In the early hours of the morning, following a sleepless night, he sat up and started his laptop.

The editor with whom he had spoken only a few days ago about his first-ever work of short fiction, had specified that the magazine could only allot him a week’s time to come up with a story of no more than 3000 words. After two days of inactivity and no clue where to start or what to write, he was finally ready. He could do it, he knew. After all, it had been seven years since he started working as a content writer - first, in a freelance role, then, graduating to a part-time job, and now he worked as a full-time content specialist for a well-known firm. Not great pay, but he managed alright. And years of churning out rule-based, deadline-oriented content had made him eager to try this more respectable line of writing. How difficult could it be?

The editor had hinted that everyone struggled at the beginning to get published and paid, and he should not quit his day job. But the opportunity to write a story (he could not for the life of him think of a reason why he had not tried his hand at this earlier) was so different from his usual assignments that, even if it was for peanuts, it appealed to him – this moonlighting as a short fiction writer.

There was another reason too. However, the fact remained nothing was final. There would be no contract or anything, so, of course, he was treating this as a side gig. He was not stupid. He had no delusion that there would be a few hurdles to overcome before he was recognized as an established writer in this line. As expected, he had been told that this first assignment would be paid and that too would be negotiated only if his piece got selected. It might even get published in as early as the magazine's May issue. He could do it, he knew.

He had never fancied himself as an artist of the creative ilk, although he couldn't deny nursing the vanity that he was a very capable writer. Especially if it was taken into consideration that he must have written more words than even his best friend who aimed to be a real writer; his best friend who in the meantime was slaving away at a mundane highly-paying job. She was the real artist, not him. He knew that. The few short stories and poems and her magnum opus of an ever-unfinished novel (she never went beyond the first chapter which she had already rewritten half a dozen times) that he had read, bore ample evidence of her talent. He was just a hack in comparison, but he had his own share of decent talent. He could not deny her genius storytelling style. He knew that. But he sure was not to be blamed if he nursed a grudge that she often showed disdain at the pride he took in his work. Work which she called paid content and hence nothing but mercenary stuff. She was the reason why he wanted to do this.

He could do this, he knew. After all, he was a voracious reader (so what if most of what he read were bestsellers and little of any ‘substance’, as she scoffed?). Everyone always says that inside every reader sleeps the seed of a writer. He believed it too. He would show her. Suddenly an idea for a killer story started to nudge at his mind. He toyed with it for a moment. And while he brooded and tried to decide if it was an idea worth pursuing and fleshing out as a story that the magazine would want, a sentence started taking form and he just could not ignore it.

“She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window.” How was that for an opening line? Superb, he thought as he opened a blank Word document on his screen and began typing hurriedly before he forgot.


She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood-stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf.


She loved going to coffee shops. She had always loved going to coffee shops. As far back as she could remember, a large part of her memory was associated with coffee shops. Good memories. Bad memories. Ugly memories. Waking memories. Unconscious memories. All memories took her to the coffee shops. She couldn’t remember them all and the few that she did, were very sketchy in her mind. But she knows that this was a true emotion memory. Her and the coffee shops.

How did she know? Not sure, not right now anyway. And to think of it, she had no favourites. Any coffee shop would do. Any city she visited, her first exploration of the new place always found her ending up in a coffee shop. And when she left the city, the coffee shop at the airport was always her last stop before boarding the plane. She couldn’t remember anymore why this was so. Maybe it had something to do with someone important or maybe it was a whim. She didn’t remember.

It was now a few days How long had it been since she had come to this city? What was its name? Did she come here or did she live in it? Why did it occurred to her that she had come here? She doesn’t remember right now. Her head aches in a funny kind of way when she tries to concentrate on the details. She will try again in some time when it didn’t hurt so much. It is good to have answers. And she would like to have some answers. Yes, she must have some answers.

There is a very pressing reason why a part of her mind insists on knowing. It is not because she is in a city that she is now certain is not her hometown. How does she know that? It is a hunch. No matter, but no, that is not why she wants to get some answers. There is a more pressing reason than her geographical location that prompts her to puzzle her pretty head. And if an exact location is so important, then she knows exactly where she is anyway. She is seated at one of the single tables adjacent to the counter of a Starbucks cafe. Why is she here? And how did she get here? Well, these are the questions that she wants to find answers to. That would be a good place to start, finding these answers. Because for the first time in her life that she could remember even through her intermittent headaches (did she have a migraine condition? Is it chronic or a one-off thing? No, these thoughts can be put away for later), a coffee shop seems less like a haven and more like a puzzle.

How was this going? He read what he had written so far. Sensational start, even if he himself said so. The editor would be hooked, and so would the thousands of his future readers and potential fans. Anyway, he needed to carry on. Once the story was completed, he could give it a once-over and correct the typos and whatnot in one go. Free-flowing writing is the key. In one of the writing workshops he had attended with her, the writer-mentor lady had said so. Writing on, then.