Ghost Writer

Free Short Story: Ghost Writer by Maria Carvalho

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Falling into the Five Senses anthology, we are very pleased to share four, fabulous, free short stories with you.

Written by the Five Senses anthology authors, Maria Carvalho, Cedrix E. Clarke, Reena Dobson and Roger Jackson, these short stories focus on the ‘sixth sense’. The sixth sense theme was the brainchild of Roger Jackson (thank you Roger!) and is the result of the ‘five senses’ theme of the anthology’s launch ‘falling’ into the traditionally other-wordly, spooky moods of October!

We’ll be posting one story each week. If you can’t wait, and you’d like to buy the Five Senses anthology right this minute, you can do so here.

First up, the Marvellous Maria Carvalho! Enjoy!

*****

Ghost Writer

By Maria Carvalho

Lydia grinned as she hung her clothes in the expansive walk-in closet. She still couldn’t believe her luck in finding this place: a converted third-floor apartment in a gorgeous Victorian home with a surprisingly affordable rent. She adored everything about it, from the sloping ceilings to the huge bay window overlooking the park across the street. For the first time in what seemed like eons, her heart felt light.

Earlier in the year, she had excitedly moved in with her boyfriend, confident he was The One. But she’d come home unexpectedly early from work one day to discover that her would-be Mr. Right was, in fact, Mr. Cheating Bastard. Devastated, she’d been crashing at her best friend Mary’s tiny condo until she had found her fabulous new apartment. The spacious surroundings felt like a palace by comparison.

As Lydia stood on her tip-toes trying to stuff a long metal box of mementos into one of the closet’s high built-in shelves, it fell forward, bonking her in the forehead. Cursing, she gave it a mighty shove back onto the shelf and then heard a crunch as the box flew from her grip.

“Shit!” she yelled, her voice reverberating off the walls. Taking a step back, she was horrified to discover a sizeable hole in the wall behind the shelf; the box must have punched right through it and fallen behind. Great. She wasn’t even fully unpacked yet and she’d already damaged the place! She could probably kiss her deposit goodbye.

Muttering to herself about what an idiot she was, Lydia grabbed a wooden stool from the kitchenette and carried it into the closet. Climbing atop the stool, she leaned forward and peered through the ragged gash in the wallboard. The outline of the memento box was barely visible a short distance below.

There was no way she was sticking her hands in there without first checking for spiders and other hideous creatures, so she scrambled off the stool to retrieve a small flashlight from her bedroom nightstand. Back atop her perch, she shone the beam down into the alcove, revealing faded flowery wallpaper that must have dated back to the original house. There were no signs of creepy-crawlies, but through the dust swirling in the flashlight beam, she saw that the rogue box was resting on top of something larger. She angled the beam further down, illuminating rows of white keys set in a dark metal base that glinted in the light. A typewriter, Lydia realized.

Reaching in through the torn wall with her right arm, she grabbed hold of the box and pulled it out, then set it down on the closet floor. She wanted to get a proper look at the typewriter, but it was too big to fit through the hole she’d inadvertently made. “Ah, to hell with it,” she said, ripping at the edges of the flimsy wallboard until the opening looked big enough. Clenching the flashlight between her teeth, she reached both arms through the hole and grasped the typewriter’s sides, the metal cool to her touch. It was heavier than she had expected. She awkwardly heaved the device up and navigated it through the space and onto the shelf. Holding it tightly, she slowly eased herself off the stool and carried her discovery into the living room, where she plunked it down on a table in front of the bay window to examine it.

At the top of the black frame, large gold letters that spelled out Remington gleamed in the afternoon light. A bulky roller sat atop a raised platform connected by four legs to the base, which held the keyboard. Long metal rods were visible behind the keys. This was clearly an antique—much larger and more complex than her mother’s compact electric typewriter, which Lydia had played with as a child.

Curious as to whether it still worked, Lydia grabbed a sheet of paper from her printer and pulled a chair over to the table. After some maneuvering, she managed to wind it into the creaky roller. She raised her hands to the keyboard, intending to type a few random words, but—shockingly—her fingers began flying over the keys on their own. What the hell? She yanked her hands away, then gasped as she saw what she had typed:

HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME HELP M

Lydia’s skin turned to gooseflesh as she stared at the words—words she hadn’t intended to type at all. How in the world could that have happened? It was as if her fingers had been moving of their own accord, without her control. But if she wasn’t responsible, who was? She couldn’t seriously think that someone else was behind those words, could she? Someone who was asking for her help? The idea was ludicrous. And yet…

Fear sent her heart into overdrive. Whatever was going on, she should just leave it alone.

But in spite of her uneasiness, she was intensely curious. She wanted to know more. And anyway, it was only a typewriter. If she got too creeped out, she would simply walk away.

