Max opened the box, and the marker told him that if he picked any other color he was a dead boy. The marker was absolute black and flashing bright like a TV screen stuck in the instant of being turned off. Static prickled Max’s fingertips when he touched it. “What color are you called?” Max asked.
I am the color of creation that destroys, a bane to bad men and a boon to good boys.
“I’m Max,” Max said. Somewhere down the hall he heard footsteps and they reminded him that he should only whisper. Mommy’s boyfriend was cooking something in the kitchen that smelled like hot dogs. The smell made Max’s stomach growl, but he knew they weren’t for him. They were only for Mommy’s boyfriend, unless he fell asleep in front of the TV again. Then Max might be able to sneak out of his room and grab one. Right now Mommy’s boyfriend was cursing at the TV because the game was on. Max bit his lip and hunched over against his knees a little so that his stomach got all squashed up. Sometimes that made the hunger be not so bad.
Max, you need not go hungry.
“Yes I do,” Max whispered. “I ate my last Oreo.” He opened up his pillowcase and showed the marker the crumbs. Max always tried to save some snacks when Mommy’s boyfriend came over, but this time it hadn’t been enough.
No, Max, the marker said. With my power in hand you can have what you need, be it boiled Roc’s eggs or a goblet of mead. Just a few little strokes and an effort of will, and you will feast you on steaks like a whale feasts on krill.
“What’s mead?” Max asked.
Perhaps something more… the marker said, and Max felt a buzzing in the center of his forehead, and his thoughts went all swimmy like a fish was flip-flopping through his brain.
Ah, the marker said. Perhaps you would prefer the… dew that is green… which comes from ah… the mountains extreme?
The way the marker said it was kind of funny, but Max figured out what it was talking about and suddenly had a craving for a bottle of soda.
“I just draw it?” Max asked.
Fix the image of your desire upon this slate. We will destroy and then we’ll create.
Max touched the marker’s tip to his notebook and drew the shape of a bottle. The instant the shape was finished, the lines went all shimmery, and suddenly there was a weight in his lap. It was a big bottle of soda, and it was ice cold like it had just come out of the machine.
Through the closed door of his room, Max heard the muffled sound of glass breaking and it made him jump. Mommy’s boyfriend was saying bad words and stomping his feet so much that the whole trailer shook. The stomping got close to Max’s room. He gasped and stuffed the soda bottle into his pillowcase. The door flew open and slammed into the wall.
“Hey!” Mommy’s boyfriend roared. “Get me something for this!” His shirt was soaked in nasty smelling water that dribbled onto the carpet. The broken top part of a brown glass bottle was still in his hand. Max tried to say something but nothing came out.
“Alright, stupid. I swear, you’re friggin’ autistic. Give me that blanket!” He shoved Max out of the way and ripped the blanket off the bed, using it like a towel for his face. Then he stomped off to clean up the spill.
Max started to cry because it was the race car blanket and it was his only blanket. He pushed his face into the pillow while he cried so Mommy’s boyfriend wouldn’t hear him. After a while, he got hungry again and forgot to cry. He turned the pillow over and reached for the soda bottle inside, but then he remembered this one time when he drank a whole bottle of soda on an empty stomach and it had made him feel really sick.
Max, the marker said. Let’s draw something delicious.
Max looked down at his hand and saw he was still clutching the magic marker.
“I want Doritos with the powdery stuff that makes my mouth tingly,” he told it quietly, sniffing away tears.
The marker wiggled around in his grip like it was excited. Max drew little triangle shapes and a rectangle that he hoped looked like a bag. The drawing shimmered like a gasoline puddle and Max’s eyes went cross. He shook his head. When he could see straight again, there was a jumbo bag of Doritos in his lap.
“Son of a—!” Mommy’s boyfriend yelled. Something got knocked over in the other room. Then there was a sound like an empty bag of potato chips being scrunched up.
Max opened the Doritos bag as quietly as he could. A cool ranch breeze flowed out of it, and it was all he could do to stop himself from going at them with both hands like the cookie monster. He ate a single chip, chewing quietly, then another and another, washing it down with little sips of soda pop.
Satiate yourself, little one, the marker said. Eat while you may. But a boy needs more than just corn paste and whey. What say you for play? In ancient times, when the princes were bored, I summoned up thieves they could put to the sword. Or perhaps you prefer the company of fair maidens? A few dances to lighten hearts heavily laden.
“I better not,” Max whispered as he hid what was left of his snacks. “He might hear.”
The marker and everything around it darkened in swirls, as if all the light in the room was water going down a drain.
Micah Hyatt is a veteran of the war for Iraqi freedom. He currently works as a train conductor for one of America’s largest railroads. When he’s not hauling coal across the Midwest, he’s tucking his four young children into bed, kissing his wife of ten years goodnight, and guzzling coffee as he tries to finish up his half-million words and counting whalepunk novel.