Ink-Stained Scribe

The Bookkeeper (Flash Fiction)

(artist unknown) The Poet
The night my grandfather disappeared, the R.B. burned Coraline Library to the ground, and since then, I haven't spoken a word of my own. When I started talking at the age of two, my mother cried in relief because she thought I didn't have the gift.

But she'd been wrong.

I only know this because she wrote it down. Places, faces, images, sounds: they don't stay with me long. There's no room for them there, in among the words. Creak, dunk, thrush, fit. Affable, shrapnel, firebrand, tor. Tickertape snatches of things once thought and recorded, inked on paper, branded, bound, and handed down; they have stamped themselves on the inside of my skull, the permanent impressions of steel typewriter bars going click, click, click.

"I cannot live without books." Thomas Jefferson.

I wish that were so for me, because I can't speak without them. I have a million lines reeling through my head like newspapers dashing through machinery, flashing ink-stained underskirts in the stamping-dance of the printing press. Ah, that paper maiden. Corporeal, no--but constructed of a billion words. She is knowledge and ideas. A literal, lingual muse.

It would be one thing to die without reading a chapter of some non-reality--to be unable to measure your own life's sorrow against the imaginings of what could or might be. Torture, to be certain, for humans are creatures that thrive by measuring and comparing, sharing and communicating--if we can't do this, then we do not know how to live. If we can't find the edges of what we know to be normal, we can't expand and dream beyond. Without information, we do not know how to be human.

Without words, we are powerless.

Which is why my gift is also a curse.


This was originally intended as an opening for a longer piece, which I've decided--for the moment--not to write. I liked the beginning, and I thought it stood on its own as a concept, if not a story.