Ink and Paper

They hadn’t left him very good ink. It would have to do. Still, when he tilted the bottle back and forth, he noticed the slight sediment, and sighed. Well, it wasn’t as though he expected to get much more use out of this fountain pen anyway, with its cap-band that rotated round and round, and the slight brassing of the clip, and the worrying rattle it sometimes made.

The paper wasn’t much better. He didn’t know how he was supposed to work with something to small. They had given him a study with a fine desk, and a profusion of lanterns, enough to make him wonder if they were trying to set the ceiling afire. (Of course not. He knew that. But.) A polished board to write on, only slightly scratched at one corner, and blotting paper upon which he could see mirror-writing poetry in dusky violet. (Normally he didn’t care for violet. But it was different when it was a reversed glimpse of someone’s love-note.)

But the paper, the paper–the paper was a smallish sheet, no taller than his forearm, and half again as wide. Perfectly adequate to write a letter to a friend or a challenge to an enemy, or possibly to make a paper airplane with. Not so good for his purposes.

Still, he had what he had, and he might as well make the most of it. He inked up the fountain pen (lever filler, at least the lever didn’t stick like the other one) and wiped off the nib and feed with his sleeve. Horrible habit, but he wore black shirts for a reason, and at this point it wasn’t as though it mattered. The light in the room guttered just a little, but he ignored it, and besides, there was still plenty to see by.

He bent slightly in spite of himself, feeling the preliminary ache in his shoulders. But his hand, his hand was steady. And he began to draw.

He drew tiny hatches that coalesced into shadowy gradients. He drew perfect round little dots and joined them together into ropes like pearls, or dewdrops, or blood falling down long shanks of bone. He drew sweeping curves that made him think of swallows in their flight, or kelp abandoned on the shore, or hair unbound and falling through his fingers.

In a careless moment, his thumb brushed the side of the nib. He wiped the ink off on his sleeve, and waited for it to dry.

He straightened, breathing in and out calmly, meditatively. While the ink almost certainly wasn’t waterproof, and almost certainly would fade over time, he had only one chance to get this right.

Then he inked slow straight lines, arrow-earnest and unsmiling. Sometimes you needed to know the fastest way home, after all. He inked spirals, devastating in the distances they implied, drawing around their bright-sweet haze, and globes, some of them flattened. The occasional grace note of an ellipse.

At last the lanterns were flickering low, later, much later. Much more than a day later, for sure. He always knew. Carefully, he inked the last line and capped his pen. He closed his eyes. Time to sleep.

The lanterns in the room keened bright again, and the paper fluttered to the floor, but the man was already snoring.

For storme. Prompt: “inked spirals.”

I can’t even remember how I got into fountain pens.  I make no claims that the hobby is practical, but I love my (small) pen collection, and the experience of working with ink, smudges and all.  (No spills yet, knock wood.)