Today is Flash Fiction Friday, but it’s also the start of the Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop, sponsored by Bookhounds. So enjoy the story (900 words) and then enter the giveaway, which ends on 26th January. Which books are you dreaming about this year?
The Revenge of the Bookshelves
The clock ticks slowly in the corner of the room. The only light is the shaded one on the desk, that shines on the book in front of me, and not in my face. Beyond the pool of light, the library lies in shadow. There is nothing to see in that darkness; I know books fill the shelves that line the four walls of the room, with gaps on one side where the curtains drape the windows, and a door at one end. Everywhere else is books. I feel their presence in the darkness. Thousands of them. In solid, intractable, uncompromising darkness.
I have not read them all, of course. I inherited most of them from my uncle, who had inherited most of his collection from his grandfather. Some of them are ancient. The dustiest ones, the ones kept on the most inaccessible shelves. They have cotton bindings and pages with frayed edges where they were cut by hand. I looked at the titles, once, twice, many times. Most are in a foreign language, possibly Italian. My uncle alleged they were writings from the settlement of Venice, when they drained the farmland and made the lagoon so that Venice sat out there on the island all on its own. I did not know whether to believe this, but the titles indicate they are part of a series.
On another stack, the titles are in Greek. I cannot even make out the words, since they use Greek letters. Those are old, too. My uncle said they are books on magic and need to be kept safe. Somehow I think this unlikely. Why would magic be written in Greek?
My uncle’s books are more interesting. One of his collections is the entire stud book of the Thoroughbred Racing Society for the 1880s. Names, breeding lists, pedigrees, all in large, leather-bound tomes with gold lettering on them. Here you can trace sires back to the Darley Arabian, or the Godolphin Arabian, or the Byerley Turk. The three sires of all Thoroughbred horses in the whole world. I sometimes wonder if I could find racehorses today and trace them back to their great many-great grandsires in these books. I never have, though. The books stay on their shelves and are dusted regularly, but rarely taken down.
The volume sitting on my reading desk today is The History of Time. It is a only a few months old, a companion volume to a world-wide best-seller in the 1980s that hardly anyone actually read. I am determined to read it. Well, I dream of reading it, I rarely actually get as far as picking out the books I am determined to read.
Why is this book was on my reading desk? I am sure I have not selected it. I intend to start on Dreams, Mysticism and Magic of the 21st Century, but I seem to have mislaid it. Strange, since I am sure I put it on my New Books shelf.
The clock in the corner strikes nine. Just time for a few chapters before bed. I normally read until ten, then make my cocoa and take it up to bed. My bedroom is above the library, which gives me a comforting feeling, that I sleep on top of all that learning.
I do not remember going upstairs to bed, or making my cocoa, but I am certainly awake in my bed when I realise I hear movement downstairs. Creaking and groaning. The musty smell of the books is stronger than usual, and I wonder if I should check the automated humidity controller. Then I hear a strange slapping noise, and eventually identify it as that peculiar sound that books make if they fall on the floor and flap shut again. It starts, then stops after about ten instances. Then it repeats. After a dozen of these instances I can hear them more clearly, almost counting the pages in the riffle as the books open before they flap shut again.
The third step at the top of the stairs creaks, as it does when someone steps on it.
I try to raise myself up to ask who is there, but my blankets are pinning me down. The creak of the stair repeats, and so does the riffling of the pages and the flap of the books shutting.
Then my door opens.
A flood of books floats into the room, lifting my bed from the floor and floating it away. I grip the covers tight as we ride the waves, spewing out of the window in a whitewater torrent. Horses gallop in the waves alongside the bed, teeth snapping above my head, wild eyes peering at mine, galloping onwards through narrow canals and gloriously pink and orange buildings in a frosty air.
But the buildings turn in on themselves, opening their pages, revealing lines and lines of handprinted instructions and diagrams, woodcuts of strange machines for moving water. The world has become entirely made up of books, and I cannot escape them as they approach to consume my bed….
Time stands still. Books of the past, books of the future, all here in one place, simultaneously.
I am lost.
The clock in the corner strikes midnight.
I am a bookshelf in my uncle’s library. Trapped in the history of time and the magic of the 21st Century. There is no escape. The Darley Arabian tells me so.
© 2016 J M Pett
Now enter the Giveaway!
One lucky winner of my giveaway will be able to choose two paperback books from those in the graphic, or one of their choice from the Book Depository value up to $15, sent to an address anywhere in the world! Entries close 26th January 2016 (00.00 27th in New York).