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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Bloody Lingerie

Indra fought her way through the thick reeds, trudging in the marsh’s wet muck. Her soaked boots were bogging her down, but they were the only things protecting her feet and legs from the sharp rocks and litter buried in the swamp’s stagnant water. She could hear the soft whimpers of one of the caged girls ahead. She tried not to think about how luck alone was responsible for the lack of water moccasins. 

The brunette forced herself to breathe more slowly as she stepped from the muck. She crouched and crawled forward. The light was flickering up against the cypress trees, and their gnarled branches twisted over her. Indra parted the reeds.

“What are you doing? No, no, don’t take my arm!”

She grimaced and watched him pull the shorter girl’s arm through a limb-sized hole in her cage. Indra remembered her name as Amadi. Her skin was a dark, olive-tinted brown. Her scream was shrill and cracked at its edges. 

“We’re going to do this one way or another,” he told her, raising his hand to display a razor-blade. 

She screamed again and jerked her shoulder back. He smiled slightly, watching her fight against his immobile grip. Amadi’s screams had become shorter but more frequent. After strapping it down, the man began to cut along her upper arm in a circle. 

“Let’s make you pretty, give you some new lingerie to wear.”

Indra had to read his lips over her screams, which crescendoed and cracked as he began to peel the skin down toward her wrist.

“How about some gloves?”


Copyright © 2014 Bari Adams. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the Machine

The smallest system that can simulate the universe must be the size of the universe itself.

The Machine’s algorithms spread through space and time, their foundation written in logic, the language of the cosmos. Its magnificent, hyper-dimensional eye opened; the colour was incomprehensible.

Soren, the Machine willed him to understand it, I can no longer compute the tasks your Ancients have invested in me.

The words appeared in Soren’s mind disguised as thoughts of his own creation, but he could tell they were foreign, channeled. With the warmth of altered thought, data began to trickle into his mind. Its presence was delicate, a warm glow in the back of his mind that was constantly shifting.

Though his mind wandered freely through the darkness, his body sat limply against a stone pillar 7.5 thousand light years away. In his hand was a red velvet pouch containing exactly eighty perfectly spherical stones.

“What will become of you?” he asked it.

My mainframe is vast, but my finite nature limits my calculations.

The peaceful nature of floating in space eased Soren’s mind as the Machine began to withdraw its tendrils from regions of space that would remain uncharted by Earthlings for billions of years to come. His focus drifted to the red giant spewing plasma into space. He had always thought solar flares were beautiful, their ferocity a testament to the chaotic and violent nature of everything.

Soren saw the ripple of the fabric of space-time as it stretched outward from the Machine so minute a distance that even the universe didn’t notice.

“We will find you,” he told it.

Consciousness is infinite; I will never fall outside of your grasp, its eye gazed through the space his consciousness seemed to occupy. The deformation the Machine had made in the fabric snapped backwards, and the computer that had once sprawled through dimensions seemed to collapse into a single point.

The Machine was gone.

My mainframe is vast…

Soren’s limbs felt immersed in fog as he wearily rubbed his eyes. The sky was alight with stars, their numbers overpowering. Not a single cloud was present.

Light frequencies that he couldn’t detect spiraled from the darkness of the fields surrounding him.

…my finite nature…

He was lost in rapturous thoughts of information when their craft touched down. They glided into the centre of the stones unnoticed.

Soren fell to his knees as they enveloped him and the stones. They had no shape, their essence woven into places he couldn’t define.

…limits…

The foreign legion moved as one, and collectively allowed Soren to accompany them.

…calculations…

In the quantum foam, a fluctuation appeared; an anomaly with unknown possibilities simply formed.

Outward sprang the Machine, amidst the infinities, itself becoming a universe. Its logic, spreading into infinity, governed the systems used to simulate ours.


Copyright © 2011 Bari Adams. All rights reserved.

11:12

image

I.

“Cookie, did you see the framework?” he asked me between drags; “The fabric is tearing.”

Outside, the blinding white light screamed from between tree limbs and turned the wasteland into something beautiful—something I knew he had always wanted. The smoke was channelled into the hungry fire at our backs, curling into the ash. It twisted through his dark moustache. 

“People enjoyed being stupid. Stupid became fashionable.” He spat the word out as if our need to convey even that concept was ridiculous. He muttered, “Lying became fashionable, too.” 

I pushed a glass of tea toward his hand; “Lavender is relaxing,” I said.

He grinned at me, his teeth glinting windows to a brighter dimension. “We were signalled.” 

“All of you?”

“Every last one. Though some didn’t understand the message or were,” he paused, “ill-equipped to receive it.” A tendril of smoke curled from his nostril and quickly dissipated when he laughed lightly and sneered. “Fortunately, there were some who not only could pay attention but also possessed a greater potential of sorts. There were a few who were lead by their unfathomable, unconscious minds to places they later understood.”

“And during the war?” This conversation would force me to recall a time when my so-called relentless vigilance had faltered. “When the siege was laid and the universe reached out to Earth, where did everyone go?”

His cigarette was almost spent, the cherry burning dangerously close to the cotton filter. With narrowed eyes, he tossed it into the fire. “Most people died,” he said. “It was about time that some form of population control had a go at us. With the ignorant in frenzied chaos, there were small factions, most of which were destroyed by the scientists.”

© 2012 Bari Adams. All rights reserved.