The Item. Short Story.

I’m pretty wrecked, I haven’t been too well this week so I’m all tired. Yay!

On with the show!

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The Item.

He didn’t realise how thirsty he was until he passed the vending machine, the soft red glow called to him. His throat was dry, his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth, he needed something, anything and he needed it now. He glanced around and not seeing a water fountain, he approached the machine. He dug through his pockets, hoping he had enough change. He pulled out a handful of coins and started inserting them into the machine, each one making a satisfying clink as it fell through the slot. He looked at the prices, then the electronic display, he had enough, he pressed the button. It was maddening listening to the machines whirr until finally, clunk.

He reached into the slot, already his mouth was cramping in anticipation, he pulled out the can, opened it and swallowed half its content. He stopped, waited for a second, then burped. Relief, instant and pure. He took another sip of the cold liquid he turned from the machine when he heard coins jangling into the return slot. He turned back and retrieved them. Strange. He thought he had paid just enough. He looked at the coins, it was the amount he had put in. He looked around to see if there was anyone else there, then he shrugged and put them back into the machine, deciding he might as well see if he could get another free one. He scanned the selection, trying to decide what to get. Finally he chose one. He pressed the button and waited.

It had been a long time since he had last had a soft drink. He usually went for water, soft drink was an expense he couldn’t really afford. It seemed like good luck, so he might as well try to push it, see how far it would take him. The machine started its mechanics and a few seconds later there was a thud in the drink slot, followed by the same musical clink of falling coins. He retrieved the coins, then pocket them. He reached into the drink slot, then frowned. He had expected his hand to touch cold metal, but it felt papery. He pulled it out, feeling the weight. He looked at the object, it was rectangular and wrapped in paper, tied up with twine. He looked around again, seeing if someone was about to pop out and tell him he won something, but there was no one. The place was still empty. He walked to an empty seating area and sat down, placing it on the table in front of him. Was it safe? You heard so many stories of fucked up people who tried to hurt others for shits and giggles. It seemed so random it couldn’t be a bomb or anything, that would be too dangerous. What if it went off inside the machine, the chance of killing people would be slim, plus the delivery guy would have to have seen it. The machines were padlocked after all, no unofficial access. He picked it up gingerly, there  was a good heft to it, it was heavier than he had first thought. After a moment, he undid the twine, carefully pulling the knots free. He peeled the paper back, revealing a wooden box. He placed it on  the table and looked over the paper. On the inside there was something written on it. It took him a second to decipher the hand writing. “Good Luck.” He looked at the box, feeling nervous. It had to be safe. Who would write good luck if it was dangerous. He was curious now, what exactly was inside and why? He open the small metal clasp, then opened it, wincing slightly as the lid swung upwards. Nothing. No explosions, no gases. It was safe after all. He leaned forward and looked inside the box.

Another wad of paper. Great. He picked it up and started to unwrap it. It was long and slightly cylindrical in shape. Finally it was revealed. It was a pen. Its black surface glinted in the light, it felt so smooth. A silver band ran around the top of it, a little off shoot providing a short clip. He spun the top, the nib descended, the he scribbled on the paper. Black ink, of course, he should have guessed. He slipped it into his pocket then began to clean up the papers, scrunched them into a ball and stuffing them in the box. Once that was done, he closed it again and put it all into his bag. He checked his watch, he was late. When he got home he’d look at it all properly.

He had forgotten about the pen when he had gotten home. Class had been tiring, four hours of work had driven it completely from his mind. He just wanted to relax and maybe watch some TV. He reached into his pocket for his keys when he felt it. He took it from his pocket with his keys and let himself in. He dug through his bag and placed the box on the table, he’d make something to eat first. Then he could study it after he had eaten. He opened the box and put the pen inside.

Dinner was spaghetti with reheated sauce. It made things so much simpler. He made large batches of food and froze them, it was easier, especially nights like tonight when he just wanted something quick. Once the pasta had cooked he tossed it in the sauce and put it all on a plate. Once he had finished, he put the plate in the sink and sat down to look at the pen properly. It seemed like an ordinary pen, there was nothing unusual about it, no inscriptions, the box was equally bare, nothing inside to indicate where the pen had come from or why. It seemed like such a strange thing to put into a vending machine, one for soft drinks at that. Maybe it was some kind of mistake, what if there was some pen vending machine that got a can of soft drink inside it instead of this. He had never seen a vending machine that would sell such a fancy looking pen, but you never knew these days. They had vending machines for all sorts of things. Hell, he’d seen one the other week that cooked pizza for you.

He never really noticed it, how the pen made its way into his usual rotation of writing implements. If he needed to jot a phone message down it was there, if he was in class, he’d reach into his bag and it would be the first thing to come to hand. It never struck him as strange, because it never struck him at all. The pen was always smooth, never stuttered, never ran out of ink. It really was the perfect pen. Until he started to get sick. No matter what tests the doctors sent him for, they could find nothing, despite this, his weight plummeted, he became tired and weak. Still he used the pen. It was the day he was too weak to pick it up that it occurred to him. He had left it in the doctor’s office the day before. He had lamented its loss briefly before he continued on with his day. It was a nice pen but it wasn’t the end of the world. As he thought about it, he could recall six separate times he had forgotten it or lost it somewhere. He stopped using it that night, he’d throw it away, get it away from him, the pen was evil. As soon as it was in the outside bin he felt better, so much better. It was away from him, he’d be fine. But no matter what he did, it always came back, every time he went to write something the pen was in his hand, no matter what pen he had picked up.

He hadn’t written with it in a week and already he felt better. It was when he was throwing it in the fire when it occurred to him. Perhaps he had to give it to someone else, or put it somewhere someone would find it. But who? He couldn’t do this to someone, he couldn’t be that cruel.

It was the perfect plan really. Such a pretty looking box. He sat down at the bus stop and put it beside him, when the bus came, he got on, not really caring where it went, as long as it was away. Someone would pick it up, he wouldn’t know who, he couldn’t know who, and the pen would be out of his life forever.

It hadn’t been that long of a day, but suddenly she felt so tired. She sat on the bus bench, thinking that after a moment she’d continue on. The man beside her got up and onto a bus, as it drove off, she noticed that he had left a box, it was small enough, quite attractive. She picked it up, hoping there would be something inside to tell her who he was. She’d find some way to return it to him. She opened the box, but there was nothing to say who it had belonged too, inside was a ring. Plain silver but quite attractive. She placed it back in the box, then the box in her bag. Her energy returned all at once and the ring was completely forgotten about until she returned home and found it again, when she did, she slipped it on her finger. It was a perfect fit.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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3 Responses to The Item. Short Story.

  1. food4thesoul93 says:

    Good luck with your writing and your degree! Skip

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