There is a field ahead of me, stretched wide, colored brightly, bedecked with flowers. I run, frenetic, fervent, towards this glamorous carpet, this bountiful gold mine, searching, yanking cornflowers from stems, azure petals falling, torn violently, dust on my clothes, petals in my hair. I have not found it yet.
There is a vault ahead of me, untouched, secretive, not a soul in sight. Gemstones glitter, rubies glint. I am drowned in a waterfall of gold; the gleaming coins bury me, consume me, strike my head – and yet I pay no heed. It isn’t there, either.
I am surrounded by mahogany; I am sick of it. I have the urge to topple the bookshelves; perhaps it would be a small mercy for the books to rain on my head, denting my skull, extinguishing my fire. Pages scatter everywhere; ink is bleeding; I want to gouge my eyes out with that pen – that pen. Oh. The pen. I’ve found it.
I am victorious, fists thrusting into the air. I possess the pen. It is mine; it belongs to my soul. I sit down, triumphant, pen poised over a blank page. I wait for my personal sovereign, my priceless pen to guide me.
It does not. It is only a pen.
I am seething, incensed. Fire dances in my eyes, the product of an untamed beast, an enraged demon. The pen is white-hot in my hands; the tip glistens with blood, devoid of its standard ink. The sharp point seems more suited to piercing through flesh rather than paper. I imagine it skewered through me, ink bleeding out of my chest, a utensil that is proficient at betrayal. How could you do this to me, I wish to rage, when I gave up all the world’s riches for you?
The pen appears to smile, a malicious grin, the Cheshire Cat of utensils. I cannot guide you, it whispers.
All this effort, and even the pen cannot help me? I have been waiting far too long – how am I supposed to write, how am I supposed to compose a story – wasn’t the pen the most integral gear for my machine?
I suppose it isn’t, and I suppose I knew that, deep inside the recesses of my mind, but then there were other voices protesting, “I am too afraid,” or “I do not have a real story to tell,” and perhaps I took them to heart more than I desire to admit. I waited in vain for the pen, expected, or wishing, more likely, that when the tip of the pen touched paper, and the ink spread out, crisscrossing, blotting clean sheets, the magic would have been stimulated and the story produced. This was why I sat in front of a paper for hours on end without a single word to present for myself.
What was I afraid of – failure? Certainly, fear consumed me – I was too afraid to publish my writing; I was too afraid to make that one leap forward – because I was waiting for the day that I would be unafraid, that magical moment when all my fears would dissipate and thus, I would step out of the shadows into the clamor of the literary world.
What was I waiting for – a real story? When would I create it; when would the ideal pieces fall into place, click like the perfect key for a lock, fit like the matching parts of a puzzle – what time would be best to write, to fashion a flawless, criticism-free story?
I was wrong – so wrong, in fact, to presume that fear vanishes. Fear does not ever completely vanish from one’s soul; one cannot stamp out fear, it cannot be made extinct. Rather, fear is always present, and the true conquerors of fear are those who, despite their fear, keep pushing hard, or channel it into their work to create something extraordinary.
I was wrong – so wrong, in fact, to believe that I did not have a story to tell. For this is my story, right now, and my pen did not guide me in writing it. It may be easily criticized, but that is storytelling’s inherent nature. It need not be flawless, because nothing ever is.
But it is my story. No pen can ever claim it as theirs. And I am proud of it.
Ayesha Asad is an aspiring writer and a high school senior with an eclectic variety of interests that include painting, reading, and singing. She lives in Texas, and is particularly fond of watching (and playing) soccer games.