Excerpt for The Curse of Qwerty by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Curse of Qwerty

Billy Dean

Distributed by Smashwords

This ebook is licensed for your enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or
given to others. Thank you for respecting the work of this author.
Stripe illustration was derived from a photograph at, which is licensed
under Creative Commons by 2.5. The other
illustrations, including the cover, were
created by the author or derived
from images released to the
public domain under
Creative Commons

Chapter Titles

One -- The Magic Typewriter

Two -- Emily Meets Elisa

Three -- Ergo the Ogre

Four -- Buda and Pest

Five -- Qwerty Curses Emily

Six -- Mister Iskolak

Seven -- In the Library

Eight -- Emily Translates the Messages

Nine -- Ten Thousnd Forints

Ten -- Emily Summons Gibreth

Eleven -- The Legend of Qwerty

Twelve -- Qwerty is a Nightmare

Thirteen -- Emily Buys the Typewriter

Fourteen -- Elisa Disappears

Fifteen -- Emily Discovers the Home Row

Sixteen -- Emily Finds Elisa

Seventeen -- A Stitch in Time

Eighteen -- The Lions Roar

Nineteen-- Sisters One

One -- The Magic Typewriter

On the drive to the antique shop, Emily watched the Danube River meander between the cities of Buda and Pest. That's me, she thought, wandering between who I am and who they expect me to be. Budapest. What a strange place for a vacation. This is how I'll feel in boarding school when I turn 16. A stranger. Bored and alone. There won't even be any boys.

When they arrived at the shop, she followed her parents inside. The man standing behind the counter said, without smiling, "Jo reggelt kivanok." Emily guessed that meant "Hello." or "Good morning." He looked like a shriveled old potato left too long in the pantry.

The shop looked like its owner -- dark and disheveled. The only light came from the sun streaming through the six small windows above the front door, and the shelves were crowded with things covered in dust, and stacked on top of each other. The dust alone convinced Emily his customers had not been fooled by the dim light, that even the owner didn't care about his so-called antiques.

Antiques. What a silly word. Just a way to make junk sound like something valuable. Everything in this shop has been forgotten. Like the stuff in my grandmother's attic where I used to hide to enjoy being forgotten.

The antique store back home in Kansas was named Good Riddance and rightfully so because most of the things for sale were not junk. And it was clean and well-lit. This shop reminded Emily of the one in the movie Gremlins. Her parents would not have approved of her watching a movie like that, so she and her friend Zoey had found it on You Tube. Emily shuddered to think something like Gizmo or Stripe could be hiding in this shop.

With these thoughts swirling around in the back of her head, Emily ambled toward the back of the shop. Turning a corner, she had a clear view of the windows above the front door and noticed the glass in each of the six rectangular panes had been yellowed with age, softened by the sunlight passing through it. The windows let the light in because it's welcome here.

Watching the dust floating in the light, suspended by it, Emily's feelings toward the musty old shop softened, as if she too had permission to be there.

In the next aisle, an old typewriter caught her eye. She leaned over and blew off the dust. The royal-blue case was decorated with gold pin striping and a seal or emblem of some kind on the front. The keys sitting in the long sweeping curve of the faceplate looked like the beads of a necklace around a lady's neck. Maybe it belonged to a princess, she thought.

Emily looked around to make sure nobody was watching, took a piece of paper from the notepad in her purse and put it in the typewriter. She leaned forward to type, but noticed the keys were not in the same positions as the keys on her computer keyboard back home. The letters on this typewriter looked as if someone had tossed them onto the keys with no thought whatsoever.

She had to hunt for the keys she wanted but finally typed MY NAME IS EMILY. When she was done, she saw the typewriter had printed MT LAMD G: DMGPT. As Emily stood there wondering why the typewriter had printed different letters than the ones she had typed, the keys began striking the paper by themselves.

Emily stepped back and stared wide-eyed at the typewriter as it printed MT LAMD G: DPG:A directly below the letters she had typed moments before.

"Wow!" yelled Emily, then she turned to see if anyone had heard her outburst. "This is a magic typewriter." she whispered, then ran to find her parents, who were bickering over an old clock.

Two -- Emily Meets Elisa

"Mother, Dad, come quick. I found a magic typewriter. It talks to me!"

"Shhhhhsh," scolded her mother, "You will disturb the other shoppers."

"But it puts strange words on the paper."

"Well of course it types strange letters, dear. This is a foreign country."

"But it types all by itself!"

"Emily, your father and I are trying to..."

"Dad, it talks to me. Let's buy it and take it home."

"We'll see, Emily. Now run along until your mother and I decide about this clock."

Emily walked slowly back to the typewriter, "They don't believe me." They never believe me.

Her parents were looking for things to take home. Emily wished she could find something to take her through the awkward, mixed feelings of being a tweenager. That's what her friend Zoey called everyone at their middle school in Topeka.

One day on the way home from school, Emily had confessed to Zoey that she didn't want to grow up. "Why grow up, Zoey, and be like our mothers, arguing with our husbands, calling them nincompoops, wishing--"

Zoey had interrupted her, saying, "Emily, that's how we're supposed to feel. We're tweenagers!"

When Emily got back to the typewriter, she leaned forward and typed THEY NEVER BELIEVE ME and watched the keys print KJDT LD>DO NDPGD>D MD. As she looked at her feelings in this strange new language, the keys began striking the paper on their own:




Emily ran to find her father and found him looking at smoking pipes carved from wood. "Dad, you have to see this typewriter. It talks to me!"

Absorbed in the pipes, he absentmindedly answered, "Uh, sure Emily. Just a minute."

