At home that evening, I'm sufficiently creeped out. There's only one way to write horror, and today is providing it by the boatload. The storm is back, rain pinging against the gutters of my house in the dark night outside. The heebie-jeebies from the gypsy lady are staying strong, and I sit down to my antique typewriter to pound out the first page. I have a hot cup of tea next to me on the table and a blanket wrapped around my legs. A single candle lights my work area, the flame letting off the smell of candied apples, according to the label. What? It was the only candle I could find.
I set the first piece of paper into the typewriter. Forget newfangled word processors; to me there's just something about the typewriter that seems so necessary to the story I have swimming around in my head.
Not that I've always felt this way. The typewriter's a new addition, just picked it up yesterday. Before then, I had a sleek little laptop that I used to put down the words that spew out of my brain. But I got the idea to write an old-fashioned horror story on an old-fashioned typewriter, and so here I am.
Of course, if I was really old fashioned, I would have gotten a quill and an ink pot, but my hands started cramping at the thought of writing a book that way, so I decided to let some technology in. Mary Shelley, watch your back, 'cause here I come.
I do have a tiny notepad next to the typewriter, filled with scribbles from various random inspirations over the past couple weeks. I flip to the first page, and squint, holding the book a few inches and then a few feet from my eyes.
"Tarp soggy muffin. . . what the heck?"
I flip to the next page. "Mookie teddy bear anvils?"
I throw the notebook across the room, watching it flap like a broken bird against the wall and then fall to the floor. It looks like I'm starting from scratch. Oh well, I can do this.
Ten minutes later, I'm still tapping the edge of my tea cup with my fingernails. The paper stares back at me, clean and white.
A crash of thunder startles me out of my trance, shocking me back into my chair. I didn't see the flash, but it's loud, so it must have struck close. I shiver, and pull the blanket closer around me. My mind is racing, my heart pounding.
My thoughts are back on the old gypsy lady. For some reason, I'm angry with her—angry that I can't think because her warning keeps shoving its way through my thoughts. And then, just like that, the light flicks on in my head. I reach for the keys, and the words start spinning out of my fingers, tapping onto the paper. If every word I write will come true, I'll just write something that can't possibly happen.
"The gypsy lady fell, her body dragged backwards by the creature behind her. It snarled, great shining teeth glinting into the moonlight. Before it crushed her, she could swear she heard the crash and splinter of the crystal ball onto the floor of the tent. The foolish girl hadn't listened—"
A white-hot flash of lightning jolts into the sky beyond my curtains. For an instant, I see the skeleton of the tree in my backyard poised like a scarecrow grabbing at the ground with long, spiny fingers. It whips back and forth in the wind, and then is gone, the imprint of it left behind in my vision.
It's like a reverse-polarity image when I look back at the paper, the tree clawing at the words I've just finished writing.
Oooh—that would be good. I rewind the paper and strikeout a few words.
"The gypsy lady fell, her body dragged backwards by the creature behind her. It snarled,
I tap out a few more words, and then realize I'm wiped out. It's time for bed. I unwrap myself from the blanket and grab the candle to light my way towards my bedroom. I fall into the soft pillows and let myself sink into sleep to the flickering flame.
Sleep isn't peaceful. My dreams are filled with screams and pointed, arthritis-twisted fingers accusing me of their demise. The fingers aren't attached to anything.