Bilfred Baker's Marvelous Bookshop

Bilfred Baker's Marvelous Bookshop
#1
Bilfred Baker's Marvelous Bookshop
The Balloonist's Fragment

I had escaped. I fled.
As I passed over the land, I saw everywhere evidence of the thing we had unleashed. Vast swathes had been blackened and burned, clear signage of the path it had taken south. I seemed to be following a similar path, which wasn't something I wanted to do. But I couldn't control the wind, and I feared staying at our camp even more. With the surviving members of the Expedition should have been a safe place to be, since the thing had passed us by and headed away. But something was off in everyone's faces, in the way they reacted to things a second too late, even in the tones of their voices. After the last night, I had known I couldn't stay. It hadn't left us untouched.
The land here was flat and rolling. I had left the mountains behind with our camp, and if I had been on the ground I could have seen a medium-sized hill for miles against the horizon. The ground was a bright green, except for the burnt areas. Grass sprouted and wildflowers bloomed as the far North enjoyed its brief summer. Here and there were snowfields, but no trees - they couldn't survive the winter. There would be no true darkness, only a sort of twilight for a couple of hours around midnight, so I could pilot the balloon for as long as I was able. I was glad of that.
The thing I was following - for I was following it, wasn't I? - where was it going? And why?
I was glad that the Expedition had brought along this hot-air balloon. We hadn't known exactly what we'd run into, so we'd brought along a lot of things - the intended purpose of the balloon had been mainly to get aerial views of objects or topography that we couldn't understand fully from the ground. It certainly hadn't been intended for actual travel. I'd fired it up by myself in the early hours of the morning, while the drinking and feasting - no guards left on watch - was sliding over into slumber and stupor.
Even now, with more immediate things to worry about, I watched for signs of the Old Builders. They were why we had come, and I couldn't stop myself from craving more discoveries.
But there were none. I confess to you, unknown reader, that as my balloon floated over this desolate land, so far from any humans but the ones I'd left behind, a deep blackness took hold of me, and it began to seem that there never had been any other land but this weary, monotonous one.
As the day wore on, the sleep I'd avoided returned for me with a vengeance. I fought it off once, twice, but realized that I could not continue to pilot the balloon. I found a promising spot to sleep and lowered it to the ground.


You enter Bilfred Baker's Marvelous Bookshop.

The shelves are stuffed, bulging, and many of the things they're stuffed with are simply piles of paper haphazardly clipped together. More books and papers fill any empty space; it looks hard to walk in here.

Bilfred Baker sits behind a desk covered with more stacks of papers, several lumpy ceramic jars filled with pens and pencils, and a single gently spinning globe. He is a wrinkled man with unruly gray hair and a drooping mustache.

"What're you looking for?" he asks.

SpoilerShow
Quote
#2
RE: Bilfred Baker's Marvelous Bookshop
"Where it is the bathroom?"
Duck, duck, duck, duck, GHOOST.
Quote
#3
RE: Bilfred Baker's Marvelous Bookshop
>Magic.
[Image: DGBpqSL.png]
Quote
#4
RE: Bilfred Baker's Marvelous Bookshop
"I think... Yes, I remember now. A dream-book. Some time ago, I purchased an empty dream-book. Something to put the dreams from mind to paper, ease the night into a peaceful slumber. When the dreams stopped, I found myself no longer in need of the book and gave it to another in need."

"By now the book has traveled far and wide, with a story, I hope, of its own to tell. Even without reading the dreams, the pages tells a vibrant story. The writers style, the inks they used, the condition of cover and page. Vibrant fuel for a tired writers imagination. I couldn't say if the book I once held is here now, but I have a feeling it is, or another like it."
Quiet. Good for an unusual opinion. Doesn't talk much.
Quote
#5
RE: Bilfred Baker's Marvelous Bookshop
(08-10-2018, 04:46 AM)Arcanuse Wrote: »"I think... Yes, I remember now. A dream-book. Some time ago, I purchased an empty dream-book. Something to put the dreams from mind to paper, ease the night into a peaceful slumber. When the dreams stopped, I found myself no longer in need of the book and gave it to another in need."