She tentatively put her hands back to the keyboard, waiting, but this time her fingers remained still. Feeling rather foolish, she typed:

Who are you?

Lydia kept her fingers resting lightly atop the white keys, her pulse pounding in her ears. A moment later, she found herself typing:

MARGO. I THINK I

The typing stopped. Lydia held her breath. Then she watched herself type:

DIED

Chills rippled along Lydia’s scalp. Oh god. Was this really happening? Could…could she actually be talking to a dead person? Her stomach clenched in fright, and part of her wanted to end the bizarre communication right then and there. But it was so utterly intriguing. Who was this Margo? Was she truly some kind of ghost? She had to find out.

Her hands trembling but back under her control, Lydia typed:

What happened to you?

Without her guidance, Lydia’s fingers again began to move rapidly, and the response appeared:

I GOT TERRIBLY SICK RIGHT AFTER MY SIXTEENTH BIRTHDAY. I REMEMBER THE DOCTOR SAYING SCARLET FEVER AND MY PARENTS CRYING. THEN EVERYTHING WAS GONE AND I WAS HERE BUT NOT HERE FOR SO LONG. I JUST WANT TO BE FREE. PLEASE HELP ME.

As she tried to process the words, Lydia wondered whether all of this could be an elaborate trick. Maybe someone was recording the whole thing so they could post it on YouTube, hoping their prank would go viral. But something deep down made her believe that what was happening was no joke, and her heart went out to Margo.

After taking a few long breaths to steady herself, Lydia typed:

How can I help?

Margo’s answer flowed quickly through Lydia’s fingertips:

I LOVED TO WRITE STORIES. RIGHT BEFORE I GOT SICK I HAD THE MOST AMAZING IDEA FOR A BOOK AND I WAS SO EXCITED TO WRITE IT BUT I NEVER GOT THE CHANCE. I HAVE BEEN THINKING ABOUT IT ALL THIS TIME. I WROTE IT IN MY MIND AND I KNOW EVERY WORD BY HEART. IF YOU HELP ME TYPE IT MAYBE I CAN FINALLY MOVE ON.

Lydia’s eyes brimmed with tears. Poor Margo. It didn’t seem like all that much to ask. Without hesitating, she replied:

Of course.

She grabbed a sheaf of printer paper and settled back into the chair. As soon as she’d rolled a new sheet into the typewriter, her fingers began dancing across the keys with astonishing speed. Margo hadn’t been kidding about memorizing every word of her story. In no time flat, Lydia had reached the bottom of the first page and was replacing it with another. She wanted to read it as she typed, but it was too difficult at such a fast pace. She’d just have to wait until it was finished.

The rest of the afternoon passed that way, the stack of filled pages growing larger and larger. Lydia’s arms and hands ached from the exertion, and she longed to take a break, but she kept on going. She hoped that once Margo finished her story, her soul would be freed from its limbo, allowing her to be at peace.

Finally, the words “THE END” appeared on the page, and Lydia let out a sigh of relief. Then she found herself typing a few more words:

THANK YOU. I AM SORRY.

Sorry? Lydia thought in confusion.

***

Margo stood up and stretched, savoring the feeling with delight. To have form again! To see, and hear, and breathe! It had been unbearably long since she’d experienced such joys, and every sensation was pure magic. Getting another chance at life was a miracle, and she wasn’t going to waste a single moment of it. She would make up for everything she’d been so unfairly robbed of, including the chance to get her novel published. Perhaps she would even become famous! The possibilities were all so delicious.

Her giddiness, however, was tempered by her guilt, which she angrily tried to push away. She hadn’t planned for this to happen, hadn’t known that the connection she had somehow forged with Lydia through the typewriter would keep intensifying as Lydia typed. Margo had felt herself—her soul, her essence, whatever it was that had been trapped for so many years—gaining strength as she guided Lydia’s fingers across the keyboard, and when the final page was finished, she’d realized what she had to do. Using Lydia’s hands as a conduit, Margo had pushed herself into Lydia’s body. Lydia had been forced out; her body unable to contain two souls at once.

Now, Margo knew, Lydia was a captive in the nowhere place that Margo had been stuck in for so long. And just like Margo, Lydia would have no way to communicate—except, quite possibly, through the typewriter that connected them.

Opening one of the side windows, Margo reverently breathed in the cool evening air for a few moments before pulling out the screen. She wavered briefly, then heaved the typewriter out through the window and watched it smash into pieces on the sidewalk below.

*****

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this gem of a story, you can browse the other free sixth sense short stories below:

Josie & the Golden Goose by Cedrix E. Clarke

Light-hearted by Reena Dobson