A Kiss of Legacy

It amuses me how many books were never lost. Though the cities crumbled and the libraries burned down, the data remained. As society slipped into the black hole it had birthed upon itself, the matter was destroyed but the information remained intact.

Granted, it took a few hundred years for the new colonies to unscramble the data, but it was all there. From Harry Potter to Tolkien, from the Hunger Games to Divergent to the script of Interstellar. These words and images were refined into shots for dispersion. At first all you had to do was take a walk to the drug store, purchase a pack, and head home, but the stories were too good, too great, too easy an escape.

Within a few years, the books were banned, but junkies kept them in the back allies and unlit halls, spreading these memories like a disease.

My friend Tabitha got too caught up, soon enough she couldn’t tell a horse from a Hippogryph or a sunrise from the eye of Sauron. She got locked up. I heard she still screams as she breaks the glass and the whole world shatters.

The truth is, I slip too. That’s what they call it, slipping. Back before only the data remained, you followed the words, they called it reading, but now it’s just a shot and reality slides away. For a while, you’re gone. It’s pure bliss.

But I gotta take it slow, can’t end up like Tabitha. Or James. Demal. Alicia. Collin. Won’t get myself locked up, not like that. Not ever.

There’s a soft spot on my wrist where the blank page fades away. I push my leather wristband down and see that small patch of blue and brown, always bruised, always fresh and raw like the stories I slip in. The books are glass capsules the size of fingertips, one end chiseled to a point. It just looks like water till it hits the air, then it shines in all the colors of the story inside.

As it drains into the syringe, this one turns green and yellow, a rich russet brown. The Canterbury Tales. A classic. I love the fresh air, the sound of streams, the scent of pine needles in the brush. I don’t feel it anymore when the needle goes inside, when the words fill my veins. Instead this bleak horizon starts to blur, to blend, and suddenly, softly, I’m standing in a castle.

Time for the story to sweep me away.

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The Bookkeeper

See how the shelves are lined with books of every size and shape. They have no titles here, only names. Look, that shelf just to your right, on the lower shelf, it’s a small book. Red cover. Small words. Young Thomas Mann. Please, pick it up, take a look. No? It’s not to everybody’s taste. It was only written in a few days, not much thought went into it before the author finished.

Lets keep going, shall we?

You’ll notice some books are newer than others, some far thicker, some almost too thin to be a book at all. For a time we held a section entirely composed of leaflets, but we gave up the endeavor to catalogue our books by year, rather than length. Some things, you know, are just too predictable, and others are simply too constant. There will always be brief stories. And yet, they are sometimes the brightest, most sincere. However, as you may find as you look about, the lengths have been growing steadily longer for quite some time. The curator upstairs tend to think it’s a trend that’ll be reversing soon. We shall see.

In any case, what is your preference? Would you rather the vibrant ones, rich with detail and vivacious prose? They’re thrillers, in a way, strewn with velocity but sometimes lacking any genuine conflict. There are others, mind you, with a bit more wisdom, rather, a touch more timelessness: They may have softer covers, seem bound from a time before ours, the words dense with vicarious longing, drawn out and slow, a relaxed pace fit for nightly pleasures. Oh, look, just consider these two: Courtney Brown, a bright piece that’ll surely make you feel for her, and then Malcolm Jones, that might as well be a history if you make it through.

Still not piquing your fancy? Don’t worry, though, we’ll all end up on these shelves eventually–whether you want it or not, authorship is inevitable in the library of life.

A Sword-Torn Hand

or, SHARDS of the SHATTERED

Cody shuddered when the wind blew a few drops of rain onto the page: They splattered there like little drops of blood, the yellowing paper instantly discolored like Rorschach blots waiting to be analyzed. He wiped the tips of his fingers over the spots, judging their wetness and if they needed any special treatment, and then decided it was safest to close his book: The spots might leave small scars, but nothing else could be done. Sometimes the Wyrd went that way.

Cody stuffed the book into his pocket and stood up. The grey clouds, thick in places but breath-thin in others, tumbled over the skies in every direction he looked. Over the trees and bulging boulders before him he gazed at the dance of dragons in the sky promising winds beat from leathery wings and electric breath that would incinerate all it touched. Cody’s lips curled into a smile.

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Allison Booker

For JG.

Charles Booker extended a hand and smiled. “Char,” he said and shook the now-outstretched hand of the lad at the coconut shy. Unlike the garish carnival colors clashing around him, the man inside the stand was easily monochrome: A dark almost see-through shirt over his tanned skin, prominent features, bright eyes.

Of course, the coconuts were milk jugs, but to Charles it didn’t matter.

“Have it a try again, Char?” the tender said, tossing a baseball from hand to hand, flexing thick arms covered in a thin layer of sweat and humidity that glinted in the night’s glow.

“Why not?” Charles said, dishing out another dollar in exchange for the ball. He bounced it in his hand for a moment, weighing it, calculating. Then he lobbed it at the milk jugs, and hit not a single one of them.

“Too bad,” the man said with a grin.

“I just can’t seem to get it,” Char said, “but maybe”—he raised his eyebrows—“someone could teach me?”

The man smiled, almost nodding. “I—”

“Charlie.”

Charles ignored the small voice and leaned closer. “You…?”

“I—”

“Charlie!”

“What?” he yelled, turning on his little sister.

“The page is about to turn.”

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