Once again, I waited until the last second on Trifecta. I don’t know why I did this. I know that more people will read it if I post it early. I intended to, and then… I didn’t. If I hadn’t read Momo’s excellent and unusual post, I wouldn’t have done it at all. So credit where it is due.
This week’s challenge was the word
MANIPULATE (transitive verb)
1: to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner
2a : to manage or utilize skillfully
b : to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage
3: to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose : to doctor
Here’s what I came up with:
“A single stroke of my quill,” said the old man, “and it is done. Are you certain? The path runs but one way.”
Annabel ran her fingers through her tightly bunched hair. “Once it’s done, she’ll no longer be dead?”
“Oh, she will be,” the man ran his dry tongue along his cracked lips, “but the world will no longer notice.”
“You don’t need to. You merely need to decide whether or not we proceed.”
Annabel bit her bottom lip. She tasted blood. “Yes. Go ahead.”
The old man stared at Annabel for a long moment, then nodded. He tapped the elaborate quill against the sand-colored skin stretched over his forehead. Then he leaned down and began to write.
Annabel tapped her feet nervously. It was difficult to breathe. She did not know if it was nerves, or the dry, dusty air. The red flickering candlelight was no comfort. She watched as the old man labored over each agonizingly slow pen-stroke. Every time he dipped his quill in the tiny ink pot, he left it in to linger as he stared off at nothing. It made Annabel want to scream.
“How do you do it?” she blurted out when it became too much.
The old man looked up from his desk. “This parchment is torn from the tender underskin of intention. The ink is lovingly squeezed from the darkness that feeds on discarded secrets. The quill is…”
“No, I mean how do you do it? How do you manipulate things like this, knowing what it does to the world, and go to sleep at night?”
The old man smiled at her. In later years, Annabel wished desperately she had never seen that smile. “My dear, it is far, far easier than you think.” He dipped his quill back into the pot. “As for yourself, I would not plan on much sleep, if I were you.”