First Published in Peaks of Madness: A Collection of Utah Horror, Forty-Two Books, 2019, pp. 347-358.
“Wow, is that Lovecraft’s typewriter?” screamed Andrew with boyish glee.
“Yep.” Plop. The old machine let out a ding. “We just got it in today with some of his other effects,” said Julie.
Andrew was beyond thrilled. An avid enthusiast for Lovecraft and horror, he collected books and memorabilia, fancying himself a quasi-expert on the subject. “Dare I touch it?” he said in a low whisper
“What?” asked the other archivist.
“Oh, ugh, nothing just talking to myself.”
She turned and walked away deeper into the archive.
Andrew glanced out the window overlooking the low foothills of Brown University, I’m living the dream, he thought. An archivist at a university working with the collections of authors he loved and admired growing up certainly was one of his dreams.
Andrew turned to admire the typewriter. It was dusty and quiet, but glowed in the sun beaming in through the windows. He sighed audibly and returned to his work. He had piles of manuscript documents to process.
As the days went by, the typewriter sat on a nearby table and each day Andrew noticed it became cleaner and tidier. At one point, Andrew asked a fellow archivist if anyone had been cleaning it.
“No. No one’s touched it since Julie, the one who brought it in.”
Andrew was perplexed.
Back in the office, he stroked his finger down the front plate of the typewriter. It was dust free.
“Wow, either this is self-cleaning or someone is giving it some elbow grease,” he said to himself. Deciding to keep an eye and see if anyone was indeed cleaning it, he spoke to John, the Head Archivist, about it.
“Are we doing an exhibition of Lovecraft’s papers?”
“No, not that I’ve heard,” said John. “I mean, we’ve done it before, but we don’t have any plans since the collection is old news.”
“Well, I’m just curious who is taking care of the typewriter. It’s been cleaned. And no one seems to know about it.”
John shrugged. “What’s your curiosity? It’s just a typewriter. We’ll bag and tag it into the collection and stick it on a shelf with his papers.”
“It’s just that it’s his typewriter, Lovecraft’s personal one. The 1905 Remington. I think that it’s worth a special value–dollars–also sentimental, which we can capitalize on for a writers and enthusiasts exhibition.”
“Ok…I mean, I agree. Maybe in the future we can schedule it to be set up. For now, it’ll just be as is. You can keep working on your manuscript collections.”
Andrew gave a nod.
Returning to his desk his thoughts caught up with him, Well that’s that, but I have a suspicion someone is up to something with the machine, even if John doesn’t know. Andrew looked at the typewriter, shining on its own (that’s peculiar, it shouldn’t be so shiny not in direct light). He walked over to it and a distinct *click* was made, as the “H” key was pushed down. Andrew took a step back, shook his head and looked again at the machine. That must have been my imagination.
Andrew leaned in for a closer look and didn’t come upon any strange happenings.
Deciding nothing was there, he turned to walk back to his desk. Another *click* came ringing down as clear as day. Andrew swung around, hoping to catch someone typing, only to find himself alone with the typewriter, and his thoughts.
The Brown Daily Herald
Ghost and Monsters Abide within University Archives
“Strange happenings on the campus at Brown as staff have no answer to queries of reported shadow figures and poltergeists in the archive reading room.
“”No, we have only a staff of eight with a few processing assistants. It’s highly doubtful one of them would be going around and play tricks on staff and patrons. This is clearly people’s imaginations,’ said John, Head Archivist.
“This paper will report more online as this story unfolds. Follow us on Twitter @the_herald to stay up to date.”
John flew around the corner. “All staff meeting.”
Andrew walked to the reading room where the other staff were gathered. Some were confused, others anxious, but the general feeling was that everyone knew what the meeting was about. John walked in and immediately started.
“All right, I need whomever is responsible for the pranks to come forward.” He was holding up a copy of The Brown Daily Herald in which the story had made the front page.
No one seemed surprised. Most, Andrew thought, were like him—more concerned over John’s anger than the story.
“This ends now,” John continued. “I will not have us be made the fool of the entire campus. That fool will be the one I fire!” He ended the meeting by walking out and slamming the door behind him.
Andrew pilled back to his desk and considered his options. Should I set up a camera? What about jamming the keys so they don’t work? While deliberating, he heard the faintest—*tap* *tap*—sounds.
Instead of hurrying to the typewriter, Andrew played it cool (Not gonna get me to run around like a headless chicken).
Another half hour passed, the sounds on the Remington continued, but with more intensity—*Tap*—came the echo down the hall. Andrew ignored the sounds. *TAP*—the force of the stroke set him on edge.
