Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dime Stories: The Escapist Book Fair

"No chance of rain. Hurry."

There's a rumor in this city, as old as the sewer steam that rises from the vents. The librarians whisper about it during their lunch hours, spearing their walnut and roman salads with silver forks. Derek's heard them talk about the book fair that meets only once a year, a book fair that only invites the dreamers of the city.

Derek thinks that he's earned the right to attend the book fair this year - he's racked up some good karma. On the weekends, Derek shaves, dons his black trench coat, and tracks down abandoned books. He carries a net with him that he uses to catch books, as if they were strays.

"I find most of them in dumpsters," he tells his friends. They back away from him; his clothes smell like rotten eggs.

Sometimes Derek thinks the books are talking to him. They squeak and groan as he puts their spines back together.

On the morning of the book fair, they woke him up by falling off his desk.

"'No chance of rain. Hurry,'" Derek reads. He fingers the telegram that was slipped under his door. The address listed is downtown, not too far from his apartment, but Derek jerkily completes his morning rituals of shaving, eating, and dressing. His heart pounds as he races down the street.

The door fair is in an abandoned lot. The narrow space, caught between two apartment buildings, is stacked with books. Trolleys form makeshift rows, nothing is labeled, and all of the books have unmarked covers. Dereks barely breathes, scared that the entire book fair will fade away like the smoky remains of a snuffed candle.

There are other dreamers at the book fair. Derek sees an artist with a shaved head fingering through a book of photographs. A little girl clutches five books in her arms.

Derek doesn't notice that they all disappear, at some point, the echoes of their smiles imprinting the air.

A mustard yellow book grabs his attention. It hums in his hands. When Derek turns to the first page, he reads the first sentence in his head. It's a story about tropical winds, sandcastle palaces, sword fights.

Before he can even think about closing the book, he falls into the pages, slipping into the ink and merging with the words.


  1. I loved this! The black trench coat and urban setting kinda gave it that noir/mystery feel. Even the tracking down of abandoned books---sort of like tracking down missing persons like a PI would.

    Plus I've read stories about magic carnivals that were haunted and/or would disappear mysteriously, only granting the few, select people the right to enter. Cool how you twisted it for a small book fair. (Kinda reminds me of Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" or Brigadoon).

    Anywho, good work here as usual!

  2. Hahaha, when I thought of the trench coat, I remembered The Stranger :P

    Thanks! I think the photo really brought that vanishing element out. I couldn't imagine, as cool as it is, that having books outside is a good thing. They could get wet if it rains! (Hence, the story, haha).

    1. You know it never occurred to me: in LA we have outside book fairs ALL THE TIME! Because in LA, we have two season: the season when it probably won't rain, and the season when it definitely won't rain.

      But in other cities, I guess outdoor book fairs, or anything outdoors, would be limited to the summer? *shrugs*

      So spoiled in Southern California. Believe the hype, the weather here is just pleasant all year 'round. That is, if you wouldn't miss seasons, falling leaves, snow, variety ....

  3. Fascinating & captivating story!

    "Dereks barely breathes, scared that the entire book fair will fade away like the smoky remains of a snuffed candle."~My favorite line.

    Now I realize my wish to disappear inside a book includes coming back after a little while, hehe.

    1. Hi Jade! Yes, it would be perfect if we could come back home after enjoying a book, haha. Good point. Or else, I'd have to choose a really good one if I wanted to stay forever :)

  4. Your dime stories are worth a million dollars. *nods*

    I like to think that my dreaminess would procure me an invitation to this fair... :)

    (I do have a question - what happened to the little girl with five books? Did she vanish into five books at once? I feel so finicky asking that, but I'm genuinely curious. Maybe I'm being too literal. XD)

    1. Awws. Thanks!

      That's a good question. I think she's probably looked through all of them, but settled on the book she liked best before falling inside it. There must be a delay at some point - probably because the book fair isn't supposed to be nefarious, haha.