The Words I Can't Write (Literally)

Submitted into Contest #16 in response to: Write a story about a character on a quest, trying to "prove themselves."... view prompt



Where I’m from, my village has this little ritual that has labeled us crackheads to the rest of the world. When a child is born, they are chosen by a weapon. The more destructive the weapon, the more praise the child gets. Afterwards, the adults smoke crack. It’s a jolly day.

Not for me, though. I was chosen by a pen.

At first, my parents didn’t even want to teach me to write. They didn’t want to encourage my use of the pen. Instead they jammed swords and bows and bazookas into my tiny baby hands, just hoping they would stick.

They didn’t.

But they still didn’t teach me how to write.

It’s not like it was a money problem. All my siblings got the very best tutors. My sister could write in three languages. I could write in none. Of course, my siblings all had been chosen by varying atomic bombs. 

We were a prestigious family with tons of cash. Well, they were a prestigious family.

I was kicked out of my home at age 19 when they caught me trying to spell cat in golden ink. Only got to the ‘ca’ by the time my rump hit the curb.

“Dammit!” I cried out glaring down at the pen—my only possession. “This is all your fault!”

“Hey, are you alright there?” A girl on the road asked me.

“Not really.” I remarked. “I just got kicked out for reasons I can’t even control.”

She snapped her fingers. “You’re the pen guy.”

“Oh great. I’m infamous.” I replied sarcastically.

“Yeah, it really is great!” She cheered, probably not understanding my tone underneath her thick blonde curls and thick blonde skull. What an idiot.

“Don’t call me an idiot.” She said.

I binked, startled. “What…”

How did she hear me?

“With this.” She removed a conch shell earring from under her hair. “It allows me to hear into other people’s minds.”

I leapt up. “Are you serious? That’s your weapon? Mind control? That’s so cool!”

Shaking her head, she put the earring back into and explained. “No. It can’t control people’s minds. Just listen to them. And it’s not a weapon.”

“That’s lame. What is your weapon?”

She held up a tiny screwdriver. Maybe four inches long. “This screwdriver.”

My jaw dropped. “Well what can you do with that? Stab someone’s eye? That’s even worse than my pen!”

The girl frowned at me. “No it’s not. It’s terrific! I can build whatever I want with it. They don’t make models like this anymore you know.”

“For a reason. Those things are useless.”

“Was it ‘useless’ when I used it to build a mind listening device?”

“Yeah. It can’t destroy anything. Use. Less.” She rolled her eyes at me as I continued. “What I really need to do is figure out a way to prove to my parents that my pen isn’t completely worthless.”

Or, you could realize that like my screwdriver, your weapon has a far greater purpose than mindless violence. Like you could write stories that influence the entire world—“

“Nope. Can’t read or write. Which means we’re going on a quest to prove my strength!”


As we descended down the trail marked ‘Dangerous’ with warning signs—always a good sign for a fun quest—I couldn’t help but notice how much the girl was digging in her feet while I was dragging her by her sweater. Some people are just so rude. So, I decided to liven up the mood and get her on her feet with some introductions. “So,  what’s your name?” I asked.



“Well, Nilas, mind letting go of me? You’re stretching my sweater.”

“No, I don’t mind. I can do this all day.”

Adria groaned. “Where are we even going?”

“Somewhere dangerous to prove I can fight with a pen.”

“I already told you! You can’t use a pen for brute violence! You need to embrace your weapon. You need to get creative! Use your brain!”

“And my what? Kindergarten level of education? Oh, wait, not kindergarten. In kindergarten you learn the alphabet. I don’t even know that! This pen has done nothing but ruin my life and I just need to prove that I can thrive despite it.”

“You’re thinking about this all the wrong way. I once met a guy whose weapon was a calculator.”

I scoffed. “What can he do with that? Throw it at the jock who stole his lunch money?”

“You know, I think he actually did do that at one point, but that’s not what I’m getting at. He used that calculator to crunch calculations and I think he built a massive rocket missile…” She placed a hand on her chin. “Or was it a missile rocket?”

