0006 – Boy: A Book That Answers Any Question When Opened, By Gareth

Once upon a time, there was a boy. That boy was lost, and separated from his sister. His ridiculous little adventure was also being written by a man in a serious hurry who was very conscious of the fact that the absurd story he was writing had to be at least a thousand words in length.


“Oh, I can’t find my sister!” Said the boy to himself. “Woe is me!”


The boy walked around aimlessly for a long time. He achieved absolutely nothing, because he was about ten years old, and people generally don’t achieve anything remotely useful until much later in life. Unless they’re privileged little pretty boys schooled in magic from birth. Which this boy wasn’t.


The boy couldn’t stop crying. He’d been separated from his whole family now. Life really was shaping up to be rather pointless. He needn’t have worried, though, because he was about to encounter something that would solve all of his problems.


His foot hit a book. A thick, green tome, with a strange symbol on the cover. It had been lying down in the mulch, yet somehow, it wasn’t dirty whatsoever. In fact, the boy got the distinct impression that it would be difficult to damage the book no matter what he did.


Because the boy was so distraught, he sat down at the base of a tree and hugged the thick book to his chest, sobbing down into it like a beloved stuffed animal. His tears hit the tightly packed edges of several pages in the closed volume. They dried immediately, unsullied.


“Where is my sister?” The boy cried out. “Where is my sister??”


A lot of time passed between the boy asking the question, and the boy opening the book. There was a lot of sobbing and wailing. But we’re going to get right to the good bit.


The boy opened the book.


“SHE’S ACROSS THE LAKE. IN A CAVE.” These words were printed, bright and clear, across the middle of the first page of the tome. Despite his surprise, the boy flicked through the rest of the pages. They were all blank. Had the book really answered his question?


He shut the book. “Did you just answer my question?” The boy asked.


“DON’T ASK OBVIOUS QUESTIONS LIKE THAT.” These words had replaced the previous ones, front and centre of the first page, just like before.


The boy gasped. The book really was answering his questions!


“Why did she go to the cave?” Asked the boy. “Why would she wander off like that?”


He opened the book again.


“SHE WANDERED OFF SUDDENLY BECAUSE SHE FINDS YOU ABSOLUTELY INSUFFERABLE. SHE WENT TO THE CAVE BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT THERE.”


“That’s a lie! You’re stupid!” Despite this, though, the book had answered both questions, and was clearly capable of drawing connections between them, and presenting them in a relevant order.


“OKAY, IT’S A LIE, BUT IT FILLED UP A COUPLE OF LINES.  SHE THINKS YOUR PET IS IN THERE. SHE’S PROBABLY NOT THINKING STRAIGHT. ALSO, I’M NOT STUPID, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.”


The little boy tucked the book under his arm, ambling down over the thick, dark, soft, spongy, endlessly described mud, taking care not to trip over any adjectives as he went. Before he knew it, he stood at the lake shore, looking out over the still, calm, cool, blue, forbidding surface of the water.


“How did she get across?” The boy asked the book.


“SHE WALKED AROUND THE SHORE. SHE HAD QUITE A HEAD START WHILE YOU WERE WASTING TIME CRYING.”


“Is there an easier way across?”


“THERE WOULD BE, IF YOU KNEW HOW TO USE SERMOMANCY. YOU COULD PROBABLY WRITE YOURSELF A BOAT, OR TELEPORT THERE, IF POMPOUS OLD WIZARDS FROM CENTURIES AGO HADN’T USED UP ALL THE GOOD WORDS. BUT YOU CAN’T USE SERMOMANCY ANYWAY, BECAUSE YOU’RE JUST A LITTLE BOY.”


“What’s Sermomancy?” The boy was confused.


“IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER RIGHT NOW. THE POINT IS THAT THE QUICKEST WAY IS AROUND THE SHORE. JUST FOLLOW YOUR SISTER’S TRAIL.”


It really was a very clever book. It could remember previous questions, put new questions in the context of prior ones, and even make recommendations of its own based on what it knew of its user. Apparently, it could even make conversation, of a sort.


The boy took the book’s advice, because it was honestly the best thing to do. It took absolutely ages. He was miserable and cold, and the shady, damp conditions certainly weren’t making it any easier. He walked for what seemed like hours. Surely he must be almost there by now?


“Is it much further?” He asked.


“NOT AT ALL. IN ABOUT A HUNDRED YARDS, TURN RIGHT AND FOLLOW THE LITTLE PATH UP INTO THE HILLS.”


“How long should I follow the path for?”


“QUITE A LONG WAY, BUT YOU CAN’T MISS IT. IT’S A BIG CAVE.”


The book remembered what it was helping its owner with, even though hours had passed since the last time the boy had asked it a question. It certainly sounds like a very useful book, doesn’t it? And it’ll be mine in under two hundred words from now.


Before long, the boy had arrived at the yawning, cavernous mouth of the hillside cave. Peering gingerly into the all-swallowing darkness, he called his sister’s name at the top of his voice, and listened carefully for a response until long after the echo had faded. The only noise now was the gentle patter of drizzling rain on the rocks.


He consulted the useful book. “Why can’t she hear me?”


“SHE CAN HEAR YOU.” The book answered him. “SHE JUST CAN’T ANSWER.”


The boy swallowed, his stomach knotting. He was afraid to ask. “Why not?”


“BECAUSE SHE’S FOUND WHAT SHE’S LOOKING FOR.”


I’m not sure why I wrote that part. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve described how useful and wonderful this book is, and now it’s time for me to claim it. This story will vanish when the book becomes blank, anyway. Goodbye, boy!

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