Joe's printer operates on its own.
Joe was very tired, and his hands ached from all the keyboarding he had done beginning early in the morning. It was nine p.m. when he decided that was all for today. He flexed his hands thinking he might be on the way to carpal tunnel syndrome. He put them in his lap and sighed deeply. Let them rest, he thought.
The image on his computer screen showed a total of 98 pages in the story. Joe had the story in his thoughts for months, but never thought it would go that long. It was supposed to be a shorter story, but as the story progressed Joe elaborated on the ghost story that was itching to be written.
Now that it was written, Joe felt as if a weight was lifted. It was no longer scratching at his brain to get out. The deadline was no longer looming over him. He imagined the deadline was a dark, evil entity. Now, it disappeared--to where he did not know and didn't care. It was gone. That was all that mattered.
For a brief second Joe panicked! “I haven’t saved it, yet!” he whispered. “All it would take is a freaking glitch to completely ruin my day.” He lifted his left hand and with two fingers pressed Command S. “There. Saved.”
Time for a celebratory drink, he thought. Joe got up from his chair and moseyed on over to his modest little bar in the apartment. "Whiskey or bourbon?" he asked himself, smiling smugly. Definitely bourbon. He picked up a bottle of Jack Daniels and removed the cap. Just as he was about to pour two fingers into a shot glass, he heard a sudden noise coming from his home office. Joe spun around looking for the source of the sound, and as he did the bottom of the bourbon bottle knocked the glass onto the floor.
"Damn!" Joe spewed. Broken glass all over the floor. He put the cap back on the bottle, set it down, and scanned the floor for a spot void of glass where he could take his first step. Finding a nearby spot, he made his way to the kitchen for the broom and dustpan. As soon as he opened the pantry door he heard again the noise coming from what sounded like his home office. It startled Joe so deeply he felt his heart stop a beat. A flash shot up his spine. "What the Hell?"
With the broom and dustpan in his right hand, Joe slowly moved toward the home office, his eyes fixed on the open doorway. He stopped when his shoe crunched a shard of glass on the floor. Balancing on one foot, he lifted his errant foot up to look at the sole of the shoe. Yep, Joe thought. "Damn glass." He carefully picked out the pieces of glass from the sole while shakily remaining balanced on one foot. Satisfied he got it all, he put his foot down again and started sweeping the broken glass into a single pile.
He had forgotten about the strange noise, concentrating, instead, on not missing any dangerous pieces of glass that could seriously hurt him if he should happen to step on one in his stocking feet one morning. Once all the glass was in the dustpan, he carried it and the broom back out to the kitchen then dumped the glass into the trash bin under the sink.
Suddenly, Joe stood up straight and as still as a statue when he heard that odd noise again. It was just a brief noise. Very short. Not long enough to determine what was making it. Joe was not only a little fearful but getting angry now, too. "What the Hell is that?" He waited. Silence. Nothing more. He placed the broom and dustpan against the counter--then slowly, carefully walked to his home office, his eyes fixated on the doorway. What IS that? he thought as he slowly, nervously approached the doorway.
He stopped at the doorway and scanned the room. Nothing. No one. Nothing out of place. Joe walked over to his computer. Nothing on the screen. He glanced at his printer. There--in the paper tray was a sheet of paper with one line in the middle of the page.
"The Deadline Is Coming" was printed erratically as if the type was jumping out of alignment.
Joe inspected every detail of his computer screen, the location of the mouse, the printer but could not determine why the printer printed that line on the paper. Odd, he thought. Very odd.
He had not yet printed his story, so it couldn't have been a lingering instruction, a glitch. Joe sat down and pondered some more. “At least I saved it,” Joe said. Then the printer came to life again.
"The Deadline Is Coming" it printed again and dropped the sheet into the tray.
"It's okay," Joe said to his printer thinking how idiotic it was for him to be talking to a machine. "I'm done with the story."
The computer screen flashed and a window appeared in the middle. "File Deleted".
"What the Hell?!" Fear gripped his heart. "DELETED?! DELETED?!" he repeated. Frantically, Joe searched for his story. The computer reported no such file found. "Holy crap!" he exclaimed. “But—but—I saved it! I saved it!” The printer came to life again, spitting out another sheet.
"The Deadline Is Coming."
There was a loud bang at the door. Who would be banging on my door at nine-thirty at night? Joe thought. Another bang, but louder. Then another, louder still. Joe opened a desk drawer and took out his Smith & Wesson pistol. The feel of the grip in his hand and the weight of it fully loaded gave him a confident feeling, a feeling of safety.
The fourth bang on his apartment door caused Joe to jump off his chair and spin around. This time it sounded like the door had been nearly breached. He pointed his pistol at the office door, his hand shaking. Another sheet fell into the paper tray.
"The Deadline Is Coming."
"Screw the deadline!" Joe shouted. A fifth bang, louder than before, unhinged the front door. He heard the door crash to the floor with a very loud bang. All the lights in the apartment suddenly went out. Joe was shaking now from head to foot. He grabbed the pistol with both hands. "Come on! I'm ready for you!" Joe shouted. Silence. Not a sound. “Come on! Come on!”
The morning newspaper printed a headline on page four.
Noted Author Deleted
Word Count: 1,100