd comic book. It was filled with caricatures of Louis Kane who fell off cliffs, was run over by a bus, was hit on the head by an anvil, blown up by a bomb and other sorts of silly deaths. And the police officer who found the comic could have sworn that the pages were made out of some sort of animal leather.
He wasn’t entirely wrong.