A storm was brewing. There was a soft pitter-pattering of rain on windows, and a low growl of thunder that sounded from time to time. Although, in the small apartment on the second floor of a dirty, soggy apartment building, there was only one small window, high up on the wall, and the only reminder of the rain was the steady stream of water that flowed down the wall from a leak. Maxwell Marlowe, however, wouldn’t have noticed the rain anyway. He sat at his desk, the only piece of furniture in the room besides his bed, and stared at a sheet of extremely messy calculations. A pencil, held in his right hand, tapped against the desk. Finally, his gaze shifted to a strange device, lying on the floor. It was a bright, shining silver, and looked like a large, thin, elegant pen - except for a sphere at the top, which rotated and seemed to shine with many different, soft, hypnotizing, colors. Several wires were connected to various parts of the pen, which were in turn plugged into an electrical outlet on the wall. For several moments, Maxwell examined different parts of the pen, the silence in the room heavy. Then, the spell of pristine quiet was broken.
“Zanna, the car broke. They say it would be thousands of dollars to repair.” The figure drew in a sharp breath, then seemed to lose its fight, and slumped forward. The light shone softly on a thin girl, wearing a drenched blue raincoat, yoga pants, and high, spiked boots. Her short, dark red hair was plastered to her face in a wet mess, and her cheeks were pale.
“Oh.” she mumbled in a small voice. Then, in a tone of voice that seemed far too mature for a girl of her age, she stated, “Well, maybe someone will give us money for the parts of it that are still good. We should ask around.” Maxwell nodded grimly. He hated that his sister, Suzanna, who was only thirteen, had to deal with situations that some adults would never face. But ever since their father had lost his job, the family, who had never been rich, had separated - “It will help us financially!” his father had declared, before climbing onto a grey bus and never being seen again. They had had no communication from him, and the address that he had lived at was now empty. Their mother had vanished from the family when Zanna was an infant. Maxwell, with his job as the janitor at a science museum, was all that she had.
“Well,” he began, trying to change the topic. “Did you at least find some good books at the library?” Immediately, Zanna’s face changed to the look of lightness and wonder that she possessed whenever books were mentioned.
“YEAH - Look at THIS!!!!!!” She pulled a thick book out of her coat pocket and thrust it at him. He stood up and took the book. It was a hardcover copy, and looked as though it could be a book of spells, or an epic tome. He read the cover aloud - “The Works of William Shakespeare. Uh..wow. Nice.” Maxwell and Zanna, however close, had extraordinarily different tastes. Maxwell loved science and dwelt mainly on facts, while Zanna was incredibly fond of the arts, especially books. He knew that William Shakespeare was her favorite author, but could not pretend that he had much enthusiasm for the playwright himself.
“I KNOW!!” Zanna beamed. “It ROCKS!!!” Though Maxwell suspected that she had read the book, or others like it, several times already, he simply nodded.
“So…” Zanna leaned back, wrinkling her nose at the silver pen. “How’s your big major invention going?” Maxwell had been working on the pen for more than two years - ever since he had woken up in a daze, reached for a piece of paper, and began to scribble down designs. He had barely told Zanna anything about it - and she, believing it to be another of his failed science experiments, hadn’t really asked. But now, Maxwell grinned at it, then at her.
“I think that it’s almost done!!”
“Oh, wow. That’s cool.” she replied with about as much enthusiasm as he had for her Shakespeare book. “So what does it do?”
“Well.” he began. “It SHOULD be able to create matter - create LIFE - out of writing!!” Upon seeing her skeptical expression, he elaborated, “So, if I use this pen and write down, “I want pancakes” pancakes should appear!! And if I activate this knob (he pointed to a knob at the tip of the pen) and point the pen at, for example, a box of pancake mix, pancakes should appear!!”
“Wow.” Zanna remarked dryly. “You really want pancakes, don’t you?” Maxwell sighed.
“But if this pen can do THAT,” Zanna remarked, eyebrows raising. “Why haven’t you told anyone about it?”
“Because no one would care.” Maxwell replied, and then, seeming to realize how bitter that sounded, asked, “Should we try it?” Zanna backed towards the door.
“Isn’t it dangerous to try something that, um, BIG - creating objects out of NOTHING - at home? It seems suspicious, and too sci-fi. And it ALWAYS goes wrong in sci-fi.” Maxwell bit his lip, considering.
“Well.” he said eventually. “There’s a 75% chance that this won’t work anyway. And I NEED to know if it will work. Plus, this isn’t a story. What could happen in real life?”
“Okay.” Zanna backed towards the door, but stayed in the room. “Just do whatever you need to do.” Maxwell nodded, grinning. Neither of them, because of their tiny window, saw the flash of light in the sky, or how it seemed to grow closer to the town - to the building. Maxwell bent over the oversized pen, moved a few dials near the top, checked the calculations, and muttered to himself. Zanna hung near the door, her gaze alternating between her Shakespeare book and the pen. Finally, Maxwell sat back, one hand resting on the knob near the point. Zanna lowered her book and stared at him. Both of their expressions were hopeful, yet tough - prepared for whatever was to come. That was when they became aware of the storm, as rain crashed down, thunder roared, and a single flash of lightning struck the road right outside of the building.
Immediately, a flash of heat rippled through the air, as well as a blinding light that seemed to shimmer across the room. The apartment building, constructed cheaply and flimsily, shook, and, as the room pitched, Maxwell fell forward, his hand slamming down on the knob. Zanna fell, and, as they watched in horror, her book flew out of her hands and seemed to fly forward, connecting with the blindingly silver ray of light that had streamed from the pen. It vibrated in the air for a moment, then fell to the floor. The sphere on the top of the pen began to shake, colors moving wildly through it - colors so intense, so vibrant, that the other lights in the room seemed to dim. A humming noise was heard, growing steadily louder, louder, until it swelled and dipped throughout the building like music. silver light spilled from the tip of the pen like ink. The colors flashed faster, even brighter. From the floor, Maxwell’s face was illuminated, frozen, afraid, and awed. As the colors shone on Zanna’s face, they etched the deep joy, wonder, and freedom that seemed to emanate from her eyes. The colors reached a frightening speed, as the music increased in volume and pitch, and silver ink burst from the pen, splattering across the room… and then the sphere seemed to open, colors flying. But as Zanna and Maxwell squinted through the blindingly brilliant light towards the pen, dark shapes seemed to appear in the sphere. Then there was a piercingly high roar of noise, the colors flashed at their full extent, and both Maxwell and Zanna cried out in shock, temporarily blinded. A light flashed, with a final gasp, both siblings’ worlds went dark.
Maxwell opened his eyes, astounded that he was alive. As he sat up in a panic, he saw Zanna standing up near the doorway, and he relaxed. Then he saw the expression on her face. Slowly, he stood and turned to the pen. It lay still, a dull, dark grey. And, lying next to it, were three women, feebly stirring, all clad in different style of outfits. Maxwell drew in a sharp, surprised breath, then frowned, confused. But now Zanna had moved forward. She was the color of perfect ice. As he stared at her, she whispered, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy…..”
“Zanna, what are you talking about?” he asked sharply. And, still gazing at the women, she uttered only one awed word -