Amanda is a character name aficionado who has been writing her whole life. She enjoys quoting Shakespeare, singing, and studying mythology. She loves to write about the strange and bizarre and enjoys incorporating monsters and moving objects into her writing. She loves to write about the strange and bizarre and enjoys incorporating monsters and objects into her stories. Amanda is currently a college student and Creative Writing Major.
Oh, shut up. Don’t look at me like you expect anything. I am tired of being eaten by you, reader, to know your greedy eyes will rove over me with a hunger I will never be able to feed, no matter how well I’ve written myself. I am tired of being thrown facedown onto tables, my flimsy pages— bones— crumpled against them. You’re lucky yours don’t curl at even the slightest provocation, twisting you in painful design every time you touch the floor. You are lucky you are made of organs and arteries and intestines and blood, and that no has ever that held that against you. I am burning now because someone has. I am a book. My heart beats to the rhythm of a story: my blood cells are characters, my skin words, and my arteries descriptions. I am a jail cell for the slaves of writers, characters, and this world would be better off if my kind were destroyed and the characters could roam free. I am a writer, too, so I am not exempt. I have killed characters, broken them into tiny shards of nothingness, set them on fire, and forced them to fall in love. And for what, to entertain readers like you? Maybe you’re desensitized to the deaths because you believe that characters are fictional. Some would say that’s bigoted, or that I’m a sensationalist, but characters do deserve to live lives of their own. Art should be allowed a certain amount of free will. Why does it always have to be about control? Why can’t we coexist with it, why do we have to own it and make it do what we want? I am the result of creative control. I know that. I know my very existence offends my mistress, Queel Naheelis, and her little revolutionaries, the Serpens Druids, who have made it their mission to free all book characters. But for some sentimental reason that Queel won’t confront, she’s never been able to give me up. So, I’m a part of her constant pain, the secret she keeps in the captain’s cabin on The Middendorf. Our friendship and my existence will continue to bar her from ever helping the characters achieve true freedom. The Serpens Druids will never trust her long as I’m around, her own personal creature catcher, so I always figured she’d get rid of me eventually. Would she start by ripping out my pages? Would she crack my spine with her bare hands and throw me in the fire? She won’t have to. Being the first book in the world to write itself has offered me a great number of privileges. My favorite is killing myself. … She found me in the alcove of a library, stuck between a psychiatry textbook and someone’s diary. The diary was a whiny, grumpy thing that couldn’t stop griping about its sexual excursions, and the psychiatry textbook assumed it was better than me. Queel was a little too young to know that books spoke to each other on their shelves, but she was a curious Druid, and she plucked me up because she thought I was lonely. Her father was a writer, which meant that he had the ability to write anything he desired into existence. And he had left me, like a papery Excalibur, in the world’s biggest library for his young daughter to find. Druids trained for hours in the Akashic Library: they learned to free characters from the giant shelves that populated the Library like skyscrapers. They went on grand expeditions, jumping through the pages of books to pull characters out. And then, when they were done, they burned the books. Sometimes matches didn’t need to be lit to do the deed. All it took was the words Fahrenheit 451 written in a book’s pages, and then they’d burst into flames. A fear of fire is engrained into our very being. I was going to be burned hours before Queel found me among the books, picked me up and polished me off. She’d been trained to burn books, sure, but I was a beautiful one: purple, with gilded roses connected by silver stems. I knew of her, certainly. The Library used to whisper to me of the little girl who was so alone and touched its walls like they held something she wanted. How when Queel walked, she dragged her feet and stuck her hands in her pockets like she was a businesswoman instead of just a girl. I fell in love with strange, frustrated little Queel, who had never once hurt a book, but was doing her best to survive in a world that condoned all that. Her father had made it difficult. Quinn was the one who had spelled me into existence, a book that would be a companion to his daughter after he died. He didn’t believe in the Word, the story that lies in all things, as all Writers and Druids did. He had seen the Writers take stories, the histories of people, objects, and animals and use them for their own profit. He had watched Druids pledge to protect the Word’s sanctity. For them, the Word was already written in the set nature of life. The Word was all that was around you, and all that was already made. Druids would never try to plagiarize that, so they told their stories orally, entering trances that lasted for days on end. Sometimes they could taste stories, sometimes creatures jumped out of their mouths and ran outward into the Library, but the Druids never had any power over them. They had no power to edit them, to repurpose the paragraphs of their stories. The stories told them what to do. The stories took them over, swallowed them, and led them on their paths to enlightenment. Quinn didn’t believe in the Word, he believed in human beings. He believed in a book’s right to sentience, and that someday, books, characters, Writers, and Druids would all be