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By Cana Yao

I left the land of the sun in a cramped cardboard box with five others: a blue ballpoint, a red gel, a blue fountain, and two black fountains.

Yes, you read that right. I’m a pen. Or, more specifically, a black rollerball, 0.5 millimeters. Right, back to the story. I was born, or rather made in a Terrasola factory, but it’s not like I remember much of my birthplace at all. I only have two memories from the land of the sun. I remember how my mother was scheduled to be shipped off to another province, but the young factory worker who was supposed to be in charge missed the delivery train. The manager beat him. My second memory is from the day “His Benevolence” King Tiago visited our factory. He didn’t seem as benevolent as the media liked to portray him. In short, I only remember enough to know that I am thankful that I was sent away from the land of the sun.

On our voyage, none of us could see beyond the tiny box, but the adults had told us, with sadness in their voices, that we would be going on a voyage to the land of the ice--Kaldisia. The faraway land grew closer by the minute, and we spoke about it in whispers, remembering the worry and concern of the tut-tut-tutting adults, who didn’t seem all too happy about our impending adventure. We didn’t have a choice, though. As pens, we are, after all, merely slaves, subject to the wants and whims of humans. And the new humans in the colony of the land of ice wanted pens. But this did not keep the adults from worrying, not in the least. “Kaldisia is the land of barbarians,” I heard one of the factory pens whisper. “It’s so cold they’ll freeze to death!”

But were they right? In the words of one of my owners, they were worse than right. They were wrong. I am a proud Kaldisian. In the land of ice, most citizens have hearts as warm as the climate is cold. I should know--I’ve called this country home for two centuries.

When we arrived at a harbor in the land of ice, two of my fellow travelers --Quill rest their souls--were already frozen, unaccustomed to the Kaldisian weather. The fountain pens and I said a quick prayer to Father Quill, lord of the pens. Still no one moved us from the box. Finally, that night, I saw the light of day for the first time in three months. A strong, black-haired Kaldisian soldier lifted open the lid of the box. We were surrounded by these men, all opening pen boxes of their own. The Kaldisian nodded grimly to his comrades, confirming my worst fears. “The red gel pen and blue ballpoint ones are frozen,” she said. “Toss them in with the fountain pens!”

What? “Why toss the fountain pens?” I wondered. At the same time, another soldier asked the same question.

“Why? Ask the Terrasolans!” The first soldier roared. “Why are they putting heavy taxes on fountain pens?!”

“No taxation without representation!” The crowd chanted.

“Keep the rollerball pens,” ordered the first soldier as she plucked me out of the box. “They have not frozen. And they’re cheap enough that the Terrasolans don’t want to tax us much, anyway.”

Now, I don’t particularly like to think of myself as “cheap,” I like to think that I am “high value.” But that was unimportant at the moment. My friends were being tossed overboard! I tried to cry out in protest. That was the first time I learned that humans don’t hear our voices. As he went down, the blue fountain pen cried out to me, “You know, I’d rather die for a cause than live a life that is worthless. I hope that I am dying for a good cause!”

He was. Again, I should know. Because my next stop, after being used to write countless war letters, was on the declaration that officially gave birth to my country, New Kaldisia. A country where there was a higher ideal--where people strived towards what no one had ever dared to dream. Not a perfect country, but a country with a purpose. And what happened after I wrote the declaration? I was tossed into the streets, as pens are from time to time. Nobody wanted to buy an ink refill.

My next owner was a schoolboy who would become a famous preacher. He refilled me as a child and kept me until he died, when his relatives threw me back into a garbage can. Next I was owned by some natives who wanted better treatment. Later on, I was picked up by a young man who wanted freedom for all. Then, a man who wanted equal rights for his people. After that, a woman who wanted rights for her people, too. One of my owners was a factory worker who sought decent working conditions. Another was a scientist who used me to conduct research and make the world a better place. For two hundred years, I witnessed New Kaldisia strive towards its higher ideals, constantly making progress.

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