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Every Single Pencil

Scalzi Story

Wherein I take a band name from Scalzi’s Next Band Name list, and spend no more than 20 minutes writing the story with the band name as a title.


“What do you mean every pencil is gone?”

“Well, gone isn’t quite the right term for it,” George replied, looking back at Murphy. “And you don’t need to panic it.”

“I’m not panicking about it,” Murphy answered, glaring a moment at George. “I’m just, uh, concerned at this moment. And what do you mean by gone not being the right term?”

“Well, the pencils are all technically still here, they just don’t have any graphite in them.”

Murphy looked down where George was sitting, not saying anything, his mouth pursed. “So we have a lab full of pencil hollows?”

“Well, I don’t know if that’s the correct term, either…”

“Hollows, blanks, empty pencile cartridges, I don’t care what they’re called, I just want to know what caused this and how this happened.”

George sat looking up at Murphy, before lifting his shoulders and inhaling. In a large exhale, he sighed and started, “Well, you know the focus of Margaret’s latest research is carbon sequestering in simple life forms…”

“Yes, I know that.”

“Well, she had a break through of some sort on Friday…”

“Okay,” Murphy said when George didn’t continue.

“Uh, she fed the latest round one of the pencils when it became apparent they could absorb carbon easily.”


“It, uh, ate the pencil.”

“The pencil.”

“Well, the graphite in the pencil, and some of the wood, but not as much wood, as it doesn’t seem to like the celluloid structure of the wood, and pencil wood is particularly dense…”

“And what happened,” Murphy cut him off, his hand moving in circles in a universal gesture to hurry up.

“As near as I can tell, Margaret didn’t leave the pencil she stuck in the box actually in the box.” George paused.

Murphy waited for him to continue.

“She put it on her lab table.”

Murphy didn’t say anything.

“Uh, her pencils were all blanks when she came in this morning.”

Murphy’s eyes grew big. “Every single pencil?”

George looked down at the floor, then back up. “Yeah, as near as we can tell.”

“How bad?”

“At least all the labs on this floor.”

“Every single pencil from every lab on this floor.”


“Has been gutted by a carbon sequestering bacteria that has escaped the confines of its experiment.”


Murphy continued to look down at George. He was quiet for a bit before saying, “Any idea how bad this is going to get?”



“The trees just outside the lab are bare now.”

“It’s June.”


“So, very bad.”

“I’m afraid so.”

“Where is Margaret,” Murphy asked.

“Near as I can tell, half way to the desert. She left a note before she took off this morning.”

“Let me guess, written in pen?”

“Yep,” George replied.

Murphy sighed, and turned back to the laboratory door. “Every single pencil,” he was muttering, “every single leaf… Every single pencil…”

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