A Short Story
By Khalil Woods
Crumple, crumple, crumple. That’s all you could hear while you spend your Saturday rustling through a complete archive of your mom’s documents by yourself. It was a privilege I had to take when I didn’t take out the garbage Thursday and she knew that it would be difficult to find her latest draft. Actually, I don’t think it was just a privilege; it was like a punishment.
You see, Mom is a full-time New York Times bestselling author of her mystery series called Beneath the Well. It was a #1 bestseller on Amazon last year and now she’s continuing to reach that goal by finishing her novel that she had kept away since the move in ’12. By the way, it was supposed to be published two months after her fourth novel, The Dweller, but was postponed and set to be published in 2016.
I had read one of them once and I had fell asleep on the first chapter. Now I only use it as a nighttime remedy to help me sleep.
I was searching frantically, searching everywhere for that piece of manuscript in this immersive storage room. So many boxes I had to look through to get to it, and I can’t even remember if I had looked in them already. Over 30 boxes in all, 5 stacked at a time. I really need to ask her to find the crazy thing. So I crawled out the Void of Drafts and asked, “Mom, how do you know where to usually find your manuscripts?”
“I just told you that,” she said as she was sitting at her desk writing out the outline for her next book called The Runes. “I put all of my manuscripts in an individual box in alphabetical order.” I went back in there but she soon said, “And make sure you look at the sort of the names.”
“You know, when you put ‘the’ or ‘a’ at the end of the titles with a comma.”
“Mom, I’m not a literary person. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Just look for Runes, The. That’s the simplest thing I can say.” Crawling back into the box-filled labyrinth and searched for “Runes, The” (mimicking what she said). After looking through [all] of the R’s, I found it last in the order but the, without looking down, I stubbed my toe on a file cabinet near the doorway and a typewriter supposedly on a ledge came tumbling down on the same foot, making it hurt worse.
I yelped silently, and looked down and the injured toe. My filthy sock hadn’t turned into blood red yet but it feels as if the typewriter was made of an anvil congealed back into a typewriter. I then picked it up.
I’ve always had this dream of owning a typewriter. One time, I dreamed of walking out of the room with the typewriter grasped in my left arm and a pack of paper in the other. I was typing on it furiously and then when time sped up, I was on the red carpet for my latest work—I think it was called Cranium High School—and it too was on bestseller list. So remarkably famous that night, and it only ended when…
“Ashton, did you find my manuscript box yet? It’s getting late.”
“Coming.” I walked out with the box and the typewriter in my hands. She retrieved the box and looked down at the device and said, “Oh, I see you’ve found my typewriter. I was about to go get it myself. Thank you, sweetie.”
“Yeah. It almost took the life out of my foot when it tell. Wait, you needed both?”
“Why didn’t you tell me to get it for your before?”
“Because I know how much you’ve been struggling to get The Runes. How else will I be able to type up my novels?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the computer?”
“Oh, you’re so funny. I stopped saving stuff on the computer years ago. They lose information and if somebody is using my computer while I’m doing something else, they could find out about my books and they might try to copyright it themselves.”
I was about to say something else, but she stated, “And I have tried to encrypt my files but I learned that they could still get deleted. Trust me; having a typewriter is like having a writer’s dream.”
“Yeah, but what happens when your papers get lost or burned or torn? You can’t put a save button on that.”
“Ashton, if you keep pointing out the bad sides of Smith-Corona, then it might happen.”
“Wait a minute. Smith-Corona?”
“Yes. Smith-Corona’s the name.”
I can’t tell if Mom’s going demented or if the typewriter’s real name is Smith-Corona. I’ve only heard that name once and that was in the town’s newspaper in the Origins section.
This lady living in the segregation age was an American poet residing right in Rich Oak Road. She too had this typewriter that was “Smith-Corona” (almost something like the beer Corona). She had had a long and stressful period promoting her book out in the streets when people weren’t interested in her work of poetry. (She focused mainly on the gloomy side of her past.) But then one day she came across this publishing press that accepted any and every type of literature. So she paid them a measly $25 and her books were on the market.
The most consulted-about part of her life was when she murdered 5 of her foes (one still missing), killing off one by one on each day that had passed. She was about to be arrested but she ended her life short by killing herself with the Smith-Corona. It’s almost like she wanted to be with the typewriter for eternity. Even though there were splashes of blood from the impact of her head, it was completely clean when they put it out for an antique sale.
And the weirdest part is that the people who picked it up didn’t clean it.
Now that’s paranormal.
“Where did you buy it,” I interrogated Mom.
