Peter was tired. After 10 years of holding together the paperwork for "Johnson, A.P. – SSN 555-66-33xx," his tensile strength was fading; he could feel his molecules beginning to degrade. He was really getting bent out of shape. Lately, he found himself wishing that he could be relieved of this duty and maybe go on to do something better and more exciting.
As it was, he had not seen the light of day for a long time.
Before being shut up in this place, he remembered hearing his neighbor, who was holding a file together for "Jones, Samantha – SSN 639-22-45xx," say something about "long-term storage." After the drawer they were placed in banged shut for the last time, his neighbor became unclipped and Peter never heard from him again. No matter, he thought, 10 years ought to be long enough for anyone. It was unfortunate for him that he could do nothing about his predicament; unhappy as he was about everything, his only option was to wait and hope for something better.
When Peter heard a loud scraping sound of metal against metal, he knew something was up. At the same time he heard the noise, he also felt himself moving. He could see some light at the front of his row and he could see that some of the files held together by his co-workers were being removed. As Peter watched, he wished that the person doing the task would keep at it until they got to him. Even though the thought of change was a little frightening, it was also something he'd wanted for as long as he could remember.
Just as he was going to give up on this hope, his file was pulled out into the light. It was so bright that it reflected off the areas of his body that were not covered with rust. Before he could look around to see where he was, he was removed from his file and put into a clear container of some sort that held a bunch of his peers. Most of them, he discovered, had been holding files together in other areas. He even remembered a few of them from the original box in which they were delivered.
No one knew what was going to happen to them now, but they were all very happy to be out of their dark spaces, if only for a little while. Peter was overjoyed that he was close enough to the edge of the container so he could watch what was going on in the room where people were working. He had not seen anything for so long that even the seemingly routine jobs being performed fascinated him.
He saw the "Johnson, A.P. – SSN 555-66-33xx" file being taken apart, with some of its pieces being put into a blue pail with arrows on it and other pieces being put into a dangerous-looking machine that cut them up into smaller bits. He was sure glad no one had put him or his pals into that scary thing!
After a while, those who were doing the work went away and it grew dark again, but not as dark as the drawer he had lived in for the last decade. Now that all the activity had stopped, he was able to visit a little more with some of the other paper clips around him. In the darkness, they shared stories of what they had been doing before all these changes started. A few of them had been outside for all this time and some were new to the place, only being delivered in their boxes within the past few years. He also discovered that there were more varieties of himself than he ever knew about; some paper clips were bigger, some were smaller, some had sharp teeth (but were not scary), and some were coated with a soft, pliable material. It was so interesting to hear about their differences even though they were all somehow aware that the creation of each one of them had started in the same way.
No matter what their differences were, in shape, size, or how they came to be in this place, everyone felt rather certain that their futures would somehow be intertwined.
When the light came again, the work went on as it had the day before, and for the next few cycles of light and dark, nothing changed in the routine. Finally, though, during one light period, workers came in with wheeled things and removed the holding cases that many of the paper clips had been in. If they could have jumped for joy, they would have, because now they knew for certain that they would never have to go back into that darkness.
A few more light and dark cycles passed with all the paper clips feeling great. Now and then, a sunbeam would find its way to their container and they would all bask in its warmth while remembering the heat that first formed them.
Finally, the workers started taking everything else out of the room the paper clips were in. Pictures and clocks from walls, desks, chairs, and mats from the office area; Peter had begun to think that he and his friends would be left behind when at the last moment someone picked them all up and put them in a box, which was then moved out with the remaining items.
This started a wild ride for Peter and his pals.
A worker placed their small package in another dark cavern that was almost as gloomy as the one they had emerged from a few days before. However, this place was much different. First, they all knew that it was much a larger space, and second, they all felt movement which made them feel great. What's more, none of them had to work; they were allowed to just lie in their clear container and sway with the motions of the cavern that held them.
Peter sensed that a few of the light and dark periods had come and gone since they were put into this place because it would stop moving for a while, then move again, and then stop once more in the light so things could be taken out of it. Peter and his pals again thought they were going to be left behind as the cavern emptied out, leaving them alone with a few other things that were made of steel like them.
It was during the next light period that Peter's life changed forever.
The door to the cavern slid open and rough hands pulled his box out into the daylight. His clear holding pen was removed and turned upside down so that Peter and his friends went into free fall. When they landed, they were in a round metal container with other things made of steel, but these things were bigger, heavier, and came in many shapes. They weren't anything like Peter and his pals.
Something came along and picked up their new home, and after a short trip, they were lifted up and dumped again, this time into an even larger vessel that contained some sort of liquid. Though it was harsh, it made Peter feel good as he soaked in it. After a time, the liquid drained away and another milder liquid filled the vat. Soon that liquid also went away, and he and the rest of the steel objects were dumped into another container that was open to the sunlight.
Peter looked down on himself; he was beautiful. The rust that had been invading his body had vanished, apparently washed away with the liquids. His molecules felt stronger than they had in many years. He did not have much time to admire the change in his body before he and the rest of the metal objects were lifted up and dumped into the largest container yet. This one was able to move and soon they were all traveling again.