A feeling crept down his neck, shivering down his spine like a slithering cold snake. This is nothing. Nothing at all, just my nerves he thought. Anxiety rising. The sudden feeling that the typewriter was aware that he was aware that it had entered his mind. Like the chill of a cold shower, a voice penetrated, “Aaaaaandrew…”
The tingling coiled down his hands as the—*TAP *TAP *TAP*—in rapid succession, rattled the mental frame on Andrew’s conscious hold, and pushed him to listen to the voice.
“Aaaandrew…coooome tooo meee…” The voice sounded like a warm glow.
A feeling of lusting thirst, dark with temptation, washed over Andrew.
The tapping continued with a furious whacking, sounding as if the machine would come apart.
Andrew’s heart raced in anticipation. He turned in his chair, expecting to see the person he felt in his mind, as a long-missed lover returned, when suddenly—*DING*—the bell rang, startling Andrew so much that he jumped from his seat with a yelp of fear.
He had heard enough. Rounding the corner to confront the mystery typist, Andrew found himself alone, and the machine perfectly still. Someone had inserted a piece of paper on which was typed, “Hello, Andrew.”
This is madness. To keep an eye on it and prevent further insanity, he moved the typewriter closer to his desk, perched on another table.
Time to take this to the director. Someone is after me.
Andrew yanked the sheet from the platen and started towards John’s desk. As he turned a corner, he ran into the director, startling the man who yelled in return, “What’s the matter with you. Are you working or playing on that confounded machine,” he said with a scrupulous look, having noticed the typewritten sheet in Andrew’s hand.
“Ugh, no sir. Sorry, I just kept hearing this machine go off. I was certain I’d catch someone playing with it. Here, look, they typed a messaged to me.” Andrew showed the paper to John, who glanced but failed to be impressed by the evidence.
“So? You could have just as well typed it right? Move the typewriter someplace where it’s locked, like the manuscripts safe in the vault, that way it’ll stay out of reach of everyone, yourself included.”
John left him and Andrew let out a sigh. Shit, this damn typewriter is trying to get the better of me. What the hell. The typewriter was placed in the locked safe by a staff member on the other side of the archive in the rare books vault.
A few uneventful weeks passed, allowing the rumors to quell, and to let John cool his head—the staff forgot the whole mess of the hauntings as routine returned.
Andrew needed to get something from the vault in the safe. He asked one of the staff women to come along.
“I don’t want any issues again, like we had last month.”
“Of course,” said Sarah nonchalant as they walked to the safe.
“Do you think there could be anything…wrong with the typewriter?”
“What do you mean?” she asked concertedly.
“Well, just that…” Andrew was uncertain about telling anyone his experience. He and Sarah had been co-workers for a few years, but they didn’t know each other well.
“It was like it was taunting me,” he said. “During that whole hauntings mess, it was by my desk and would go off by itself. I could never catch anyone on it.”
“Oh…” She glanced out the window, her face widened in alarm.
Andrew noticed the look. “It’s just that I’d hear the tapping sound and run over to find no one around, but yet the carriage had moved, paper been inserted, text typed out. It’s a little spooky.”
Sarah agreed and he dropped the subject, not finding a confidant in her. They arrived to the safe and Andrew entered the code: “2848-”
Andrew heard it. *Tap* *tap* *tap**tap*
Shuttering, he stopped. Sarah was far enough back to not have heard the sound. He continued the sequence “-8548.”
As his fingers hit the last number the safe door flung open with an explosive boom and a sudden burst of wind from inside that launched Andrew and Sarah backwards into the stacks.
Boxes fell from the shelves onto the pair, papers and folders flying out. Andrew rolled on the floor, coming out of his daze and looking up.
The typewriter floated out of the safe. It gave off an eerie light. Streams of energy plasma shot out of its sides. The overhead lights flickered and went out. The vault darkened, with only the glow of the typewriter remaining.
Andrew gasped, paralyzed with the same fear that had tried to grip him those weeks ago. He looked to his left and found Sarah out cold. He was alone.
Electric current filled the air as the typewriter moved slowly toward Andrew, drawing out the breath he had recovered. The—*tap* *tap*—of the keys called to him, the ring of the carriage was the bell of welcome, and the electric arcs formed hands of ecstasy, pulling him in. Andrew sat up and stared wildly at the machine. He uttered a whimpering “No,” but felt pinned to the floor by the hands caressing him as a familiar lover.
“You see Andrew, it’s ok now, you can come home with me,” said the machine.
Like a tap-dance of death, the keys fired with increasing speed. Papers flew out, landing in a neat stack next to Andrew. A ghostly figure appeared next to him, the shadow of a slender man who pointed down to the pages. Andrew felt compelled to move, the same slithering coil slinking its way down his arms.
