He found the old bookstore towards the end of the day. Had it not been for a failing ray of sunshine striking a pane of glass, he would never have seen it. It had a front of dark wood and many panes of coloured glass. On the other side of the window were books-something more beautiful to him than anything in the world.
Walking towards the window, he noticed how quiet this street was. In the market where he had been shopping for odds and sods, there were people everywhere. Noise was their currency; but on this street, there was hardly any sound.
It was so quiet, that he was frightened when the top of the door struck a wind chime. It made a pretty, tinkling sound that never the less scared the crap out of him. All he noticed was darkness within the shop at first but slowly, as his eyes adjusted to the interior, he saw why it was so dark:
Shelf upon shelf was crammed into the small shop. He counted at least sixty of them. The shelves themselves were filled to the brim with book. He tried to count and couldn’t. He saw books of every shape and every size, every colour and fabric. He ran his fingers along the spines and let out a yell when one of the books zapped him-a thin lick of blue light went from the books spine to his finger and then was gone. He was still looking at his finger when the sound of footsteps distracted him.
“Oh sir, like recognizes like! I always say so, I do. I can’t believe you’re here, in my shop!” He was a small man and he had very pointy teeth. He was wearing a dark coloured jacket in a purple colour and it shone like the sun itself.
“What do you mean?”
“Oh sir, now don’t be modest, you’ve written so much. Oh, listen to me prattling on without introducing myself.” He held out his hand. “I’m Mr. Lavender.”
Hence the colour of his coat. “Jason Fox.”
“Oh, I know who you are, Mr. Fox. Could I ask you to sign a few books for me? Oh, I promised myself I wouldn’t ask right away.”
“Books? What do you mean?”
“Why, your books, Mr. Fox!”
Jason looked at the small man. “That can’t be right. I mean, I used to write when I was in college, thought I was going to make a living of it. Nothing came of it and I certainly never got anything published.”
“Oh, but you did. In a way. This is difficult to explain, but if you look at all the books, you’ll see you’ve written every one of them.”
Jason turned to the shelf nearest him and pulled off three books at random: A small leather volume, one covered in red fabric and a shiny hardback that had a picture of a dark house on its front. Looking at the name on each of the spines, he saw the same name stamped in gold or written in bold print: his own.
He started looking at all the other books on the other shelves, at the thousands of books on the shelves. His name graced the spine of each of them. His heart was beating quickly and he was having trouble breathing. He took in some of the titles, too, and saw many novels he had started, all currently sitting on a hard drive or in a journal. He took a book at random and saw that is was a short story collection. Flipping through it, he saw stories that he had started but never finished, all complete and collected. He didn’t know whether he should be revolted or elated.
Jason turned back to Mr. Lavender. “How?” He said. “How is this possible?”
Mr. Lavender looked at him for a moment, his eyes flashing like that pane of glass before he responded. “I’ll go put on a pot of tea.” He said.
Jason tried to calm himself with the calming sense of jasmine tea. But there was part of him that wondered if the healing of aroma therapy was all bullshit anyways.
“It’s good, isn’t it?” Mr. Lavender said. pleadingly. He did look like a nice old man. “The tea I mean? From my mothers recipe. I’ve been making it for years.”
“You said you were going to tell me what was going on. What was happening.”
“And so I will. It all has to do with you. I still can’t believe you’re in my shop.”
“What shop is this? I didn’t see a name or sign outside.”
“Mr. Lavender’s Bookshop of Wonders.” The old man had a twinkle in his eye and he looked almost young, just for a second. “Catchy, isn’t it?”
“I still don’t understand.” Jason said, gesturing around them. “What is all this?”
“Well, everyone has a book in them, perhaps two or three, maybe a slim variety of stories or poetry. Anyone can write, dear boy, but you have to find the spark. And you have one of the brightest I have ever seen.”
A shiver ran down Jason’s neck and landed in his belly in a hard cool lump. He didn’t like the tone of the old man’s voice or the words he was speaking. “What are you talking about? What are these?” He tried to keep the anger out of his voice but was unsuccessful. “I never got anything published, ever. I wanted to but couldn’t.”
“My shop is a shop of Wonders, Mr. Fox. These are not ordinary books on its shelves. Depending on the situation, not all of them are books that you’ve written. They are the books and stories that you have the potential write. Do you see what I mean? It’s not necessary to actually write anything. What does, dear boy, is that your potential is staggering. I have never seen the like.”
“What are these conversations normally like then?”
“I normally sit with them and have a cup of tea while we admire their work. Sometimes it’s an eReader full of their books, if they do well in the eBook market. Other times the shelves are filled with tons of paperback originals or mass market paperbacks. Some real and some stories with the potential to become real. I once met one writer and the whole shop was filled with books that he’s actually written. I was astounded. Published and respected all over the world. I didn’t take anything from him-he seemed so happy and he’s worked so hard. He’s still doing well for himself, too. Always knew he would do well.”