“Doesn’t matter. We’re here.”

“Where is here?”

“A super spooky cave or possibly a dungeon.” I trudged forward into its dark entrance. “Let’s find out.”

As we descended deeper into the cave, it only got darker and I began to just realize how ill prepared I was for this spur of the moment quest. All I had was a freaking pen to defeat whatever the hell was ahead of me. Whoever said the pen was mightier than the sword has clearly never tried to stab a dragon with one.

“Ugh. It’s impossible to see in here.” I squinted my eyes in the darkened.

“Wait. I maybe have something.” Adria dug around in her bag and pulled out a cylindrical light beam machine.

“Is that one of your cool inventions?” I asked, curious.

“No, it’s a simple flashlight, you neanderthal.”

“Damn, you don’t have to be so hurtful. I know I was kind of trashing your ideas earlier, but we can still be friends.”

“Really?” She asked with sparkles in her eyes.

“Nah. I was just trying to distract you long enough to run from that buff skeleton.” I called out from behind a boulder.

“What buff skeleton?” Adria inquired as she ran into the buff skeleton. “Oh, wow that skeleton is really buff.”

A series of torches flickered to life on the walls. “I know right?” I said. “He must drink a lot of milk.”

“Yeah, but Halloween just ended. Don’t you think this is a little off season for this?”

“You saw his boney yet stunning muscles. You wanna tell him he can’t exist in this season?”


“And duck!” I added as a skeleton swung his long broadsword at Adria.

She squealed and rolled to the side, crashing behind another rock. “What do we do?”

“Throw your screwdriver at him!”

“Give me a real option!”

“Stab him in the eye with your screwdriver!”

“He doesn’t have any eyes!”

“Well then we’re screwed. Haha!” I wiped a laughing tear from my eye as the skeleton marched over to me and lifted up the boulder I was hiding behind. “You know what? If my final words were a pun, I’d be completely fine with that.”

“Use your pen?”

“And do what? Write him a sincere letter…” I jumped to the side of his slash and slide over to Adria’s hiding spot. “Asking him to not kill us? Or at least kill us painlessly Because  I really don’t think I’m gonna get a chance to top that pun as my last words. Oh wait, I can’t even do that BECAUSE I’M NINETEEN AND I CAN’T FUCKING READ!”

“Respect to the vine reference.”

“Man, I wish it was only that but this is just my life.”

The skeleton sauntered over to us. “Adria, is this is our last moment alive, I think we should spend it kissing.” I puckered up.

“Oh screw that. You and your horny ass may die, but I’m gonna survive this thing!” She charged the skeleton with only a screwdriver and a sincere regret that she didn’t spend more time using it to build weapons.

“Adria, wait!” I called out.

Just as the skeleton was about to chop off her head, I chucked the pen across the cave chamber at him. “Take that!”

The pen ricocheted over the skeleton’s sword and splatters golden ink against the floor when it landed. “That was pointless.” I remarked.

Suddenly, before the skeleton could attack again, the golden ink began to tremble and shift. “What the…?”

Before my eyes, it transformed into gold gun beside Adria. Quickly, she snatched it and shot and shattered the skeleton’s spine, causing it to crumble to the ground.

Slowly, I came out from behind the rock. “What was that?”

“The ink.” Adria breathed in shock. “When it spilled it spelled out ‘gun’.” She turned to me. “Then it transformed into a working one.”

I widened my eyes at the thought of my pen’s true power: to create anything I wrote. Unlimited power, unlimited potential at my fingers.

If only I knew how to freaking write.

“I can help with that.” Adria stuck out her hand. “But you have to admit I was right and words are more powerful than blocky old swords.”

I shook her hand. “Deal.”

In history, Martin Luther wreaked havoc on the Roman Catholic Church with ninety-five theses.

I’ve written a lot more.

November 19, 2019 04:26

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Agathe Burrier
16:35 Dec 06, 2019

I'm so impressed, I literally have nothing to say. Great story!


Show 0 replies

Great job!


Show 0 replies