Horror and Thriller Fiction posted March 25, 2014


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The cursed contraption won't let me go...

Woe of the Underwood

by Dean Kuch




Woe of the Underwood


 



“An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a
little before it will explain itself”
Charles Dickens




 

Woe of the Underwood

 

I'd purchased the cursed thing at a secondhand store on Piper Street, just around the corner from Wilson's Sundry & Hardware. You might know the place, although the name escapes me at the moment. When I saw it sitting in the window, my attention was immediately drawn to it. It wasn't so much the way the old typewriter appeared brand new despite its age. Nor was it the way the carriage bell and keys looked oddly alien as a writing instrument in today's world; as out-of-place as a model-T Ford on an NASCAR track. Rather, it was the large black-and-white sign done in crude block lettering that truly caught my eye. It read simply—

YES! IT'S REALLY HAUNTED.

I wasn't buying that line, not in the least. Just the store owner's way of hyping the piece to hike up the price, I wagered. However, looking back, I did feel an overwhelming desire to go into the shop and inquire about it.


Oh, I apologize. Here I am, rambling on about haunted typewriters without properly introducing myself. My name is Frederick Beauman. If that name doesn't ring any bells, perhaps you will know me better by my pseudonym, Derek Grey. I write horror stories for a living. Anything? Well, it doesn't really matter, not anymore. I tell you this only to formally introduce myself, nothing more. I find it's always nice to put a name with a story. Especially since this will be my adieu histoire.

I walked into the store and rang for the proprietor. A rather off-color fellow quickly appeared, sporting an extremely large belly and chewed cigar butt jutting from his mouth. As we spoke of my interests in purchasing the machine, he informed me that the typewriter had been owned by several popular authors in its day, including one of my personal idols, Robert Aickman. He's best known for his occult thriller The Beetle (1897), a book as popular in its time as Bram Stoker's Dracula. You may have heard of it. The shop keeper went on to inform me that the last owner, an aspiring up-and-coming author of a best-selling horror anthology, Phillip Wright, had been found dead at the helm. Emaciated, completely dehydrated — as white and rigid as alabaster stone. A few pages of a neatly typed manuscript were found clutched in one of his gnarled hands. Ironically, it was part of Monstrous Mayhem: Tales of the Modern-Day Aberration. Yes, you guessed it. It turned out to be his most prestigious novel, a best seller published posthumously. Obviously, he would never write another.


I'll admit, I was thoroughly intrigued.

After a bit of modest haggling over the price, I felt I came out the clear winner, strutting out of the establishment with my prize for a rather reasonable sum. Immediately, after making the buy, I'd asked him what events warranted the machine being haunted. While I frequently write of ghosts, vengeful spirits, and many other unspeakable creatures that go bump in the night, I've never actually bought into any of it. Simply old legends and lore, rehashed to terrify and titillate the hungry masses while fattening my bank account.

He harrumphed heartily, smirked, then spoke four simple words that I will undoubtedly take with me to my grave. He used the tip of his tongue to dislodge some wayward pieces of tobacco, then informed me why. It wasn't even a full sentence, really …

Damned thing types itself.


I began to think along the stroll home that perhaps this particular purchase was a bit eccentric. After all, it wasn't as if I would actually use the thing. I had state-of-the art computers, with word processors and automated editing software. Why would I want to bang away on an ancient typewriter? I began to question my sanity, but soon dismissed the notion. The nostalgic feel of the keys as they struck the page would be romantic. If nothing else, it would make for a fantastic conversation piece.

Upon my arrival home, I immediately set about finding a suitable location to display my newfound treasure. Thinking that it might somehow hold mystical powers to inspire me, I opted for the desk next to my work station. It was rather late in the evening by that time, so I decided to forgo the usual late night ritual downing endless amounts of coffee and amphetamines. I had no pressing deadlines to keep. I'd completed my latest novel just two weeks prior, having already submitted the manuscript to my editor. The ball was in her court now.

