"Why dont you believe me? I dont remember anything!" ,echoed his frantic voice in the tiny, dark room where he was being held. A drop of sweat mixed with blood slid down his gashed cheek onto his lap. The room was damp and suffocating due to the lack of ventilation and because three burly men were cramped in a fairly claustrophobic space, along with a chair and a suitcase containing something unknown to the man tied and seated in the chair. He drew a painful gasp and spit out blood along with some of his teeth. "You can try all sorts of lie detecting tests on me but I dont remember anything even remotely related to what you brutes want." The swinging bulb overhead cast deep shadows over his face which exaggerated all sorts of scars and signs on his face, courtesy of the men interrogating him. The captive lolled his head to one side and drew quick, short breaths. The other two men looked at each other, seemingly asking the same question as to what should be done with the captive. One of them tried the assault technique and caught hold of the captive's collar and shook him hard. Frustrated, he kicked the captive to the floor. He screamed and groaned as he rolled onto his side in the small puddle made by the leaky ceiling. The other man forced him up and made his chair upright again, while his partner went back and brought to light, the heavy-looking suitcase. It took a relatively long time to open it. It had some sort of security on it, apparently it contained something unique.
The man opened the suitcase and took out, ironically, a small
wooden box. That was all the suitcase contained. He dramatically
brought the box in front of the captive's face and opened the lid
of the case. It was quite elegant from the inside. It contained a
black fountain pen resting in a red velvet bed. The sight of the
pen gave the captive a jolt. "I...I still dont recall anything."
"but..!!" shouted the man as he was going to be delivered another
round of beating, "This wretched thing is the root of all
troubles! I just...just somehow know it." There was a silence for
a few moments as the interrogators looked at each other and
nodded. It looked like they got what they were looking for. As
the yellow light from the bulb shone off the brilliantly polished
body of the pen, it was hard to imagine how it could be
responsible for whatever it was being accused of.
Chapter 1: The beginning
Slugging through his life was not what he wanted when he decided to pursue a college degree in the noisy streets of Welton city. It was not very well known but had a moderate reputation for passing out its students in flying colors. Day after day went by but Aaron never found anything which excited him for long. He was of an average intelligence; at least it was what he thought. He failed to get into any premier institute and was forced to get admitted in a mediocre college.
Sitting alone in his dimly lit room, rented in a busy locality, he wondered what to do with his life. It was almost dinner time, and he had yet not started working on his assignment. A tall, thin boy with dark hair and high hopes, he was not looking forward to living in the city. Aaron was an introvert who never spoke to strangers, so basically he never had a thriving social circle. His parents lived about twelve hours away from him in a quiet and uneventful place called Hankus city. They were quite supportive of him and constantly motivated him through his so-called difficult time of his life. Living all alone in an unknown city, Aaron ocasionally witnessed the world's cruel ways. The fast paced city life contained all types of characters. Every other day, the evening paper fluttered with the news of violence, murder, robbery and the general malevolence to humanity.
Aaron was apprehensive following his admission into University of Welton. He had worked hard to try and give a shot at much more better universities but at the day of the entrance exam, he had a nervous breakdown. Things didn't go as he planned over the preparation years. It was partly due to the incompetent teachers in Hankus town where not many youngsters were inspired to aim at the stars.
He was considerably talented when it came to extracurricular activities. He had an active mind and his keen sense of logical interpretation made him nothing short of perspicacious. Only if he had learned to apply himself at the right moment in the right way, he would have been in a bit more desirable state. He incessantly told himself that he deserved better. Aaron was nearly in a state of minor depression after the first semester ended. He only got just above average grades.
During the course of the semester, he had not made much friends to hang out with in the many recreational spots strewn across the city, like a bar, a drug den or betting parlors.
