This is my first attempt at fiction since the mid-1980s… unless you count exaggeration. What the heck. I thought I’d try something different.
His eyes were closed. He was shaking his head, willing disbelief, and not succeeding.
Please God, no.
Another book was missing from his shelf.
He never knew for sure when it happened first.
Jack was looking for one of his favorite books to loan to a friend. The friend was an avid reader, and Jack was surprised the guy never heard of this one. Only it wasn’t there. It wasn’t anywhere. It wasn’t on the shelf or in his apartment. The guy was a good friend and he hated to break a promise, so he drove out to the local bookstore. When it wasn’t there he checked the one across town. It wasn’t on the shelves or their online catalog. When he got home he checked the author’s web site, or tried anyway. Nothing… not the book, not the site. He checked the online stores again, searching by author instead of title. A single book, out of print, available used and essentially free (plus shipping and handling) was the only book he found. He didn’t recognize the title. He pulled up his favorite book discussion sites on the web, but all links and references to the author and his books were gone, including a glowing review he posted himself a year ago.
Google revealed a few links to used books for sale, but nothing of the fate of the author himself.
He grunted with an unspoken question in his head. What the hell happened? The missing book was the author’s first, a runaway success leading to a successful series. He checked his apartment for more missing books but everything was there. Still, he was shaken. Who could he talk to? Who wouldn’t think he was a little crazy? Before, his friends would ask, why he didn’t read the rest of the series? They didn’t understand he didn’t want to ruin the first book with a disappointing sequel.
It wouldn’t be a problem now.
Maybe he was crazy.
Months later another book turned up missing, another favorite. Another author’s fortunes changed, though only he seemed to know. This time he knew exactly when it happened. After the shock of the first time he checked his shelves at least once a day. If his friends didn’t think he was a little weird before, they did now. His preoccupation with his book collection got out to all of his friends on the whisper-net. When you’d rather stare at your bookshelves than go out to the local bar with your friends, word’s bound to get out. It didn’t help his reputation.
It took another year and two more missing books before the next shock. He’d idly thought about a scene, trying to remember the city it was set in – when the page seemed appeared before his eyes. He realized if he tried, he could recall every word of every missing book. Normally his memory was suspect at best. He often couldn’t tell you the character’s names from the book he was reading. Now it was as if he had a selective photographic memory – for books that no longer seemed to exist. He booted up his PC, an aging Dell he longed to replace with a Mac. It took him longer than he thought (it took a week before his fingers would stop trembling on the keys as he typed) but he got down every word from that first missing book.
The temptations were obvious, but what kind of person would take advantage of ruined people’s work, even if no one else knew? Was it still plagiarism?
A favorite author is like a friend you’ve never met. Could he betray the one sided friendship he felt with these people? On the other hand, did he owe it to the pubic to make sure these works of literary art weren’t lost to whatever phenomenon made them disappear? The questions tore deeper as books continued to disappear. The doubt, agony, and moral uncertainty only grew with time.
Until one day he broke under the overwhelming stress.
Well, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to post one of their short stories on his blog.