Prompt 1: The Hollow Book

This post is in response to Mary’s February 28 Days of Writing challenge, which you can read more about here! I’m just going to look at the prompts and run with them. Here’s prompt one and what I wrote in response. ❤

You discover a hollow book in your neighborhood library or bookstore. What section is it in? What are your first thoughts and what do you find inside? Give details about the whole experience. Are you shocked, happy, scared?

“When a book turns up without pages, I immediately suspect the last person who took it home,” the librarian said.

I wanted to argue with her, but the logic was sound.

“Look,” I said as I glanced at her nametag, “Thea, is it? I turned the book in on time just like any other day. It had to have been tampered with between the dropbox and the shelf.”

She was glaring at me, her thin lips set in a frown.

“What kind of person would check out a book, completely deface it and turn it in like nothing happened?”

“You tell me.”

“I wouldn’t. That’s what I’m telling you.”

“You have two options.”

I wasn’t in the mood to be framed for book murder but what choice did I have? She looked like she might call the police at any moment. Actually, she looked like she might be the police.

“You can either pay for the copy of An Unabridged Examination of Torture and Murder Throughout Human History that you defaced or you can let the charge go to collections.”

“My kingdom for a fucking horse,” I said.

She smiled at me, and I thought I might get a break.

“Rest assured that I’ll push it through so it gets to their desks tomorrow and not in six months, which is how long the paperwork usually takes.”

Librarians truly were evil.

“There’s no convincing you I didn’t do it, eh?”

She completely ignored me and turned to her computer screen.

“Fine,” I said, “ring up the cost of the stupid book. I at least get to keep the fucked up copy, right?”

The woman looked very severe for her young age. She shook her head and winced in disgust.

“Suit yourself.” She pulled the thick tome from under the counter. It looked oddly pristine, and I thought of the great irony that would ensue if I opened it and discovered that nothing was wrong with it.

“Seventy-seven dollars and eleven cents.”

“Unbelievable.”

I threw my debit card onto the counter, and she glanced up at me, frowning.

“What? Cash only?”

Thea sighed. She didn’t roll her eyes, but she might as well have. The librarian snatched up the card and finished the transaction. I looked back over my shoulder at her as I walked out with the useless seventy-seven dollar book she’d duped me into buying. It was the proper weight. I sat down on a nearby bench to open it, still convinced I might see regular pages with regular text.

I had used the book for a final paper, and I was more than familiar with its layout. The cover was an earthy brown with Medieval scripts for its title and authors. I opened it to discover the first few pages intact. After the illustration of scaphism, every page had been meticulously cut to form a hollow chamber. It was the fear of alerting authorities alone that allowed me to keep my calm.

A woman’s severed hand and two eyeballs were stowed away in the makeshift box; they were pristine, cleaned and preserved, drained of all blood.

Unbelievable.

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