[Story] Story a Week 11

[[ Prompt: Words we hate

I don’t “hate” any words so I started to think about who might hate words, and which words they would hate. ]]

Paul stepped off the train into the brisk spring wind, deceptively cold despite the evening sunshine. He clutched his coat together and ensured that his briefcase was secure before turning down the street to his apartment. Like Paul, everything about it was tidy and meticulous, no unnecessary clutter, no dust beneath the furniture. Stepping in the door, he removed his shoes and coat and put them in their proper places. He crossed the living room with a few quick strides, laying his briefcase down on the coffee table. It was Friday evening, but he was eager to start working again.

He often brought work home with him, and this weekend was no exception. Paul regarded the possibilities of two whole days of uninterrupted work with something like excitement. No interruptions, no coffee breaks, no bothersome conversation from co-workers. He worked as an editor for a large company, overseeing copy for all of their advertisements and publications. Originally he had worked only in the advertising department, but his diligence and drive had soon earned recognition and he was given extra projects to do. Paul couldn’t have been more happy; each was like a treasure hunt that could be savored over and over. This weekend’s project was a good one, an entire instruction manual. He could only imagine how many mistakes he might uncover and reveal.

He went to the kitchen and started a pot of tea, taking the time to collect his pens and sticky notes. These he arranged neatly beside the manuscript. The water would still take a few more minutes to boil, Paul realized. He went to his computer and opened the browser to the news section. Three grammatical errors before he even scrolled down. Appalling! Paul scoffed to himself. Editing took hardly any time at all, they even had programs to do some of it for you now, though nothing could replace a real person, he thought. His teakettle whistled, and he went to pour it, returning to the desk again with his drink. Embarrassing! Who could attach their name to such sloppy work? Paul clicked down to the comments section of the first article, and he nearly dropped his mug in horror. There ought to be a test, he vowed, in order to be able to post things online. Or at the very least, someone to monitor these things. He began to type furiously, correcting each mistake that he saw — and there were quite a few.

Nearly half an hour had passed by the time he reached the end of the comments section, and realized how much time he had already used. Paul returned to his coffee table and flipped open the manuscript. As this was his first edit, there would be plenty to find, and Paul wielded his red pen eagerly. Each one felt like a small victory, seeing a work emerge from its crude origins to something sleek and polished and perfect.

He worked late into the evening, pausing only for a brief meal reheated in the microwave. The pages were slashed with red ink by the time he was through with them, a literary massacre. Paul looked up at the clock to see that it was well past midnight. Reluctantly, he laid his pen down. As much as he wanted to continue, his concentration would suffer if he did not rest. And then he would make mistakes. He moved to close the blinds, when he saw something sitting there in the window. At first he thought it was a stray cat, for it was the correct size and had luminous yellow eyes. Paul rapped the window to try to startle it away, but the animal instead leapt inside, causing him to utter a cry of alarm and disgust. It wasn’t a cat, at least he didn’t think so. It looked like some unholy combination of a monkey and a lizard; its body was covered in glossy scales and it had long thin claws at the end of bony toes.

It also talked. Well, it shrieked. The noise was awful, and Paul was sure the neighbors would hear it and complain. He was about to complain himself. The creature skittered up on top of his bookshelf.

“Should of closed the window!” it cackled, and Paul cringed.

He fetched the broom from the kitchen and tried to dislodge the thing. What was it? If he’d seen it in a movie, he would brush it off as badly done computer effects, but it was real. Wasn’t it?

“You’re literally killing me!” it howled, leaping from the bookshelf to the top of the mantel, knocking down a clock and a pair of candlesticks with a heavy thud.

“Stop it!” Paul shouted. “You terrible thing, get out.” The mess was bad enough, that could be fixed. But the awful grammar was something else entirely.

“I can’t even,” cackled the thing. Its tail writhed like a snake, knocking more things off the mantel. Though he tried, Paul couldn’t get a hold of the creature; it was simply too agile and too fast. It would have to tire eventually. Maybe he could set a trap of some sort. But what to use for bait? And what would he do with it once it was caught? Killing it would make such a mess. Truthfully, Paul was not certain that he could kill it, either. Even looking at the loathsome thing was difficult. Hearing it was certainly worse, though.

Glancing around the apartment, he saw no means of capturing it, at least not this late at night. He picked up the objects from the floor and replaced them in their proper positions. Through this, the creature continued to chatter nonsense, observing Paul from a safe distance. Perhaps, Paul thought, if I feign disinterest, it will lower its guard. But it didn’t, at least that he saw. At one point, Paul grew too tired to stay awake any longer, and fell asleep in his chair.

He awoke to the clatter of keys at his computer. The creature leapt with abandon back and forth over the keyboard, cackling and shrieking all the while. “Stop that!” Paul shouted, rushing over to the desk. The computer’s screen was filled with a mish-mash of garble, incorrectly used apostrophes, and commas. Worse, it had all been posted under his name. Paul searched frantically for a “delete” button, the creature cackling all the while.

The thing had to go. But to do that, Paul needed to figure out what he was dealing with. It definitely wasn’t talking — well it was, but not in any coherent manner. Was it some sort of monkey? But monkeys couldn’t talk, at least not with human speech. Paul studied the thing, warily. Was it a demon? He didn’t believe in such nonsense, but he supposed that didn’t matter. It was here, whether he believed it or not. And how did one get rid of demons? With exorcism, at least that’s what the movies had led him to believe. But he didn’t know any priests, nor was he eager to start asking for an exorcism, lest he look crazy. He already felt crazy with this thing occupying his home. There had to be another way; a home-made solution, so to speak. He pushed the creature out of his chair and brought up the browser: How to get rid of a demon.

The page was appalling. It looked as if it hadn’t been updated since the 1990s, and it had little spinning graphics, as well as animated pixellated candle flames. But once he got past all of that, it did have instructions to rid a house of demons. Paul looked at the creature again. It was chewing scales from its repulsive little arms. He certainly hoped the ritual would work.


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