I turned in, quickly drifting off to sleep.

At three am, I was awakened by the staccato, clack-clack-clack of what sounded to me like a rogue woodpecker doing its damnedest to break out one of my windows. I swung my legs out of bed, then grabbed the baseball bat I kept tucked away beneath it, just in case. I proceeded out into the hallway. The tapping seemed to be coming from the den, so I headed in that direction.

The rapping sounds abruptly stopped.

Although I felt I'd known from where the sounds originated, I can't say I was too eager to pursue the matter just yet. Louisville Slugger or no, I seriously doubted that it was something I cared to tackle at three in the morning. However, on the chance that a prowler or maniacal serial murderer may have gained entrance to my home; I decided to press on. I opened the door to my study and was immediately overcome by a wall of frigid air. My breath hung in plumes of mist in the icy draft. Switching on the table lamp, I instantly wished I'd gone with my initial gut instincts. There, on my desk, sat the typewriter; a single sheet of paper protruding from the platen. Cautiously, I inched forward, keeping the bat raised at the ready just over my trembling shoulders.

Four words were embedded in ink across the uppermost right corner of the page. Funny how four simple words can elicit such terror, given the proper circumstances, yet that is precisely what they did.

“Hello. Shall we begin?”
 

~*~
 

I needn't tell you; I could not go back to sleep. Nor could I allow that — thing to remain in my home a moment longer. I ripped the paper from the carriage, then lugged the typewriter out to the tool shed. As I stated earlier, I was not one given to beliefs of spirits or the supernatural. However, I know what I saw, and I also knew it wasn't me who'd typed those words. Setting it down on a work bench inside the shed, I locked up and went back indoors, vowing to return the infernal thing to the shop where I'd purchased it on the following morning.

Early the following day, I was greeted amicably at the shop by a well-groomed, much younger fellow on my quest to return the typewriter. I lied, saying that I had bought it on a whim for an old friend as a gift, but he had died unexpectedly that same day. The young boy shook his head from side to side, then smiled while pointing to a sign directly over his shoulder. There it was, in plain view, although I didn't recall having seen it the day before.

ABSOLUTELY NO REFUNDS OR EXCHANGES.

I nodded my acknowledgment, then left the shop without so much as a whisper of rebuttal. They had me dead to rights.


Since I had an appointment to greet my agent, Alise, for a scheduled book signing at the Book Nook uptown in less than an hour, I combed my fingers through my hair, adjusted my tie, then threw the cursed contraption in the nearest dumpster.

The book signing went extremely well, especially after signing what felt like my hundredth copy of my latest novel, The Ferryman. Alise bought me lunch to celebrate our rousing success. Afterward, we exchanged hugs and cheeky kisses, then I hailed a cab and made my way home. My euphoric mood was such that I had forgotten all about the antique Underwood typewriter. However, all that would soon change.

I heard it, even before I entered my loft, a rhythmic – clack-clack-clack ... ding! Letting myself in, I guardedly edged my way along the hallway toward the dreadful racket. I carefully pushed open the door to my study, terrified that it might be there — waiting.

Just as I feared, the typewriter sat just as it had that morning, with a single sheet of paper peeking up from the carriage platen. I had to look; you understand, there was no denying what I saw before me. Just three words adorned the page this time. My throat dried up like a pin prick of water in the Sahara. I found it increasingly difficult to swallow or even breathe. There, centered on the page were the words:

“Welcome home, Frederick.”

I tried several times to get rid of the typewriter over the days to come. I put it out with the trash numerous times, yet it would always come back later that evening. I smashed it with a hammer, tossed the pieces into the Ohio river — only to find it sitting on my desk after I'd managed to get in a quick nap. Still intact, sparkling like brand new ...
 

