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A Word of Warning · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Murder She Collaborated
“Honey, I’m home!”

The old house was bitterly cold, because Fall had arrived with a vengeance while he had been gone, with colorful leaves blowing outside and sharp gusts of cold air coming through the multitude of cracks in the windows and siding. The front door fought against being closed while his hands were full of his luggage, but he leaned up against the dark varnished wood and jiggled the latch until it finally caught, leaving him alone in the wood-panelled living room. Ignoring the backlog of mail for the moment, he bumped up the thermostat, dragged his suitcase into the bedroom, and walked into the den.

It was almost just as he left it, with a light powdering of dust on the ancient manual typewriter and his creaky antique wooden chair. He dropped his tired rear end down on the lumpy cushion, picked up the partially-completed manuscript from the table, and leaned back to flip through it.

“You should have seen the convention,” he said between page flips. “Hundreds… Well, dozens of people lined up to get autographed copies of Andrea Martin’s latest murder mystery. Twenty-five book store signings, three different flights in coach, and enough Red Bull to float a boat. It’s good to be home.”

A faint breeze stirred the curtains on the nearby window, fogging the surface while the gas furnace in the basement chugged away in a futile attempt to heat the drafty old house. The thin ends of dry branches scraped across the glass with the outside breeze, fluttering the papers with the inevitable draft and blowing one blank sheet across the table.

He rolled the paper down into the old manual typewriter and went back to musing over the manuscript. “Three chapters in and the body count is higher than anything Andrea has published so far. The readers seem to like it when the bodies start piling up, but maybe we should wing a few instead of finishing them off. Change the pace up a little.”

He read in silence for a while, skipping forward at times, backing up when something interesting caught his eye, and ending with a grunt when he ran out of pages.

“It needs a lot of work, like the unfinished first novel you wrote, but—”

The author cut off abruptly as strong, cold fingers touched the back of his neck. They stroked gently at first, then dug into the corded muscles in long, slow strokes.

In short order, the body of the author was motionless, draped across the wooden chair in the drafty den. Then the manual typewriter began to peck out a message, one letter at a time.

you like it/

Taking a deep breath, the author glanced at the message before giving a brief chuckle. “Yes, and yes. Every book has been getting closer to the New York Times Bestseller list, but this is better than all of them so far.”


“Yes, really. Just like you said you wanted before you pass on.”

The wind outside the old house died down until the silence became almost oppressive. Then again, one letter at a time, the antique typewriter pecked out another sentence.

what will you do then/

He shrugged. “I may branch out into a different genre. Ghost stories, maybe. After all, I have a similar unfinished goal I’d like to accomplish before I pass away.”

The typewriter was silent.

“Yes, really.” He paused to take down the empty frame on the wall and brush the dust off it. “That notification is going right here, just as you wanted, with your name on it. Any residuals will go into the scholarship fund, and I’ll have to make my own way in the world.”

The typewriter remained silent.

“First things first,” he said, placing the unfinished manuscript to one side and turning on his computer. “Let me get this into a document so I can start editing, and you can write out some notes on the second half of the story.” He paused, glancing over at the silent typewriter while the computer finished booting. “So have you been thinking up lots of new and interesting ways to kill people while I’ve been gone?”

The typewriter immediately started tapping away.


“That’s my girl.” He lined up the first draft and began typing, only to stop and chuckle to himself. “People would have such a fit if they found out Andrea Martin uses a ghost writer.”

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#1 ·
· · >>georg
Heh, alright, that's worth a chuckle. :P

You've got some spacing issues here, it seems. Did you convert from somewhere? A few things read kinda clunky... but overall it's serviceable. The transition before the writer starts typing feels a bit strange? Give it an editing pass or two maybe. For a one-note joke, I think it's fairly well done.
#2 ·
· · >>georg
Worth a chuckle indeed. A fun concept, but the execution was in places lackluster. The formatting needs some work and I found myself confused at points (and not in the good way). I would love to see a cleaned-up version of this, but for now it's pretty middle of the pack.
#3 ·
· · >>georg
Hey you borrowed my idea from the thread welcome message. Thanks for that! ;)

Otherwise, well the text succeeds in establishing a sort of creepy context suitable for that sort of story, although somewhat cliched: shabby shovel, keening wind, gaunt trees. It just lacked the hoot of an owl.

