The Iron Writer Challenge 89
The DL Mackenzie Challenge
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
A Montblanc Fountain Pen
The Tigris River
A sea of people and buildings so many and old few remembered when they were built. The air smelled of a thousand spices and a thousand sins, of a blistering sun and an ancient river flowing.
Yet to him the river smelled still of the blood spilled in her waters. Of when he was a boy living near Mosul on the river banks, the child of Assyrian and Armenian parents, to be massacred in the name of the Ottoman Sultan.
Awakened in a pile of bodies he found the ability to free himself without using his arms or legs. Merely by the power of his mind, he had risen from what was to be his death – the first time. A missionary sheltered him, took him to Europe and taught him not to love his telekinetic powers.
Now a diplomat, he returned at the brink of the Great War. Here, in Baghdad, was planned a clandestine negotiation, to convince its governor to turn against the empire in Istanbul.
The white palace was majestic in all its splendor of carpet and marble. It made the gift, a golden Montblanc fountain pen, seem like a mere pencil. With a humble smile the governor accepted the diplomatic gift.
“Please, my friend, sit.” Said the governor, “Tell me your bidding.”
“Thank you, governor, for receiving me. The matter is urgent because a war is due with all great powers involved, including the Ottoman Empire.”
“So I have heard. And what do you wish from me?”
“We seek to split the Ottoman Empire, the West will take its European parts, the Russians the Caucasus and you, the Arabs, will finally have the East to yourselves.”
With all his power and knowledge he convinced the governor of a better future. After the sun had gone down and risen again, the governor was willing to sign, with the golden pen.
“I’m glad you share our vision, governor.” He said smiling at the sun from the window, “This will be a victory for all people of the East.”
The governor began to laugh,
“You’re a good man, my friend. But here our visions differ. Once I set free these lands I will rid them of all infidels – again.”
“What do you mean, governor?” He said, hands trembling and strangely tingling.
“Oh, my friend! The Jews, Armenians and Assyrians I slaughtered when I was commander in Mosul! I will have their heads and-”
With invisible force the gilded pen shot into the governor’s throat, spilling his blood on the intricate carpet like a fountain, the thud of his body alerting the guards. His attacker climbed out the window and was running for his life. But before he could reach that fateful river he found himself surrounded by a hundred armed men. So he bit the cyanide pill with a smile, as vengeance was his.
And he lay down and he died – again – on the banks of the river Tigris.
The Gods were angry. The temples that had been used to worship them now lay in ruins; some had even crumbled into nothing. The abundance of sacrificial offerings had been reduced to a measly morsel. The people who still followed the old ways tried their best to appease the mighty beings, but it wasn’t enough. The Gods wanted more.
‘Again,’ a raspy voice commanded.
Meryem wiped away the beads of perspiration that dampened her forehead and obeyed. Concentrating on the Montblanc fountain pen sitting on the table, she reached out with her mind. It was still a strange sensation; she could actually feel the weight of the pen in her hand even though she wasn’t physically holding it. The empty space in the room reminded her of being underwater; she could feel the sway of it against her skin. It didn’t take as much effort to manipulate the air around the pen this time. It took her less than a heartbeat to have the pen float over the head of the man standing next to her.
‘Very good. The elders will be pleased,’ the frail man said as he tried to snatch the pen from the air. Meryem playfully willed it out of his reach, and it slipped through his fingers before she gently lowered back onto the table. The old man smiled, causing lines to wrinkle at the corner of his eyes.
‘What will happen if I pass the trials?’ Meryem asked walking over to the window. While waiting for him to answer she lowered herself to the wooden floor, crossing her legs beneath her.
‘When you pass the trials, the elders will travel with you to the Tigris River. You will follow it until you reach the ancient village that is home to the great Temple. It is there that the Gods will give you their orders,’ the man explained.
Meryem nodded her head; she had heard this many times before. She felt nauseous as she prepared to ask her next question, nervous that it might anger her mentor.
‘Do I have to use my power for vengeance?’ She lowered her head, trying to avoid the man’s reaction.
‘Meryem, look at me.’ The man waited until she lifted her gaze. His eyes were narrowed into angry slits. Meryem shifted uncomfortably under his glare. When he spoke again his tone was harsh; in that moment he was no longer her friend, but a vessel of the Gods.
‘The Gods bestowed the power of Telekinesis on you as a gift. It is your duty to carry out their demands. Humanity has lost its way; they worship money and possessions rather than thanking the Gods for their existence. They must be punished for their vanity and greed. Do you understand?’
As Meryem thought of all the death and destruction humanity had brought onto the planet, she knew her mentor was speaking the truth. If the Gods wanted vengeance, she would be their willing vessel, even if it meant reducing the world to ashes.
‘I understand,’ she finally replied.
The man gave a satisfied nod, ‘Then come, the trials begin at Sunset.’
I never saw it coming. They say no one ever does.
Like the Tigris River,
winding through the desert,
It all has to end eventually.
There you were. Laughing and smoking and wearing those pants that were too small three months ago. I knew. Some things you just know.
You haven’t smoked since 1989.
Ten minutes pass. You never even notice our van with me in it. She sips your Gatorade, you light her cigarette, touch her face.
Now, the texts make sense, those weird texts about meetings.
The drive home is just long enough to plan the whole thing out.
When you come in, I don’t say a word. It’s like any other Tuesday night.
“Sure you don’t mind stopping at the store on the way home tomorrow?” I ask.
“Nah, It’s the least I can do…all these late nights.” You pet my hair.
I write the list with your silver monogrammed Mont Blanc pen, the one I bought you for our first anniversary, tuck the paper into your wallet.
