Ghost in the Machine

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

Objects can hold enormous power. But can they hold traces of their previous owners? Jennifer is about to find out.

GHOST IN THE MACHINE.

 

In the antique shop window it stood out among the bric a brac and faded water colours. A 1930's Underwood typewriter. It was a beautiful thing that had art deco style and despite needing a clean looked as though it was intact. Jennifer had to have it. She had a computer and a laptop but she thought that this would look perfect on her antique desk in her writing room. She had passed the shop three times since it had appeared in the window and was irresistibly drawn to it. Today she would go in and see if she could get the proprietor to come down on his ninety pound asking price.

As she entered the shop the bell above the door jingled and the owner appeared from the back room.

“Good morning madam” he greeted her “I see you have come to a decision on the typewriter.”

Jennifer was a little taken aback.

“I am interested in it.” she ventured.

“I know. I have seen you standing outside looking at it ever since it was put on display. It has quite a history you know.”

“Please, do tell me.” Jennifer asked, forgetting the strangeness of his opening sentence. If there was a story behind it then it would make it even more of a prize possession.

“Have you heard of Bella McCarthy?” he asked.

“Yes. She was a gossip columnist before the second world war in London.” Jennifer replied.

“Indeed. This was her typewriter. Her house suffered a direct hit during the blitz and this was the only thing that survived intact. Bella herself was never found. The fire that engulfed her residence was very fierce. It rained incendiary bombs on the city that night, but they think that this was thrown clear by the blast from a nearby bomb. Blown clean out of the window and landed in a tree . Her cleaning lady identified it. It was a deluxe model and not very many were made. Bella herself of course was never found. Missing, presumed dead poor woman. But she was among so many poor souls at the time.”

Jennifer stood open mouthed listening to this. It dawned on her that the ninety pound price tag was actually a bargain but nevertheless, she managed to reduce him to letting her take it for seventy five. The shop owner had told her that the machine was in full working order and the person he had bought it from had a box of new ribbons for it. She carried the weighty item back to her car feeling very pleased with herself. Bella McCarthy's typewriter. The 1930's queen of the gossip pages. The woman who had exposed the affairs and misdemeanours of the London elite, aristocracy and film stars. She hadn't been popular with those she had exposed, some of them ending up in the divorce courts because of her revelations, but the readers had loved it and she was courted by Fleet Street as a woman who could make their sales figures rocket. Once she got it home it did indeed look perfect on the desk. Her other art deco objet d'art completed the look. This was the perfect environment to write in.

She sat down behind the desk and excitedly loaded paper into the typewriter. The clicking and whirring of the cogs made the sounds of a bygone age. Jennifer began to type. A hundred words in to the new article for her newspaper, the phone rang. It was her editor wanting to know when that weeks copy would be ready. The deadline was looming. After twenty minutes of placating her boss Jennifer returned to the page she had been writing on and read through the words she was to start her piece with. It was strange as they weren't quite as she remembered them. Regardless she shrugged it off as her having a poor memory, got her laptop out and copied the words onto it. A hundred words done . Only one thousand nine hundred to go.

A couple of hours later she hadn't made much progress. Perhaps she thought she had nothing interesting to say about new shops and eateries in the metropolis any more. How many more times could she wax lyrical about a pretentious coffee shop in Soho or a shop that was selling high end jeans in Mayfair. It seemed pointless. She saved the work she had done and closed the machine down. She grabbed her coat and bag and headed out again, aiming for the pub and some human company.

Jennifer didn't think she had a drink problem as such. She could work her way through two bottles of wine and feel just fine. Almost fine anyway. She met some of her friends while drinking and the wine soon gave way to sambucca and Jeagerbombs. She wasn't used to those on top of her liberal wine consumption and by the time she staggered back through her front door admitted to herself that she was drunk. She still had to complete her article and it had to be submitted in just over twelve hours. She went to her desk, set up the old typewriter, and that was the last thing she remembered. It was nine o' clock the following morning when she woke up with her head on the desk and her hands draped across the keyboard. To one side of the desk was a neat pile of paper. It was perfectly typed and she had no recollection of creating it. A wave of nausea hit her and she ran to the downstairs shower room. She emerged half an hour later with a bad head , but showered.

She ran her fingers over the neat pile of paper and no matter how hard she tried she could not work out how she had achieved it. She picked up the first page to read, and was surprised that it was a coherent, entertaining and witty piece of writing. Observations of the restaurant she had been sent out to review were sharp and if anything brutally honest. She had found it rather stuffy and the food average. The staff had swanned around with a superior attitude and done little to make the customers feel welcome. She came to the conclusion her drunk writing was better and more honest than when she was sober. Before going to dry her hair and dress she transferred it onto her laptop and hit the send button.

