The Book Collector by Jonathan Alston

Jul 14 2011

Thousands of abandoned books crammed into the shelves hugging the Book Collector’s walls. Paperbacks and hardcovers. Ripped and yellowed pages. White pages with thick uncracked spines. I wandered around for nothing in the smell of decay and forgetfulness. Books whispered their names with hot breath against my ears. The old and brittle leather backs wearing embossed titles and authors’ names, echoed between the heavy claustrophobic towers. But something unfamiliar, “New Age” – can that be fiction? – attracts the electrons under my skin: Astral Projection: The Out-of-Body Experience. Creases along the binding made its name difficult to read, seducing my idle fingertips to undress. All the others around watched as I pulled the lesser book from its shelf, sighs from expectant volumes loosened dust to drift aimless among our silence. My left thumb ruffled its pages; I stopped in the middle with no reason. Just to see. It was all words anyway, absurd geometries painted on thin corruptible fibers waiting to give over to time. They all waited. Staring. No subtlety, no reservations. From my hands black ink poured cacophonous characters on to my feet and the tiled floor, like echoing bricks against thick glass bottles. And faster, smaller shapes followed; slippery pieces of soft sounds forming partial sentences around my ankles and up my shins. I closed the book to stop the inky typewritten words from spilling more over me and the store, but the sealed pages continued to leak the dark pus that mumbled phrases in languages I don’t know, and now escaping was impossible, my legs bound in the lost information. Other books began to drool their contents, mixing religion and fiction and history and art and music, millions of words like blood cells were born and died in the churning homogeny, while the black rose about my navel, crawling up my chest and shoulders. Astral Projection floated before my eyes, laughing, all it contained spewing into my mouth as the black void slapped under my chin.

Second year masters student from CSU: Sacramento. We live stories. We are stories. And so we must tell stories, in any form. For me, I write. It’s what I know how to do. What I love to do. After six years now, I still have no clue what I am doing, but I write and will write until all turns to black.

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