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She gently caressed me, her slim figure of the purest white; her soft touch comforting me in my confusing, fearful first hours. I settled into assuring silence, peacefully rocking in my mother’s tender hold. She had always told me how, one day, I would be packaged with other Ones.
Then, when your time has come, Mother spoke softly, You will be chosen and taken care of; the Tall One will take you home. And then, you will provide the sole purpose of your existence. She stopped, silent tears rolling down her cheek. She began again, her voice quavering. Writing will fill your surface and thousands of words will be scribed on your very being. I had heard mother whisper those thrilling words for as long as I could remember, but each time, it seemed even more beautiful and exciting and wonderful. Your blank surface will be filled. Those words alone seemed to occupy the narrow knowledge of my young mind.
In my youthful imagination, I had already befriended each One that mother had described to me, though I had never met any other than that of my kind. Mother had described those who made good friends, those to avoid, especially the folders, said she, those grumpy Ones. She had prepared me well for my journey ahead. She had poured upon me every solitary piece of wisdom she held to steel me for my life with the Tall Ones.
Except the shredder.
I am the newest one in the pack. Clean. White. Fresh. We wait patiently together in our pack, and week after week we remain on the shelves, untouched. Much too soon, particles of dust collect around us; destroying the tiny fraction of hope we used to cling to; to be bought and taken home. To be written on, illustrated on, folded and unfolded, to be painted on, to be filled with the beautiful words of mankind. Forgotten, many of us have relinquished our prior optimism. One day in early fall, a female Tall One walks into the entrance of the store. A Tall One with a backpack slung over her shoulder.
I am one of the few whose hope still remains, however small it may measure out to be. I straighten out my corners and wipe away a thick layer of dust. The others murmur and shake their heads, knowing that the girl will not ever choose us.
It is the new one again, they grumble to each other. The new one. The naïve inexperienced one. Then to me, they say, She does not want you. When will you learn? Never, the elder ones say. But how can I give up now? When I am so close?
In her hand, the girl holds one of our kind, one of the lucky Ones that had long ago been chosen. One in which the awe-inspiring human language had been written upon. I gaze enviously at each delicately inscribed word on his smooth surface. My plain white figure is bare in comparison. The girl is drawing nearer to our isolated shelf and I am consciously aware of the tension in my body. But she is walking too briskly, her eyes concentrating on the piece of paper she holds. My heart sinks as she passes us without looking up. I catch one last glimpse of the paper in the her hand before the girl disappears from my sight. He is smirking.
I was sure. I was so sure she was the one. My pack grumbles the words I have heard so many times before. She would never take us home. No one will ever take us home.
For the first time, I believe them. Too hurt and too miserable to care any longer, I sink in the lowest depth of rejection. How could I not see?
Something smoothes out the top of our package…something unlike our kind. Someone. Some One. My body shakes from bewilderment and fear of what it may not be. But the touch is gentle, and the lonely months behind me are forgotten. I look up and am speechless to find myself gawking up at …the girl.
She came back. She had come back for us.
In my erratic joy, I cry out in heavenly bliss. The girl smiles down at our pack, and I can hardly believe what is occurring. She glances down at the smug sheet of paper she already held, tenderly lifts us and carries us away from our long-endured sorrows with gentle care; she places us in her loaded cart. I smile at her, a silent thank you, but she turns back and I do not know if she saw. I look around at my surroundings and in the cart beside me are other Ones the girl had chosen. We are warmly welcomed by two spell-bound notebooks and a young pair of purple scissors.
The pair of scissors exclaims excitedly, We are off on an adventure! Very young. The blue notebook nods and winks at us. The red notebook smiles shyly at me. I am lost in my own ecstasy, but I manage to give her a tiny nod. We are soon united by a pack of yellow pointed pencils, who gratefully join us in our rapidly growing family and soon, I have lost track of everyone’s name. My mind wanders and I imagine all the words my surface will embrace in time to come. I will find an even greater happiness in the breathtaking feeling of a precisely guided pencil on my page, the loops and curves and curls written in perfect penmanship.
Before I quite know what I’ve missed in my dream, I find myself in a home. My home. My heart swells and I feel it will burst in overflowing rapture.
Someone has chosen me. I am home.
I am placed in a large stack of our kind- the second one to the top! I will be used soon, very soon, I reassure my unsettled aspirations. The girl sits in a chair, a pencil lightly tapping her chin as she contemplates. Her eyes lighten in inspiration and she thumbs our stack resting on the desk before her. Her fingers stop and select five of us, placing us in the open space on the wooden desk. She smiles that pretty little smile and then, she begins to write.
