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Pentrace Fiction
A new story for Pentrace readers
from the fountain pen of David Mason
The dark sordid days were upon us. E-mail, relentlessly hammered into the hearts and minds of our people, handwriting, all but banned by the Fascist Pig Ruling Class, knuckles irreparably shattered for the mere whiff of royal blue, emerald green, burgundy, sepia. Only one force stood tall for the true believers, the last shining bastion between the fear-throbbing heart of civilized script and the howling demons of cyber-madness, the valiant brotherhood and stalwart sisters of:

The Church of the Inky Pinky.

Eusebius Thrombose crept warily from the darkened doorway of the abandoned warehouse basement. The members were careful, the meetings well-guarded and locations changed weekly, but the Pen Police were fiendishly clever. There were spies everywhere, checking for stained fingers and telltale breast-pocket bulges, savage trained ink-sniffing hounds that could bring a scribe down in seconds - and keep him that way; even nefarious satellite surveillance of every last shipment of ink from the few hidden factories remaining secreted in the remote mountainous regions of Europe.

There though, of course, ink had sustained whole families of proud artistes for generation upon generation, and there, though, the palm-pilot and cell-phone festooned agents of the Pen Police oft vanished tracelessly, permanently, the infernal chirps, whirrs and beeps of their pagers, laptops, spectrograph ink detectors and G.P.S. monitors silenced forever.

Recalling the topic of this week's meeting, Eusebius reached in his vest-pocket as he furtively shuffled, white-fingeredly fondling a tightly-rolled copy of the latest establishment outrage. They'd spattered the streets with a so-called "survey" purporting to show the manifestations of chronic "inkoholism." This latest emanation from the electron elite claimed to offer clemency for those who would step forward, renounce their birthright and spit upon the grave of John Hancock:

"If you, or a loved one, feel shame and despair about one or more of these warning signs, we urge you to contact your local authorities for compassionate support services and nurturing guidance. At times, just the appearance of furtive behavior is really a secret cry for help - so please, let us help before it's too late."

Of course, the document was despicably cruel, uncompromising and, as Eusebius was forced to admit, contained just enough kernels of the truth to hurt but just enough lies to kill. His section- stained lips twisted into a sardonic grimace. Compassionate support. "Nurturing" guidance. Amnesty. Oh, yes. All would be forgiven.

Those church members who had buckled and flung themselves upon the mercy of their persecutors, had for the most part never been heard from again. At least, not... whole. Thrombose had encountered an old friend not long ago, a friend from the glory days of fantastic rococo signatures and all-night "ink-sampling" parties. The man was a pathetic wraith, but a shell of his former self. Lurching and stumbling, drool dripping into his plastic pocket protector packed chock-full of felt-tips and disposable ballpoints, it was all the wretch could do to mumble, "Serif? Sans serif! Serif? Sans serif!" He didn't recognize Thrombose at all. The young Eusebius had even loved once, loved Isabella. A wood nymph, a vibrant young sylph, Isabella, whose looping descenders grew roots with the Goddess, whose streaming ascenders had reached for the stars. The electroshock therapy and Thorazine had cured that forever.

There were few alternatives to the government "re-programming" camps. Thrombose had never been scared of the effects of his habit, not really, he knew he could quit any time he wanted. From dread of the stigma and law though, he had once even contacted a purported "self-help" program. When he finally got through to www.rent_a_life.com and asked about "rehab", they told him his credit was maxed out from "mysterious" purchases - admittedly, spare cash had been not a problem, not the last few years. They couldn't help him, they said, turn yourself in; at very last they offered him up to 1-800-MY-COFFIN. He'd known of scribes who had "eaten the nib"; even risking the church was better than that.

The purple-prose'd manifesto of the "official" final solution, set in a nauseous squirming computer-generated font, queried:


  1. Do you fret over whether your choice of ink color is going to make you seem "WEIRD" to the neighbors? Worse yet, are you scared that your ink won't be "DISTINCTIVE" enough when the scouts from "Pen World" magazine come through on their talent hunt?

  2. Have you spend HUNDREDS or even THOUSANDS more DOLLARS on little gizmos of gold and plastic than on the computer you USE to make a LIVING?

  3. Do you often leave the house in the morning armed with FIVE pens, to make FOUR signatures, on THREE forms, TWICE, at ONE desk, knowing full well that nobody else even CARES?

  4. Are you SUPER-friendly to total strangers, but ONLY at garage sales and junkshops?

  5. Have you ever found yourself ferociously HARANGUING innocent bystanders about the CRUCIAL differences between "celluloid", "acrylic", "precious resin" and "plastic"?

  6. How many times a week do you find yourself idly MOONING over a smartly-arranged phalanx of the aforementioned gizmos, with a goofy little GRIN on your face?

  7. Have you ever felt like walking up to a total STRANGER, asking them to define "ebonite feeder comb" then RIDICULING them for their ignorance?

  8. Do you wake up in the middle of the NIGHT with the cold sweats, wondering if "Penman" is irrevocably RUINING your celluloid?

  9. Just HOW dishonest with your family, friends and employers about the cost of your habit ARE you, really?

  10. Do you still secretly HOPE that your signature is going to be "discovered" and make you rich and famous beyond your wildest dreams? Has anyone ELSE ever told you that this is how the world REALLY works?

  11. Suppose you were alone in a locked room with:

    A) your absolute favorite fountain pen;

    B) a total stranger;

    C) a chair;

    D) a blunt object.

    What do you think might HAPPEN if the stranger sat on your pen and CRACKED it?

  12. How long has it been since you've re-inked each of your FORTY-SEVEN "daily users?" I'll bet you KNOW, don't you?
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