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Authors: M. Clifford

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The Book

BOOK: The Book
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A Novel


M. Clifford






* * * * *




M. Clifford on Kindle


The Book

Copyright © 2010 by M. Clifford



All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.


Kindle Edition License Notes


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.


Paper Is Not A Crime

Words Are Not A Crime

Keep Freedom Alive

Do Not Lend This Book



* * * * *



Also by M. Clifford









* * * * *



For My Father


He was a sprinkler fitter

He was a simple man


To those few he loved more than himself,

He was a hero



* * * * *





* * * * *



“The one who tells the stories rules the world.”

– Hopi Indian proverb



“Young readers, you whose hearts are open, whose understandings are not yet hardened, and whose feelings are neither exhausted nor encrusted with the world, take from me a better rule than any professors of criticism will teach you. Would you know whether the tendency of a book is good or evil, examine in what state of mind you lay it down. Has it distracted the sense of right and wrong which the Creator has implanted in the human soul? If so – if you have felt that such were the effects it was intended to produce – throw the book into the fire, whatever name it may bear on the cover.”

– Southey



“It is sure to be dark if you close your eyes.”

– unknown



* * * * *






* * * * *






Don’t read The Book.

That phrase has followed me my entire life.

I was never trained to tell stories. Most people these days aren’t born in that percentile. Those who are write passive sonnets about duty, honor and glory to the government. Complacency that breeds. This tale, however, has never been told and you are risking your life by continuing. We, the people, have learned that while there is danger in the printed word, so is there power. In the days of our ancestors, it stirred us to revolution. Words were honored and protected. They were spiritual and rehabilitating. But that was before recycling sustained the world and asphyxiated our minds. For the sake of clarity, I’ll save those details for another page.

If you are reading these words from a source other than a bound stack of printed paper, the following pages have been compromised. Including the sentences above, there are a total of 97,544 words in this story. You need to brand this number to your mind. If you reach the end of this book and the number is incorrect, the following pages have been compromised.
a single word can change the world. You must always keep track of the word count so it won’t happen again.

Before we begin, I would like to offer you a guarantee. This
be difficult and you will come to a point between paragraphs where you must choose one of two diverging roads – either continue and learn the truth or stop flipping the paper pages, suppress what you have read and tell Robert Frost that
all the difference
can go suck a grenade. Forgive the disjunction and my insensitive language, but I need your undivided attention so it won’t happen again. So the people we love most won’t die because we tried to fix things too quickly. If we have learned anything from the Editors, it is to be patient. Subtlety is the greatest weapon. Combined with truth, it is an unstoppable force. For that very reason, you are still holding this book. You want to learn the truth. To
the truth, unedited. Ex Libris. If you are willing to be patient, I’ll need to start from the beginning. Our beginning, at least. That way, despite how desperate things still are, you’ll be able to appreciate how far we’ve come and how bad it was, once upon a time.

I knew him. I am one of the few people, few fortunate people, who can say that. In fact, I loved him before any of this began. When he was a simple-minded journeyman. When he wasn’t hated by every single person in the world. No one knew him like I did. If they had, they wouldn’t have believed what they were told to believe. I tried to change their minds after he was gone, but people assumed I was disillusioned. Even those who should have known better. But I believed him. I knew he was telling the truth. Even before he told me, I knew that he had discovered something none of us lemmings knew. On that day, in that windowless Chicago bar, the truth of our deception was exposed. Before he knew it, our emancipation rested in his hands.

He’d say it was the best of times. Holden always did because he loved quoting Dickens. It was the best of times. Of course, by the end of the day it would feel like the opposite, but it was Friday and he was riding the elevated train home from work.



* * * * *






His fingernails were dirty. Of course they were.

He closed his Book and glared down at the notice that slithered across the screen, sealed into the black, leather binding. The words faded away and came back, breathing:
Update in Progress
. With an irritated huff, Holden Clifford glanced up from his seat to watch as everyone on the train closed their Books to search for something beyond the foggy windows. Something in the distortion of rain that could occupy their minds for the next two, exasperating minutes. For Holden, it was his fingernails.

His hands were generally caked in filth throughout the day. Why clean the grease and pipe dope when it would only resurface after lunch? A pant leg ordinarily did the trick until five o’clock, when he could expect the long train ride home. Holden would glide to the sink, tailored in grubby jeans and a torn flannel shirt, and scrub his arms like a cardiologist before surgery. The other sprinkler fitters were used to his ritualistic insanity, but they still poked a joke now and again. Not many water monkeys read novels. Especially pre-digital novels. If sprinkler fitters even used The Book for anything beyond studying blueprints, it was for the sports column. What frustrated Holden, as he took the nail file from his shirt pocket to scrape the grime from his forefinger, was that he even noticed his hands at all. He should have been lost in the final chapters of
Edwin Drood
, seeking to understand the lurking mystery. This was the third time in two days the Editors of The Book had interrupted him, and everyone else in the world, with another futile update. Of course, he couldn’t complain. The Book was the most significant device to come out of his grandfather’s selfish, unwilling generation. He really couldn’t complain.

Holden had been born into a world where The Book was a necessity. Everyone on the planet had at least one copy. There were many different versions available with almost infinite design possibilities, including hundreds of applications for deeper study and general convenience. Holden had two copies, but he’d say that, on average, most people had three.

It was understood that The Book was a part of life. The portable reading device was used to learn the alphabet, to study history in school, to develop your career and to eventually retire in your favorite story.

As one global society, they read.


With his hands as clean as they could be, Holden turned his attention to the sharpened nail on his pointer finger. It was duller than usual. He scraped at it with six long slashes, filing the tip to a fine, angled spear. Outlawing paper made writing utensils pointless and the stylus pen that once came with the touch-sensitive Book was replaced over time by a swirling pointer finger. The lack of a single sharpened fingernail was the scarlet flag of the non-reader and it waved itself to the society of Book lovers. That number was dwindling by the decade.

A rumble coursed through the elevated train. Holden was unsure if it was the decaying wooden tracks below or the impatient excitement of expectant readers. He was annoyed that he’d been interrupted, but the update was necessary. Perhaps a new book had been published today, or the first draft of a story was included in the superfluous addendums that accompanied every purchased novel. Holden didn’t need an explanation on the significant conditions surrounding every story to understand its purpose or relevance, but he respected those in the world that did. Two minutes a day was worth the benefit because, like everyone else in the world, Holden Clifford loved The Book.

The screen breathed
Update Complete
and Holden watched as the teenage girl on the seat beside him slipped back into her Book. Her device was blue, with generous detailing of thin, red and white stripes. It had been a popular model ten years ago and was obviously a hand-me-down, but she personalized it by lining the inside cover with a patchwork of neon stickers. On a normal day, Holden would engulf himself greedily in his story and ignore everyone during the train ride, but he couldn’t stop staring at her fingers as they swirled along the screen. Two of her dazzlingly gold nails were sharpened points and they danced an elegant minuet to a sonata unheard beyond the tiny, blue buds in her be-jeweled ears. Holden had never seen a ballet, but he imagined that the intoxication would return when watching women dance with such similar grace. She was clearly using the device to talk to a friend and it made Holden wonder about the times when she wasn’t talking. What stories filled her Book? Which one did she return to when life was disagreeing with her?

BOOK: The Book
8.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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