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art by Junior McLean

The Pen Is Mightier

Mik Wilkens has done many things in her life, all of them creative. She's been an illustrator, trophy designer, graphic artist, programmer, multimedia developer, webmaster, and author. Most of her fiction is in the form of novels or novellas, but a couple of her rare pieces of short fiction have appeared in Ray Gun Revival. Mik lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband, a pack of retired racing greyhounds, and an ancient, three-legged demon in a cat suit. You can find her online at www.MikWilkens.com.

"Supplicant Anseel deCeer, enter the Chamber."
Anseel cringed as the order boomed through the antechamber. The other petitioners glared at him. He understood their anger. Some of them had been waiting for days; he had just arrived.
He walked toward the massive double doors that led into the Chamber of the Overlords, his crest quivering. He smoothed the drab brown feathers into place, his soft, useless flight feathers rustling in apprehension.
The doors swung silently open. Beyond loomed only darkness.
Anseel took several deep breaths and stepped through. The doors closed behind him with a sigh, and pale light shimmered in the nothingness before him.
He started to smooth his crest again, but remembered his nest-mother's words.
You must face the Overlords with courage. Bearing matters far more than appearance. Be brave, little Groundling.
He raised his crest high as the pale light took form.
Although he knew it was not real, his senses assured him that he stood on one of the dark, rocky worlds favored by the Denesh Overlords. Before him, three of them curled their long, reptilian bodies on stony thrones, their ebon scales reflecting the starlight with iridescent glimmers. High above, a fleet of Denesh warships hung silhouetted against the mists of a blue-green nebula.
"We have read your petition, Supplicant deCeer." The Overlord's resonant voice echoed from all directions. "You have requested the destruction of the planet known as Earth across all dimensions. While we relish the challenge, such an endeavor is not undertaken lightly, nor is it without consequences."
"I-- We understand, Lordship." He struggled to keep his voice steady. "However, doing nothing could have even more dire consequences."
Anseel began his carefully rehearsed speech. "Using the multidimensional drive your people so graciously sold us, my colleagues and I undertook the study of dimensional splitting. Our intention was to catalog what types of events cause the creation of new universes wherein each universe follows a different outcome of the triggering event. During our research, we discovered an inordinate number of splits coming from a single nexus, Earth-prime. Further investigation revealed these splits are so numerous they are thinning and weakening the fabric of the multiverse at the Earth locus. If that fabric tears, it could unravel across dimensions and destroy the multiverse as we know it."
A rumbling issued from the Overlords, and another spoke. "Destruction of Earth will end this threat?"
Anseel nodded. "If you destroy every inhabited instance of the planet."
"How does one world cause such a threat?"
"The inhabitants have a form of entertainment called fictions--imaginary occurrences involving people, places, and creatures that never existed. These are not learning stories, not parables used to explain something or teach a lesson. They are pure fancy. Some re-create history, others create an unlikely future. Many have no basis in any reality or truth. A number of these fictions are widely followed, to the point that they are all but accepted as truth, no matter how fantastic. Such belief creates universes in which these fictions are real. Recently this phenomenon has increased as expanding planetary communications have put more of the inhabitants in touch with one another, allowing them to share even more of these fantastical stories. Experiments have shown that destruction of the people who believe the fictions will result in the destruction of the universes they create. Destruction of all instances of Earth will prevent the creation of new ones. Thus we ask this favor not for ourselves, but for all life across the multiverse."
A long pause ensued. Low reverberations rumbled as the Overlords spoke amongst themselves. After several moments, one of them addressed Anseel, "Your petition is granted. We will begin preparations immediately. Dismissed."
Days later, Anseel received a message that the Denesh fleet had launched. As a tribute to those doomed by his petition, he opened the final file from Earth-prime. He needed to catalog the data, the last of the fictions, before closing the case forever. He scanned through the translated text, reading a bit here, a bit there, to get a sense of what the Overlords would destroy.
As he skimmed the file, something caught his eye. He returned to the beginning of the fiction.
His feathers stiffened in terror, and his heart sped as he read the first line:
"Supplicant Anseel deCeer, enter the Chamber."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, April 11th, 2011

Author Comments

The original version of "The Pen Is Mightier" was written many years ago for a college English course on Science Fiction. It was the first short story I ever wrote, and I've only written a few others since then (most of the ideas I get are just too big to fit in anything shorter than a novella). The original story was all right--I think I got a B+ on it--but I never planned to do anything with it. Then I heard about the idea of "flash fiction" and decided to challenge myself to write something less than 750 words long. I took the basic idea of the original story and rewrote it into the current version.

- Mik Wilkens
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