Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Flash: The Unwilling Words

This week's Wendig Challenge was a Twitter challenge--#talesfromblackfriday. That is totally cool--check out some of the little 140-character stories. But it's not a blog post, so I went to my collection of random titles, and chose one. It didn't go at all where I thought it would. That's how my writing is right now.

This one's a little shorter than usual, at just over 730 words. I guess the words were a bit unwilling.

The Unwilling Words

Alfiero fa Selennara sat at a desk surrounded by stacks of books. Histories, books of mathematical reasoning, compilations of the tales that people in different lands told around the campfires. And of course books of magic. The library at Carbunquia was famous for having the largest collection of magic books anywhere. Not everyone who came, however, realized that there was a different between books of magic and magic books. Alfie was one of those who didn’t understand. He had pulled them all out, in search of answers.

Alfie loved words, and words, though he didn’t realize it, loved Alfie. His magic never worked in the way others expected, and so was usually considered not to be magic, but something else: good luck, bad luck, or odd chances. But it was indeed magic, and had everything to do with the way words stuck to him. Alfie never ran short of words, but he seldom managed to put them together into the spell he needed, unless he could read it right out of the book. Thus his quest for the elusive spell on that winter afternoon. Alfie had come all the way from his home by the sea to the great library of Carbunquia in search of a spell that would straighten out his magic. He also had a commission from his mother, to find recipes for cooking eggplants, as the crop had been excessive that summer.

Alfie was certain that the spell he needed was somewhere in the piles of books. He had found quite a number of recipes already, and dutifully copied them out, but he couldn’t find the magic spell that would solve his larger problem.

It was the magic books that were causing the trouble. He needed just one particular spell in one particular book, but magic books and books of magic alike have a dreadful tendency to keep their secrets. They moved the stacks about, despite Alfie’s best efforts to be organized. He was certain, for example, that he’d looked at the book of spells for the perfecting of apple pies three times already, and it was making him hungry. It also made him wonder if his mother could use magic to improve her cooking. Something needed to, especially if she was to try each of the 37 recipes he had copied for the cooking of eggplant.

All the books talking of food had their effect. Alfie looked about and wondered if he could go get something to eat. Pie of course was the first thing he thought of, but on the whole, after looking at so many pie spells, he thought it might be better not to. Some of those spells were a bit queasy-making. He wasn’t really sure cooking should be mixed with magic. Perhaps it was better just to put up with his mother’s efforts.

A thick slice of bread and butter wouldn’t go amiss, though, if he could find a way out. Jam on top would be even better. He looked around. The books barricaded him completely. He was no longer sure just where the door was, nor which side was the desk he’d been using and which stacks were books to the floor.

Alfie began trying to move the piles of books, but it seemed that every time he moved one, three more filled its place. The piles, in fact, grew higher about him. Frantic now for his dinner, Alfie began tossing the books aside, muttering under his breath, looking for the right words to convince them to let him go. But the magical spell-words would not come to him, even while all the other words came to him, in ever-higher stacks, unwilling to leave his side.

The librarian heard him scream, and saw the pile of books moving closer and tighter about something. She gave a sharp command, and a few of the books moved aside. It took many more, and stronger commands, to move the unwilling words away. At last, the piles were in order, revealing the whimpering young man, wide-eyed and terrified. When the librarian helped him out of the circle of adoring (or devouring?) books, he could only repeat, “I just wanted a slice of bread and butter.”

If ever Alfiero fa Selennara had wished for more than a snack, the wish had gone. The words, obedient at last to the Librarian, had left him. He enjoyed his bread and butter very much.
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2015

Photo courtesy of Griffen Dempsey


  1. Ooo-er. That's scary - maybe I shouldn't set foot in a library again. :O

    1. It does give pause for thought :) But right now, I'd say I'm not any kind of magnet for words, so probably nothing to worry about.


We want to hear from you! Tell us your reactions, or whatever's on your mind.