Sitting here staring at this screen I can’t help but glance over at them like an addict trying not to think about his next fix. I am an addict and I know that my drug is killing me. Every time I take one of them up, I feel another little piece of my life slip away, but I don’t care. I look over at them, six pieces of polished bone, resting on silk, in a wooden box, just a little bigger than a box of pens. I feel them pulling me, drawing me to reach out, and take one up, but I resist. I don’t know how much time I have left, and I have to tell my story. I hope that maybe it will save somebody else from this.
I always wanted to be a writer, it was my dream for as long as I can remember, but everybody told me, I didn’t have what it takes. My story ideas were great, my characters were wonderful, but when I put words on a page, they had no feeling to them. They were dead, lifeless things, unlike the greats. I read all I could and worked as hard as I could, but teacher after teacher would read my stories and tell me I just didn’t have it.
It was during my senior year, my English teacher had just torn my latest work to pieces, and I had left school, cutting my afternoon classes to wander the streets of downtown and think. I was cutting down an alley I thought I knew, headed for the river, when I saw it. It was just a little shop with a big glass window in front.
Wants and Desires was the name on the window with a bunch of those weird Chinese letters around it. I don’t know why I stopped, but as I stood there looking at the stuff displayed in the window, my eyes were drawn to this wooden box, half hidden behind the other things. It wasn’t the box, but what was in it, or at least what I thought was in it, pens. They looked like they were made of bone but carved so intricately, that they were works of art in my eyes. I knew I could never afford something like them, but I found myself going into the store.
The inside was packed full of stuff from floor to ceiling with narrow walkways through all that junk. I didn’t see anybody, so I just wandered looking at it all. But none of it interested me like those pens in the window did. I was kind of amazed, at how big the store seemed, on the inside as I went deeper and deeper. I was just about ready to turn around and try to find my way out when he appeared.
He would have made a great kung-fu master in some B movie with is long thin mustache and goatee. He even wore the robes like they always do in those movies, but it was his eyes, the way he looked at me that was the weirdest thing. I felt as if he was looking through me, into my soul.
“Welcome to Wants and Desires, where your dreams can come true.”
I almost laughed at that cheesy line. “Ah, yeah. I saw something in your display window I would like to see.”
“The pens. They are very special, each one of a kind.”
If I wasn’t so focused on the pens, I might have wondered then, how he knew it was the pens, but they were all I could think about. “Yes, the pens.”
“Then follow me.” He leads the way, which seemed so much shorter back to the front. “Each of those pens is special and would make any man a great author, all six together will make you a legend.”
I thought it was just a sells pitch, but I played along, I wanted to touch them that bad. “What makes them special?”
“They are bones from six of the greatest story tellers this world has ever known. When you write with one the spirit attached to it will guide your hand to bring your words alive.”
I didn’t believe any of that. I figured the pens were probably animal bones, but the story would add to the price and I saw them slipping further and further out of my reach. “How much are they?”
“That depends on if they are for you, sometimes what we desire, doesn’t desire us.”
I was totally confused, was he trying to make a sale or not, but we had reached the front and he unlocked the window display and removed the box holding the pens. I reached for it, my hands shaking. The box was stained a light red and the lining of the box was a piece of black silk which made the white pens stand out even more against it. I wanted to take one out and hold it, but I fought that urge as I looked at the whole set together. The carving was so incredibly detailed. One pen, the left most one, had sailing ships like out of some Greek or Roman movie. Each had different carvings done on it, one had birds and I knew they were ravens, I didn’t know how, but I did.
I slid one of the pens out of the box and cradled it in my hand, like it was the most delicate of treasures, as I studied it. I felt something just holding it in my hand, a desire to write, to create a story. It took all my effort not to pull out my notebook and start writing right there.
“They desire you as much as you desire them. Such a thing cannot be denied so I’ll sell them to you for forty-six dollars and eighty-eight cents.”
It took all my strength to put the pen away and dig in my pockets. I had that exact amount, but the weirdness of it didn’t register, as I paid him. I hurried out of the store as I stuffed the box into my backpack and ran home.
My mom was still at work, so I ran upstairs and sat at my desk with the box in front of me. I ran my fingers over each of the pens as I sat there, not sure which to use first, and then I picked the one with the ravens. I pulled it from the box and flipped open my notebook to a blank page and began to write. I don’t remember much until my mom shook my shoulder. I felt drained as if I had just run a marathon, but also really good.
“I called you five times. Dinner is ready.”
I looked down at the notebook, and noticed I had used half of it, and had no idea what I had written. I wanted to read it and continue to write, but one look at my mother’s face had me putting the pen away and following her downstairs. I rushed through dinner, but my mom wouldn’t let me off that easily and I had to do the dishes and walk the dog before I could go back upstairs.
I started reading what I wrote and felt a chill run down my spine. It was good, it was great. I had tried to write horror before, but this was beyond anything I had ever done. As I reached the end of what I had written I was feeling scared and excited. The story was terrifying and the fact that I had written it, was even more so, but the fact that I had created it made me want to shout. I would show them, all those that never believed in me, put my stuff down and told me I would never become an author. I considered continuing the story, but it was late, and I had school the next day.