Jason had to get out of this bookshop, he knew that now. He made to stand, but Mr. Lavender made a downward motion and Jason was pulled to his seat again. “I know I come on rather strong, dear boy, but hear me out. I have a proposition for you.”
“Please let me go.”
“When we finish our conversation.” Mr. Lavender took a sip of his tea then put the cup and saucer on the table. “Lovely. Listen, Jason, normally I would take something from you for coming in. That’s the price of magic and there’s always a price, a trade.”
“What would you take?”
“Everyone has a book in them, Jason. I’m a book collector. So it’s only natural that I’d take books, written or unwritten. I take one each time. If it’s someone famous, I just get a first edition; I have a really good collection, all signed too!” He smiles and pulls on the lapels of his purple coat. “But from people that aren’t writers yet, I take one book that they would have written. You don’t went to take anything that would be noticed.”
“You said that it’s a trade?” Jason’s voice was dark. “What do you and you’re store give to them?”
“They go away from here and write the book that gets noticed, lands them a book deal. Then they go on and write what they want.”
“How is that possible?”
“How do I know? I don’t know the specifics. All I do know is that those people walk away writing something that sells millions and all for a story they didn’t know they had written in the first place.” He shrugged with a light hearted smile. “Sounds like a fair trade, don’t you think?”
Jason thought about it, looking around at all the books he could have written and thought about it some more. “I don’t know.” He said.
Mr. Lavender held up a finger and pointed it at him. “Exactly. Why my dear boy, I look around this shop and I have never seen the like. Even the author who filled the shop with his books didn’t have this many. Normally, I would take my book and give you the imputes to write you best seller. But look at this!” He gestured around him “I mean, holy shit for brains, Batman! I’ve never seen the like! What I want to know is why did you stop? I mean, having read your work, you started in high school with poems, moved on to short stories and then to novels. As a child, you even wrote short stories for your parents! Then, during your first year of university, you changed your major from English to business and you’ve been miserable ever since.” Mr. Lavender picked up his tea cup again and looked at him over it’s rim. “Now, why is that Mr. Fox?”
Jason could still not move from his seat on the couch. The shelves with his books on them loomed all around him; that should have been comforting, but it was all a little unnerving, actually. Given the situation, Jason supposed he better be honest. “I had a few of my stories entered in competitions. All of them lost, a few of the judges called my work puerile and that it lacked depth.”
“Well, of course it did, then! Everyone has to lean their craft, learn how to shape their words We are not writers if we do not learn, over time, how to properly shape those words. Everyone has a book in them, Mr. Fox. You have nearly a thousand. I won’t let you deny your gift from the world. But you have to start small and be patient. It will come, you just have to let it.”
“What do you mean? You keep talking about me as if I’m a writer.”
“Oh, but you are, Mr. Fox, you are. I can smell it on you and I’m never wrong. I have a sense about these things. No, what I want to do is this: you’re going to take one of the books you haven’t written and go home and read it. When you rewrite it, have it submitted for agents and publishers, you come back and I’ll give you the next one.”
“Isn’t that plagiarism?
“My dear boy, use your common sense! You can’t plagiarize your own words! You can’t steal what you had the potential of creating anyways. No, you’ll be a sensation dear boy, a poet laureate and New York Times Best Seller while teaching creative writing at Yale. What do you say?”
“You’ve said that you won’t take anything from me, but the magic requires a trade? What’s the trade?”
“I need a bit of you blood.”
“You need what?”
“Just a drop, really, Think of it like a contract, a bit of blood on a piece of paper.”
“How can a contract have no words? Doesn’t a contract have to be binding?”
“Oh, there are words.” He took a small book out of his pocket. “This is your book, Jason. It contains all there is to know about you and what you will become. Place a bit of blood on the cover, just a drop, and I’ll make sure that everything you want becomes a reality.”
“How is this possible?”
“How is anything possible, dear boy? You can’t deny the world your gift any longer. What do you say?”
Without thinking about it, he reached out for the small book. He felt a sharp pain in the pad of is left thumb and switched it to his other hand. Something had pierced his skin, something in the book. It began to glow in his grasp and he held it in his palm, watching as the now red leather covers flipped open and the miniature pages flipped as if turned by a breeze. Something in the pages began to glow and pulse and the throbbing of it reminded Jason of a heart.
“Take care with that. There’s only one copy of that book, I’m rather partial to it. Here, we’ll trade..” Mr. Lavender passed Jason a thin book. “It was the short novel that got you started. Or will.” He took the one that pulsed like a heart and slipped it back int he pocket of his purple coloured coat. “Now, off you go, you have so much writing to do! The address for the bookshop is in the front of the book. Come back when your done writing. I look forward to seeing you again, dear boy!”
Jason nodded and went to leave the shop. As he went back out onto the sidewalk, he thought Mr. Lavender had lied to him; he had taken something from him-he just wondered what it was.
His thumb throbbing and Jason put it into his mouth and thought of the novel he was going to write.