"By now the book has traveled far and wide, with a story, I hope, of its own to tell. Even without reading the dreams, the pages tells a vibrant story. The writers style, the inks they used, the condition of cover and page. Vibrant fuel for a tired writers imagination. I couldn't say if the book I once held is here now, but I have a feeling it is, or another like it."
Noot noot doot doot.


[Image: etSKUQC.png]
Quote
#6
RE: Bilfred Baker's Marvelous Bookshop
from Proverbs and Sayings, Collected Over Many Years

An eel at morning, an eel at evening.
- from a small fishing village on the North Coast, often beset by storms

When you pass through a gate, be careful, lest you close it on your shadow.
- from the steppelands east of Oazikieria


You’ve passed this shop many times, and each time a faint memory has tugged at your consciousness, but you’ve never been able to figure out exactly what it is. Now, upon succumbing to the desire to enter the shop, it comes to you.

“I think … Yes, I remember now. A dream-book. Some time ago, I purchased an empty dream-book. Something to put the dreams from mind to paper, ease the night into a peaceful slumber. When the dreams stopped, I found myself no longer in need of the book and gave it to another in need.

“By now the book has traveled far and wide, with a story, I hope, of its own to tell. Even without reading the dreams, the pages tell a vibrant story. The writers’ style, the inks they used, the condition of cover and page. Vibrant fuel for a tired writer’s imagination. I couldn’t say if the book I once held is here now, but I have a feeling it it, or another like it.”

“Ah.” Bilfred Baker smiles.

“That sounds like a book I’d actually have,” he says. “I can’t tell you how many people come in here looking for the latest installment of 'Bogus Blainard'. Such garbage! I always have to disappoint them.”

He twirls one end of his moustache around his finger. You wonder if he does that instinctively or if he’s trying to look like a villain from a silent movie.

“The books I sell come to me by strange ways. If one, alone and friendless, scribbles one’s thoughts onto a roll of paper and stuffs it into a bottle, wishing desperately to reach someone, somewhere, that bottle may come to me; I am known also to scavengers, scrapers, and traders of all sorts of odds and ends, who travel to places that you will never have heard of; they know that I will pay for the scraps they bring me. Crows, ravens, and magpies fly often in and out of my attic, and in their scatterings and lining their nests, I regularly find some fragments of interest. But, of course, I scarcely have time to read all the stuff. It is up to my customers to decide if any of it ever finds a home.”

He gestures further into the store, beckons you to follow.

“Over here should be dreams … I think …” he says. None of the shelves seem to be labeled.

You look through the shelf he’s pointed you to. There are several old, cloth-bound books on it, accompanied by a large typed sheaf. Other papers seem only scribbled on.

“Of course, it could be anywhere else in the store,” Bilfred adds helpfully.

You study the spines of the books. What did your dream-book look like? … You don’t remember, exactly. You don’t think it’s any of these, although they do seem interesting. A book on the use of dreams for divination, a stapled-together pile in progressively worse handwriting that at least starts out as someone describing a dream they had, and what actually appears to be a record from a mental hospital are all on the shelf.

“Don’t see it?” asks Bilfred.

“No …” you say.

“Well, as I told you earlier, it could be anywhere! I’ll leave you to search for a while.”

You look through many more books, but you still don’t find your dream-book. Eventually you return to the front desk.

Do you want to purchase one of the books, leave the store, or talk to Bilfred more?
Quote
#7
RE: Bilfred Baker's Marvelous Bookshop
The Balloonist's Fragment (cont.)

