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The Typewriter

Keys of the typewriter boomed with each press of his finger as if accenting the night around him. Sipping his whiskey, he pondered his next sentence. Dramatic or understated. Lively or dark. There were so many thoughts racing through his head. The protagonist seems to be in high spirits, which posed a problem. He focused on the fact that this was a murder mystery. A happy protagonist just didn’t fit.

The next sip of whiskey went down better than the first. His throat started to go numb to the burning sensation of the alcohol as it seared his esophagus on its way to his stomach. It didn’t even bring tears to his eyes like the first sip always did. Unfortunately for him, the numbness that settled within him was no help at all. If anything, it made him more incoherent, his writing suffering as his fingers stopped typing. Though he heard somewhere that all good artists have a vice. So, he embraced that as his.

Two glasses into his drinking binge, he began typing once more. There had to be a way to turn this story around. A joyful protagonist wouldn’t work here. After all, someone was after her. Her husband was already dead, and though it appeared that the perp did not leave a single trace; the only thing she was sure of was that she was next on the hit list.

Of course, the story took him down the path of her finding some sort of hot, muscular, law enforcement type. Hence the happiness. For that happiness, he suddenly hated her. The hate that swam through him brought a sudden urge to take the typewriter and throw it out the window. Not that it would go far-seeing as he was seated in his study on the first floor of the house. Nonetheless, it would still bring him some sort of satisfaction.

The typewriter was old, with visible wear and tear. There were visible nicks and cuts on its outside from misuse by its previous owners. It’s keys were faded forcing the user to memorize what each of them was.

He remembered a story of a great great uncle who had thrown it out of the home in a fit of rage, only to find it back on his desk the very next morning. It had been passed down through the family from one writer to the next. Based on the state of the object before him, there were many writers in his family tree. It’s as if it had entranced the men from one generation to the next. Now that he thought about it, not a single male born from the original bloodline held a regular job. Not one held a position outside of the home, even before adulthood.

The typewriter, it seemed, commanded them all to sit there for hours upon hours, and day after day, pouring their very life into it. As if it had to take the very essence of who they were for the keys to make their mark against the paper. Without this, the soul-sucking machine would lay dormant atop the desk, gathering dust, making an impression into the wood.

There were rumors within the family, of course, which described in great detail what happened to the writers as the typewriter was passed down from one generation to the next. In this generation, he happened to be the only male. Lucky him.

He remembered back to the time when his parent’s attic required a complete clean through after they passed. It fell to him, of course, to do the job on his own, something in his subconscious not allowing him to get professionals to do it for him.

So, for hours, for days, for weeks, he labored in the hot attic devoid of any natural light or air. The dust filled his lungs bringing on a cough that lingered for months with no end in sight. It made the horrible process all that more unbearable, but he could say with his head held high that he had done it.

What he found, besides the cough, he never spoke of again, determined to let the past die. But in moments like these, every once in a while, he remembered countless books and stories with their corresponding newspaper clippings. Generations of men in his family had written countless stories, more than could have ever been published.

The diaries that were left behind caught his eye the most and he read them all. Details of the same typewriter, though in much better condition than it was now, calling to those men. Making them write in the dark, their lives dismal apart from the apparatus in front of them.

Wives and children were left untended, money left unearned as the men detailed their toils in front of the machine that poured out story after story. As the typewriter used them to do its dirty work, their lives became wretched, their health declining, until soon death was upon them.

A rather old and frayed diary explained as much as it could. Some time, six generations ago, one of his ancestors began to write, and write he did with fervor. A never ending compulsion came over him to write so others could read to their hearts content. But one heart wasn’t content; namely that of his wife. And so, at the end of her life, while her husband stayed at the typewriter, she cursed it.

With her last breath she uttered the words that forever marked the typewriter, and the men of the family that were compelled to sit in front of it. Her exact words were never recorded, but the meaning of them had been passed down through time as her death was attended to by her nurse, who heard everything.

Already his fingers were showing decay from years of abuse against the hard keys. The rhythmic pounding against the typewriter had worn down the skin, which appeared translucent. The nails, brittle, remained short from the abuse they’ve suffered.

He took another swig of his whiskey, eyeing the decanter. With bones creaking and joints popping, he stood to go refill his glass. The liquid sloshed from the decanter into the glass with the most rewarding sound, and he palmed it instantly.

Glass three into his binge brought him closer toward the nightly coma he savored – it was the only time he was allowed to stop. Hours had passed by then, the sky turned completely dark, thundering shaking the windows.

The heroine of his story ran through a dark such as the one he saw beyond the floor to ceiling windows behind him, the killer hot in pursuit. Of course, he couldn’t let her die, or she wouldn’t be the heroine, but there was a part of him that wished he could.

A deafening sound of the grandfather clock that stood in the hallway outside of his study echoed in his ears. Obedient, he counted the number of chimes until it stopped at twelve, indicating midnight had rolled around.

The typewriter released its hold on him, and he sagged into the leather chair. Much as he did with the previous refill, he polished this one off in one gulp, setting the smudged glass on top of the immense wooden desk. There it would remain until the morning when the typewriter began its awful call on him.

Inescapable, walking away from the infernal machine felt as if his blood would begin to boil. It was said in his family that each felt the call differently, but no matter what, all of them ended up back at the desk, typing their life away. Same could be said for him, as he resented the feeling it gave him to try and ignore it.