“Oh, it was years ago when they still had that sales store on the corner of Narrow Street called Barney’s Goods. It was on sale for a refurbished price of $33.”
“So you mean that it was used?”
“They didn’t give me any details on who the previous owner was. They probably won’t even tell a private investigator who it was unless the place was abandoned or it was in the middle of a crime scene investigation. I mean, you should’ve seen how peculiar the clerk acted.”
“Was it a…”
“1975 Smith-Corona Electra? Of course it was!” She looked at the clock and she said, “Oh, I forgot to get you something to eat. Let me fix you up something real quick.” She went into the kitchen and fixed me some peanut-butter sandwiches. I studied the typewriter on every corner. Smith-Corona Electra.
This must’ve been one of those typewriters you used when you were a receptionist or making telegrams in an office. The keys looked finely polished and there wasn’t any smudge on it perceiving that anyone had used it before. When I first knocked on the device ever so slightly, I noticed that it wasn’t metallic at all; it was just cold and heavy. The plastic finish made it look vintage enough.
When I was walking away from it and going into the kitchen with Mom, I could’ve sworn that I heard a key click by itself. So I looked at it and I observed that one of the keys descended into the board as if it has been pressed down and a second later, it released.
I was scared out of my mind right now, if this was the exact same typewriter that the deceased poet used and that somehow her body latched onto it as if it was still her own possession. I started to tell Mom, but she had always despised my haunting stories.
I’m not crazy, but that’s what a lot of people say with unorthodox experiences these days.
“Here’s your sandwich, Ash,” Mom said to me, setting the plate on the table. She also put a drink on the coaster and proceeded to using the typewriter, reeling it over to where she was sitting with her outline.
“You know, this typewriter has a blissful typing sound as you whisk away tapping keys on barren slices of wood. I mean, if you just tap it once, you’ll notice how light the QWERTY is.” There goes her talking like she’s narrating one of her books again. Sounding so whimsical right now.
I suddenly asked her, “Are you sure you don’t know anybody who has used this machine before you? It can’t be a newly, antiquated device.”
“Hey, the person didn’t list it; I’m not worried. Why don’t you just relax and eat your sandwich. It’s nicely crafted, just the way you desire Iit.” Minding her nonchalant matters about the typewriter, I just proceeded my sandwich. Still warm and waiting to be stuffed down my throat.
Almost 10:00 and that was my curfew to go to bed while Mom was pounding her writer’s block. Conquering it, she typed away on The Runes, clacking her fingers on the tumultuous keys that sounded more like torture as oppose to bliss. I couldn’t go to sleep with all that rowdiness and I was distant from Iit. I even closed the door on her and it was still heard through the thin layers of wall. 30 minutes later, it was all over and my mom snuck into my room to kiss me good night.
Another 30 minutes later, I had thought it was all over. Those typing sounds.
I thought Mom was done with The Runes for tonight. If she’s on the typewriter then I’ll have to tell her to postpone until the morning time, because I can’t take those constant clickety-clackety keys. I got out of my comfort zone and exited the room while walking towards the den area. I looked to see if anybody was near the table, but nobody was there except for the typewriter sitting alone on the table. Then, I checked to see if Mom was in her room. Fast asleep she was and I was starting to get skeptical and if she didn’t know any historical info about this contraption.
Being curious yet again, I looked at the sheet that was still locked inside the sheet holder. I pulled it out and read it. I know how Mom wrote, and this isn’t one of her latest works.
Suzie Broadley was sitting in the dim,
When she got hit by a large tree limb;
Died with a concussion, scorned by him,
Just know when you see the letter M.
~ Gertrude D. Mackabellow
The name so familiar roaming around in my mind. And now I realized that Gertrude Mackabellow was the poet whom committed suicide by her own Smith-Corona. I need some research on her life and the events that took place before she died.
I checked my phone. It was 11:07. I doubt that my friends are asleep at this time. Brandy might be, claiming that she has to get her “beauty sleep” and all. James had a football game and Timmy was…I actually don’t know what he does around this time. But I know Dareeka stays up late every night. She was the first person I called too.
Me: Hey, Dareeka. You got a minute?
Dareeka: Sure. What’s up?
Me: Do you know the poet Gertrude D. Mackabellow?
Dareeka: Honestly, I don’t know any type of poets. You have a literature project to work on or something?
Me: No. I was just wondering if you knew her.
Dareeka: Oh, okay. What about her?
Me: I’ve seen her in the town’s newspaper a few years back when they were investigating her case of gruesome murders. She had committed suicide with her typewriter and they had put it up on the shelf to resell to the public as a vintage and refurbished device. My mom got hold of it for her writing business back in the 20th century and now that I’ve found it, it’s been typing by itself and then it typed a poem I don’t understand.
