We have all your pens. Every single pen that you purchased and lost is now in our possession. The black ones, the blue ones, the red ones, the new ones, the old ones, the empty ones, the ones with bite marks, the ones that you think are in your bag, the ones that are important to you, and the ones that you’ve forgotten. We’ve got them all.
We keep them in a dark room somewhere between nowhere and everywhere. It’s an odd room now that we think about it. It is dimly lit by faint patches of sunlight that would fade from one spot then illuminate in another. The smell of dry ink and rusted pen-points pollutes the air and makes living here a pain. The sounds of pens being stored and sorted reverberate throughout the entire room, giving a rhythmic tick to the place that we find endearing. And there’s an unusual pewter-colored fog that would hover over an empty mahogany stool. All these make up the peculiarity of room. The room where we keep all your pens.
But before we go on, let us regain some politesse and formally introduce who we are. We go by the names “Pen-men” or “Ink-Thieves,” but my personal favourite is “Nuisance.” We, nuisances, have neither form nor color. Nor ears, nor eyes, nor mouth, nor hands, nor legs, not even a stomach to consume potato chips. All we have, the ONLY thing we have is our need to steal pens.
When we were young nuisances, we asked our fathers (or mothers. We’re not entirely sure) on how a nuisance actually steals a pen.
“Sons—or daughters (they weren’t sure of our genders themselves)—we don’t just steal pens. We absorb them. Our presence alone conceals the pens and stows it away within us.”
“Moms, how is that possible? We don’t have a body to stow things in! Non-entities like us shouldn’t be able to do anything at all, much less go around the world stealing pens.”
“Daughters, that is a concept flaw that Dave has not been able to patch up. The thought baffles him to such an extent that he has completely given up on it and has come to accept it as it is. Perhaps one day, you will come to accept it too.”
We dropped the matter after that. There was no refuting their logic.
We turned our attention from how we steal to why we steal. We never quite understood why we did what we did. Why steal pens? Why hoard it all? We don’t write. We don’t even use them as chopsticks! We saw no point in taking every forgotten and neglected pen. So one day, we asked our co-workers on why we steal.
“Anonymous Co-workers, do you know why we steal all these pens? We’ve got enough to supply all the inhabitants of hell with one. Why continue?”
“We questioned that too. Initially there was a project to create sculptures and buildings with them. Maybe an Arc de Penumph, or a Machu Penchu. But none of those worked. The pens just crumbled and toppled forming deformed hills. Like that one to your east.”
“That looks more like a plateau.”
“Technicalities. But we digress. We’re not entirely sure on why we do it. But we just do. It has become the reason of our existence.”
“Why not stop? Are there any consequences? A penalty perhaps? Maybe Cerberus will burst in and devour us if we stopped.”
“I think Cerberus is too busy and preoccupied to deal with petty pen thieving non-entities like us. Nuisances like us are just aggravations. Like pimples on the face of the head cheerleaders.”
“True. Your words, Anonymous Co-workers, are painful yet apt. We mean nothing to this world. Pens aren’t even that big of an issue. Maybe if we stole wallets—“
“Yeah. Maybe if we stole those, we’d actually have an impact on this world. But instead we steal pens. Replaceable pens. We mean nothing. So why not just stop? Just give up our shenanigans and do something else?”
“Take a vacation. Float around the world aimlessly, enjoying simplicity. That sounds quite peaceful.”
“That does sound nice, but we actually enjoy stealing pens. We can’t pinpoint why we enjoy it, we just do. And that’s enough for us.”
“I guess. But that’s no longer enough for us. We’ll leave you to your work then. We’ll take a break and try to find meaning in this vast world.”
We didn’t. And soon enough we were back to stealing pens. Bent ones, fine ones, expensive ones, green ones, and even ones that you could twist and mould.
No one was surprised that we came back. They were actually putting up bets on how long it would take us to return. Nameless Employees won the bet—with a wager that we’d return after 12 minutes—and received 30 inking pens, which he gladly returned to the pile.
Now we’re back here. To the place where we keep all your pens. It’s an odd place but one that means a lot to us. It is the land of our existence. An existence that knows nothing but—
“Hey look! The stool is shaking violently! The pewter-colored fog is condensing and forming metallic clouds!” yelled Anonymous Co-workers.
“How is that even possible?” I replied.
“Ask Dave.” said our mothers/fathers.
The clouds started raining bombs all over our room. BANG! Explosions erupted and decimated the place. The floor collapsed and we, everyone, even the pens, fell down endlessly in a pitch black void.
“We’re still falling?” asked Nameless Employees.
“I guess. This has been going for tens of minutes. Doesn’t seem to have an end actually. Feels like we’ll be falling forever.”
“How dull. We’ll be going now, gonna get some more pens. Lots of pens. Piles of pens.”
“Where will you keep them?”
“In this endless pit with the rest of the pens. Where else?”
They were right. There was no other place to store them but in this endless pit somewhere between nowhere and everywhere. We guess we don’t how to live without stealing pens. Well, back to work, we suppose.
Dave Cutler is a freshman student of writing at UPMin.