Restless and tormented, he didn’t bother with a shower or food, instead, the bed beckoned him. Succumbing to the softness of the pillows and the down comforter, he allowed himself to be pulled into a fitful sleep, one where nothing but nightmares laid beyond.

A deceivingly bright sun shone in the sky the next morning, blasting him with uncomfortable heat. Groaning, he rolled over from his front to his back, having fallen asleep on top of the comforter and remaining that way the rest of the night.

Running his right hand through the strands of greying hair that stood on end, he stretched, testing the resolve of his muscles, and made his way for the bathroom and a shower, which he hadn’t taken in days. Before he pulled his miserable body under the spray of the shower, he stared at it’s reflection in a mirror that didn’t dare lie to him. He looked frail, worn out as if his skin were falling off his bones like a mannequin kept above a flame.

Feeling a little more human after the shower, he passed the typewriter on the way to the closet where he could find something clean to wear, anything would suffice by then as laundry hadn’t been done in weeks. Forgetting even what day of the week it was, he wondered when the housekeeper was due in.

His coffee he took black and walked with it to the front door. The sun shining meant that the paper delivery route had been completed for the day.

Sure as night would turn to day, the paper lay not far from the front steps of the house, and with more popping noise from his joints, he bent to pick it up, ensuring he spilled nothing of his precious cargo. Taking a sip, he fanned the pages out with one hand, allowing his eyes to quickly scan the contents. 

In the dead of night, in the heart of town, a woman had gone missing after what appears to have been a rather lengthy chase.

He read the paragraph over and over again that described the crime in great detail, his heart hammering ever faster. The story appeared remarkably similar to the story that he spun on the typewriter from hell, almost as if he had willed it to happen.

Heading inside, he shut the door with a thud that spoke only of finality. He wasn’t sure what ended yet, though. Whether it was the story he wrote, the woman in the paper, or his very life. If the typewriter indeed willed stories to life, he was done even if he had to break every bone in his hand,  he was done.

The typewriter lay dormant, mocking him from the center of the desk as he paced back and forth before it. Its call wouldn’t begin until the night began to settle around him, until midnight as it did every night. And though he tried to stay as far away from the instrument of his destruction as he could, it was not so that day.

Should anyone ever ask, it was true that he didn’t marry for the simple reason of being afraid of having sons. As miserable as he was alone, it was nothing on the guilt he’d feel if he had to pass his burden down to someone else. No, this business with the typewriter would end, with him, for good. Even if he was useless for anything else, could not find any other job, he saved enough throughout his life to live out the rest of his days – however many of them there were – from the works he dared publish.

For the first time since the wretched thing had come to his home after the death of his father, he felt determined. He watched and waited as the sun sunk lower and lower beneath the horizon. Another dreadful storm brewed in the distance, and the clouds began to obscure the sun faster than it could set. By the time night full engulfed the world around him, the thunder sounded deafening in his ears, rattling the entire house.

Pouring a glass of whiskey as he had the night before, and countless previous nights, he drank it in one gulp, then refilled it again. This one he placed next to the typewriter, sitting down in front of it and cracking his tired old hands.

Unlike the night before, he was now intent on saving the heroine even if he didn’t make her the happiest woman alive. In order to do so, he wrote for hours upon hours, well beyond the midnight call to stop. Then, as he did with works he wanted published, the manuscript went straight into an email to his agent with publishing instructions.

Having worked with his agent for many years, the instructions were rather plain, explaining only that the book should be published as soon as possible. With the task completed and the grandfather clock sounding off three in the morning, he laid himself down in bed.

The next morning, a rather dreary one considering it had rained two nights in a row, the paper came in right on time. He couldn’t sleep and found himself sitting by the door, waiting for the delivery to come to the house. As soon as he heard the truck come through and the paper hit the pavement, he opened the door – coffee in hand – then grabbed the paper fanning it out as he had the day before.

The woman had been saved. Bruised and needing hospital attention, but saved and back with the family. Exactly as his story had ended. The perp caught and awaiting a fair trial.

For a moment, he stood there by the front door, paper hanging open in front of him as he held his coffee in his left hand. Still, like a statue, worried that the instant he’d move something would change about the situation, but it didn’t.

Ever since he first laid eyes on the typewriter that sucked the soul out of his father over what felt like an infinite amount of years, he felt that there was something different about it. Heading toward it, he wondered now how many stories had been written on it and how many destinies had been altered. It wasn’t as if any of them had written romance novels, after all. He wrote horror, and though this story ended on a lighter note, horror it still was.

Before he changed his mind, he grabbed at the typewriter and with everything he had left in his tired body, slammed it against the ground.

As if a bomb had exploded, it shattered into a million pieces. Keys flew in different directions as it broke apart on the floor before him, the paper he had inside tearing apart.

Dumbfounded at his own bravery, he took one last glance at it, then walked away. There would be no cleaning it up. Its fate has been sealed much as his had. With the day slowly moving forward, he poured more whiskey, his empty stomach protesting the liquid. He didn’t pay it any attention as he downed one glass after another, thoroughly numbing himself to his thoughts and surroundings.

When night settled once again, and the need to type did not return, he knew his task had been accomplished. This time, showered and dressed, he climbed underneath the comforter, allowing it to settle around his body. He closed his eyes and let the complete feeling of peace wash over him.

His task was done. The typewriter was no more.

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