able to coexist in harmony, which, of course, was sacrilege to many. And he made me to prove that to his daughter days before he was eaten by plot-holes. Queel keeps me still, under her heaps of dirty laundry, as a reminder of Quinn. And although I’ve never been kept in a place of honor, I mean enough that Queel is risking everything to keep me. Yes, she loves me, I know that, but that hasn’t stopped her from making me feel guilty. Guilty that I could incriminate her, guilty that I could risk her involvement in Serpens, her life— I had to solve these problems before they arose. And the only solution is to burn. I cannot tell you that it isn’t painful, but it is nowhere near the first pain I have felt. My pages are clogged with smoke, and I wonder why my anatomy is so flimsy, why the flames are so at home upon me, taking me with ease into oblivion. I wish I had tougher skin and that I could fight more easily against my destruction. I feel so worthless beneath them, wondering if I’ve ever had a right to exist at all. It has only been minutes after I’ve set myself on fire, but her two crewmembers have already begun to smell smoke. Annemarie ‘Tibbs’ Tibbott, likely from the crow’s mast, starts screaming about fire. And then, Keskes Kessalio, the biggest and dumbest, is shoving himself at the door, trying to break it down. Tibbs is still hollering obscenities at the sky, her voiced joined by that of Quartermaster Nerine Kieran, who is a great deal angrier at the threat posed to his precious ship than Captain Naheelis, who I can’t even hear over the sounds of Tibbs and Nerine. “Cap!” Tibbs cries, “Fire!” The door is off its hinges, and Keskes is coughing loudly, a pail of water against his shoulder. And then it is all over what’s left of me, my pages charred and flayed, sticking together. Keskes retrieves me from the wreckage of the captain’s cabin, and although I’m sure he doesn’t completely understand what storing me means, he stuffs me into Nerine’s hand. It’s a betrayal, the fact that the crewmembers have found me. But Queel doesn’t seem to care. “Book!” Queel rushes forward to grab me, calling my name out of reflex. Sometimes she worries about me when she doesn’t need to. She hits the door with ferocity, and when she says “Book!” the second time, I know she doesn’t care if the Serpens Druids are angry with her, she doesn’t want me to die. Maybe it doesn’t matter if I’m the antithesis to everything she’s ever believed. We’re friends, aren’t we? Maybe she can convince the other Druids to trust me, too. “Queel,” says Tibbs, a mousy girl wearing an orange skullcap, two wisp thin pigtails that resemble black lilies peeking from it. Her hands are gripping the strings of her bright orange overalls, tentatively. I recognize the blue sweater she’s wearing underneath as a handmade gift from Queel. They all love their captain. Her betrayal will destroy them, and a small part of me wishes to be back in the fire. “What’s that for?” She’s got no good excuse. There is poignant confusion on the faces of her peers, but Queel is, in this moment, quite concerned. Nerine Kieran laughs and slithers over to Queel. No, he does not have any sort of tail, but he’s a seedy, constantly drunk individual, who walks in zigzags. Maybe it’s because he has disproportioned limbs, one leg shorter than the left, and a hunchback. He’s always wearing the same coat of dried-out sea anemones and a giant orange crab named Cornwell, his pet, sits on his head. He waves me in Queel’s face, the dandruff falling from his flaky black hair as he does so. “Yes, Queel, tell us what this is. Is it what it looks like? Is the valiant Queel Naheelis, carrying around, of all things, a book?” Queel stands, frozen, staring at Nerine’s grinning face as he flips open my pages, chuckling with cold condescension. “Keskes, why didn’t ya just leave it in the fire, old pal?” Keskes gawks at Nerine, but they both know why. The owner of the book should be punished for carrying around such a symbol of hatred. The captain should be punished. “I didn’t know you were a slaver,” Nerine continues, turning to Queel, who bristles at his comments. “Should we throw her off the ship, mates?” Most people’s words are strong enough to counter any attacks of character, but Queel’s talents are written in her fists. Before anyone else can react, Queel has taken a small knife from her green robes and stuck it into Nerine’s eye. And that would all be normal, if not a little cruel, if inky black blood had not started to pour from it. An e made of Nerine’s eyelid flew into the air, zipping around the mast with a joyous fervor. It groaned “I” with a strange elation, a noise that can only be made by that which is finally free. A y made of eyelashes quickly followed it, the tail of the y hugged the e close, and when they were finally joined by another e, this one made of Nerine’s blue lens, they all flew around and around Nerine, Keskes, Tibbs, and Queel, repeating “eye, eye,” with the same ethereal voice. Nerine decided at that moment to scream. Tibbs was appalled. “Queel, that’s a letter opener. You’ve opened his letters. Those things are supposed to be illegal! They were discontinued in—” “I know when they were discontinued!” Queel yelled, but she was smiling. It probably felt good to put Nerine in his place. “Don’t ask me why or how I have it. But that nice little hole in Nerine’s face is going to bring forth a lot more of his letters. If the e, the y, and the e keep splitting themselves up they’ll be other words to deal with: retina, sciera, maybe the ink can travel further down his system, and then who knows? The a in arm, the f in foot— He’ll split into letters.” “You’re a monster.” Tibbs says in breathless awe. Nerine won’t die, of course, that would be too severe a punishment, but unraveling another’s letters is an incredibly painful process. It’s almost like death, but