Dareeka: Bring it to school tomorrow. James is a literary scholar.
Me: But are you sure he’ll be able to figure this out?
Dareeka: Positive. Remember Mrs. Lily’s class? She passed him with a straight 100. And I only got an 88.
Me: That was probably because you were too busy focusing on Choir. You used to love that class and you were already part lyricist.
Dareeka: But that’s what I’m good at. Lyrics and singing.
Me: Yeah. I remember when we were younger and you used to release crazy mixtapes with remixed hymns from your hymnals. You used to go like “thuh-tha-thuh-thuh-THUH” and all of that. I was like “Here’s Dareeka’s worst-selling mixtape.”.
Dareeka: See, I was going to let you have it for free, but since you’re being such a critic about it, I’ll just let you buy your own copy. How does that sound?
Me: You’re the star. Why don’t you go ahead and sing “Almost Persuaded” right in the phone?
Dareeka: (playing angry) Good night, Ashton.
I hung up. I almost forgot about what I was going to do tomorrow, being in a good mood and all with Dareeka. I just hope I can sleep tonight without any more notes or clicking.
We were all in Miss Hallzheimer’s classroom and as usual, I pulled up a desk to talk to Dareeka, Brandy, Timmy, and James. With the sheet of paper, I pulled it out and placed it on the desk.
“So did Dareeka tell you about this weird thing that happened last night to me?”
“What is it,” Brandy asked, unintentionally not knowing. “Is it another case of a mysterious person crossing your patio?”
“Brandy we had solved that case last week,” James told her. “It was that 9th grade socially-awkward student named Lenny Montello. Remember?”
“OH, that guy. He is so awkward. I had to ask him something on my Gym block about when we go to lunch (you know, that testing schedule we have to go by because of those 10th graders testing) and here he goes saying something weird like ‘When the wind strikes at noon’ and something like that. IT’S SO WEIRD!”
“Quiet, Demi,” Miss Hallzheimer shouts to Timmy, even though he never says anything. He just sighed heavily.
“I think what he meant to say was that it’s going to be noontime for the lunch schedule and it will be very windy outside.” Wow, Dareeka was right about James and his literary analysis skills. I bet he can crack this poem in an instant. “And why did you ask him that? You already knew it.”
“I just wanted to see what he’ll say. I like observing things.”
What a weirdo.
“That was good, James,” I praised him. “And before Brandy interrupted me with her statement, I was going to tell you all about this piece of paper.
“So when I was trying to find one of my mom’s drafts for her next novel, I stumbled over a file cabinet, dropping her old typewriter and hurting my foot, I brought the typewriter out of the storage room to see if I can work it, but here goes Mom wanting to use it for her novel. She told me details about it and she said that it was a 1975 Smith-Corona Electra, the exact same one a poet named Gertrude D. Mackabellow used for her works, of course, before she committed suicide with it.”
“Wait, what,” Timmy exclaimed.
“Who exactly is that Mackabellow lady,” Brandy asked.
“Well she’s a 20th century infamous poet known modernly for her gruesome murders and her suicide. She didn’t have a lot of people to support her on her poetry books and she was so furious of the ladies who bullied her. So she killed them off one by one. Only one survived; the good one.”
“So if this is one of her works, how did it get into your household?”
“The most paranormal thing happened. The typewriter typed it up by itself while I was asleep (or at least trying to sleep) and I thought that it was my mom again. Happened at 11:07 p.m.”
“No way,” Timmy exclaimed again.
“This can’t be true,” James exclaimed.
“I’m dying,” Brandy exclaimed, dramatically.
“Are you sure a rat didn’t hop on the keyboard and start crawling on keys,” Timmy asked. Such an odd question.
“Of course not. We do not have a house infected with rats under every floorboard. I first saw it instantly when Mom was fixing me a sandwich. One of the keys pressed and then released as if someone was typing on it. It’s weird and it’s creeping me out.”
“Dareeka, why aren’t you freaking out about this madness?”
“I already told her on the phone call last night. The reason why I brought it here was because we wanted to see if James can figure out the main point of Iit. And by the way, she’s already established that at the beginning of the conversation.”
“Oh, that’ll be a piece of cake,” James assured and I handed the poem. It took him a full 30 seconds before he said, “This poem is about Gertrude stealthily murdering her worst enemy under the tree with a large limb after she was crying about her boyfriend or spouse doing felonious actions.”
“It was like a scandal or something,” Brandy interrogated.
