Guy flopped onto Kodi’s bed. “Let’s do this,” he said, flipping open a small device that looked like a lighter. When Kodi started, Guy grinned. “Relax, it’s more harmless than it looks. You know that book the original JC gave me?” Kodi nodded. “Well, hidden inside was this little scrap of paper, with instructions on how to build one of these. I think they called it a holocrontron. Something fancy like that. But it wasn’t hard to build– just take a lighter casing, add a projection light and a couple other features, and– voila.”

“Do you know how to WORK it?” asked Kodi, raising an eyebrow at him. Guy’s face faltered for only a moment, then recalled the instructions in his pocket. Whipping them out, he scanned down through. “Let’s see… putting it together… inserting final touches… Mikey’s contact number… and… THERE we are, how to turn it on.” He flipped the flicker on the lighter, then pressed a few keys that had been inserted into the lighter’s side.

A light blue projection light cropped up, much to Guy’s delight– but his joy once again faded, seeing Mikey was not present. “Mikey?” he called, keeping his voice relatively low, so Dad would not hear; Kodi hunched over as well, to keep it between only the three of them. The image of nothingness flickered for a moment, then Mikey’s youthful, blond-haired head, clad in a nightcap, popped into view. “It took you long enough,” the boy said nonchalantly, yawning and stretching. “You couldn’t have picked a better time to wake me?”

“Sorry,” said Guy hurriedly. He had forgotten it was nearly eleven at night. Mikey waved him off. “It is just as well– I am certain you wouldn’t have done so unless it were of the utmost importance.”

Kodi nodded. “We just needed to ask you some things. We feel lost, like we don’t really know what we’re supposed to do, where we’re supposed to go, and what end goal we’re to be accomplishing.”

Mikey frowned, not an irritated frown, but a pondering frown. “Didn’t the Junk Collector’s letter explain all that?”

“Only certain parts,” acknowledged Guy, “like that we were supposed to fix things, renew things, help fix broken people, that kind of thing. Only it didn’t say HOW. I mean, I may have put this… thing… together, but that doesn’t automatically I’m the handy type; I could only do it because of the instruct–”

Mikey cut him off. “Do not doubt the Junk Collector’s ability to choose future Junk Collectors. If he chose you, you must be good at remedying either material objects, and/or people. It is unwise to question his decision on such matters. Just as he had faith in your abilities and talents, you must also have faith in them. But not only them.”

“What do you mean?” Guy interjected.

“I mean, you must also have faith in the very first Junk Collector. The Grand Maker, the Person Who is Fondest of Recycling.”

“Recycling?” echoed Kodi. Mikey smiled. “That is Junk Collecting speak for making all old things new again, making them not only useful, but whole and wonderful. It is the ideal of the Junk Collector I have served, the goal that drives all Junk Collectors, the spark ignited by the Grand Maker Junk Collector Himself, which implores you now to be fanned into a proper flame. But, as  you already have been told, your main mission and ultimate goal is not to simply fix up or build material goods to serve your own gain, but to use these tools to serve and aid others– and help fix and build up others. That in itself is the top priority. And speaking of how…” Here he gave Guy a stern and almost accusing look. “You ask me how you can accomplish your goals. How to go about making things happen, so in the end, you can help fix and build up other people. I notice your third teammate is not here with you tonight.”

Guy shuffled anxiously. “Listen, if circumstances were different–”

“If circumstances were different, you think she would have been here? Yet you neglect your friend’s needs, her hurts, and continue on without her, despite her being your teammate. If you had attended to these things, tried to be there for her, and tried to build her up, do you not think she would have been more compliant?”

There was a long silence. Guy could hear the wind howling softly outside, pressing tree branches against the window frames. He tried to control his emotions, rolling up inside his gut; his inner tempest. “I would if I could,” he finally said in a low voice, “but now that’s been made impossible. It’s not that I won’t, it’s that I can’t.” He related to both Kodi and Mikey of what had transpired between himself and his father, growing more discouraged with each word. When his explanation ended, there was even more silence.

Kodi was the first to break it. “So what now? If we can’t reach her, then…”

“Actually, permit me to make a small correction,” said Mikey, “The way I see it, and from how you related all that to me, it seems that only Guy is unable to meet with Wren. You, Kodi, on the other hand…”

“But if Dad catches him, we’re both dead,” protested Guy. “He’ll think I encouraged him, and we’ll never get to see her again–”

Once more, the bold young former assistant to the original JC intervened, “With the Grand Maker, all things are possible. Nothing is impossible.” He actually grinned a little. “Unlikely, perhaps, but not impossible.”