Emily watched her father look at the pipes until she could no longer wait. "Dad. Please!"

Grabbing his hand, Emily led her father to the back of the shop. "See, there it is!" Emily typed SAY HELLO TO MY FATHER as the typewriter printed :AT JDPPS KS MY YAHJDO.

"Well that's nice, dear, but this is a foreign country, so it types different letters."

"But Dad, shouldn't it print the same letters I type?"

"I'm sure there is a simple explanation, Emily."

"But it answers me. Watch.” As Emily leaned forward, all the keys jammed in the neck of the typewriter. Emily reached out to untangle the keys just as her mother came around the corner.

"What are you two doing back here?"

"Emily was showing me this old typewriter. Dusty and in need of repair but quite beautiful in its own way, wouldn't you say dear?"

"Mother, help me fix the keys, they're all..."

"Emily, stop! If you break that typewriter, I will be obligated to buy it!"

"Oh yes, let's buy it and take it home!"

"We do not have time for such silliness. We have a dinner engagement with the Petersens tonight in Buda and I will not embarrass myself by being late."

Emily yanked the paper out of the typewriter just as her mother grabbed her arm. "I'll find out what you said. I promise." whispered Emily, looking back at the typewriter as her mother led her away.

Three -- Ergo the Ogre

As Emily and her parents were leaving the shop, Ergo released her grip on Elisa's throat.

"There, there, my little princess. Children should be seen, not heard. Isn't that right, my dear? Heh-heh-heh..." she cackled, wringing her hands in anticipation of completing her mission and receiving her cloak and wand from Qwerty, the Queen of Witches.

Elisa felt something sinister and grotesque standing in the shadows within the typewriter that had become her prison. The image of an ogre crept into her mind, vivid and terrifying. When she was a little girl, Knight Gilbreth would tell her stories about trolls and ogres whenever her parents were away.

They were the King and Queen of Dvorak and traveled frequently to encourage trade and secure allies. Gilbreth said ogres were horribly disfigured creatures with evil minds, dark hearts and sharp teeth. Elisa imagined them to look like the gargoyles she'd seen on the sides of old churches. She shuddered.

"The witches of Dvorak will take notice when I prove I can keep you under the curse of Qwerty." continued Ergo, her voice crackling with smug delight.

"Qwerty?" asked Elisa, struggling to see this evil creature standing in the murky shadows of her prison. "Who is that?”

"The Queen of Witches, and she has commissioned me to guard her curse."

"Emily will break this curse, then put one on you!"

"I am already under a curse, the spell of an ogre. But when I am done with you and your little friend, Qwerty will induct me into the witches of Dvorak, no longer an ogre but a sorceress with the power to conjure and curse at will.”

“An ogre? Then you are ugly and stupid. Emily is beautiful and clever. You will not defeat her.”

“Oh but I will. Qwerty gave me some very special tricks for you and your friend. Ergo began swirling around Elisa faster and faster, closer and closer...

Girly, girly, you'll lose to Qwerty!
I'm Ergo the Ogre with a secret encoder.
Decipher it and I'll set you free.
Or die little princess when you tap the wrong key.

"My father will send Knight Gilbreth to destroy you and Qwerty!"

Your father isn't going to do anything but die and your cousin Sholes will replace him as the new King of Dvorak. Nothing can stop us now."

"My father? Dying? Sholes the new King? How can this be?"

"You will not be crowned Queen when your father dies. Your cousin will lament your disappearance, then lead the people of Dvorak into peace and prosperity. "

"You mean oppression and poverty. My cousin is selfish and evil!"

“But of course. Why else would Qwerty invade his dark heart? His kingdom will soon be ours.”

"Then I will summon Knight Gilbreth myself." screamed Elisa.

"Gilbreth? Ha! A sentimental old fool, rusty and dull as his sword. It hasn't been out of its scabbard for years. All he is fit to do is drink ale and swap tall tales of the good old days."

As Ergo swirled away, Elisa expelled a sigh of relief, then shuddered with the realization that something powerful and malicious had imprisoned her in a typewriter, then hidden it in an antique shop rarely visited by anyone but tourists caught up in the past of a city forgotten by time. Elisa was terrified that she too had been forgotten. My only hope is a girl named Emily.

Four -- Buda and Pest

On the drive from the antique shop back to the hotel, Emily couldn't stop thinking about the typewriter. Had it really typed by itself? Or was that just my imagination?

Emily was always making up things in her head, especially when she was bored. She didn't like stories about ordinary, everyday things. That was boring. Emily like stories that gave her imagination a place to run wild and free. Emily read stories about "once upon a time" and "lands far, far away."

She was reading a story like that now, and it was more than just a story some writer had made up. Ink Heart was a story within a story. Emily's father had read stories to her until she could read them herself. So Emily had been drawn to Ink Heart because in that story a father reads stories to his daughter, and as he reads, the characters come to life.

Emily felt like that about the typewriter. She had only typed her name, but that had somehow brought the typewriter to life. She couldn't wait to get back to the hotel and try to figure out what the typewriter had said.

When they arrived at the hotel, Emily went to her room. It was four doors down the hall from her parents' room, which was good, because she wouldn't be able to hear them argue. She had more than an hour to get ready for dinner with the Petersens. She opened her purse and put the paper from the typewriter on her desk. There must be some connection between what I typed and what the typewriter printed, especially when it typed on its own. How can I--

Her cell phone rang.

Her mother had bought disposable phones for all three of them at the airport. Emily put her book down, flipped her cell phone open and put it to her ear. "Emily, put your blue dress on and come over to our room. Hurry, we do not have much time."

Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-9 show above.)