“Not exactly a scandal, but more like a crime.”
“But what about the letter M in the last line?” After I asked that, I heard a slight cracking sound outside, coming from one of the trees nearest to our window. One of the limbs—the big limb—looked weaker and it probably looked like it was going to later collapse.
It started to descends slowly falling towards the classroom. And then went faster and faster and faster and faster. I was just paralyzed at the fact and before I could stop being immobile…
The windows were busted out and everybody went tumbling down or ducking their skulls. As I got up, collapsing from the glass flying our direction, I saw two classmates—Daniel Bradley and Shirley Matinee—injured from the impact of the tree from the eastern side of the classroom. I was scared, confused, and embarrassed. I saw a postcard taped onto the front of the limb. The only letter that was on note was M.
“…and the limb flew right into the classroom, leaving everything after a horrible mess,” I explained to Mom.
“Are you hurt,” she asked me. She checked my forehead for cuts and lesions. I felt no pain, even if the glass shattered in my direction.
“I’m fine. But it feels like I’m being beleaguered by the deceased poet, Gertrude D. Mackabellow.”
“What are you talking about Ashton? When did all this happen?”
“It all started last night while you in the bed. I was still hearing typing sounds from your typewriter and I was thinking that it was you still working on The Runes. But it went up to the den area to see if you were there and you weren’t. And then, I saw this poem stuck in the sheet holder and it has Gertrude’s signature at the bottom. You would’ve never pulled out a poem from somebody else in one of your stories, would you?”
“I’m not a skeptic or anything, but if you were sleepwalking and dreaming about some poet who wrote poems then this might’ve popped up. Or maybe a rat crawled on the keyboard overnight and typed…”
“First of all, I’ve never sleep-walked in my life; second of all, our house isn’t infested with rodents; and second-and-a-half of all, a mouse wouldn’t have typed up a whole poem.” Gosh, I really get irked when Mom acts so wrong. She’s always acting like she doesn’t know what’s going on, but I kinda think she has something behind these events. I mean, I’m not saying that I don’t trust my mom, but sometimes I don’t.
She looked at the poem that [Gertrude typed up] and she was feeling shocked. I hoped that she realized that I was right because if she wasn’t feeling that right now, I think I was going to go into a tantrum or something.
She soon said in a rage, “Do not show me any of this ever again, Ashton. Do you hear me?”
“Do you hear me?”
I sighed. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Good. Now go to your room and do some homework, or if you don’t have any go clean it up,” she demanded as she pointed at my room. I went up there angry and confused at the same time. She blames me for what I didn’t do. I didn’t touch her typewriter; I observed the ludicrous phenomenon it has been doing last night. I’ll just forget that that happened and do something occupying.
4 hours passed. Had some bland dinner (it was good but it just lacked taste due to how I was feeling at the moment) and watched Under the Dome until I found something else to do. I was going to research more on Gertrude Mackabellow and send the information to my friends at school. Bing was my hero at the time and I searched for her name. Her biography came up on the front page at the source of Wikipedia. It said:
Gertrude Darluth Mackabellow (born 1949-1976) is an American poet known for her gloomy collections of poetry referring back to her harsh childhood. Known for her low budget works such as Plowing Down the Hag and Whips Are the Seed, Lashes Are the Plants, and Flesh Is the Soil, she remained independent and socially active all of her life, promoting her books to the public in 1975. The most controversial part in her life at that time was she murdered five of the people that she claimed bullied her inexplicably, one by one every day in the same week. When the police caught up to her records in 1976, she was found in her living room dead with her favorite typewriter under her arms, which we’re all assuming she killed herself with.
Then my sister Rebecca came into my room, looking worried. And she said, “I heard about what happened today in Mrs. Hallzheimer’s classroom. It’s all over Twitter and on WBNC. You know they put everything on there.”
“Something’s weird happened. It’s like they’re trying to give me a sign that this dead poet is near. Harassing me. Trying to tell me something.”
“Something like what?”
“Like she’s trying to give me insight about the murders she caused. First was this poem that was typed up last night by itself and then the tree that fell on the classroom that left a letter M on the front on a piece of paper.” I showed her the typed up paper and the letter with the M. “I know; weird, right?”
“Yeah, it is weird. Well, whatever happened today hopefully wouldn’t happen again. By the way, is dinner ready?”
“Oh, yeah. Mom cooked up some brussel sprouts, chicken fried rice, and some barbecue chicken.”
“Not chicken again.”
“Better believe it.”