The abundant parties and joys of the teenage life never attracted him. He abstained from the habits that his peers thought was cool. This baffled him even more that teens with all sorts of habits and practices appeared more focused in terms of academic performances than he was. The pages of his reference textbook ruffled in the draft coming in from the window. Aaron sighed and got up to complete the assignment. As he sat down at his study table, his landlady called out for him. He lazily called out "Coming!" ,pushed his chair back and got up. "You have mail!" called out Mrs Smith. Martha Smith was a kind lady in her 50's. She was rather a simpleton who was specially given the job to watch over Aaron during his stay as her tenant. She was gentle but irksome at times by going overboard with her home-made rules. Aaron didn't receive many mails and wasn't expecting any at that moment. Mildly curious, he made his way down the creaky wooden stairs and found Mrs Smith waiting at the end, carefully examining a small package which was heavily wrapped, as though expecting to deduce its contents. Aaron said "I will take it from here." and held his hand out. Ignoring him, with her eyes fixed on it, she mumbled," What is it?" Aaron made a puzzled expression and said."I dont know." She said,"It has no sender's address on it, just your name on it." Mr Smith, who was engrossed in a soccer match on the TV, turned back and grumbled,"We are not going to have an unknown parcel in the house." "But you heard her, it has my name on it. Its mine, whatever it is." said Aaron didn't quite understand why he was so intent on claiming an anonymous parcel. Maybe because nothing new happened in his mundane routine, or maybe it was just his ego acting to take what was his. Mr Smith grunted and went back to his beer can and the game. Aaron took the parcel and walked up the stairs while Mrs Smith shrugged and went back to work in the kitchen. Holding in his hand, the parcel felt like a small box. He shook it but it made no discernable sound.
As he entered his room, he placed the package on his desk and unwrapped it in an uncouth way. It revealed a small,polished wooden box with a lid. Aaron held the box in his hands and opened the lid. Inside it, resting in a red bed of velvet material, was a pen. It had a black body and was quite smooth and polished. It looked like an ordinary pen at first but as Aaron opened its cap, he noticed it was a fountain-tip pen which was shiny golden in appearance. He rolled it around in his palm and saw that it was a nice pen overall. But what made it strange was that there was no note attached to it mentioning the credentials of the sender. He was indubitably sure that he had no secret admirer and he had never made any sort of yearnful request for a pen to anyone. At that moment he saw a small piece of paper fall out from the cap of the pen as he was fiddling with it. Aaron picked out the crumpled bit of paper and carefully unfolded it. In it, in a loopy handwriting, was scribbled, 'Write your name'.
This was the most absurd note Aaron ever came across in a gift. But as Aaron had nothing interesting to do, he picked up the shiny black pen and carefully started writing his name at the back of his notebook. It was quite smooth and comfortable to hold. As Aaron wrote his name in the notebook, he didn't feel anything happen really. He put the cap back on and stared at the gleaming navy blue ink in the form of his name. He held the pen out and looked at it. Of course he knew what it was. It was the memory pen. It had the ability to modify or delete a person's memory if their name was written by it. But how can it be. Just a minute ago Aaron had no idea about the pen or its origin. Now, he felt he knew all about it. Aaron nervously looked at the pen. "Yes, it's the very pen. I have no doubt about it. Its clear as glass. This pen can change the memories of people. But, heck I just got it a few minutes ago and I can swear I never saw it before in my life, ever!" mused he. Aaron swiftly dropped the pen on his desk and slowly sat on his bed. He was quite tense. Tiny drops of sweat appeared on his forehead. The pen lying on his desk was so familiar but in reality he had never seen it before. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Everything was clear.
The pen could add new memories or erase the existing ones. The writer only had to know the target by face. The name would come to him as he wrote. Planting new memories in the target's mind could possibly mould their actions but there is always the possibility that they end up getting confused if the new memory is too far-fetched depending on the situation. The pen was not a hypnotic device. It only changed the target's memory of something or someone or erased some vital information from their mind. The pen cannot be used to make a person do its bidding. Aaron was bewildered. He recognized in his mind that the pen had some supernatural ability. "This is impossible," blurted out he. "I live in a modern society. I don't believe in these things! Yet, I have full faith in the pen's ability. How, I don't understand...I...wait, I know it!" Aaron stood up and glanced at the pen apprehensively. "This was some initiation process. I have no idea where it's coming from but I...I just now signed my ownership with this pen. All these memories related to the pen came attached as a bundle with it. From here on I can do anything with it, I am the owner of the Memory pen!" It took a while to comprehend the snippets of memories floating in his mind. But it was clearer than ever. Aarons's hands itched to hold the pen and write with it. But his logic warned him against it. So here he was, seated at his desk, the pen tightly gripped in his fingers, just thinking of what to write.
