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The Writing Man

By , Herndon, VA
Once upon a time there was an old house that sat right in the middle of an old town which sat in the middle of two old mountains. The house had been there since the birth of the old town. And over the ages, various people had lived in it. But none had ever left.

Rumor had it that the last resident was a famous English author who was obsessed with writing the perfect story. Many rumors were spread that he had died in the house, or that he fled in the night to escape tax collectors, for he was in mounds of debt due to gambling and half baked publishing schemes. The town’s people had ideas and philosophies about where and when and how he died; but over time, with the modernization of the town, the old tales of the author and the house faded, and no one paid attention to the house anymore.
But some people still believed he was there…

Waiting to be freed from his writing…

***

A spindly bike rode over hill after hill on the winding roads of the old town. Its driver, Emily Ringfold, pumped with all her might to get all the orders from her father’s bakery delivered on time before the melted, flattened, or some other horrible thing that could happen to a pastry. The light breeze that passed nonchalantly through the town wove its way wistfully through Emily’s loose copper pony tail.

“One more delivery…” she gasped in relief. As she biked towards her last customer, she passed the old house. Every time she passed it, a shiver ran down her spine as though someone watched her ride by from one of the many tall, blackened windows of the house. She peddled faster and almost missed the orders’ house before she screeched to a halt.

She pushed down the kick stand and unbuckled the last package from her bike. As she walked up the steps of a large, bright yellow house she tip-toed on the stone rise enclosing a coy pond. The pond was surrounded by multiple cats, each eye the coy with a look of deadly malice. Emily rung the door bell and waited patiently for her father’s most devoted customer to labor down their stairs. When the door opened, a cloud of perfume and cat air hit Emily full in the face.

“Here you are Mrs. Leechy, one lemon meringue pie,” Emily coughed as she handed it over to the enormous old lady. Mrs. Leechy smiled at Emily wither her vivid, uneven lipstick smile. Mrs. Leechy loved to spoil her cats with unusual delicacies.

“Why thank you dear, this is Mr. Gilbert’s favorite,” the woman wheezed as she handed Emily the correct money, “Mr. Gilbert has been feeling unwell lately: the silly dear ran off and ate a--” but the silly dear, Mr. Gilbert, sprinted under Mrs. Leechy in an attempt at freedom. He leapt straight off of the front of the porch and careened around the corner in a split second as a cry ripped from Mrs. Leechy’s lips.

“Oh, Mr. Gilbert! Come back! Oh, go get my cat!” Mrs. Leechy whined.

Emily obeyed the old lady’s ornery command and ran after the cat. He dashed over bushes and fences, and dodged many cars and people before slipping under the rotted gate of the old house and jumping with agility into the front window.

Emily arrived at the old house’s front gate in gasps for air. She stared into the thick flora and fauna of the house’s yard. “Ugh, you’ve got to be kidding me!” she whispered in silent protest.

She hitched herself over the peeling fence. The trees branches hung low and malevolently, and got caught in her hair multiple times, pulling it into many knots and tangles.

As she pushed past ankle deep vines that snagged at her worn-out jeans, and prickly bushes that stuck through her yellow t-shirt like paper, she spied the front door of the house. It looked dark and foreboding, framed by all the plants. When she came to the porch, she tired to push through, but the door was locked.

“Odd…” she commented to herself. Why would a house so old and forgotten be locked?

Nevertheless, she searched high and low around the porch to find another entrance. She found the window that the cat jumped through and peeked inside.

“Hello? Mr. Gilbert?” she whispered. Her soft voice echoed eerily through the room, almost like an empty sigh. Emily spotted the cat curled up next to a giant sitting chair in the dark gloom. She looked around the porch hurriedly to find something that could help her through the window.

She found an old sun chair, covered with moss and vines, propped it up against the high windowsill and stepped up into the window. As her first foot came through the window, her other fell through the sun chair, sending her toppling right into the middle of the dark living room.

