- Diane Callahan
Demonic Printer Sparks Romance
Updated: Apr 14, 2021
Chris would rather staple his own hand than admit his crush on his coworker Anthony. But the office printer has a mind of its own and is ready to play Cupid.
Everyone in the office called the supply room printer a “giant plastic sack of crap that deserved to rot in the underworld for all eternity.” All except for Christopher, who patted its paper tray reassuringly and said, “That’ll do pig” when it jammed for the sixth time that day. Anthony, one of his coworkers, would smile into his green tea and nod approvingly if he happened to pass by, and Chris admitted to himself that perhaps his silly comments had a little to do with the wealth of sunshine in that small smile.
One day, Chris stood by the printer as it vomited a hundred forms, the mechanical purr oddly comforting. As he daydreamed of the gray slacks Anthony had been wearing that day, he noticed that the printed pages looked darker all of a sudden. He leaned down and peeled off a page. Anthony’s sharp nose and dark stubble stared back at him—a photo he recognized as a zoomed-in snapshot of their recent staff bowling outing.
“Weird…” he muttered. Chris tried poking an assortment of buttons on the printer, but the photos kept coming, clone after clone after clone of his coworker’s face.
He pulled out the paper tray, and the printer finally stopped with an angry whine. Separating the forms out, he examined the photos for any other sign of why someone had printed them.
“Hey, how’s it—” Anthony poked his head into the supply room. “Why are you printing…? Why is there so much me?”
“Uh…” Chris struggled to form a coherent answer as to why he was holding a stack of the other man’s face. “I didn’t print these—they were just here. When I got here.”
Anthony arched a dramatic eyebrow. “I mean, I’d understand if you wanted to give everyone a copy of that to put on their desk. It’s a damn good picture of me.”
Heat rose up Chris’s neck, and with his paper pale skin, it’d be no time at all before he started to look like a thermometer. The edges of the copies were wilting under his sweaty palms, and he glanced at the trashcan, but it seemed rude somehow to throw away all those Anthonys in front of Anthony himself.
Instead, Chris said, “Yes, well, I’ll just take these and find the maniac who did this,” and hurried from the room.
He asked around the office to see if anyone had printed forty-two copies of Anthony’s face, but his interrogations came to an end after the second-and-a-half how-dare-you-assume-I’m-as-weird-as-you look.
* * *
The next day, Anthony slapped a piece of paper on Chris’s desk.
“I believe this belongs to you,” his coworker said, a twinkle in his eye. “I found it in the printer tray.”
Chris leaned slowly toward the paper, as if it might fly forward and gouge him with paper cuts if he made any sudden moves. It was a résumé with his name at the top, except the positions were decidedly unprofessional. Master of Pies. Aspiring Swing Dancer. Extreme Bedmaker. One of the bullet points listed under Amateur Masseuse was Give pleasurable backrubs lasting 30 minutes or longer.
Anthony chuckled, evidently misinterpreting Chris’s horrified look. “It’s all right—I won’t get you in trouble for printing personal stuff at work. I’m sure your girlfriend will appreciate it.”
“I don’t have a girlfriend. Or boyfriend,” Chris said quickly. He didn’t know why he’d felt compelled to add that last part. Well, he did, but it was on his list of Things Not to Tell His Coworkers Under Threat of Death.
A flicker of different emotions crossed Anthony’s face, and Chris could’ve sworn one of them was delight, but he’d been wrong about this sort of thing before. “No shame in that. I haven’t had a boyfriend in years. And hey, you need some way to stand out in the dating market these days.”
Anthony tapped his desk before making some excuse about talking to Shelia in HR and walking away. Chris sat in a stupor, unable to process this new information—the answer to a question he had never felt it was appropriate to ask, and that Anthony had just laid out on the table, and he really didn’t want to think about Anthony being laid out on a table right now and—
Chris speed-walked to the supply room, gripping his cauldron-shaped coffee mug. His gaze fell on the printer. He had no idea who could’ve written and printed that romantic résumé, but a burbling in his gut tugged him toward the massive machine. Or perhaps that was just a bad spot of indigestion.
When he looked down at the printer screen, he immediately reeled back, splashing coffee onto his white shirt. Glowing words moved across the screen: OUT OF PAPER. FEED ME, CHRISTOPHER.
He blinked at the message and then glared into his coffee cup, as if the caffeine-free contents had forced these hallucinations upon him.
There was only one thing left to do—put more paper in the printer.
Once it had been refilled, the message blinked away. A page whirred out. Chris knew he probably shouldn’t play around with demonic printers, but it seemed to know things he didn’t.
On the paper, in fresh black ink, shone the phone number to Anthony’s office.
* * *
The morning after, Chris whistled his way into work. His first stop was the supply room, and his heart swelled at the sight of the bulky printer quietly sitting against the wall.
“Thank you,” he whispered, caressing its edges.
Knuckles rapped on the doorframe, and Chris turned to see Anthony, who looked even more sunny-faced than usual.
Anthony rubbed the back of his neck. “We probably shouldn’t talk about it at work, but I just wanted to say I had a really nice time last night. To be honest…it was the best date I’ve ever been on.”
“Me too,” Chris replied, so in awe of the truth in those words that he couldn’t help but speak softly.
The printer hummed to life. Chris jumped at the sound.
“What’re you printing?” Anthony asked.
Chris peered at the corner of the facedown paper: We cordially invite you to the wedding of…
“Oh, you know,” Chris said, flattening the page with a nervous laugh. “Forms we might need in the future.”
Anthony stepped forward and took Chris’s hand in his. “We have a lot to look forward to.”
They both stared at each other for a moment, smiles blooming, basking in their shared happiness as the quiet hum of the printer filled the room.
* * *
Originally published through the Toasted Cake podcast.
By Diane Callahan
Diane Callahan strives to capture her sliver of the universe through writing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. As a developmental editor and ghostplotter, she spends her days shaping stories. Her YouTube channel, Quotidian Writer, provides practical tips for aspiring authors. You can read her work in Translunar Travelers Lounge, Short Édition, Riddled with Arrows, Rust+Moth, and The Sunlight Press, among others.