Typeface by Rani Jayakumar

The “low battery” warning came on, and I plugged in the charger on my laptop. Here, late at night, I could finish my work, undisturbed by children, meals to cook, cleaning to do, phone calls or conversations. My eyes, however, had other plans. They started to glaze over, and occasionally just stared at the screen, my fingers hovering over the keyboard as if I were paralyzed. 

I’m not sure whether it was voluntary--one moment I was sitting on the couch, feet tucked to my side, and the next I was standing in what looked like a vast sheet of paper that extended in every direction. My bare feet made a shuffling sound on the surface. I’ve jumped into the Word processor, I thought to myself, with alarm. But it was larger and more pristine than I’d imagined. As I stood looking around at the white sky, the white paper, the white walls, I realized I was tiny, and trapped. How could I get out? Was I stuck here? I began to panic. I ran in every direction, trying to find a way out, to no avail. 

It was only after many deep breaths that I was able to ponder what to do next, trying to find a semblance of anything colored. Then I heard a faint click; my heart skipped a beat. It seemed like a large, heavy sound, but also very, very far away. 

So I was completely unprepared when a kind of giant stamp dropped from that endless white sky and left a gigantic ink imprint on this paper. 

I tested it with my finger--still wet. The ink smelled familiar, like newspapers and old books, but also of mud. It was dark and black. 

By standing at one edge as tall as possible and squinting, I could make out that it was a letter. I walked around it, at least as far as I could before getting tired. This was certainly a capital letter T. 

Since I appeared to be stuck here for the time being, I decided to have some fun. I dipped my hands and feet in the ink and began to finger paint with them. In fact, I began writing my own, relatively tiny, story on the edge of that enormous letter T. All around the serifs I wrote about how I’d arrived and what I’d done here, and how I was trapped on an enormous sheet of paper with ink. How droll for a person working on their presentation notes to be trapped inside them. This soon became boring, and I started to worry. How would I get out? Would I make it out of here? Was this a dream? I pinched myself, shouted, kicked, screamed but remained in this clean-room-like environment. I tried to scratch at the paper and rip it, but it was sturdy and much too thick for my minuscule hands. Was this what it was like to be an ant? At least ants could follow the scent home. I had nothing. 

I looked back behind me--my inky footprints had left a trail. Maybe I did have something after all. Inking my hands and feet, I began to walk in one direction, to the left of the T, in hopes of the edge of the page there. When I ran out of ink on my feet, I rubbed it onto them from my hands. After what seemed an eternity, I felt a rough edge give way, and my right foot dangled below the other precariously. Terrified, I fell backwards onto the paper. 

Though I could see the edge of the paper, in front of me, again, was only whiteness, as it was all around. Was it another page? Another book? It seemed an endless white void. With nothing to lose, I closed my eyes, and leaped. 

I landed on another page. I kept walking, sure that this book had an ending, or at least a beginning. But the pages kept coming, one after another, endlessly. 

That’s when I heard it: a gentle pitter-patter at first, and then louder, longer. A clickety-clack that was like rain but both sharper and softer. 

I was lucky I was on the edge of the paper, because I could not have otherwise avoided being flattened by what happened next: letter upon letter, stamped upon the page. The words, the letters, kept coming. I couldn’t read them from my angle but I knew they were a typeface, likely Times New Roman 12, coming at me fast as a typewriter, in the same rich, deep black ink. I must have wandered too close, because when I finally looked up, a giant metal L was coming down directly onto my forehead. 

Looking up in fear, I shuffled backward off the edge of the page, and found myself free-falling. Just in time, I gripped the edge of the fat page with the tips of my fingers, hanging. I looked down, but there was nothing to see. 

The typing sounds quieted, but the pages began to fall. One rustling sheet fell on top of the next, then faster and faster, as if some giant were thumbing through this book. They began to press against my hanging fingertips, pushing them out. I had no choice but to let go and let myself drop into oblivion. I flailed and fell. 

The sounds stopped, and I landed with a thud, eyes jerking open, sitting again, on the couch. My presentation appeared to be complete, but hadn’t I just been sleeping? I wasn’t sure. I yawned and rubbed my eyes. When I pulled my hands away, they were covered in black ink. 

Published in Issue #18

No comments:

Post a Comment