I slept uneasily. I had nothing to shelter myself with; our many-person tents were too bulky to pack away quickly, and I didn’t want the extra weight in the balloon. So I wrapped myself in my blankets and lay down on the ground. The bright sunlight played behind my eyelids as I slid into sleep, but as soon as the blessed dimness arrived I lay awake again - all the while until it began to brighten, at which point I again slipped into sleep.
I woke again a few hours past the time I normally arose. I was unrested, but not getting to sleep again any time soon.
I ate a dry breakfast and fired up the balloon. I wasn’t very well equipped to survive out here alone, or even to keep running a balloon. But that made it all the more imperative that I get out of these wastes, to somewhere with more people.
As I continued south, I realized that I had drifted off of the path that the thing had taken. I could see the burned and blackened areas no more. Was this a good thing or a bad thing? I couldn’t tell. Did I want to reach the place that it was going?
The place it was going could well be … civilization. Where I had come from.The great nations and empires of the world, with all of their faults and all of their glories. The only place I knew how to survive. Would I ever see it again?
I occupied myself by staring at the land. Still it was monotonous. It
resisted occupation by the mind; I could not grasp the wideness, the flatness, the emptiness. There was nothing for the eye to hold onto, not even a pile of rocks.
As the hours passed, I became increasingly aware of how little fuel I had left. That was to be expected, of course. The balloon, although an ingenious invention, had never been intended for long voyages across the air. A metal cage above my basket held a burning pile of straw, and that fire heated the air inside the balloon. I had stuffed as much of the basket as I could with extra straw. But straw burns quickly! - and the bucket could only hold so much.
It was only a little after midday when I threw the last of the straw on to the fire. After that my only task was to bring the balloon down gently.
Which I shortly did. The land stretched around me still, rolling up and down in folds so long and slow that I almost couldn’t perceive them. The land stretched around me still; but now I had nothing to separate me from it.
Was there a point to any action I could make? I would surely starve anywhere I went, and walking would only use up my available energy more quickly.
But I would starve just as surely if I stayed at the balloon. I stuffed all of my food and water, my pen and paper, my compass, my fire-starter, and one blanket into my pack. Then I heaved it onto my shoulders and began walking south.


"Still can't find it?" asks Bilfred Baker.

You shake your head no.

"Well, I'll keep an eye out for it!" he says. "Do you have an address I can contact you at?"

You leave Bilfred your address and head out the door.

***

You step outside and sigh as the crisp air hits your face. In the park across the street, a group of the homeless is huddled against the brisk October wind.

In this city of decaying churches, of moss growing over gravestones, of rain making ripples in puddles on the cobblestone sidewalks, you wonder, as you have many times before, whether life is bad or good. Everything in this city points to the seeming glories of a not-so-recent past. But sometimes, walking in the hills in the soft October rain, looking at the changing colors in the trees that have grown over the abandoned farms, you think that there has never been a time in which you would rather have been alive.

Life was bad in your grandparents' time, certainly. Back then people worked 16-hour days in the steel plants if the Administration for Administrative Affairs wanted them to. If someone spoke against the Administration or read the wrong book, the secret police might come in the night. Most of the dissident writers you revere were either killed or sent into exile.

Now no one knows anyone who's been visited by the secret police. No one even knows if they exist anymore.

You work for the Administration, like most of the people you know. You keep a burner stocked all night with coal in an otherwise empty factory. The bureaucrat who pays you your tokens swears that there's an Administration capitol still, full of bustling buildings, organizing the world.

You rent a small attic room that's heated and has a working roof. It's a crime to trade Administration tokens for anything other than Administration-provided goods and services, but no one's been arrested for that violation since your parents were young. With so many abandoned buildings, and the Administration not exactly providing upkeep to the official dormitories, it was inevitable that some enterprising folks would fix places up for lodging.

You get by. There are many things that are hard to get hold of these days, but canned food will never be one of them. Not when the warehouses are still stocked with provisions and preparations for a war that never came.

And when you can, you write.

But enough reminiscences. Where were you going, again?
Quote
#8
RE: Bilfred Baker's Marvelous Bookshop
>You're on your way to see the local administrative vendor. The goods remain plentiful, though the quality has dropped from satisfactory to a mere adequate. Not that the price would indicate that, heavens no. The goods remain as moderately overpriced as the day the first vendor opened shop. Enough to annoy, not enough to be worth bickering over.
(Haggling anyways is technically permissible, given the relevant laws were only enforced as a pretense for other offenses. So long as the vendors met their quotas, there wasn't that much concern about the missing funds).
Idle RamblingShow
>Hm? Oh right, right.
>You were heading to the administrative vendor to see if any canned fruit was in stock.
>Fruits are a pleasantry when available, but the real reason you wanted them was the juice.
Treated right, the juice was just as good as ink to write with and less likely to raise suspicions on your rogue writer habit...
More RamblingShow
>Sigh. Even now, the administration's deeds loom overhead.

Plenty of words. But the street is long, grey, and terribly dull. Perhaps the street is longer still, leaving time for the thoughts of another?
>______
Quiet. Good for an unusual opinion. Doesn't talk much.
Quote