When I first started mentioning the creature that lives in my typewriter, little did I know I was not alone. A reader of Typewriter Review sent me a Stephen King short story from about 30 years ago called, The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet. In it, the two main characters, a writer and his editor, are driven to madness due to a creature living in their typewriters. It begins harmlessly enough with the editor, now recovered, telling a story to a dinner party of NY literati about a young, successful writer and his belief in this creature. It soon expands to the editor’s own plight with madness and how the two tales intersect. The dinner guests serve as us, the reader, asking questions and making observations. If you want a template for how to tell a ghost tale around the campfire, this is it. Despite some lengthy passages, the story never dulls and keeps you wondering what happens next. And in the toss a twist at the end tradition, we’re left wondering in a satisfying way.
While I like to refer to my creature as a muse, King’s characters call them Fornits. Even the name conjures horror! And these Fornits are hungry little buggers, causing their owners to feed them scraps of food through the keyboard. Not sure where these Fornits relieve themselves! What a mess! To make matters worse, being near any electrical field apparently causes them great harm. So you can imagine the lengths these characters go to keep their Fornits happy and alive. Prudence turns to paranoia turns to — well, you have to read the story.
My creature seemingly lives off good vibrations. Clean energy. Cosmic fairy dust, that sort of thing. I don’t know really. It’s wise not to question such things. What I do know is that whenever I touch the keyboard I get a tingling sensation. It’s faint at first. I close my eyes for a moment. And this might sound dorky, but I think, I believe, I believe, I believe. The tingling turns to warmth. The tension leaves my shoulders. The wrists, elbows and digits surge with an oily fluidity. That’s when I know the juices are flowing and it’s time to write, or channel whatever voices, places, events materialize. Delusion? Madness? Perhaps. It could also be called focus. The type of focus found only on a typewriter. It’s foolish to think an imaginary creature could be part of the equation. But when you’ve been in this state, not everything always adds up. It’s a lonely venture and I suppose having somebody on your side can be comforting — unless it’s a Fornit, then watch out, you might have more than you bargained for!
This terrifying typewriter tale can be found in the short story collection, Skeleton Crew.