With all the switching of containers, Peter had lost track of most of his old paper clip friends, but as they went along, he came to know some of the others around him. One was a large oddly shaped piece of metal who said that he was a "fender" from an automobile, which was something used for getting from one place to another. It was like the thing they were in now but much smaller. One day his automobile hit another one and that was the last of both automobiles. Both were taken away to be disassembled. Some of his other automobile sections were in the same container as he and Peter were, but most of his friends had been taken elsewhere, so Peter told him that they could be friends. The fender thought that would be nice.
All along the way, they talked about where they might be going and compared notes about where they had come from. It turned out that their beginnings were nearly identical. Both were born from iron ore which had been extracted from Mother Earth; Then, both were melted down to be formed and shaped. It was only how they ended up that made them different. Now they were together again, apparently headed for the same destiny, whatever it may be.
When the thing they were traveling in finally came to a stop, they were dumped again, this time onto some sort of metal strip that also moved. During the transfer, Peter became wedged into a dent in his new friend. This made him very happy. He felt safer with his new pal who'd been around so much in his time.
After a few minutes on the metal strip, they were in free fall again so Peter had to hang on to his friend for dear life. Though they crashed with a loud bang onto the bottom of their latest holder and more metal objects fell on top of them, Peter managed to stay put. For a long time, everyone just lay where they had landed; no one came to move them around anymore. Then some of the metal objects that were under them said that it getting very hot down there. Soon it became hot everywhere. He and his new friend began to lose their shapes, which frightened him until he realized that everyone else was melting too. It was the heat that had formed all of them coming to take them back again. Could it be that they were going to return to Mother Earth?
Peter woke up. He did not remember too much at first. The last thing he recalled was it getting very hot had which made him sleepy, and then he was here, wherever here was.
He heard a familiar voice call his name; the sound of it seemed to come at him from all around him. It was his friend, the fender. It seemed that they were still together but now even more so than before since they had been made into a part of each other. The fender told Peter that they had been melted and reformed into some enormous circular object. Hearing this, Peter looked around him for the first time. He could see outward for miles and miles. Apparently, he was part of a structure that towered high above Mother Earth. Looking left and looking right, he could see that the structure curved away in both directions. Looking up, he could see a great fin protruding out from one side. He asked his friend if he knew what they had become.
Having been out in the working world for years, the fender thought that they were part of some kind of flying machine. He had seen things, which were called wings, like these at times when he was driven to a place for airplanes. Airplanes could fly off the face of Mother Earth.
However, even the fender had never seen wings as big as these. Being larger than Peter, his molecules were spread out more, so much so that he could see the other side of their new object. He could see that they made up one of two large cylinders that were attached to a flying vessel.
Whatever this whole thing was, the fender thought that it was being made ready to fly.
Another voice spoke out, a former airplane part — he said he'd been an engine cowl, whatever that was, and he was familiar with the way they got flying machines ready for takeoff. From everything he was seeing, he told them, the fender was right. However, the machine of which they were now a part was much, much larger than the plane he had been attached to, so he thought it was going to be able to fly higher and farther than he ever had, which made him happy but scared Peter a little bit.
Soon each object that had become one began talking almost all at once. Each one told what they knew about flying machines, even if they'd never been part of one before. Everyone was very excited. They talked for several light and dark cycles on end, with everyone reporting anything they saw on the ground far below.
Then, at the beginning of one of the light cycles, the huge machine began to shudder violently. Everyone fell silent in anticipation of what would happen next.
A searing heat began to build up inside of their circular object, and just as it seemed as if they were all going to be melted down again, they began to move, slowly at first, then as they got farther away from Mother Earth they took on great speed.
Though Peter was frightened by this new adventure, the touch of his other friends kept him from crying out. The larger, more traveled of them seemed to be in awe of what was happening, but none were afraid. So Peter looked down; he could see Mother Earth getting smaller with each passing second. Unexpectedly, they burst into a black void and the searing heat went away only to be replaced by shuddering cold. A loud explosion sent them into free fall again. Peter held on as hard as he could, knowing that a fall from this height would surely damage everyone, but after a few minutes, it became clear that he did not need to hold on since neither he nor his friends were falling.
Almost at once, everyone began to talk, speculating on where they were and why they could see all of Mother Earth but not go crashing into it. Then, from amidst the cacophony, a small voice spoke up, a voice that had been silent during all previous conversations.
She claimed to know where and what they were.
She had assumed what was going to happen before it did, but she did not want to say anything until she was sure of her facts, and now she was sure. She said that she had once been a tube that made up something called a telescope. This was a device used to look out into "outer space,", the stuff that Mother Earth floated in. Through the lens of the telescope, she had seen other planets and the flying rocket ships that sometimes went to these planets. That was what they had been made into; part of a rocket ship taking a crew to another planet. Now they were floating, free from the pull of gravity. They must have been the holder for the fuel that got the ship off the planet — and now they had been discarded, most likely forever.
At first, this idea made everyone sad knowing that they were never to be used for anything ever again, after having been useful, large or small, from the day they were first excavated out of solid rock.
So, for a while, everyone became quiet as they pondered their fate. Then Peter's friend, the fender, spoke up. He said that though he too was unhappy about not being needed anymore, he planned to enjoy his retirement because you sure could not beat the view from up here.
As Peter's side of the cylinder turned slowly back to where he could see the small blue planet of his birth, he recognized the wisdom in his companion's words.
During his small life, Peter always wanted to be something more than that which he was created to be. Now, knowing that he was going to be up here for eternity while looking down on the planet of his birth, he was overjoyed with the knowledge that forevermore he'd never be lonely again.