I laid in bed that night, after my shower, unable to sleep as the horror of what I had created ran through my mind. When I finally drifted off, I had bloody dreams, worse than any nightmare I had ever had, and I couldn’t wake from them until my alarm went off. I still felt tired, but I quickly got dressed and headed for school.
I got there early and hurried to Mr. Simple’s room. He was reading with his feet up on the desk as I came in. “I have something I want you to read.”
“Come on, Kevin. Do you really want to continue to put yourself through this? You have no talent as a writer.”
“Just read it. If you don’t think this is good, I’ll never ask you to do it again.”
He gave me a look that said he would humor me, this one last time, and took the notebook. I could see he wasn’t really reading it at first, but something caught his attention, and he went back to the beginning. I waited, pacing as he read until the bell rang and I ran to my homeroom. I felt anxious, as I sat through class after class, waiting until my English period.
I walked in the door and I could see it on his face, as he looked at me. “Well, what do you think?”
“What happened? Yesterday you have me read a barely legible piece of crap and today, you bring me a piece, reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe himself.”
“So, it is good?”
“Good, it is great. When will you finish it?”
“I’m not sure, but I’ll let you read it as soon as I do.” I felt great, I felt vindicated.
After school I rushed home and quickly took up one of the pens, I just grabbed one at random. It happened again, I spaced out and only came around as my mom shook me. I hadn’t finished the other story but started a new one. As I read it after dinner, I was amazed at how well it was done. I was stunned, something like that had come from me. I looked at the pen I had used and noticed first a small feather at the top. But as I looked closer, I realized it wasn’t a feather, but a quill. Below the quill was images that made me think of the theater. I slid it away from me and stumbled off to my shower.
It took weeks to learn and a lot of research, but I ended up putting a name to each of the pens. They were all famous authors or story tellers, some of who I had read, but others I had never even looked at their stuff before. A big help on this was Mr. Simple, who was well read and had an eye for the styles of famous authors. I learned that each would only work on their stories and boy what stories I could write, when I held one of those pens.
Mr. Simple contacted a few people he knew, and soon the first of many of my stories, graced the pages of a literary magazine. By the time we were discussing haveing a story published I had started getting a little paranoid about the pens. I feared losing or breaking them so to protect them, and myself ,I had my stuff published under a pen name. I chose Michael O’Connor, a name I used online sometimes. Only Mr. Simple and the publisher knew my real name and I planned to keep it that way.
Being published in magazines led to a book deal and I began spending as much time as I could writing. I guess that is when I noticed it. I would just zone out when I wrote and if I didn’t set an alarm or my mom came and got me, I would go for hours. At one point I wrote for almost a whole day without a break, without eating. That wasn’t the worse of it, I felt weak, completely drained, each time I put one of those pens down. I lost weight, but I figured it was from not eating, but it was more.
I met with a friend I hadn’t seen in a few months and they mentioned how much I looked like I had aged. That made me take a look at myself in a mirror, really look, and I saw it. I looked like I was twenty years older. I felt it also, even when I fought the urge to take up the pens for a day or two, I never really felt rested. It was only when I held one of those pens in my hands that I felt alive.
I guess I should have seen it sooner, but it was the fact, that I was finally doing the thing I wanted to do the most in life, that made me blind to it. It was more than just making my dream come true, it was the fame and money. It wasn’t the kind of fame where I was recognized, nobody knew who Michael O’Connor was. There were websites dedicated to him and finding out who was really behind that name. I loved it and ignored what was happening to me for so long.
It was the heart attack that woke me up. I was only twenty-four, and I had a heart attack. The doctors kept me in the hospital for a week and ran all kinds of tests on me. I knew it was serious, but all I wanted to do was go home and write. They were at a lost when the test results came back, I had the organs of an eighty-year-old man and they couldn’t figure out why. I listened to them as they explained it all to me, and all I could think about, was those pens.
It wasn’t until I got home and went to pick one of them up that it dawned on me. I snatched my hand back and just stared at them. They did this to me. I didn’t want to touch them, but my addiction was so great, that I could barely resist, so I snatched the box up and shuffled down the block to throw them into a sewer. I felt relieved as I walked home. I told myself that I would forget about them, I would use all that they had given me to continue to write, but I didn’t need them.
I was almost convinced as I entered my room and saw them, sitting there in their usual spot, as if I hadn’t ever moved them. Everything I tried failed to rid me of them and the need to write with them grew with each attempt. I finally broke down, and turned to the thing most people, in the modern age do, when faced with a problem. I searched for them on the internet. It wasn’t easy finding information about them, but I did.
An occult website, that was filled with all kinds of weird stuff, about everything from zombies to killer dolls, talked about the pens. It had a long list of writers suspected of having owned one or two throughout history and I was stunned by some of the names on it. The history was one tragedy after another. Each story was the same, an unknown writer would burst out with best sellers and then suddenly just disappear. The website told me so much, but not the one thing I wanted to find, a way to rid myself of them.
It was after reading that website, that I decided to write this. With my pen name attached, it will get published and maybe, hopefully, it will save someone else from suffering my fate.
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