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- The Escher Institute
By David Michael Newstead.
A short story based on the art of M.C. Escher.
The asylum had no bars, no guards, no gates or locks. But its confines were inescapable – a maze of staircases and corridors that never ended. One dimly lit hallway just led to another and another after that and so on. It was maddening. Damon had spent days climbing up and down the concrete steps, trying to find a way out. Yet whenever he got close to an exit it was like the architecture contorted and he would get lost again. Before long, the basement, the top floor, and everything in-between practically merged into one continuous labyrinth. Had he been going in circles this whole time, he wondered. Which way was up?
Around him, the other inmates were too far gone. They’d become catatonic. Most would wander aimlessly. One man huddled on the floor in a fetal position, tears rolling down his face. Meanwhile, a hospital orderly roamed the halls distributing multi-colored pills in small paper cups.
If only Damon could find a window, he thought, he’d throw the orderly out of it. He’d jettison all that medication and every stupefied prisoner would start thinking clearly again. Then, to break free, everyone would smash through the walls if they had to and leave the building burning behind them! Instead, Damon watched each patient swallow their doses, further turning their brains to mush. He had successfully evaded hospital staff for the time being, but it was impossible to do that forever. He knew he had to escape and soon.
Dealing with the orderlies was one thing, but the giant millipedes that stalked the facility were another problem entirely. They would slither and crawl along the ceilings and floors and walls at night, devouring whoever they found. He was sure of it! Damon had once seen three of the creatures rip a man to pieces, while he hid in a passageway looking on. Their legs would clatter against the tiles as they went by. Their jaws snapped open and closed. And their eyes were fat, glossy orbs that seemed to gaze in every direction at once. Where these eight foot long monsters crept out from, he didn’t know. In the daytime, they disappeared only to resurface again in the dark like cockroaches.
Because of that, he hadn’t slept in days. Paranoid and desperate, Damon raced through the halls, passing the same rooms innumerable times. It was as if he could go down a stairwell forever without reaching the bottom. Then, it dawned on him. The asylum had no entrance and no exit, no fixed layout. And how he got there in the first place became harder to recall.
When Damon finally collapsed, he’d been awake for two weeks straight. He sat with his back against a stone column. By then, he was exhausted and confused. And although he didn’t notice at first, a cup of assorted capsules somehow materialized in the palm of his hand. Their bright colors stood out against the dull gray prison all around him, stood out against his own pale skin. A dozen of the tablets stared up at him for more than an hour. As the minutes dragged on, Damon slipped in and out of consciousness. He didn’t remember taking the medication. He’d just rubbed his eyes and ran a hand through his hair. Then, he realized the pills were slowly dissolving underneath his tongue. Damon panicked, but it was too late. The pharmaceuticals were already taking hold and he could feel his mind start to go numb.
Ascending and Descending (1960)
Convex and Concave (1955)
House of Stairs (1951)
By David Michael Newstead.
“But why do you have a first typewriter?” A friend asked me.
Fair question. The first typewriter was my grandfather’s. I always thought it looked kind of cool. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. But the second typewriter? That I just bought online. Inspired by the documentary California Typewriter, I started searching for a restored typewriter and eventually I found something to my liking. My idea was I could figure out how to fix the broken typewriter by comparing it to a functional one. In theory, at least.
There are a few differences, of course. Like for example, they aren’t the same model and don’t have the same manufacturer. My first typewriter is a Cole Steel Portable made by a West German company that went out of business in the mid-1960s. My second typewriter, on the other hand, is a Brother Deluxe 650 TR from the 1970s.
I guess I was intrigued by its retro look and bright colors. When I first saw it, the thing just stuck out to me. I bought it from a guy in Spain who (for some reason) started repairing typewriters as a hobby five years ago. Eventually, he began to sell them on Etsy and people (for some reason) enthusiastically buy them. Me, for one. It took a while to ship, but I was excited when the box finally arrived. I don’t know how to explain it exactly. It looks and feels so cool, so tactile. Maybe because it’s an unusual purchase or from a long time ago. And added bonus, because it’s from Spain, my second typewriter also has a bilingual keyboard!
Interestingly, I would go on to discover from walking around in an office supply store that Brother Industries, the Japanese company that built my new machine, is still in business – having long ago shifted its focus to making printers. Then, it dawned on me: Japan, Spain, West Germany… It seemed like every one of these machines had a story behind it like it was on some journey that kept an otherwise antiquated object from oblivion. Maybe in the end, I’m just part of this typewriter’s latest chapter, the host at its most recent destination.
Either way, I was eager to unpack my new typewriter. I looked it over for a while. I got the device setup and made some space on my desk. Now, the only thing left to do is to write something.
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