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May 3rd, 2020
Lucilius closed the back cover of the book he had been reading and smiled. It was a good read. He stretched and yawned and looked around at the countless books, covering the walls, stacked up on tables, forming their own walls as stacks that wound around the tables. He got up and went to the counter and ordered another coffee and little pastry. He closed his eyes as he waited, listening to the grinder at it’s beans, the click clack of the espresso machine and the clink of the plate with his pastry on the marble counter.
He took his treats back to his seat and looked at the books that were stacked on the table. He realized he’d read the last of the bunch. It was time to find some more. He sipped the hot coffee and took a little bite of the pastry and then hauled himself up. He tossed the stack of books on a sorting cart and then gleefully went about his perusal. He held up a hand as he sauntered, a finger tracing against the spines, tapping their tops and tantalizing them with a chance of being read.
Countless stories riddled these pages. Perhaps all the adventures of humanity, and then even more. Perhaps all the stories of the universe could be found in these pages, he wondered. His eyes scanned the titles, seeing all the ones he had already read, images and visions, lyrics and passages from each lighting up in his mind. Such good living it was to live in these words.
He arrived at the last section he’d been mining and realized that he’d read the last book there. The rest he’d come across at some time or another. So he went in search of another shelf that he’d yet to explore. But as he walked around, he recognized each and every title.
So he got the ladder and started looking up at the higher stacks. But they too offered nothing new. Lucilius looked around the vast space of books, like a cathedral. It had been a while since he’d looked around at the gorgeous space, and he smiled again before turning back to his task. He searched for hours, but all he could find were books that he’d already read. He scratched his head and looked around again. The place was endless, surely he couldn’t have read them all.
Then Lucilius wondered how long he’d been there. He pondered a moment, and then realized he also couldn’t think of how he’d gotten there, nor where he might have been before. So many images from novels and stories seemed to crowd his mind. He had trouble trying to sift out what might be his life from all the lives he’d been immersed in.
He grew nervous. What he needed was a good book. Another to get lost in. He was just having an off day. Perhaps he’d think a bit better after the coffee and pastry, he reasoned. But before he went back to his snack, he needed a book to enjoy it proper. So he kept searching, until finally down low in a corner, Lucilius spotted a spine he’d never seen before. It was a small book and the spine was blank, which is how he knew he’d never read it. He’d never seen a book with a blank spine. He threaded it out from it’s neighbors and practically skipped back to his cozy seat. His coffee was luckily still warm and it was delicious to wash the pastry down with the bitter heat. He licked the flaking crumbs from his fingers as he chewed the last bit of pastry, and then after he’d hastily swept his hands clean with one another, he picked up the book to get started.
He opened it to find the title page blank. He flipped another page, and it too was blank. Perhaps it was an experimental novel? He flipped through the rest of the book, but the whole thing was blank. He turned it over, flipped through it again. He’d never seen a blank book before. He placed it down, wondering what to do. Then he picked up the book and went back to the spot where he’d found it. He recognized all the books it was surrounded by. There was nothing else here to read.
Frustrated, Lucilius shoved the book back into it’s spot, and as he stood he realized that it was still sticking out a few inches. He frowned, and kicked into place, as he turned to leave. But he heard a crack. He looked back, hunkered down and gently pushed the book. He heard the grating sound of fractured glass upon itself. He removed the book and a thin beam of light spilled out on his hand. He turned it over, watching the foot of the beam trace over the contours of his hand. He slipped the blank book into his back pocket and got down even lower to look. He squinted at the bright light. He couldn’t make out anything.
He began taking out books and as he did he began to see himself doing so. Behind the books was a mirror, and light was shinning through a small crack he’d made. It ran upwards so he began pulling out books on the next shelf and the next, until he was removing the shelves themselves, and soon stood in a mangled pile of books, looking at himself. He didn’t recognize the person in the mirror. It seemed like someone new, but then, he also realized he had no idea what he looked like.
The crack from the blank book ran up all the way through his image. He reached out to touch the crack that split the sight of his face. He could feel the crisp edge. He began to push and another crack sprung out in a wild direction. And then another, and another, until they began to glow, the whole of it like lightening, slowly growing to find it’s strike.
Then the whole thing shattered and Lucilius turned to shield himself from the blinding light. Slowly he looked back, waiting for his eyes to adjust. He stepped forward, still unsure of what lay ahead, unable to see for all the light that now filled the way. Lucilius tried to shield his eyes, waiting for them to adjust, but it was no use. He took another step into the light, and then another and another, with the blank book still in his back pocket.
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