art by Shannon N. Kelly
The Pencil of Truth
by Shamus Maxwell
The shop was almost bare. A few unpromising objects lay scattered willy-nilly on its rickety shelves. As he gazed at the forlorn selection of wares Magnus was approached by the proprietor, an old and wizened man with a mild, yet sinister, grin.
"Are you looking for anything in particular, sir?"
"How about some kind of magical object that will change my life, at first for the better, then for the worse, at which point I'll come back here to find the shop has disappeared and be forced to try and unload the object on an unsuspecting victim? I'll either fail and die in some horrible way, or succeed and live with the guilt."
"Sir is experienced in these matters!"
"I have several pieces that fit the bill," continued the old man.
"How about a prism that allows you to see into your past?"
"I have my memory for that--and things that have been forgotten should probably stay that way."
"Very wise, sir. Perhaps I can interest you in a Monopoly set that adds and subtracts money for your bank account according to your fortunes in the game?"
"I was never much good at Monopoly. What else have you got?"
"Well, there is this."
The old man brandished a well-worn pencil.
"Let me guess," said Magnus. "Whatever you draw with it comes to life?"
"Goodness me! That would be far too powerful! With such a pencil, a man could actually conquer the world."
"I'm sure it would have some flaw that would allow for its turning on the user."
"Yes, but chaos would ensue nevertheless. Someone would inevitably draw some nasty mythological creature that would end up attracting all sorts of unwanted attention."
"So what does it do?"
"Why not give it a try? Write something. It doesn't matter what."
Magnus took the pencil in hand and, on the back of an envelope he retrieved from his pocket, wrote: 'I am on my lunch hour.'
The old man glanced over his shoulder and chuckled softly. Magnus looked at what he'd written. It read: I'll never make it as a photographer.