Whole Wheat Bread
When you finally get home the next night, you smell like Marlboros. Your hair is a mess.
“Antifreeze? Didn’t they just do that?” you ask, setting plastic bags on the kitchen counter.
“Winter’s coming,” I say. But you aren’t listening.
You smile at the phone screen, tuck it into your pocket.
But then your eyes meet mine, and with some Telekinetic trick, I am able to change your face, back to the mask you wear just for me.
Plaster cast and frozen.
I can see behind the curtain though, even when it’s closed.
“Whatcha’ reading?” you ask, looking at Facebook over my shoulder.
“Did you know the Tigris River is drying up? All the snakes that normally hide in the reeds along the banks are wriggling around now, attacking people because their home was destroyed,” I say, and close my laptop.
“Uh, huh,” you mumble, typing into your phone.
“That’s a sign of the End Times…,” I say.
“Listen, there’s a problem at work, gonna have to go in for a few hours,” you say.
“Okay,” I shrug.
“You know what though? I’d love a sandwich,” you say, looking at me.
I wonder if you kiss the back of her neck, too..
“Ham okay?” I ask and open the fridge.
Hellman’s and grape jelly crowd mustard and pickles. A pizza box shades everything except the Gatorade.
It glows brimstone yellow.
You can’t tell that that it’s teeth were already twisted apart and sealed back again.
People say, “Don’t drink from an opened bottle of Gatorade. Tastes just like antifreeze.”
Lots of people have died that way.
I put extra mayo on the sandwich, slice it in half. You grab an extra Gatorade, “For the road,” you announce.
On your way out the door, you stop, smooth your hair in the hall mirror.
“Don’t wait up,” you say without turning around.
And you are gone.
Someday, when they’ve drunk up all the water, they’ll come wriggling,
With forked tongues and sulphur smoke,
And no one will see them coming.
They almost never do.
The clanging inside of my chest increases as I pull the dark brown leather journal out of the box Mom brought to my apartment only ten minutes ago. I already rummaged through the old books and pictures and flannels with the smell of Grandpa’s cherry tobacco still clinging to them. I’m thankful that Mom wanted me to have a chance to keep some of Grandpa’s things, albeit two years after he died, but how could she have known the importance of his old writing journal.
I never told her, in fact I never told anyone about the power that Grandpa shared with me over 15 years ago. He made me promise to keep our shared power a secret. I rummage even further into the box, my hands shaking and my breaths deepening, and I find his Montblanc fountain pen. My bony fingers wrap tightly around the rigid designs woven up the instrument, and my heart pumps louder.
I quickly open the dark cover of the journal and flip to a blank page. The tip of the pen touches the page and my hand begins to move in motions that I can’t control over the cream colored surface. I begin to write. My words are not my own. My sentences are not my thoughts. I write furiously. Somehow my mind cannot focus on the words, but I only see dark black ink blotches. My fingers wrap tighter around the warming metal of the pen and hours seem to pass without notice.
I finally manage to release my tense grasp and read what the markings that appeared unreadable as I wrote.
My eyes move from word to word, sentence to sentence as I read a story of a young boy named Abelino. He is from a small Persian village and knows the gravity of being anything but normal. Abelino fears his powers will overcome him without his will allowing them to move. He has no ability to control his telekinesis and fears himself.
One day he is in the village with his friend, Mahdi, and the small boys decide to go to the shore of the Tigris River. Abelino’s father has strict rules for Abelino and his brothers – he must never dip into the waters of the Tigris.
At the shore, Mahdi and Abelino run and play on the sandy stage of the waters. While playing, Mahdi trips over his own feet, sprawling across the grainy ground, and sends Abelino flying into the water as he trips over Mahdi’s body. Abelino, in a sudden act of vengeance and fear of his father, sends Mahdi soaring into the middle of the waters.
My mind reenters my present, and I am struck by the story the pen created. I know nothing about where the Tigris River calls home or exactly what telekinesis is, but the pen knew. The pen created. No one can know that Grandpa’s words weren’t his own. No one can know that the combination of his old leather journals and his intricate fountain pen somehow allowed him to becoming a bestselling author. And no one can know that the power rests in me as well.
Thank you for my wonderful anniversary gift: The Montblanc Boheme Bleue fountain pen. You are so kind to buy me such a nice gift. I brought it with me on my trip to the Tigris. I must confess, I bring it with me everywhere I go and will cherish it always. I am actually using it right now to write this postcard to you from my hotel overlooking the Tigris River. It really is a spectacular view from the second floor.
Oh, no. A bird just flew into my closed window! I hope she is all right. I better go check on her. I will finish writing this postcard once I make sure the bird is okay.
Okay. I watched that bird for a half hour. It was too stunned to move, so I continued to watched her until she finally flew away. Watching that stunned, paralyzed bird made me realize just how scared I have been to let you go. But if that bird can fly away, I can too! I know you’ve been having an affair with your secretary Jill. And I am not going to put up with it anymore. I am not coming back to you, Johnny! All of those nights you were “working late.” I know what you were really doing. How could you hurt me like that? You don’t even care.
I will not let these tears fall from my face again. No! No more!
I drop the beautiful postcard of the Tigris River in the postbox and take a long walk down the riverside. I sit down on the bank and pull the Montblanc Boheme Bleue fountain pen out of my pocket and put it on the ground.
“I don’t need you anymore, pen! Good-bye.”
I reach for the pen with my hand with the intention of picking it up and hurling into the river. However, before I can grab the pen, it levitates into the air on its own. I envision it moving right, then left. And it does! I envision it going into the river. And it does! I had no idea I had that kind of power! This is going to be so much fun!
The End or The Beginning?