Andrew Wilson had been staring at the blank sheet of paper for the last five minutes. He tapped out a handful of words on his 1955 Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter that he had bought from a pawn shop in Phoenix for $10 bucks more than twenty years ago. Since then, the typewriter traveled the country with him and helped write hundreds of short stories, twenty-seven novels including a few best sellers, and a motion picture script or two.
Paper rustled again. Andy ignored it, but it only continued. As long as the paper was loose on the floor, the mouse would continue to frolic within it. He reached down, grabbed the trash can, and got up from his chair. He had had enough and was going to throw it out and eliminate this source of the interruptions. When he turned around, his mouth and the trash can hit the floor. He couldn’t believe what he saw.
The sheets of ordinary paper filled with discarded ideas had somehow moved under their own power to form not only a small mound, but also a single word. Andrew stared at that word in disbelief. A mouse couldn’t have done that. He blinked, but when he opened his eyes, it was still there.
It was his name. “Who’s doing this?” he demanded as he began searching the room for the practical joker. “Jessie? Tabby? Did your mom put you up to this?” Andrew asked, looking under the desks again and anywhere else a small body could hide. He turned back to the word and found that it had been replaced with a response to his next question.
“Who are you?” Andy asked. He stared at the single word crudely arranged with wads of paper. If there was something manipulating the crumpled sheets, he didn’t want to miss it. After several minutes passed, Andrew felt foolish for thinking that a bunch of garbage could send him a message. He laughed nervously and picked up the glass of water, and took a long drink. As he chugged the refreshing beverage, he turned around to look at the word again ensuring he wasn’t seeing patterns where there were none. He choked and spat the water out when he was confronted with the reality of his madness. A new message was waiting for him.
“How are you doing that?” Andrew asked. He waited for a response, but one didn’t come. The sound of Jenny crying drew his attention to the window. She had fallen off Leopold, but Tabby was there helping her up, while Judy, still wearing her welder’s helmet, ran over to comfort their daughter. The situation was under control. Andrew turned his attention back to the message and found that it had changed again.
Andy didn’t know how ordinary paper could spontaneously arrange itself into messages, but he did notice they only responded when he wasn’t looking. He decided to test his theory by asking, “Are you only able to respond to me when I’m not looking?” He turned away as soon as the question was asked. He didn’t know how long he would have to wait, but the interval between each of the responses had been rather short. He turned back and found the message waiting for him.
“Now, that we can understand each other,” Andrew said, “I need to know what do you want from me?” Andy decided to try something a little different. Closing his eyes, he counted to three and opened them. Their response was waiting. Glad he didn’t have to risk vertigo or a pain in the neck in order to communicate with whatever mysterious magic was at work with the wads of paper.
“You want to help me? How?” Andy asked. It was crazy. He knew he couldn’t actually be speaking with paper. It had to be his subconscious at work. Was he that stressed out and frustrated with this bout of writer’s block that he was seeing patterns and messages where there really were none. He laughed uncomfortably at the realization that he was speaking to an inanimate pile of paper. When he realized that he hadn’t turned away from the wads of paper, he closed his eyes for several seconds. Moments later, he opened them and found his response was waiting.
“How are you going to help me do that?” Andy asked as he closed his eyes and waited. When he opened his eyes, he read their response.
Some of the letters were cut short and missing bits and pieces. It became clear to Andy that it was reaching the end of its abilities with the number of sheets it had available. They couldn’t convey complex ideas unless they had more pages at their disposal. “That seems unlikely,” Andy said. “You can only communicate one word at a time.” Andrew turned around and sipped from his water glass.
Andrew stared at the word. “What do you need?” Andy asked, setting the glass back on the desk.
“More what?” Andy asked, picking up his sandwich. He took a bite.
Andy considered his options for a moment. He could continue struggling with his inability to write on his own, or he could throw caution to the wind and trust in this figment of his imagination that claimed to have the cure to his current bout with writer’s block. Deciding it wouldn’t hurt to indulge his imagination for a time, he returned to his desk, sat down, and began crumpling the stack of paper he had beside his typewriter. Each new wad was tossed unceremoniously over his shoulder. One sheet at a time, the stack dwindled, while the pile behind him grew larger and larger.
Once the stack of paper set aside for his manuscript had been repurposed and distributed across the floor, he asked the empty room, “Is that enough?” When he turned around the answer was waiting for him.
A little more please.
Andy reached into his desk drawer and removed a large stack of paper and got to work crumpling it. A few minutes later, when the entire stack had been sent to the floor, he posed his question again and got a new response.
Yes. It’s plenty for now.
Spinning back to his typewriter, he posed a new question. “How do you move around? How are you able to make those messages?”
We still can’t tell you. It’s a secret.
The response didn’t sit well with Andy. His analytical mind didn’t work this way. Everything needed a reasonable explanation. He didn’t believe in magic or mysticism, and on most days even the concept of coincidence was a stretch.
You ask too many questions. We are here to help. Trust us.
The last two words were the most difficult for him to swallow. Was all of this a stress induced hallucination? How could he trust a hallucination? How could he simply accept the fact that he was losing his mind? For the time being, it was probably best that he didn’t think about it too much.
“When do we start?” Andy finally asked. He removed a fresh stack of paper from his desk drawer and set it beside the Royal.
Bright and early tomorrow morning.
“Why tomorrow morning?” Andy asked. “We still have most of the day ahead of us.”
You are not in the right state of mind right now.
Andy laughed out loud at the irony of their reply. “Ok. I can’t leave you on the floor. Where am I going to put you?” Andy asked, looking around the room.
Don’t touch us.
There was also an arrow that pointed to the trash can and another message beside it.
Don’t throw us away.
Andy stepped over the wads of paper and picked up the trash can. “If I can’t touch you how am I to put you into the can?”
Turn it over and we’ll do it ourselves.
Andy turned the can over and returned to his desk. He picked up a sheet of paper and pen and scribbled a quick message. “Do not empty.” When he turned back around there was another message waiting for him.
Go spend time with your family. DON’T TELL ANYONE ABOUT US!
“OK,” Andy said. He picked up his sandwich and took another bite. Turning around, the paper had found their way into the trash can. He picked up the garbage bin, set it under his desk, and laid the note on top of it. Then, he blocked it in with his chair. He grabbed the empty water glass and the sandwich and left his office.