A few minutes went by. Aaron had no idea what to do with it. It was then that he heard a screech of tires on the gravel driveway. He strode towards his window and looked outside. His neighbor, Mr. Harold was back with some groceries. He stepped out of his car with his hands full of shopping bags. With some effort, he closed the door behind him and waddled towards his house. His wife stepped out to help him and she took the bags from him and carried them in while Mr. Harold stayed to catch his breath. Aaron, sensing the perfect opportunity, took the pen and notebook, and started scribbling. 'Harold Russell has no memory of bringing home the groceries or handing the bags to his wife. All he knows is that he left the bags at the payment counter.' Aaron waited, hoping to see some reaction, although he was not sure what. A sweat drop trickled down his cheek. A few seconds later, a bit of panic appeared on Mr Russell's face. He slapped his forehead and immediately turned back to run towards his car. As he opened the door, Mrs Russell came out and shouted," Where are you going?" Mr Russell sat down in the car and shouted back, "The groceries!" and drove off leaving her bewildered and Aaron, shocked out of his wits.
Chapter 2: Mind games
With the little amount of sleep that he got, and the events of last night pounding his head, anyone would feel a bit queasy in the morning. But Aaron was far more excited to be feeling tired. He had been imagining all sorts of things that could be done with the pen. Complete balderdash, of course, he thought. He would be chucking it in the river first thing in the morning. So he avoided all routes by the river and sat in his class with the pen sitting safely inside the backpack. It was really hard to pay attention in the class when you have a supernatural object from someone anonymous with you. It was not until during Mr Brown's class that Aaron actually paid attention to the lecturer, when he said,"I will be collecting your assignments at the end of the class." Aaron as well as some of the regular backbenchers sat upright. They had not yet finished their work. Aaron had completely forgotten about the assignment due to the surreal experience of last night. The students were to be graded on it. Aaron's academic record was already not exactly sky high.
As the voice of Mr Brown droned on during the lecture, Aaron could see many students attempting to finish their work under the desk. Some were writing the title of the assignment on the first page. This caused Aaron to panic. It was in the end few minutes of the class that he realised he had something which others didn't. Carefully, he opened his backpack and took out the mysterious pen. He only wrote one statement in the notebook under the desk,'Peter Brown remembers that he had asked for the assignments to be submitted in the next week.' "Let's see if the pen can really modify someone's memory" thought he with a sense of anticipation. At the end of the class, one by one the students went to the teacher's desk and placed their assignments on it. Aaron, among the other seated ones, thought to himself with clenched teeth ,"Damn, this pen does not work that way. It figures..." sighed he. "Modifying someone's memories to will give the bearer unlimited power. It's just not natural. " One of the boys seated at the back asked, apprehensively,"My work is not complete, I cant submit it today. Please do not reduce my marks ." At this, a frown appeared on Mr Brown's face and he said,"It is not a problem. You can submit it next week. I just remembered I had set the deadline for next week, not today. These guys have already done the work so I will start grading them based on their job." Some of the students who had done their work in a hurry realized that it was in vain, while Aaron sat back and smiled in a coy manner.
At the end of the college day, Aaron had managed to prevent himself from using the pen again. In truth, it suddenly became a bit scary and too real. Aaron shuddered slightly as he walked home at the thought of the pen falling into wrong hands. "No!" Aaron shook his head frantically. "I...I cant allow this to happen. I will keep it safe with me. I will tell no one. Or better, I should do away with the pen as soon as possible." As he stood on the bridge above Nelt River, the pen in his hand, and in a penultimate position to be thrown into the river, Aaron experienced another panic inducing thought. "What if someone, someday finds the pen, by accident or...by fate?" He couldn't bear the thought of the pen being found by someone who would be then using it for less than benevolent purposes. "I am gonna keep it with me. I w-wont tell anyone. It's like a-a containment strategy to keep the danger off the streets and out of the reach of the society. " Aaron whispered to himself desperately trying to convince himself. "Burying it is not safe. What if due to erosion and other natural activities it comes up someday or someone happens to dig at that very site? Destroying it is not an option. Cant say what effect it will have on me or others. I need to find a safe place in my room. Nowhere else."
