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The Unknown Sentence of Quillus The Pen
“Oh, my word!” Quillus cried as he rolled over in his inkwell. He had awakened after six in the morning with a start from a shallow sleep. Featherick, a black quill, primarily used for business matters, gasped as Quillus fell into him.
“For goodness’ sake! What troubles you this time, Quillus?” Featherick sniffed haughtily as he adjusted himself comfortably in the inkwell to go back to sleep.
“Something bad is almost upon us. I know not what it may be, or how it shall affect us,” Quillus whispered.
“Ah! The same thing every night! Our deaths shall be upon us, says you! Bah!” Featherick scoffed.
“The notion is stronger tonight than it has ever been,” Quillus sighed.
“Quillus,” came a soft voice from under the desk top’s second shelf. “Are you well?” It was Pennia, The Mistress’s Quill. She was a white feather, and Quillus could see her even in the darkness. Usually, when Pennia spoke to Quillus, he would feel as though he could just flit around the room on a breeze. Now, he did not have that sensation; instead, he felt burdened with the strange intuition of a terrible event on the horizon.
“No, Pennia. I have not slept a wink,” Quillus replied dismally.
Featherick harrumphed. “I would be happy to offer evidence for that!” he declared, noticing on his left side a few barbs were bent.
“What thought troubles your mind, Quillus?” Pennia inquired, ignoring Featherick’s comment. Quillus paused.
His brow furrowed in remembrance of how Master William Shakespeare held him for the first time. He was a young quill then, and had the sharpest nib of all the quills Master William could have chosen. Quillus and Master William had written many plays and sonnets together over the thirty years they had been in hand. Some plays compelled Quillus to laugh himself into stitches, and others made him weep like anything. Of course, Master William did not know the true power of his quill; he only thought of Quillus as his favored writing utensil.
Only until the last year had Master William begun to use Quillus less and Featherick more. Some days, Master William would take out a document that he had been working on and reach for the inkwell that Quillus and Featherick shared. Master would take Featherick and write away, just as he did with Quillus.
“Featherick,” Quillus called.
“What?” Featherick sharply responded.
“What is it that Master William has been writing with you? Is it some sort of play?” Quillus fearfully asked, worried that Master was finally tired of his regular quill. Quillus’s green-eyed monster jealousy dashed across his mind, but he quickly dismissed it.
“No! I wonder if you have ever heard a play entitled ‘William Shakespeare’s Last Will and Testament.’ Have you?” Featherick spat. Quillus froze in terrible realization. His notions were correct.
“Quillus, I do wish you would tell me what you sense,” Pennia murmured. A pale sliver of light came through the window as dawn broke through the once-dark night. Quillus looked to see Pennia’s pure white plume on the shelf below his and Featherick’s shelf.
“I feel that Master William might pen his last very soon,” Quillus remarked. A brief silence entered the room until Featherick terminated it.
“You are a blinking idiot, Quillus. You are wrong. Many people, I’ve heard, compose such things when they reach the age of Master William. He shall live much longer,” Featherick snapped.
“Is it to be or not to be? Shall it be Master William’s last day? Are our breaths limited? I shan’t dwell upon that, however. Perhaps you are right, Featherick. He will live longer.”
Pennia realized that Quillus not only feared Master William’s demise, but his own as well. “Quillus! You are afraid that once Master William goes, your ink shall dry, too!” she cried.
Unexpectedly, the three quills heard footsteps coming from downstairs. They had to be Master William’s because only he would get up at the crack of dawn to go upstairs. Today, his steps sounded slower and more pronounced. As the master came into view, Quillus saw that he looked a bit ill. His usual fair and slightly pink complexion had turned pallid. His figure somewhat drooped instead of standing to his full height as he did every day. Even so, Master William continued his morning routines as usual: dressing himself, combing his hair, and other things.
Presently, Master William came over to his desk and sat. Quillus held his breath, hoping that Master William would pick him up to write. Quillus’s hoping was in vain, because the master pulled out the will and testament from his drawer and took Featherick from the inkwell. Quillus exhaled sadly and watched as Master William wrote away, deciding what he should leave to whom.
Suddenly, Master William stopped and pushed the document aside. “What is he doing?” Quillus whispered.
“Perhaps he is tired?” Pennia supposed. An ominous air came about Quillus. The terrible event that awakened Quillus for the past few nights felt closer than ever before.
“What shall I do?” Quillus inquired, fearing the worst. Featherick looked up to Quillus.
“About what? Surely, you aren’t feeling that strange thought of yours? Dash your false intuition!” Featherick sneered.
Master William set Featherick back in his inkwell and fished some blank parchment from the drawer. Quillus’s little mind raced.
“Surely now he shall pen his last words. But, O, what should we write? The funniest comedy? The saddest tragedy? The sweetest love sonnet? I wish for this time to come yet I would like all the time in the world to contemplate my last sentence!”
“Quillus, screw your courage to the sticking place!” Featherick snipped disdainfully.
“Quillus, whatever you write will be wonderful, but this is not the end of you. Only Master William,” Pennia encouraged. Quillus sighed.
“I shan’t write with anyone other than Master William! I just know-”
“What do you know this time!” interrupted Featherick. “Oh, do tell!” he snorted.
“I just know that Master William’s works shall be known for centuries to come,” Quillus continued. Featherick began to say something, but shut himself up quickly, seeing the sickly pallor on Master William’s face. Featherick began to think that Quillus could be right.
Master William slowly reached for Quillus and brought him down to the parchment. Quillus did not even notice the gesture, thinking of the many thoughts he could write before his ink ran dry. “Boldness be my friend!” Quillus anguished to himself.
“When shall we three meet again?” Pennia queried. She quivered slightly in her inkwell. Featherick looked down at Quillus.
“I know not when, but, O my Pennia! My love for you is as constant as the northern star. Never cease to forget that. Parting is such sweet sorrow,” Quillus muttered.
“Be brave, Quillus!” Pennia called to Quillus.
“Cowards die many times before their death; the valiant never taste of death but once. You, Quillus, are valiant,” Featherick added, beginning to feel the smallest bit of sadness for Quillus.
Straightaway, a curtain seemed to open in Quillus’s mind, exposing an idea for his last sentence to pen together with the Master. He knew that Master William was thinking the same. Master William dipped Quillus into some ink and began to write. Quillus’s nib flowed across the parchment, carefully forming words. “A long farewell to all my greatness,” Quillus said to himself.
Master William abruptly stopped after penning the sentence. Reluctantly, he set Quillus by the parchment of paper and laid his head upon his desk.
“Quillus?” Pennia whimpered. Quillus did not answer. Her heart skipped a beat. “Quillus,” she tried again.
“Quillus! Are you all right?” Featherick shouted. Pennia and Featherick called out to Quillus over and over again.
“He is gone,” Pennia murmured.
“So wise so young, they say do never live long,” Featherick replied, now fully remorseful of his complaints.
“Can you see what they wrote?” Pennia asked, craning to see the sentence.
“No. I know not what they penned for the last time,” Featherick replied.
The last sentence of William Shakespeare and his pen, Quillus, is still unknown.
Note: The underlined words and phrases are actual lines taken from some of William Shakespeare’s own works. Some have been changed to fit the story.
Word count: 1,376