Quiet Quandary of the Quill by Joseph V. Pali

He was tormented. His leather-bound chair had, through the hours, curved to the dimensions of his body. It had become horribly dolorous. His fingers grew tired as he twirled his pen between them and sighed despairingly. He was in agony, for an aspect of his being was viciously girdled and quickly losing its functionality. His creativity was being choked and his ability to write was rapidly diminishing by the hour, regardless of the deadline at hand. His writer’s frustration was voiced by the age old language of self-provoking grunts and hisses that predates any modern tongue.

His mind could not remain at ease, for it was recently ensnared by something adamantine. A bewitching temptress had captured his heart, and in doing so, would seem to have restricted the blood flow it allowed to the brain. On most nights he could push her out of his consciousness, but this was not most nights. He lacked the ability to write what was required of him as he was busy pondering a work of fiction in his head. He considered and played out the many outcomes of their next encounter in the quiet recesses of his mind, and he lacked the active space it took to comprise adequate work. He was bound.

“This is impossible!” he exclaimed as he tossed the pen against the wall in a fit of rage. “How can I be expected to do anything under these conditions?” His voice escalated to the pitch of a shout and this alerted his maid.

“What is the problem Mr. Celmer?” She came into his study seemingly concerned.

“I’ve asked you a thousand times, please call just call me Mark,” he insisted. “Everything has become the matter! My preoccupation has become my occupation, and I can hardly think in suitable terms, much less find due cause to write!” As he spoke, his voice would emphasize the bits he felt excused his behavior.

“You’ll think of something, sir. You always do. Just explain you need more time,” she offered gently.

“I can do no such thing! A gentleman can hardly be found under such circumstances. I have come to my wit’s end. My heart has been stolen and I’d gladly give away whatever else I must in order to complete this abominable task,” he declared.

With his declaration came a sudden gust which blew open the windows. It was an unusual wind as his estate was nestled away amongst several buildings, and the elements seemed calm and temperate outside. As the maid rushed to close the windows, he gave the phenomenon little thought and walked back towards his desk.

“You needn’t be so hard on yourself, Mr. Celmer. You’ll come up with something clever I swear it, shan’t you?” she asked in a comforting tone.

Mark remained at that table into the late hours of the morning and not a single word was written on any of the pages. Only a title, written hours ago, adorned the top of the page; it read: “Emancipation of the Mind.” Upon reading it, Mark exclaimed, “I’d give anything for such emancipation.”

The sudden gust blew through his room once again and with such violent force that the pages flew into the air and spun about in a whirlwind. The unusual occurrence frightened Mark who swatted them away. As they fell, they began to separate, and through the crevices of open space an image appeared.

There stood a gaudy older gentleman, dressed in the most outdated of garb. He wore a dark purple coat, with a matching pair of breeches and a cloak for good measure. His cravat was of a crimson color as were his spatterdashes, with a white shirt acting as a great contrast to all of it. His grey hair was neatly pressed backward, albeit incredibly long. The tip of his finger-long beard curled towards his nose. His left eye was green and the right one was yellow. He stroked a golden cane which he leaned on and smiled before speaking.

“Pardon for popping in so promptly, ’tis a pleasure to properly present my persona. I’ve come propagating a proposition.” He spoke with an accent that would change between all those Mark recognized, and his sentences were in alliteration.  

“Who are you!? What are you doing in my house?” Mark screamed.

“For shame my dear friend. To fear is to folly. Feel not faint, for I formally offer a fantastic present whose function will forthwith fulfill your fancy,” he responded as his gaze widened.

“A present you, say? You’ve come like this, but bearing gifts?” Mark asked.

“Actually it’s more accurately an accord,” the man corrected.

“What are the terms?”

“Inevitably you will inherit this ingenious writing instrument. It is imbued with the immense power to inscribe words that invoke immeasurable emotion upon innumerable individuals,” the man responded.

“You mean whoever reads it–” Mark was interrupted, and could not finish his thought.

“Duly draws what he desired from the damned document,” he said while stroking his beard.

“What must I give in return?” Mark queried, considering the possibility that this man was a lunatic.

“Your voice.”

“Nothing but?” Mark was very eager to have this madman exit his presence, and he considered that agreeing to the terms was the best way of doing so.

“Verily,” the man assured.

“I agree then.”

The man lifted his cane above his head and sent it crashing towards the writing desk, renting the wood in half. The papers cascaded into the air with a flourish and he vanished in the confusion.

Men who rely mainly on empirical data are usually the most disconcerted by that which they cannot comprehend, and this was the case for Mark. The writing instrument the man spoke of was in his hand. It was a gold quill, which, like the man, was anachronistic. The shock Mark felt was great, but when he tried express it, no words would manifest. The despair of having lost his voice was great, and he spent the night weeping in silence.

The notion did dawn upon him that the quill may actually have the claimed properties bestowed upon it. He took it upon himself to test the item, and he was not disappointed. His hand would fly across the page and the words which were written seemed to be in some indistinguishable tongue. The speed at which he would write was absolute, but the enthusiasm of the action was minimal. Within a few hours, he had a full tome of indecipherable glyphs within his possession.