~*~


For weeks now, I have been at the mercy of this — this mechanical beast. While skeptical of ghosts and apparitions before, I'm not any longer. At times, I see the faint spectral shimmer of the force behind its insatiable need for operation. He manifests himself before me in soft stuttering glimpses, like misty morning fog spurred along by stiff breezes. I know absolutely nothing about him, other than he leers at me incessantly, with eyes that glow red, like burning embers from the pits of Hell itself. I don't know who the wretched specter is (or rather, was), it's really irrelevant anyhow.

On the rare occasions I am permitted to sleep, it never lasts for more than a few minutes. My mind is frazzled, a tangled sewer of severed synapses. The amphetamines and espresso keep me marginally functional.

Since I purchased the typewriter a little over three weeks ago, I have typed (rather, been forced to type) over thirteen thousand five hundred and sixty-six pages of a manuscript I know nothing about. I am not permitted the time required to read it. That's over five hundred pages for every day I've had the monstrous mechanism. My fingernails are broken and worn. The tips of my fingers are blistered, cracked and bleeding. I'm growing weaker by the minute with every keystroke. Yet, the – clickety-clack-clack ...ding – of the keys and carriage return bell echo in my ears constantly, like a satanic symphony.

You might have asked yourself by now, why haven't I simply told someone about my dilemma? A priest perhaps, or Alise? The fact is, I've tried to, truly I have. Nevertheless, I remain an unwilling slave to the whims of this — ghost writer — so much so that whenever I begin to think, I may have a chance at freedom; it beckons me. I am helpless to refuse, a pawn for it to do with me as it chooses. The man in me is dying. I can feel him, slowly slipping away. I have almost become one with the machine now. Soon, I will die, sitting here, pounding away relentlessly at the blood-stained keys. I have few friends outside of those responsible for handling my appearances, or anything publicity related. My new book isn't due by contract until the fall of 2015, and my next public appearance is more than a month away. No one really cares what I'm doing in the interim, and I'd always preferred it that way.

That is, until now.


The last-gasp effort I'd made to rid myself of this wretched apparatus brought a frightening revelation home to bear. After I'd sneaked into a local rock quarry around midnight, I tossed the typewriter onto a conveyor belt which carried the larger stones to the crusher. When I arrived home, it was sitting in its accustomed spot once again, as if nothing had happened. However, I readily noticed that something was different.

Some of the keys were missing.


Since I had not been able to damage it before then, my heart soared, holding out some faint hope that redemption might be attainable after all. My hopes were soon dashed as I noticed only four of the keys were absent. I took out a pen and sheet of paper, then jotted them down. W - E - the letter 'R', and finally— the number one. The realization of what I'd written laid waste to any hopes of salvation. My heart sank. The pent-up tears from nearly a month of desperation fell, moistening the message I scrawled upon the page.

I realized then as I do now, there's no hope left for me any longer. I'm doomed to die a helpless slave to this ghost writer and his ghastly machine.

On the page was the typed message that chilled my bones to the marrow.


WE-R-1.


 



 
 photo tsukumogami_typewriter_by_dragoncross-d31xc7n_zpsf6ea50d4.jpg


There's No Such Things as Ghosts writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a story where a skeptic in the supernatural becomes a believer through a terrifying encounter with a ghost.

Recognized


Whether we realize it or not, the tools we use to communicate, from spoken word to written poetry and prose, affect the content and tone of what we say, as well as the context of how our messages are received. It's as if the devices add their own personalities to our messages as we communicate through them.

How might a soul a ghost or a living personality enter an inanimate object one might guess or have to ask. Residual Haunting? Possession? Black Magic or a curse? The actual possibilities are truly endless. But, as we all know, through the imagination anything is possible. Whether in writing, feature films, song or artistic creations, many types and variations of such stories have been told and retold for generations.

It's all in the believing, the making of what we imagine to be real and how it affects us. Through our lives we feel, we draw breaths, we live and have secrets that we tell only to our selves or to the inanimate world around us.



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© Copyright 2017. Dean Kuch All rights reserved. Registered copyright with FanStory.
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