Saying so he packed the pen back and trudged in the direction of his home. But he was having all sorts of paranoid notions in his mind. He decided to be extra cautious. And as charity begins at home, he decided to take some extra measures. On the way, he took a detour and then finally went to his home. When he entered the corridor, Mrs Smith came out of the kitchen and shot a question at him,"What was in the parcel you received yesterday?" Aaron, without flinching once, flashed a shiny new watch on his wrist. "Oh, it was a gift? But from who?" Aaron had already thought of that. He coolly said,"No one. I had ordered it online. There was no address on it because the brand wanted to pass through the customs without any hassle. They do have quite strict rules now." "Right,right." nodded Mrs Smith like a cuckoo.
As he entered his room, he thought to himself that the detour towards the novelty shop turned out to be a clever idea. He had to pre-plan his moves if he were to keep the pen hidden. The question was whether Aaron should use it or not. Such a temptation was rarely ever faced by a human, even more, by a teenager. "I am mature than most of the guys at my age. And I am going to handle it that way. I have to be responsible." Then he lay on his bed for his afternoon nap with the pen placed on his bedside table. The noon sun shone brightly in his room. It was a quiet afternoon. He had bought himself a whole week for the pending assignment, not without qualms of course.
The lack of sleep last night enabled him to have a quality nap until late in the evening. During his sleep and even as he woke up, the thought of the memory pen filled his mind first. He opened his laptop and surfed the internet just to distract himself. In keeping with his aloof nature, he didn't have much of an online community. He was not very active even in the online college community page. The page was started but the students to discuss about any new college activities. But mostly it was filled with complains from students belonging to various academic years. Most of them were trivial and unimportant, regarding a specific professor or the food in cafeteria. But there were some serious issues posted too. Issues with the management and some inappropriate policies were rampant and viral all over the page.
The next day, Aaron was sitting all by himself in his class like always as the other students were chatting and laughing boisterously. He didn't mingle much with the others and so he was surprised when the editor of the school paper, and his classmate, Colin Green, appeared before him and said with a smirk,"You are Aaron, aren't you?" Aaron looked up wearily and said,"I should be. I have been in this class for past two semesters." "Yeah,right. So,anyways we are looking for more journalists who can go round the block and scoop some juicy pieces of information." "So?" asked Aaron monotonously. "I want you to join. You know, you can bunk classes freely and get to see some interesting things daily." "Like what? Students throwing up the cafeteria food? And honestly, the food they would throw up would be better than what they serve in the cafeteria." said Aaron curtly. Colin grimaced slightly but said,"See, you are getting the drift. Common issues are going to be a handful for you, I assure you. You can start by doing that." "Forget him. You are wasting your time. To become a journalist, you need to talk to people." commented a girl from Aaron's class. "Yeah, but maybe I can do a great piece on your activities in the pubs!" retorted Aaron. The girl made a disgruntled sound and left. It was then that he had an idea. "I am in. Yeah, when can I start?" "Cool." said Colin. "All you have to do is roam around and note the day to day activities and especially notice anything unusual if you can."
After college, Aaron stood under a tree and watched as throngs of students walked out of the gate, chatting and guffawing as they went. After a while, Aaron roamed around the campus and scribbled random notes about new infrastructural developments or any upcoming events for the students. It was a quite mundane job,really. Aaron looked around. There were a few custodians working around. Making a report about the insipid life at the college was not what he fancied. Avoiding the humming janitor sweeping the pavement by the garden, Aaron surreptitiously made his way into the administration block of the campus.
He was not sure about what he actually was looking for. All he wanted was to sneak into the main office. As he quietly walked toward the office, he saw from a distance, that the accountant was still working in there. If Aaron was given the job to investigate and report, he wanted to do it in the right way. He was sure that a lot of unreported amount in the form of payment for some trivial thing or the other was grossed from the students. But this wasn't the kind of thing he could report. He shook his head," This is none of my business. If I am caught, I would be rusticated. But if not me, then who?" Inadvertently, his hand made a reach for his backpack and the pen kept inside it. Just as he realized that, he withdrew his hand with a start. The thought about utilizing the pen was a convenient one but he had multiple scruples about it. He flinched at the very thought of it. He turned back to leave.
To be continued..................................