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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2242039
Arnold finds a tape measure. Winner of SCREAMS!!! January 17 2021 and Weekly Winner.
A Measured Response

Arnold found the tape measure in a drawer of the old desk he bought for refurbishing. He regarded it as a windfall and added it to his toolbox without a second thought. Finders keepers was clearly the applicable motto in this instance.

It was a good, substantial instrument, made of highly polished steel. The manufacturer’s name was announced in a sticker on one side. Acme Fine Instruments Inc. it read in bold yellow lettering on a black background. On the other side of the case there was a clip for attaching to a belt. When extended, the tape itself proved to be metallic; one of those that held rigid until a certain length was achieved, at which point it would bend under its own weight and emit a jangling crack of protesting metal.

Arnold used his new measure often in the weeks and months that followed. The solid weight of it pleased him, reassuring him of its high quality. As a carpenter, he had constant need of its measuring abilities and it served him well, rolling itself up quickly when a button was pressed to indicate that its work was done.

He never extended it beyond a few feet, however. Not even his largest furniture projects required more than that. And Arnold had no curiosity as to its full extent.

Until the day he was on a job that required him to work several stories up on a building project. Being involved in the construction of a framework for the building, he needed to know just how high above ground was the floor he was working on. He considered the possibility that his tape might be long enough to measure the drop. Going to an edge of the floor, he leaned over and began to extend the tape downwards.

The tape kept unravelling beyond the point where most would stop. It seemed limitless and its weight kept it straight. Steadily, Arnold pulled more and more of its length from the case, becoming increasingly amazed as he did so.

He kept going until the tape reached the ground far below. He read off the incredible height it had attained and then decided to see just how much tape was left. He kept going but never reached its end. Becoming tired of extending it, Arnold finally hit the button to retract.

The tape leapt like a wild anaconda, and began to retract at a fiendish rate. It was much faster than he expected and was lashing about like a whip. As it neared its beginning it formed a loop in the air that slashed towards him. It was too fast for him and he was much too slow to escape it.

The medical examiner could not understand how Arnold had managed to cut his own head off so cleanly. There were no tools nearby that could have done the job. No one ever connected the tape measure lying at the foot of the building with Arnold’s strange demise.

Word Count: 496
For SCREAMS!!! January 17 2021
Prompt: A tape measure that unspools...and unspools...and unspools and…

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