I wish the typewriter would've acted on it's own, rather than being operated by a ghost. Or I wish the ghost killed the narrator and kept writing on the typewriter. As it is currently written, i think the end fells pretty flat.
#4 ·
· · >>georg
Andrea Martin is also wasting thousands of dollars per month trying to heat a house so full of holes that wind is blowing papers off the desk.

What's there to say about this story? It's a Shaggy Dog. Congratulations, you derailed into a joke that was just about the single most obvious and least funny place you could have taken the setup. The premise and prose of your actual buildup were trending into Strong territory, honestly, especially with great little touches like the ghost using slashes because it wasn't pressing the Shift key. This could easily have carried something much, much weightier. As it is this just gets a roll of the eyes and an "Eh." It'll probably land mid-slate somewhere on that potential, but I don't think there's a way to make me appreciate what you were trying to do.

Tier: Misaimed
#5 ·
· · >>georg
I don’t really know how to feel about this story. On the one hand, I kind of liked the idea of a writer not being able to stop, even after being dead. I also enjoyed the atmosphere for the first part of the story, where things are quite obviously not alright, but the guy just proceeds like everything’s kosher.

On the other hand, I feel like the final joke is kind of a waste. This story had a genuinely creepy feel, yet the ending just kind of ends with a ghost writer joke. Nothing about the bizarreness of this arrangement, or on how damn unhinged both of these individuals must be to be doing something like this. It’s an ill-fitting ending for something that’s otherwise played horrifyingly straight.

Has a good horror tone, but can’t quite come up with the right ending.
#6 ·
· · >>georg
The Great

Surprisingly full story in a very short space. Very well executed.

The Rough

Punchline doesn't work. At all. Story is better without it. "lots" is where you want to end it, I think.

I feel the description borders a bit too heavily on purple early on. Just a lot of information delivered that doesn't really do anything super great, I think.

Is Andrea giving the author a message before the type messages start happening? That took me a couple reads to arrive at that conclusion, because the combination of the cold fingers rubbing muscles and the author lying sprawled also creates imagery of possession. You might want to clear that up a bit.
#7 ·
· · >>georg
Man, people are really bouncing off this one, aren't they? I liked it! Your punchline was a bit obvious, though. Were this to be expanded, I'd like "Andrea" to get a bit more of a character, and for the menacing feeling she carries to be expanded on.
#8 ·
Short mea culpa, mea maxima culpa for Murder She Collaborated here.

First, I'm glad all of you think that last line is a joke. It was *supposed* to be an ironic realization of his role as a ghost writer for a ghost. It seems I write humor into things that I didn't even think of as humor. Probably why I don't write horror stories with clowns. I'll probably dink the last line around to be more ironic in the final publication.

>>GaPJaxie Yeah, there's something in Gdocs/Chrome that makes every Copy/Paste operation turn < NL > characters into < CR > < LF > pairs. That's why I switched from IE several years ago. Here we go again. Sigh.

>>Monokeras There's a reason those standard ghost story tropes get used to set the scene. :)

>>horizon >>libertydude For Sale, large house, one previous owner. Large expansive windows, rustic charm, odd stain on wood floorboards in den that will not come out. Former owner was a masseuse who wrote fiction, so some minor maintenance issues such as groaning pipes, mysterious drafts, and flickering lights are to be expected.

>>AndrewRogue >>Dubs_Rewatcher Well, the combination of cold ghostly fingers and the author laying across the chair was *supposed* to make the reader think the ghost had killed him.

Maybe I should have gotten Patrick Swayze to play the part.

Still, placing 15th in this collection of amazing shorts was pretty darned good. Grats to all the participants.