Meh. I wrote this all out of order and never honestly meant the last chapter I posted here to be part of my leaving letter for my previous site. It’s odd to have to work around what I’ve written, but I did, and hopefully it’s a good work around and doesn’t feel forced. Thanks for reading and sorry for taking so long to update.
Questions, Quandaries, and Quarry
The Now: Of Pens
He nursed a headache, and in one hand a cup of coffee. Sprawled before him was a book. The hand not occupied with the cup was spread under it, half propping it up, half twiddling the edge of the pages. It was a tentative business, holding it up, you could feel the covers texture of stains. Careless others, how many he didn’t care one was bad enough, had abused the text. Relevant pages had been dog-eared, fingerprint smears marred the edges of each page, and the like. Still, it was his now, and once he’d gotten it, this job, he’d set out a few rules.
Rule one; No matter where inspiration struck, the book wasn’t to leave the desk.
That had been introduced after his first week. After he’d come back from his dinner break to found the book missing and found it again in his employer’s hand, said man walking out of the bathroom.
After that little fiasco, a screaming match, he’d declared his desk inviolate, his boss’ a mess, and nearly walked. Walking wasn’t really an option, and when “they” had interceded in their subtle, silent, way, he’d gone back to work. Sullen and bitter, but toeing the line.
Still, his commentary about messes being the province of little minds had stuck, and the strained comradely between him and his boss had become more so after.
He’d spoke, as the voice in his head did, with an aristocratic sneer. Spoke an echo of Before, and that had set Ospray’s back up and then some.
Still, the memory of the tone rather than that day summoned a smile. Ospray thought it “friendly”.
Whatever delusions go you through your day.
Click, click, click….
Teasing the pen’s top, not the tip, least he get cut, he twiddled the button atop. He’d done the calculations already, in his head about fifteen minutes ago, revised them once, and now was content to let the lean facts rattle around in his skull.
Click click click click
“Seriously kiddo, I’m glad you recall the on off button, really I am, but there’s this nifty thing called putting the tip to the page…”
All in all it wasn’t a bad attempt at sarcasm. Juvenile, overstatement that was not “quite” hyperbole… But why reward such a lackluster effort?
“The world’s sole intent isn’t to entertain you.”
A grunt served as his answer to Ospray’s trite. With a string of unheard words the one armed man set his hand at to organizing the paper chaos that served as a desk. Irritation and a sheen of sweat was the man’s undoing. Flushing, Ospray glowered at the fallen patch of papers.
From patch to assistant his glare wandered, and it took little to realize why.
A descent soul would have been moved to help. The good hearted would have already been up and doing.
Something about that bothered the Traitor, something about that thought, but it remained elusive...
Mind elsewhere, he twirled the pen about between unfeeling fingers. Automatic-manual; so read the little print on one side after moving his thumb. How amusing.
Lips quirking he finally set pen to paper, ignoring the scrape and scramble going on behind.
There were other things to consider; the looseness of the button, the slack spring, the faded print. Someone (someone ELSE something murmured) had a nervous tick, had used this pen, and had his nervous tick. As for the book itself…. Flip back more than a months’ worth of pages and there were… was… a revelation of sort. Other’s handwriting, neither his
nor Ospray’s, filed in any of the text.
There was a relief in that.
And it planted a discrepant factor, which teased the edges of his mind.
There’d been a time in Before, but not “before” when he hadn’t known, the on/off functions of a pen. Ospray had seen is –obvious per comment- but he didn’t recall the incident.
“Seriously kid!” The older man snapped, still scrabbling away at the pages.
Pen’s tip scrapped against wood as he stood. Under his hands the pages were filled, his
work was done. There should have been satisfaction, relief. That was normal, good. He wasn’t, either or. More ambiguity squirmed in his guts; it was part dark, part acid. Fist clenching on the pen he stood, shook, glared at the downed man.
His last whisper of rationality hissed at him not to impale his co-worker. Things could, would, get worse if he did so.
The pen rose, fell, impacted. Black spurted from the split tip. Obliterating a day and more’s labor.
Spreading his hands over the destruction, he glowered down at the paling man.
“I will say this once.” His hands fisted over ink and crumpled pages. Black spurted through his digits, staining the inside edges and tips of his fingers black. “One. Last. Time. And if you don’t listen I’ll-“ Sense made him snap his jaws shut on a threat that would get him "rehabilitated further” due to his “regression”. They were under watch, always. “I’m not your son, I don’t care about him, I don’t care about you, I don’t care that he committed suicide after the same treatment we’re both under declared him “pure” and “fixed” from his dark thoughts.”
Flush overtook pallor. Though one armed and on the later shade of middle age he was stronger than his apprentice. This could turn bloody.
That thought alone kept him from spilling out more vitriol.
Pushing back he staggered. More than his mental equilibrium had been compromised just then. Shaken by what he thought of as petty animosity he was startled to discover that it had swollen to this septic mass. Slamming the door behind him, he reached and pressed the nearest chair under the door.
No thought to it, just the appeasement of idle animosity.
It’s only after a few thuds from the door, a few rounds of deep breathing, that the wash of red fades back and he can seem. The dust smothered knickknacks that equate second hand inventory and the desk near the door that is now chairless.
Another thud and some swearing tell him moving that chair to sit would be stupidity. He braces it with some random metal bit of abstract art, then pulling down two broken chairs set one atop the other before scraping the mess over to the desk. Sitting, he finds it a mite too high, his toes can’t touch the floor.
Feeling both young and nostalgic, he swipes a toe over the space between up and down and wonders why he only sees darkness.
Outside, beyond the shop and its dramas, a bitter wind howled. Defying season (summer) and reason it sweeps back and forth. Summoning shivers as it searches. Then, defiance to rebellion, it builds to billow and a door slams open with a cheery twinkle as an underscore.
Lips quirking, still griped by a devilish malice, the short man behind the counter combed grey-blue locks out of his eyes.
“Welcome, to a place of no significance we’ve a fine selection of the cast offs any discerning nobody would appreciate.”
Something loud and heavy slammed into the back wall. He spared an irritated glance at his braced chair, and considering the wide crack that had just appeared. Reconsidering his options with the tip of his head he stood. Decision made, he planned on leaving, scant on ambition heavy on wisdom.
With a howl the wind beat him out, slamming the door. No twinkle this time. Only a not-so-symphonic clatter as the bell fell free. Fell and shattered with a rattling finality. He took one moment to pick up the bits and pieces, and in his black stained hands they slowly, melted.
Pocketing the black tinged, watery, metallic, mass that had once been a bell, he left shop and its raging owner behind.