As Tullier sat up against the wall, glaring at Jason and refusing to sleep, his mind was brought back to a time when he was six years old….
It was late at night, and his father woke him up by loudly calling for him. Sleepy and bleary-eyed, little Tullier stood in the living room in his pajamas, blinking in the light from a lamp. His parents were standing together, both looking serious and worried. Crouching down on one knee, his mother held out her arms. For some reason, she was dressed all in black, with a heavy belt strapped around her waist. But Tullier paid no attention to this, and instead ran to his mother, hugging her tightly. His father, dressed in the same kind of clothing as his mother, ruffled his hair affectionately.
“Tullier,” said his mother, in a voice full of love and tears, “your father and I have to go somewhere. We’re going to be gone for a while, and so your uncle is coming to live here with you.” As Tullier’s face filled with concern and confusion, she rushed on, “You love your Uncle Arthur; you know you do, Tullier. You’ll have a very nice time with him.” She ran her hand through his hair, but he turned away.
“When are you going to come back?” he demanded, staring up at his mother.
His mother drew in a deep breath, and his father stared hard at the ground.
“When are you coming back?” he repeated.
“Tullier,” his mother began, her voice trembling, “Tullier, we might be gone for… for a very long time.” As Tullier’s eyes began to fill with tears, she quickly added, with determined passion, almost bordering on hysteria, “But we will come back, Tullier! I promise you, we will come back!”
“Lydia,” said Tullier’s father sharply, “don’t. You can’t say something like that when… when… it might not be true.”
Tullier, full of confusion, burst into tears and buried his face into his mother’s shoulder. Mother, father, and son embraced each other until a knock sounded on the door. Quickly, Tullier’s parents stood up. “That will be your Uncle Arthur,” said his mother. She went to answer the door.
Tullier’s father looked down at his son. “Tullier,” he said, awkwardly. “Your-your mother and I have tried hard to keep you out of this-”
“Out of what?”
“Out of… pencils.”
“Yes, you’ll understand later.” The sound of Uncle Arthur’s friendly voice filled the house. Tullier’s father drew from his pocket a pencil, a very ordinary one, looking much like the ones he used at school. “Son, look at me.”
“I’m giving you this pencil, and you must keep it very safe and show it to no one, okay?”
Tullier nodded. “Okay, but why?”
“Because it is a very special pencil, and not a lot of people know about pencils like these. If you draw something with it, and then say, ‘What I have drawn, may it be made real,’ whatever you’ve drawn will become real.”
Tullier’s eyes opened wide. “Really?”
“Yes, son. Your uncle will explain the rest of it to you, but remember, you must not show this pencil to anyone. Do you understand? Your mother didn’t even want me giving it to you, but I convinced her that it is necessary.” Tullier’s father knelt down and looked his son straight in the face. “Tullier, I love you.” Then, after a quick embrace, he walked out of the room.
His mother repeated the goodbye a minute later, and Tullier’s parents left the house. The little boy ran to the window and pressed his nose against the glass, watching as his parents drove away in their car. His little hand waved after them, and his little voice called for them to come back, but they did not. With his uncle sitting sympathetically by his side, Tullier watched the dark road until long after his parents were out of sight.
For the next several days, Tullier was constantly expecting his parents’ return, but they did not come. After that, he waited for them in terms of months, and then in years. Tullier moved in with his uncle, and his parents’ house was sold. His uncle tried to tell him that maybe his parents wouldn’t be coming back at all, especially after some official-looking men dressed in suits came to visit, but Tullier refused to listen. Finally, though, one day he simply had to face reality.
He had recently turned thirteen, after seven relatively normal years, and was just returning from school. After having cut across a neighbor’s lawn, he stopped. Something was wrong. Usually, the neighborhood was quiet and had few visitors. Why, then, was there a strange car parked in front of his house? And why, in his backyard, were there two people leaning casually against trees, but watching the house with undistracted gazes?
Unsure of what to do, Tullier stayed where he was, watching and waiting. After a minute, he could hear raised voices from inside the house, then the sound of a struggle. The people in the yard stiffened and seemed to prepare, like snakes coiling for an attack. Then the back door burst open, and Uncle Arthur ran out, visibly wounded. The man looked wildly about the yard, taking in the two strangers and Tullier, still watching from the adjacent property. Uncle Arthur’s eyes locked onto Tullier’s and wordlessly conveyed one thing: “Run.”
With cold, expert movements, the two strangers–oblivious to Tullier’s presence–closed in on Uncle Arthur, blocking him from Tullier’s view.
Terror, panic, and confusion poured into Tullier’s mind, rendering him incapable of moving. A cry arose from Uncle Arthur; then silence. The two strangers relaxed their positions, and deep down, Tullier knew that he would see his uncle no more. He turned and ran, heading in the direction of the city he had so long despised. As he ran, his mind finally grasped the reality that his parents were dead–killed like his uncle–and some deep instinct told him that somehow, the deaths were related. A furious hate filled his mind and, as he gripped his pencil, he had a feeling that everything that had happened was tied to that little piece of graphite.
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