“There are NO words. It’s just a blank piece of paper,” she said, throwing the thing on the floor, crushing the phone she held in her her hand. “It doesn’t SAY, anything.”
“That’s not possible,” he said softly, trying to calm her down. “You know you can find the message. It’s what you do.”
“Look, I’ve done EVERYTHING I can possibly think of, and I have NOTHING.”
“Maybe you’re going about it the wrong way. Do you think it’s the ink and not the paper?” he asked.
She didn’t say anything.
“We just assumed it was the paper.”
“True,” she whispered. “It could be the ink and the paper simply lied.”
“What works for one, won’t work for the other,” he said.
“I’m losing my touch. Gotta go. I’ll call you when I get something,” she said, and hung up.
She picked up the paper. It felt good between her fingers. Rough, electric. “Oh, you know me, don’t you, baby,” she whispered. “You’re not that old, are you,” she said, smiling, as her cat suddenly rubbed against her calf. “You’re almost brand new. So, let’s talk about your ink.” The paper grew still, in her hands, as if holding its breath. “I’m not going to hurt you,” she said. The cat meowed and pawed at the hem of her jeans. “I just want you to tell me your secrets.”
The corner of the paper began to curl.
“Stop that,” she said, louder. “We’re all friends here.” The paper flattened out and trembled, ever so slightly.
“You’re a beautiful color. So white, with bits of oatmeal and leaves. Just rough enough, but too heavy and thick to be run through anything. Your edges, like tiny rims, made to hold the words in, so they won’t spill out and get away. A real artist made you, my love,” she sighed, running her finger down the blank surface. But who was it? And why? I don’t recognize the work.”
The phone rang and she picked it up. “I told you I would call when I found anything.”
“Um, yes? Hello?” she said.
“Is Papyrus there?”
“Speaking,” she said, her voice, suddenly business like. “How can I help you?”
“I think I have a problem with… This is going to sound silly, but Danny said that I should call and…”
“Just tell me,” she said, staring at the paper in her hand.
“I received a letter and the ink keep changing colors and…”
“…languages. Every time you try to read the script, it turns into something else.”
“YES!,” he shouted. “Exactly.”
“Fill your kitchen sink with warm water. Add a pinch of salt and two bay leaves. Put three rose petals, fresh from a rose that just dropped them, into the mix. Let the paper soak for fifteen minutes. Remove the paper and let it dry on a paper towel, surrounded by a circle of peppercorn. Tomorrow morning, things will have straightened out and you’ll be able to read the entire text.”
“Thank you. How much do I owe you and where do I send the check?”
“On the house,” she said, and turned off her phone.
“I’m telling you Kitty,” she said, to her cat. “Some days are stranger than others.” The cat nodded and went to look for her plaid mouse, the one with one ear and a half eaten tail.
She held the paper to her nose. “French,” she said knowingly. “I can smell the Eiffel Tower.” She went to her red cabinet and removed a small brown vial with an eyedropper top. “Okay, let’s see if you can resist my charms now,” she snickered, holding the dropper next to the sheet of paper. The paper immediately folded itself in half, in an effort to avoid the liquid. A word appeared on the bottom of the sheet. It said, STOP!
“Far too late for that, darling,” she said. “You had your chance.” The paper’s edge started smoking. “Nope,” she laughed, snapping her fingers over the sheet. The paper remained unsigned and then unfolded. “That’s better,” she said.
The cat jumped onto the table and landed on the paper. The paper let out a yelp.
“Claws, Kitty. Put them away.”
The cat stared at her and held out a sheath of needle tipped claws.
“Now, please. I’m trying to work.”
The cat got up and jumped back to the floor. Two words could be seen on the paper, WILL YOU, and that was all. “THANKS KITTY,” she yelled, never taking her eyes off of the paper. “Will I? Will I, what?”
The words faded. She went into the other room and grabbed Kitty. “I need your help,” she whispered into the cat’s neck. The cat wanted to say, “More than you can possibly imagine,” but decided to just mew instead.
Five minutes later, after rubbing the cat over the entire sheet of paper, multiple times, she had no more information, than she did before. She put the angry Kitty back on the floor, where he immediately bit her ankle, and began licking his fur back into place.
Papyrus took out her lighter. The paper recoiled. “I know. Scary, right? I don’t blame you for pulling away. I just need one answer, and then I’ll put the flame out. I promise. I want to know if it’s possible for you to show me the words of your own accord?”
“No,” appeared toward the edge of the paper.
She put the lighter away. “Okay. I get it,” she said. “A puzzle. Can you tell me if the message is good or bad.”
“A small yellow dot appeared.”
“Not a death threat. That’s good.”
“What is the message about, just do the best you can…I mean…”
“A tiny heart floated across the center of the page.”
“YES,” appeared at the bottom of the page.
She walked away and came back with a bottle and a bag of chips. She shoved a few chips into her mouth and took the cap off the bottle. “This cost a fortune, so it better work,” she said, directly to the paper. “I bought this scent in Paris and I’m guessing…” she muttered, sending a soft mist of perfume over the paper, “…this will work.”
The paper relaxed and the words came to the surface, one at a time”
She put the cap back on the beautiful bottle and watched the words fade away. She picked up her phone, turned it on, and pressed a button. “What is wrong with you?” she asked. “I’ve spent the entire day trying to find out if the paper was going to blow up or…”
“I’m more interested in your answer,” he said.
“You could have just asked,” she said.
“I thought that’s what I just did.”
“Fine. I’ll send you my answer in a note. Call me when you finally figure it out,” she said, and disconnected.