“Pick it up…” whispered a sultry voice.
Picking up the manuscript, Andrew read “The Demon’s Machine” on the masthead. All the pages were blank except for the last, which had Andrew’s name typed out.
“Picking up the pages, Andrew saw his name on the page. He looked upward, recognizing the figure of the idol he so worshiped, beckoning Andrew to join him. The choice was clear: resist with eternal pain, or let go and live forever in eternal ecstasy.”
Andrew recognized the ghostly figure—H. P. Lovecraft—the soul of the man dead almost a century, come to life to feed.
Lovecraft’s ghostly figure smiled, a deceptive demonic flash of teeth as his arms opened wide to embrace the newest guest.
No, you’re not supposed to take the souls of your fans. He could feel the warm current flowing inside, the feelings of comfort and love in contrast with his rational brain, and the drain of energy leaving him. The life force flowed out of his body through his eyes, his mouth, and seemingly through the very flesh on his bones.
“Let me love you. Death is only the beginning of what can be…forever between us,” it said in a soothing voice. The figure of Lovecraft reached down and gripped the boy’s hand, letting out in the vault a sinister laugh.
The alarm in Andrew’s brain exploded as he felt compelled to give his soul to the typewriter but knew it was death come to take him.
Just up the corridor came a sudden flash of light. A door swung open and there stood the backlit outline of a person.
“Not in my archive.” John walked forward with a jug of motor oil in one hand and a baseball bat in the other. He was followed by an assistant carrying a potted plant.
The energy current arced forward and smashed the pot—ceramic pieces flew everywhere. John took one to the back of the head, “Owh, that hurt!” he said. A fire in his eyes ignited, but he kept his cool. The assistant screamed, but continued to hold onto the plastic which had lined the clay pot.
In the throat of the typewriter, where the ribbon reels were stretched, Andrew saw a pair of enraged eyes emerge. Hissing, the typewriter slowly moved towards John, leaving Andrew half soul-sucked with the figure of Lovecraft sneering at the pair.
“I said not today, mother fucker!” John splashed the jug of oil onto the typewriter.
It jerked to the right, only to be met with the bat swung deftly by the Head Archivist. It swayed out of the way, but caught another stream of oil as it went left. Trying to rush John, the oil landed on the keys, instantly boiling, set aflame with its own electric energy.
John stepped out of the way. “Now!”
The assistant flung loose soil onto the typewriter by the handful. The oil boiled and mixed with the dirt, slowing the machine’s advance. The streams of energy began to flicker.
“Get out of my archive!” John yelled, and brought the bat down smack dab between the reels.
The furious typewriter tried to suck John’s soul and spewed the dirty mix back at them, but it could only sputter and lose gravity.
John gave one final gusto blow onto the keys, smashing the metal and plastic beneath the pine. The machine let out a screech as metal parts flew out the sides and fell to the floor, lifeless. The figure of Lovecraft vanished and Andrew felt life return. The lights came back on in the vault. John stepped back, watching all the souls that had been captured slide out of the machine, off its pages, and vanish as smoke in the wind.
John moved to help Andrew, picking him up and sitting him in a chair while the assistant checked on Sarah. “Out cold sir, but she’ll live,” he reported.
John nodded, giving Andrew some water. Andrew, dazed, managed to chirp out a thank you,
“How did you know?”
“Kid, you don’t get to be Head Archivist without having seen your fair share of the strange and weird.”
Andrew sighed, guessing that demonic typewriters counted as one of the weird. Nonetheless, he was shook. I never thought that’s how I’d meet my favorite author.
John said, “I had a sneaking suspicion from when you first came to me about it that it was a living artifact. We get them in occasionally, but unfortunately there is no Warehouse team to deal with them, so it falls on us. I knew it was biding its time for the opportunity to strike.”
“So you knew something would happen when the safe was opened the next time,” Andrew said shaking his head to clear it.
“With all the ruckus on campus and your panic about the machine, I knew it would make some kind of move soon. Sitting locked up for several weeks, I’d be pissed off myself. You just happen to be the chosen target, probably due to your association with his work. Thankfully, I’m old enough to know what the bane of the mechanical era is: dust and oil. So, short of holy water, dirt and oil works best. That’ll gum up just about any of those metallic wonders of the pre-microcomputer age.”
“And a baseball bat,” said Andrew.
“And a baseball bat.” John agreed.
Andrew breathed deeply, feeling mostly alive again, and went to stand. John put his hand on Andrew’s shoulder.
“We’ll get this cleaned up. In the meantime, I think you can report to the Special Collections Department, they deal with… special cases,” he said with a wink.