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Tobe Readpile

Joyce Bingham

“Another today will be costly,” the life-librarian says.

“How much? I need another today before tomorrow,” I say. 

The life-librarian sucks his teeth, smacking his lips together.

“It can be deleted from the end of your life. Let me check on your status.” 

Behind my blindfold I hear footsteps chime on cold marble, rustling paper. The metallic tang of ink tickles my nose. I can taste the heady vanilla notes of old books.

“Hmm, it is not possible to grant you another today, you would die a day before the accident, which would interfere with the smooth running of time. Request denied.” The life-librarian snaps shut a book.

“What accident? When? How long have I got?”

The echo of a door closing thunders around and I am bundled along, my feet slipping and missing steps. The blindfold is pulled away and my hands released from their bindings. I am back in the ante-chamber of the library, the darkness of night pressing against me.

How will I finish this work without another today to read and absorb the issues? There is so little time, and so many books to read. Behind me I hear a creak, my Tobe Readpile is tottering. I adjust it, patting the books into a more stable column. I regret putting that non-fiction book on court dress in the 17th century in the pile; it finds it difficult to balance on the small paperback book of similes and metaphors I found in that poky second-hand book shop. 

I take a step back and observe my Tobe Readpile. What can I move, or even read now that will amend the situation? I could remove a few textbooks, perhaps they could reasonably be put into my Ref Erencepile, but that buttress is now too high for me to reach the top. Holi Daytrash comes bounding up to me, tongue lolling out of a Jackie Collins I read as a teenager and always wanted to revisit. I caress its suncream-slick top cover and it bumps against my leg. Creeping into view is Goth Ichorror, its moonless midnight creating shadows that shouldn’t exist. I have binged a few Stephen Kings recently, but Goth Ichorror still grows with increasing vigour.

I face them all.

“I have some news,” I say, “I am going to have to skim read a few of you to get a handle on your heights.” I watch them all shudder, a few titter and whimper.

Laughing at my own decision, I pull out a best seller. It smirks back at the Tobe Readpile, the twist sets off a ripple which turns into a tidal wave of paper, and they start to fall. I am floored by the Oxford English Dictionary, and a thesaurus traps my fingers between its hefty pages.

“Help,” I call, but I know there is no one there. Holi Daytrash licks my face as Ref Erencepile falls against Goth Ichorror and they tumble down, cascading words and thoughts and ideas. 

Until I no longer breathe.

Joyce Bingham is a Scottish writer who enjoys writing short fiction with pieces published by Molotov Cocktail, Ellipsis Zine, FlashBack Fiction, VirtualZine, Funny Pearls and Free Flash Fiction. She lives in the North of England where she makes up stories and tells tall tales. 

Twitter: @JoyceBingham10