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.

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p. 162

The car rattles underneath me. Wedged between a dark woven seat belt and the child seat to my right. Plastic presses into flesh with the lust of Draculean fangs grown yellow from thirst.

Streaks of rain splatter across my window like comets across the stars. A meteor plows through, a cavalry leaving wet steps behind it amid the crosshatch of rain marks.

Gregory Maguire’s Lost lies open in my lap. I’m reading the fictional account of a writer recounting her own fiction, the embedded character referencing literature three layers of lies deep.

I spin lies easily. Fiction is the art of convincing the unbelieving to believe the unbelievable.

Maybe I’m another fiction. Maybe I’m just another character, four layers deep, and you’re reading my story.

Sirium 5

V. Gypsy Moth Fortune Cookie

I spread my arms into the wind and jump. For a moment we’re suspended in space amid the single note of someone’s scream and a roll of thunder above us. Then we’re plummeting toward the ground, the wind roaring into my ears and rain splattering across my face. I spread my fingers–the water hits them like ice and I swear I’m bleeding–and try to feel the water droplets in the air and the layers of clouds above us.

The rain’s a lot like the snow, and I feel the droplets moving toward me as I start to bend my fingers inward, but the clouds are like the river I hadn’t quite gotten hold of. I open my eyes and try to look upwards, to see them, but it’s all a blur, and we’re still falling. I shut my eyes, imagining the clouds and spread my fingers again. It’s now or never.

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Sirium 4.2

IV. Radioactive Kitten Cage

2. Lithium Ion

As I climbed in her car, Rebecca Blakewell tapped the side of my skull with her finger. I felt a sudden jolt and suddenly I couldn’t see. “It’s only temporary,” she said with a laugh and I heard the car door close.

Another door opened a moment later and she closed it before starting the car. It rumbled underneath me and I heard over its rattling the sound of sirens in the distance.

“Did you knock them all out?” I asked. She and I had been alone outside, but there were other guys still inside. The house should’ve been packed this time of night.

“They’ll wake up once we’re gone,” she said and I felt a lurch backward as she began moving. “It’s easier to win a game when there are fewer pieces in play, don’t you agree?”

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Sirium 4.1

IV. Radioactive Kitten Cage

1. Alkaline

I see a small bathroom attached to the hospital room and angle myself in that direction; as I fall off the bed, I grab a handful of wires and pull–they hold me back for a second and then pop off as I strike the floor. I moan as the monitors start beeping and shrieking and I drag myself along the floor toward the bathroom. I pull myself up in front of the sink and grab the handle–water starts pouring, and I splash it in my face, letting little rivers of drips and drops slide into my mouth. It hits my tongue like acid, chiseling away at the parched landscape of my mouth. It feels wonderful and my sudden thirst makes me yearn for more.

I struggle to pull myself up, straining my neck to reach the water. I stick my tongue out and feel the first droplets on my palette, and it gives me strength to push forward and open my mouth under the faucet: the water floods inside me and rushes down my throat, and at first I feel like I’m choking, but then I feel my muscles start to work again and the fugue start to lift from my mind and my eyes–I can see again, the blurry haze slipping away. I swallow and I swallow more and more and then I hear footsteps.

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