Clouds of dust surrounded Emily’s head, and made her sneeze multiple times. As she stood she brushed herself off and squinted her eyes to try and see clearly.

“It’s so dark…” she said to herself in a faraway voice, “It didn’t look this dark from the outside.”

She walked around ‘til she found a pair of long curtains to another window. From the small part in the curtains, a bright golden-green light poured through. She squeezed her eyes shut, to prepare for the dust, and flung the curtains open.

Golden-green light poured through the window like a bent waterfall and illuminated the living room for the first time in ages. Rich reds, deep golds, and elegant emeralds had faded down to rusty, pale. And shabby shades over the cruel trials of time.

Emily looked around in cautious wonder. She walked over to the seat where the cat lay sprawled beneath it and bent down to stroke him. As she reached out to him, he shrunk away from her, hissing fiercely and pranced across the room and leapt out the window from whence he came.

Annoyed with the cat, Emily walked towards the archway of the room to explore some more. She looked around the corner of the hallway to find the front door. She turned her head and peered down the opposite hallway steeped in a deep, cold darkness.

The dark seemed to grow the loner she stared at it, and a fear crawled up her neck. She ran for the front door in a frightened scurry, and fumbled with the ancient lock.

Suddenly, she heard a small ding behind her and yelped in terror. She turned around slowly but saw nothing there. Then she heard another ding. She looked around herself but could see no one and nothing that could emit the noise. She listened for the sound again.

Ding.
She took a step towards the noise.
Ding.
Another step.
She felt an urge to follow the sounds; it seemed to call to her… like a cry for help… She followed the tiny mechanical noise, until she arrived at the bottom of an enormous staircase. The darkness of the staircase was no inky creepy, no; it was more the kind of darkness that was empty and bare. Emily caught sight of a key table at the base of the stair, with an oil lamp and some matches in the drawer. As she lit the lamp she listened intently for the soft mechanical noise. When she heard it sound again in the distance of the staircase, she shakily began to make her journey up the dark stairwell.

***

The frail golden glow of her lamp only kept so much of the darkness at bay. With every step she took, the stairs creaked threateningly under her feet. When she arrived at the landing, they gave out a final moan that made Emily shudder with fear. When she gathered herself, she looked around, trembling, down both ends of the hall.
“It seems to go this way…” she spoke to no one in particular, staring down both ends of the hall. She took in a deep breath, and slowly made her way towards the frail mechanical sound in the hollow darkness of the hall.
She would pause every now and then to listen for the sound, but as she wound her way through the house, the sound never became louder: only richer. Over time, Emily forgot which way she had come from; as fear swelled to its peak within her, she found a door with light seeping out from its cracks.
“Oh!” she gaped in relief, and ran towards the door with such innocent joy, that when she found the door was locked, she broke in to tears.
Her little lamp fell to the ground and faded to darkness; soon the only light there as, was that of the light that fell through the crack of the door.

Emily wiped her tears in her jacket sleeve and stood up determinedly. She grabbed the door knob with both hands and turned it desperately. She threw all of her weight onto the door as she continued to turn the knob mightily. She felt a wind fly across her feet, flowing out of the other room, and yet another blowing at her back from the dark hall. She felt the opposing wind pushing back on her from inside the lightened room, but she kept pushing with all her strength. More and more the light poured through the door and the wind at her back lifted her as the door burst open. She fell flat on a carpet of green in the new found room


***


Emily shook herself and rubbed her head tenderly as she sat up straight in the new room. A giant yellowed window had its curtains pulled back full view in front of her which displayed the whole town in its omniscient position. As Emily stood and stared in awe out of the window, she heard the mechanical ding sound pure in her mind and she froze.

Slowly, she turned and faced the only dark corner of the room, where there sat a hunched figure over an aged type writer wit ha rusted-silver mirror hanging above it all.

She had no idea, no on had any idea that anyone lived here anymore.