Wren fished out the special ink from her desk drawer; it still shocked and even disturbed her how the fact that both it and the letter appeared to be planted did not surprise her. Logically, with an extremely secure house, door bolts, and her brother being home at least 75 percent of the time, there was little chance of an intruder sneaking inside. She herself had not left the house in quite some time; would she not have heard if someone entered her room? On the other hand…

A lot HAD happened to her the past several days. Why not add more complexities to her frustration, nerves, and addled, upset brain? She bit into her lower lip so hard she started to taste salt. Iron. Her blood.

She had a decision to make, however. She could always choose not to respond, but… Closing her eyes, she recalled clearly how the letter’s words had glistened and gleamed in the darkness, their candlelight almost consoling her spirits, giving her the faintest pinprick of… hope. She nearly laughed. Hope. That was a word she had not felt for a very long time– even with Guy and Kodi around to “help”.

Next to the old-fashioned inkwell was a feathered quill, like the kind they might have used in the 1800’s or earlier. Definitely not there previously.

Temptation overtook her entirely. But, no matter what, she vowed she would not sing. Not for this mysterious person who claimed to only wish to help her. She was self-conscious of herself and her talents as it was, and it frightened her a little that this person already knew, or was implied to know, this much about her.

Fingers trembling, she took hold of the quill, carefully dipped into the ink, and scribbled back onto the now-blank paper:

Assuming you are the same person who has previously written to me regarding my friends…

Under normal circumstances, in no way would I ever trust you– especially considering how you somehow planted your letter, ink, and quill on my desk without my brother or I being aware of it. Nevertheless, you are right about one thing: I have never trusted Junk Collectors, nor do I wish to be associated with them. I would never want to be associated with something or someone who is out to hurt others and wrench away their friends from one another. 

She hesitated, watching the words form slowly on the parchment, then continued,

As you have implied to know a good deal about me, which I also would like to question how this may be the case, you should also know that I am a very cautious person. Trust is not something I would so easily hand over to anyone, particularly if my trust in someone close to me was just broken. If you actually care one wit about me, and are willing to prove yourself trustworthy and a valuable ally to me, then say so and prove it. 

She stopped, allowing the paper to drift down lazily onto her desk. On top of the decoder. Her irritation at it flared to life again, but just when she was about to smack it out of the way, the quill positioned neatly in her right hand began to WIGGLE. Squirm, just like a worm. She was so startled she released it, and the entity took on a life of its own, fluttering gracefully over to the light switch, and engulfing her in darkness once more.

“Hey! What giv–” Her sentence was cut short. The parchment’s words– this time, HER words– glowed, only with a lovely blue-green hue. They seemed to settle in and dissolve into the paper, being absorbed. Three seconds passed, then suddenly, words reappeared in the same reddish-orange candlelight as before– but appeared as though they were being written by an invisible hand. 

Wren felt a subtle sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, wondering if this was how it felt to be writing in Tom Riddle’s diary. With the kind of luck she was experiencing lately, it would come as no surprise to her. Maybe it would be better if she tossed this whole idea out the window, and tried to find her friends on her own, again. But then…

She felt a light brush against her jawline; the quill that had too taken on a mind of its own. Gently caressing her cheek in a forward position, like it wanted her to read the words being written to her, in front of her. She paused, wondering if this really was the best idea for the situation, but at the feather’s insistence, she reluctantly seated herself to at least read the respondent’s reply:

I am most indebted to  and grateful for your reply. After all those hours, I was beginning to think you had turned your back on my offer, and thus, on a generous opportunity to rescue those you love. I know that you are grief-ridden at this time, and, should you insist on being left alone, I should only too gladly comply; your wish is my command. 

That being said, you indeed have a right to be cautious, as much as you have a right to be frugal with your trust. I would not respect your persona if it were not for your wariness, your intelligence, your dedication and determination. I deeply admire all these things about you. But, by the same token, you must respect my ability to inquire. You do not have to answer, of course, but I would very much like you to. Should you choose to do so, I will in turn forego other means of retrieving such information. This way, we can get to know one another better, and I’ll know how to best help you. I would like to even become friends, if you would like. I can fill the gap left by the ones who have abandoned you for lesser things, if you so desire it. I also know you to be confused, as bright as you are, and in terrible need of enlightenment, knowledge, information– especially on those you call friends. Here, I can help you. Ask any question; it shall be answered. My sole purpose to help you fulfill yours. 

The words began to fade once more, into faint, glowing embers. Wren could feel the quill’s feather lightly sweep along the back of her neck. She almost jumped out of her seat; the touch felt synonymous with long, gentle human fingers.

But when she spun around, the quill had vanished. When she spun back, she saw, in the fast-dimming light, it lay obediently next to its paired partner.

She decided, for the first time in her life, to sleep with a nightlight on that night.


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