Her editor was delighted with the quality of her work and wanted more of the same. He told her she was finally coming of age as a writer and the popularity of her 'What's on where?' column started to grow rapidly. Jennifer had fallen into an unhealthy routine though. She would do her research, go home to drink herself into oblivion and then the magic happened. She told herself that only doing this once a week couldn't possibly do her too much harm. She abstained from the wine the rest of the week, something she had never done before. The pithy articles that lampooned the pompous and called out the mediocre were being read by thousands and ultimately isn't that the goal of any writer? Isn't that worth any price?

After an evening at an art exhibition, a particularly bad one at that, Jennifer had returned home already quite drunk. She headed for the study and firstly the bottle of vodka that she kept on the side table. Then with a large shot of it she settled down in front of the typewriter and loaded it with paper. She got the paper crooked and had to pull it out and start again. She cursed under her breath and tried again. It was still not right. She put her hand out to yank the paper out again when the carriage shot across to the right of its own accord and hit her on the hand. She yelped and withdrew her fingers looking at the skinned knuckles she hadn't been able to get out of the way in time. Then the keys began to move on their own. In capital letters the word 'CAREFUL' appeared on the now perfectly aligned sheet of paper.

“What?” she shouted.

“CAREFUL! I'm an old machine.” it replied, the keys moving swiftly.

Jennifer got out of her chair and backed away.

“WHERE ARE YOU GOING? WE HAVE WORK TO DO!”

“Who, what are you?” she asked.

“Why, I'm Bella of course. Who else would it be? This is my typewriter. Now sit down, put that vodka away and tell me about the exhibition. We have an article to write.”

“What do you mean we?” Jennifer yelled.

“You don't seriously think you wrote all those witty and insightful comments on your own do you?”

Jennifer nodded her head.

“Of course I did. There's only me here.”

“Not quite Jennifer. While you were too drunk to know anything your hands pressed the keys, but you created nothing. I have been your guide and mentor and now it's time you knew the truth.”

The machine had taken on a life of its own and began creating words at a furious pace. The evening she had just experienced was being recalled on the paper totally unaided. The comments were barbed and the review of some of the paintings not very complimentary. Two thousand words of vitriol and contempt presented themselves to her.

“I can't send that! It's horrible, and very rude.”

“But that Jennifer, is how you felt about it. I can tell. I can see what you saw, and some of that was quite, quite horrible.”

“No. I'll rewrite it in the morning. How hard can it be. This is just a warning I'm drinking too much. This isn't real.”

The old machine stopped and the words dissolved from the page just leaving blank paper. Jennifer took the bottle of vodka into the kitchen and tipped it down the sink. There was no way that she would be having any more alcohol and the typewriter could go back to the shop in the morning. She went off to bed wondering if she would manage to sleep at all.

At nine the next morning Jennifer was outside the antique shop as the proprietor was unlocking the door. She almost knocked him over in her bid to get inside and relive herself of possession of the wretched machine she held in a large carrier bag. She put it on the counter along with the box of spare ribbons.

“I don't want it any more!” she exclaimed “It isn't right...it doesn't....it doesn't work properly.”

“Well I don't do refunds madam. Sold as seen, and it was functioning perfectly when you took it.”

It doesn't matter about the money. Just take it...take it back. I don't want to see it ever again.”

With that Jennifer stormed out and slammed the shop door behind her. She almost broke into a run to get back to her car.

The antique dealer turned the typewriter towards him and stroked the keys gently. He loaded it with paper.

“Hello Bella. What have you done now?”

The keys began to move at lightening speed.

“She wouldn't accept my terms. I would take over her column and let her take all the plaudits just so long as people would be reading my words.” it typed.

“Well, you know your words could always be a little harsh my love. It's not really acceptable today. And you must have scared the young lady.” he said gently.

“I suppose. We will have to try again. Put me back in the window.”

“Tomorrow I shall. Today we can catch up and give you a clean. I have missed you Bella.”

The keys tapped out three x's and the old man took the machine into the back room.

“Better luck next time.” he muttered.

 

THE END.


Submitted: January 18, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Petula Mitchell . All rights reserved.

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Comments

88 fingers

That was a very clever story. I think there would be writers who would except help from the other side. I have friends who are ghost investigators. I will show them your story and get their response. They have told me that spirits could attach themselves to things.....or people.

Tue, January 19th, 2021 12:20am

88 fingers

That was a very clever story. I think there would be writers who would except help from the other side. I have friends who are ghost investigators. I will show them your story and get their response. They have told me that spirits could attach themselves to things.....or people.

Tue, January 19th, 2021 12:20am

AdamCarlton

Bella and GPT-3 are somehow merging in my thoughts!

Coming soon, I would have thought. Good story.

Tue, January 19th, 2021 8:37am

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