The pencil flies across the page on top of me, scrawling words, words, words as they emerge from the pencil’s end. The page’s countenance shines in sheer delight, lost in his own utopia. He is absolutely unaware of everything around him, his ecstasy too great. I tug at the pile, attempting to get the girl’s attention, but she writes on, undistracted by her surroundings. My turn! It’s my turn, I want to shout, but I know that would only alarm the girl. Tall Ones are not used to hearing our kind speak.
I grow anxious, like the others, for the moments I’ve awaited my entire life. I begin to doubt that the girl will ever need another sheet of paper, but more quickly than I had anticipated possible, the girl has placed the first sheet aside and I am facing her, more surprise or bliss playing on my face, I know not. The girl pauses, gazing in the distance thoughtfully.
This is it. This is the role of my existence, my one purpose, my every desire, my soul’s only content.
The girl places the soft lead on my surface and even before a full word is written, my heart takes wing and my entire body is in pulse, beating to the rhythm of the girl’s writing. I hear the glorious paean of angels proclaiming from the heavens and the sweetest scent of lilacs brings life to my being.
The girl stops suddenly, a writer’s block, what mother always called it, but it was much more heart-aching than a simple block. The lilacs, the music, the heart-shooting sensation all leave me and it was then that I realize I had been crying; slow, silent, happy tears. I am barely granted a couple uneven breaths before the pencil dances on my surface again. A song even sweeter and softer than before fills my soul and the smell of light spring flowers returns. The Tall One writes and writes and writes. Joyous words, dark words, inspiring words, dismal and poignant words; words I did not know existed contentedly settle onto my page. The girl slowly writes the last word and satisfactorily dots a period at the end of my page, pleased in her work. The sensations I feel do not depart right away, but gradually lessen, until at last I suffer no weakness, no pain, no emptiness as so many times before; so many times when I had ached for something to fill the hole in my life. At last, I am in my utmost entirety. At last, I am complete.
I am alive. I feel the contentment I had never before dreamed to possess. The words on my page have given me the highest level possible of any kind of happiness. I doubt even the Tall Ones have felt something as overpowering and indescribably divine as I have come to be worthy of. In addition, my lexicon has improved increasingly in the past few days of my new life, as is mutual for the greater part of us. The Tall One has written upon twenty-six of our kind thus far. As my language enhances, I am coming to better know my family, above all, my Tall One. She is a student writer and hopes to become a full-time novelist when she ‘leaves the nest’, as I heard it being called by another Tall One, the One the girl calls mother.
We are the beginning pages of the novel she is writing now. Sometimes, when she is writing, she appears frustrated in her work and I long to reach out to her, to relieve her from her discomfort, but I restrain my troubled heart. Every time I see her, I want to erase her frustration and fear of failure, to allow her to feel what I feel, but I have never had enough audacity to speak to her. One day, she writes for twelve pages, twelve euphoric pages at that, and does not stop once, her smile growing with every page. When she is finished, she takes the stack of twelve and places it underneath us, the already written pages of her book.
Then, she lifts the first page and places it on the desk beside me. Her warm hand glides over my page and she reads over the words bestowed upon me, as she had done innumerable times before. But this time, she shakes her head disapprovingly as she draws angry, dark lines through sentences. I am hurt, for the sentences that were taken were some of my favorites. She starts to write a new sentence in its place and I relish the new words, but then she crosses out that sentence too.
My elation, sweet elation was beginning to become limited. Another sentence gone. Three more. The girl stops. I wordlessly plead with her, painful tears flowing from my eyes. She reads me again and I watch as her face softens. I sigh in relief and exhaustion.
The girl carefully handles me and takes me to another room. This is very new and exciting and strange all at once, for I have never left the desk since I had arrived here. The Tall One’s grasp around me tightens and I foresee my destination ahead of me. The murderer of our kind. The killer’s bloodthirsty blades can easily slice One of our kind to useless shreds. The One mother had forgotten to warn me about in my life with the Tall Ones.
Now, with belated understanding, I am just inches away. I struggle to resist the immense power of the Tall One holding me, the shredder tantalizing me even before I am sliced into insignificant scraps. No matter how long or how hard I fight; my captivator’s grip is forever stronger. I grow weaker with every attempt to escape the girl’s clutches; my entire being abandons me and in hopeless despair, I know I have given up.
I wait in great anguish for my untimely death. The shredder’s teeth have crushed my ancestors’ bodies before me, the jagged mess of metal hungrily feeding on their flesh.
And now the time is mine.
My corners dangle just above the opening of my killer’s greedy mouth and I inhale a quick, panicked gasp, dreading my fate ahead. I suddenly remember mother’s last words to me before I left my first home. I will miss you. The Tall One’s press against me loosens as I begin to drop to the end of my existence. My ends graze over the shredder’s voracious jaws and then--