He left the book on his desk and resumed his sorrowful sleep. He awoke several hours later to see that his maid had opened it and was weeping over the contents. She approached him and offered an unusually warm embrace.

“Never did I believe that you’d write a work which struck my heart so close, were you thinking of me?” she asked.

Mark understood that the quill truly had supernatural properties, and began showing the written work to as many publishers as he could. All of them were taken aback, and they bid amongst themselves for the right of this “masterpiece.” The only issue was, whenever Mark was asked any form of question, he could not respond. He stood in silence as people pined over his work, forced to appreciate the lie that he had created.

A year went by and the work was published. Whoever would read it, drew from it exactly what they desired and the renown of Mark Celmer reached unrivaled proportions. The would-be temptress did her very best to regain the heart of young Mr. Celmer, but it was to no avail. He was obsessed with the nature of his work, and found no time for the trifles of temporary bonds.

He did his best to write works without the quill, but most of the people he showed them to believed them to be satirical works of “purposely” bad writing.

In an attempt to break free of the gift, he spent a full week struggling to discern the meaning of the words he had written, but although they were in simple phonetics, they were illegible in his eyes. Unsatisfied with the world he had created, he chose a different route.

He took the quill and endeavored to snap it in half, but the solid gold was too much for him to break. Ashamed at his deceit and inability, he began writing a letter which would chronicle the falsehood; he would claim the work was plagiarized.

“The Work Is Not Mine,” he wrote upon the page, and in doing so, heard his voice recite the words.

The vociferation’s magnitude heightened and it shook the walls in such a way that they soon crumbled in front of him. The busy streets which were once in front of his house, had vanished, and the walls cracked to reveal an open meadow. It seemed limitless and lush, but the skies above seemed to be on the brink of harboring a tempest, if not for a few rays of light keeping it at bay. The vague sound of music could be heard in the distance, but the instrument which played it was unusual. Mark followed the melody until he reached an amphitheater of sorts.

He discerned the instrument that was being played as the lyre, with an old man wielding it, plucking at the strings. Mark, in an attempt to gain his attention, waved at him, but he quickly took notice of the fact that the man was blind. In an instant, Mark recognized the unusual garb the man was wearing as being a chiton, and recognized the musician as the great Homer.

At Homer’s feet listening intently was young Virgil, who seemed pestered by the presence of Dante and his persistent questions. Across the way, at a table, Luo Guanzhong could be heard reciting great tales to Lady Shikubu who listened reverentially. Sitting next to them, Chaucer did his best to impress Ms. Woolf, who was obstinate at the flowery language which he would use. Standing across from the tables were Hemingway and Fitzgerald who took playful jabs at each other, while Gertrude Stein expressed her displeasure at their immaturity.

On the stage, Shakespeare sat coaching Wilde, who did his very best to infuriate his tutor, much to the amusement of audience member Joyce. Lewis and Tolkien’s friendship was not lost in this world, as they together withstood clever barrages and instigations from a slightly intoxicated Dostoevsky. The area was filled to capacity with famed writers, so much so, no man could name them all. Mark thought himself dead and in paradise, until he received a gentle tap on his shoulder. He turned to see the recently deceased Mr. Salinger, looking at him bewildered.

“What seems to be the problem there buddy?” J.D. asked.

“Where am I?” Mark screeched in dismay.

“It’s a gathering of sorts, I suppose you can consider us the ‘Gods’ of this realm,” Salinger remarked.

“How is that possible?” Mark asked.

“Wonderment wanes at your woeful wit dear wanderer.” It was the voice of the strange man who bore the quill pen.

“Him! Who is he?” Mark cried out to Salinger.

“I am the proto-portrayer of written properties, and presently your presider in the Pantheon of Paragons,” the man responded.

“Strange fellow he is,” said Salinger. “He, millennia ago, was the first man ever to use the written word, and he is the master of this realm. He only seems to update his clothing every few centuries. We are a ‘pantheon’ of creators. Since ancient times we have, like the fictitious Gods of Old, made our own worlds. And for that, were raised to these heights.”

“What have I done to deserve such glorious company?” Mark asked in shame.

“Naught! And ne’er will you net such noble notoriety with your nefarious negotiations,” the man taunted Mark, whom he had fooled into the agreement.

“My work affected everyone!” Mark said in his own defense. “Surely that is worth something.”

“It failed to affect one person,” Mark heard from a voice outside the conversing trio. It was old Homer, joining the conversation out of interest. “It never affected you, my dear friend, and any writer who cannot hope to grow has failed in his most simple station. How could you ever hope to join such a pantheon, without first giving birth to your own world that is free of the restriction of foreign misguidance?”

“Oh, Homer, how you honor us,” the man replied.

Mr. Celmer would usually be distraught by such criticism, but he had come to accept that not being criticized had been his greatest fear, and it paled in comparison to the pain of unwarranted praise.

“I shall do whatever it takes to right this wrong, not so that I may enter this pantheon, but rather, pray upon its altar for guidance,” Mark said.

Wondrous! Why not make way by writing a wonderful work to create a new world.

“Perhaps, I have,” Mark replied.

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