Flash Fiction Friday: PLANCHETTE by Meghan Schuler
TODAY’S BREW: Caramel Apple Coffee and it is as good as it sounds
IT’S FLASH FICTION FRIDAY! And I have to say, I’m pretty psyched out of my mind for today’s story, because Meghan is a writer in a league of her own. This girl’s imagery and jarring vision just cut me to the core, and I love it and her. Without further ado, read Planchette.
Then, completely smitten with her like I am, follow her here:
A single printed word:
Five tiny, whispered letters, the ghost of a lonely breath.
His hands hovered over the keys, round buttons still shining after years of use. The paper wound through the bar stared blankly white at him, clearly new, but the word felt old with an age that reached in and plucked something from his soul. The tiny slip of paper hooked to his beloved bore a price he could not pay. He turned his hand, stroking the metal carriage and let his fingers light on the keys.
He hesitated, fearing the weight of his hands, afraid to mar that delicate page, though it was hardly perfect. He gently pressed the keys, one by one.
how i have missed you.
He stared at the page, covered now in black and red, irrevocable ink spelling out nonsense. He knew which message had been left for him alone, isolated. His heart shuddered.
what is your name?
The name laced through his blood, instantly entwined with his heart. These absences were toxic. He longed for her so much it felt like illness, voodoo needles in his brain and limbs. Contact was the balm he craved and he reached for her, though she wasn’t there. Emmaline.
i am deeply in love with you.
where have you gone?
The words burned. His weekly pilgrimage had ceased its frequency, and now his return brought shame into his bones, rotting, corrosive. He could hear the sorrow, the anger, the pain. It seared his eyes and lungs. The words barely came, pleading.
forgive me. we shall part only once more.
His heart could not pump harder without bursting. He ran to her, finally able to take her away.
She was not there.
The fierce pace of his blood plummeted, knees suddenly unstable. In a nauseous wave he hit the floor, illness and needles breaking flesh. The lack of blood upon his clothes, upon the floor were unrealities, a wrongness he could not correct.
He scrambled up, shaking, tore through the shrinking rooms and raced over narrow flights of stairs. A flash of green in the corner of his eye, a young woman bent over a table in the darkest corner. He scrambled back.
In the shadows and dust she appeared, and he nearly collapsed again, her words printed just for him.
it is so very dark in here.
The message could hardly be seen, through gloom and more ink carelessly left on his missive. He turned the barrel, seeking a clean place for his words, no longer able to reply directly. He turned the page but found more of the same, the black and red smears that did not belong.
He rolled the page into place and gathered her things.
you will be safe now, i swear to you, my love.
He left alone, needles twisting deeper.
Someone had torn out her heart in his absence, ribbons of red and black ink left tangled against her carriage. Sorrow burrowed deep in his chest. He rewound her, fitted her together and sealed her back up. If there had been a message, it was lost, the page no longer pressed in her grasp. He gathered her things again, gently closed the black box around her. He would take her away from this darkness and dust. He lifted her, but set her down again when the page slipped free. He held it delicately between his fingers.
why have you not returned?
He stroked her shell and held her close. He carried her through the dark and forgotten rooms. He didn’t care who had abused her. She would be safe. She would be his.
He was denied.
we are forever kept apart.
He felt the burning deeper now, eating away at his bones and his sinew, stripping him down. Time poured out and he could not collect it fast enough.
this is our fate, my love. will this be enough?
The words were printed on the paper bar, barely visible.
no. i want you, always.
Choking pain. He would never have her, though still he sat beside her, longing to hold her in his lap and run his fingers across her keys.
i remain deeply in love with you, but i fear for us. they will not let you go.
A girl stood on his patch of threadbare carpet. She gazed at his beloved with a look he knew all too well; for the last of this eternity he’d worn it as his own. Her fingers pushed the bar back into place. She straightened, her hair brown and dull and cut short, bobbed above her shoulders. Her dress pulsed black, part of the gloom and in contrast with her skin. She was too white.
He watched her from the threshold, jealousy surging in his veins. She moved away. He stared at her retreating form and sought his message.
then take me by force.
A blush flared in his cheeks. She must have read his words, this beckoning meant for him alone. He sickened, removed and turn the scrap, now thoroughly saturated, their words overrun by words not theirs. Other declarations that did not belong.
He set his words atop hers.
it shall be done as you wish.
He hid. The back door would be his best bet and he crouched in the confines of an old chifferobe. The wood creaked as he stepped out, the building dark, and stole her away.
The messages stopped. He paced, waiting, longing, but no reply came. New sheets stayed blank, the old one bore no new marks. His heart shattered at every misheard click of keys.
He turned away, eyes burning with tears. The typewriter’s bell chimed. He turned again.
A girl, head tilted, hair a curtain brushing her shoulder, looked over at him. He felt a stirring in his soul. Old and familiar. Aged and ageless as the ghost at his machine. His blood flowed, painfully slow.
A single word, a whisper, a click.