“H-h-hello?” Emily asked in a wavering tone.

A tiny ding from the type writer echoed mournfully throughout the room and resided within her mind. The figure didn’t seem to take notice of her. He just kept to his typing as if nothing else mattered in the world. She began to walk towards the figure despite her growing fear.

“I-I’m Emily Ringfold… it’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. …?” but her voice faltered when she came close enough to see his face.

The color of his eyes were red and black from exhaustion and his face dominated by the wrinkles of time; his hair was long, lanky, and dirty white from the deprivation of personal hygiene and care.

Emily stepped back in horror, but the man kept on typing and breathing laboriously, and seemed to take no notice of Emily’s presence.

“Sir? Should I get someone?” Emily asked quietly in shock.

The man heaved in a raspy breath and spoke in a loud creaky voice that sounded as if it hadn’t been used in over hundreds of years.
“Many may come and try to save you from your sorrowful state
But none will save you from your damned fate.”

Emily shivered as the sound of the old man’s voice resonated in her very bones. She could barely make out what he was trying to say.

“But I want to help you! Please, let me try!” Emily cried.

The old man began to type faster and faster, and took in another deep, rattling breath,
“Cannot be saved from what was asked for
Cannot take away what was taken with pride
Heart no in hand as was the deal
Now the writing keeps the writer alive.”
Emily was now kneeling beside the old man, trying in earnest to comprehend his words. She looked around the room again, hoping the answer to it all could just pop out of thin air. In the corner diagonal from the man there was a water jug sitting atop a bedside table. She ran over hurriedly and brought it back to the old man.


“Here! Drink! I’ll hold it for you, if you must keep typing!” she said frantically.
The man’s eyes widened terribly, like a mad horse, and yelled at the top of his lungs,
“NO WATER! NO BREAD!
NO DRINK OR FOOD NOR NEW CLOTH OR BED!
SHALL COMFORT YOU OR YOUR CREATIVE HEAD!”


His hands flew faster and faster across the typewriter’s key pad. As Emily looked closer, she could see that the tips of his fingers were raw and bloody. “Oh my God! Old man, why do you do this to yourself?” she wept into her hands.

The old man’s typing slowed, but did not completely stop, as he spoke in a more level tone,
“You asked for inspiration
You asked for written gold
You asked and you received
He only does what he is told.”

Emily felt eyes upon her and looked up. Above the typewriter, she saw in the tiny mirror as hooded figure with glowing gold eyes. The mirror began to hum and speak to her in a honeyed luring voice,
“Now, child, don’t be scared.
His wish was a mistake,
And you are now more prepared.
What is your heart’s desire?
What set’s your soul afire?”

The figure reached out its hand from liquid surface of the mirror out to the entranced Emily.

Ding.

Emily shook herself from the mirror’s spell. She took the water jug she was holding and smashed in the mirror. The creature from within the mirror let out a howl of pain, as a deep and shaking boom filled the room. AS the silver mirror exploded in a burst of white light, a violent wind passed through and lifted the old man from his chair.

As the wind curled its way around the man, his skin became clear and young again; his eyes were a glow as they turned from red and black to a youthful sparkling blue. His hair curled into dark brown locks that lied wildly about his head. When the wind passed through him with a final sigh, the young man stood tall in the room.

Emily sat quietly in view of the window where the wind had blown her. The man strode past her to look out the window; his face was that of a man who just woke from a terrible dream: cautious and amazed.

“What a world…” the man said in a far away voice, but it was still sweet and warm. “And to think I missed it all.”

He turned to Emily and smiled, “Thank you my dear.” He gave her his hand, and kissed her upon the forehead.

“You set me free from a dreadful curse, and now I may rest.” And he turned and walked into the heart of the golden-green light of the window and, in another rush of wind, was gone.

Emily scrambled up to dash to the window to unlatch it just in time to see a quick gust of wind tousle the tops of the trees and sweep away into the unknown.





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