Rebecca walked gloomily to the kitchen while I proceeded with my research upon Gertrude. I looked up her bibliography and more encounters with the people she loathed. All of her friends’ names weren’t listed, but they did include that one of them were off-scot free of her murders. It would’ve been six, but since the individual has been so generous to Gertrude (despite hanging around the most devious clique) that she’d let her go.
She’s kind, really, really kind. She just couldn’t take the constant naughty vibes from the other girls.
Then I had another idea.
I decided to look up information about the Smith-Corona. I saw various variants of the Electra. One with a beige finish. One with an exclusive golden finish. Then there was hers. I was about to click the link…
“THE CURIOSITY WILL CEASE!!!!!!!!!” That’s what the computer exclaimed along with the image of a disintegrated face. I threw my computer down in a panic and I was hearing various voices in my cranium. Woman voices. Voices that would note a person as schizophrenic. I dropped down to the floor, curling up in a ball and covering my eardrums. It wouldn’t conceal! It won’t conceal!
- REGRET IT, REGRET IT, REGRET IT!
– NOTHING BUT A GOTHIC FANATIC! GET A LIFE!
– YOU’RE A HOPELESS MISTAKE! NOBODY LOVES YOU!
Those voices will make great vibes turn into poofs of fairy dust in a split-second. It was just so harsh, so nightmarish, so wrong. Overpowering those unforgettable noises were the typewriter keys rapidly typing on a sheet of paper.
Then everything ceased.
I suddenly noticed that I was awoken from my dreaming phase and that the time was 11:07, the exact same time I woke up last night. Well, I wasn’t asleep and the typewriter was preventing me from doing so.
I walked out of my room and headed towards the typewriter yet again for another night and saw (of course) another typed-up piece of paper which turned out to be a poem. By the one and only, Gertrude D. Mackabellow.
Shirley Truce was one day footloose,
When she had slipped her head through a spacious noose;
Died like a hangman, with blood on one shoe,
Oh, please, dear; you gotta know the letter U.
- Gertrude D. Mackabellow
The thud could be heard all the way from upstairs where Mom and the sisters had slept. I walked up there and it was a door leading to an attic.
We’ve never had an attic. The house wasn’t built with an attic.
Letting my curiosity get a hold of me, I went up there intrepidly and fearful at the same time. I don’t even know where the light switch is. There are possibly no windows and I might make a mistake and stub my [injured foot] on the construction. It was pitch black and my phone was in my room, so I couldn’t use it right now. I used my hands as a guide and I found a dangling light switch. I pulled it and I could see everything that was left up here. Furniture covered in plastic wrap and toys sealed in a box. Everything was old-fashioned with cobwebs and daddy longlegs in every corner. But I’m still wondering how this attic appear, where the letter U is, and why is this feeling like a trance.
I browsed a bit before I saw the letter U lying on the cold, wooden floor written on a sticky note. But where was the example of her murder? I didn’t understand quite yet.
I saw something drip on the paper. Blood. And it was coming from above. I looked up at the ceiling and the Shirley’s corpse was hanging right before my head. Her head lame to the side and the noose making that stretching rope sound. It was horrifying and forgetting the paper and the note, I ran back out of the attic. IT WAS LOCKED! Someone or something must’ve locked me in while I was searching around, because I sure didn’t hear the door slam. I tried prying it open but it didn’t open at all.
“Help, somebody help,” I shouted as I was banging on the door. “Help!”
“Why wasn’t your mom aware, Ashton,” a voice asked me. It was the dead body speaking to me, zooming in closer while she was floating from the ceiling. She had her arms outstretched as if to hug me and I was banging louder. “Why did your mom let that queer hang me? She was part of us, Ashton. She was part of us.”
I didn’t even focus on her accusations; I was trying to get out of here. It finally let down before I was abducted by Shirley and I ran straight to Mom’s room like a little child. “Mom, please wake up! There’s this lady trying to get me! I can’t take it anymore!”
*Note: This is a free preview edition, so you will be limited to only a few chapters until you buy the full edition when it's released.* While Ashton was finding a manuscript for his Mom's next bestselling novel, he comes upon an old typewriter. A 1975 Smith-Corona Electra to be exact. He thought that his mother was going to type on it all night, but soon he notices that this isn't any of his mom's work. In fact, it belongs to a poet named Gertrude D. Mackabellow who had committed suicide with her typewriter after she did gruesome murders. Every night her poems appear typed on the typewriter and each one includes one of her murders. Soon, the murders reenact near Ashton and he sees that her presence might be nearby, wherever he goes. Will Ashton be able to find out what the deceased poet wants dearly for her wish? Or will be continuously tortured by this crazy lady? Find out in Type.