After returning home from a business trip, Chuck is greeted by a foul smell that leads him to a dead body that looks like him and killed by a compass he had written about in his book.

A pungent smell smacked Chuck Barkley across his face the moment he stepped inside his one-bedroom apartment. He dropped his suitcase, covering his face to stop the odor’s torture. He lived alone with no pets and was at the statewide library conference for a few days. Something was wrong, but his systematically organized place was clean, just like how he had left it.  

Did some animal get inside and die? Chuck thought, trying not to speak and get the smell on his tongue too. Maybe a person? I doubt it.

Chuck walked over to the balcony door and opened it up to start getting fresh air inside. He regretted not buying that candle he liked during his work trip, but the worry for his books quickly replaced his regret. He rushed over to his prized collection of books. The author personally autographed their writing, and some notes addressed him. All of the few dozen books were accountable. Limiting himself to only autographed books helped retain his minimalist home. The only non-autographed books he had were the ones he wrote and an uncatalogued book he brought home from the library for safekeeping.

Keeping an eye out for the source of the smell, Chuck made his way to his bedroom. His voice of reason kicked in and assumed him the stench was most likely a sewage backup in his bathroom.

When Chuck opened the bedroom door, he discovered the source: a dead body. He looked away, gathering his composure, which took all of his willpower not to throw up right there. The detectives in the books he read always made seeing a dead body seem so casual. He forced himself to get a closer look. He had to know if it was someone he knew.

Spread out on the bed like a starfish was a man wearing the same brown pants and Game of Thrones shirt Chuck had on. The dead body also had the same face as Chuck. Chuck was an only child and wasn’t aware of any possible doppelgängers, either. The one part that didn’t mirror Chuck was the mystical looking compass covered in blood sticking out from the heart.

Chuck slapped his own hand as he tried to touch the compass. He didn’t own one and wondered where it came from and why a compass? He had read numerous books with unusual murder weapons, but a compass? In the book Chuck was writing, there was a magical compass that would point to the nearest evil. His brain switched from disgusted to inquisitive. The compass looked like the one he had written.

As Chuck walked over to the side of the room for a different view of the crime scene, the compass arrow followed him. He thought he imagined the needle moving with him, and so Chuck went back to where he was, and the needle followed. He went to the other side, and so did the needle.

“This is quite the mystery,” Chuck proclaimed to himself.

“It’s actually rather obvious,” a pretentious voice corrected. “You’re evil.”

Standing in the doorway was a tall, grizzly handsome man in a tan overcoat that Chuck recognized as his detective character.

“You’re real,” Chuck stated. “How are you real?”

“You didn’t give us much to play with, Chuck,” the character scolded. “You have such a limited collection of books. We want to go back to the library.”

The body on the bed sat up. “Take us back to the library, Chuck.”

A clown holding a red balloon stepped out from the bathroom. “We belong in the library, Chuck.”

All three of them chanted in unison. “Return the book to the library. Return the book to the library. Return—”

“You promise you won’t hurt anyone or cause any destruction?” Chuck interrupted. 

“We are bound by rules not to intervene with life,” the dead body answered.

Chuck sighed. He went to his bookshelf and grabbed the uncatalogued book titled, “Unbound Words.” He placed the book in his satchel that he strapped on.

“I have to go to the library to handle some paperwork anyway, so I will take this book back if you behave.”

The characters smiled. Millions of words replaced their appearance before fading away to dust.

This week’s story was inspired by two writing prompts. One involved a character coming home from a long business trip to find their own dead body. Other elements came from Okie Show Show’s writing prompt that challenged people to include a compass, the line of dialog, “I doubt it,” and a character, Chuck Barkley, librarian.