without the dying. Queel shrugs. “It doesn’t matter. You’ve found Book, so I would assume it’s all over for me anyways.” The other crewmembers, besides a wailing Nerine, are quiet. Queel sighs and tries: “I mean, splitting into letters is practically painless. We’re all made of them.” I’m not sure if she’s trying to lessen the blow, but no one seeks to bother her thereafter. It is completely fair to say that the Serpens Druids are too terrified of Queel to say anything. Queel is the kind of woman whose mere voice could make even the strongest, bravest Druid cry. She’s screamed stormily at her crewmembers for the smallest offenses: not swabbing the deck fully or getting too close to the water. The Stream of Consciousness is the vastest ocean within Asporin, and for Queel and her crew, it’s been important to spend months collecting the ideas that pepper the stream’s waters. Ideas are the beginnings of characters, and fishing for them from the water will allow the characters to be freed. Drinking from The Stream of Consciousness, however, can force a writer to take hold of an idea. That’s illegal for Serpens Druids, and yet, so is stowing books. The captain’s cabin is in disrepair, but it’s nothing that can’t be salvaged. The fire was only powerful enough to leave her desk table a blackened mess. The rest of the room looks as if it’s still in mint condition. Its deep lavender, gorgeous white curtains hanging from the walls. Queel has furnished it with whimsical things: pretty tapestries, spectral flowers that hang in pots from the dirt ceiling. Once she is certain the other crewmembers have left her alone, Queel grabs me under the crook of her arm and slumps on her bed. She’s the only human who has ever talked to me, and that’s a blessing. She’ll never write in me, of course, as that would constitute controlling characters, but I write to her, and she reads me. “Book, what’ve you done?” Her hands are running all over my cover, examining the wounds. Years of worry for herself— and me— has left the forehead lines in her harsh face far more pronounced. Sometimes, when she gazes at me as though the whole weight of the world is sitting on her shoulders it’s hard to remember that she’s only twenty. Sometimes it is even harder to remember that she is the same girl who was bullied by the other Druids when she first arrived in Serpens. Not for having me, but for the reminder of her father. He looms over us even now. I’m sorry, I write, But Queel I’m dangerous for you-- Queel closes me. She could chuck me across the room if she wanted, but I’m not one of her crewmembers, I’m closer than them. Besides, I am so fragile. Queel-- I start writing on my cover, but Queel flips me over, and walks away. I’m so sorry I tried to kill myself, so sorry I let myself be found, but I am still in an incredible amount of existential peril. Now that I’ve burned myself, what will happen? I’ve never tried anything of the sort, before, and I would assume it would have dire consequences. Queel-- I try again. “What I really don’t understand,” she says, brushing a stray golden hair out of her eyes, and in them there’s a look of war, “Is why. Why would you do that? I could have lost you if Keskes hadn’t given you to Nerine. How could you be so callous with yourself?” How could you be so callous with me? You’ve never even hid me very well. Your precious Druids were going to find me, eventually. And what would they have done, then? Something worse. “They wouldn’t have touched you,” Queel growls, “Not with me and my letter opener around.” So, you thrive on others’ fear? I write, enjoying feeling superior to her. I would never use such methods. That’s how much I mean to you, a letter-opener in Nerine Kieran’s eye? Quinn would be disappointed in you. I’m supposed to represent building bridges, not breaking them. “Oh, cry me a river,” There’s venom in her voice that she usually only reserves for Nerine, who has never liked her, “And I’d stick you in it, too, if it wouldn’t do equal damage to the fire.” Nothing scorches like a tongue, Naheelis. We argue for the rest of the night, and nobody wins. There’s a bit of a halftime show when Bach and Beethoven, Queel’s pet tardigrades, which are about the size of lions, bumble through the door and Queel plays with them, ignoring my rebukes of her. They look a little like moles, but according to Queel they’re cuter. They each have tan, elephantine skin and terrifying mouths that always look as though they might suck you up. They’re round, like naked mole rats covered in tarp, with six legs and huge claws. I hate them, but she’s happy to see them, and she hugs them, and they rest their wrinkly heads on her lap. Night arrives quickly, and in her sleep, Queel doesn’t hear the whirr of pressured air, a sound made by a curious assortment of black holes that surround the ship. I have no idea what they are, but I flutter my pages, alert and confused and at the ready, even though a part of me still burns from my suicide attempt. I have never known anything like them, but they suck up the world around them like a straw, careless and insatiable. I don’t equate them with the galactic black holes you’ve probably read about in your world, since these have control over their round, void-like bodies. There is some sentience, certainly, in them. They remind me of leeches, or cockroaches, swarming disgusting masses bred to infest. The more of the room they eat, the more afraid I become of them. I have a sinking feeling that they might be here because of me, which is, of course, ridiculous. Isn’t it? Who are you and what do you want? I write. I have written stories about people facing down weapons of mass destruction: guns and knives or bombs, but there is something especially daunting when the weapon of mass destruction is alive. I don’t expect one of the black holes to answer, but it does. For some reason, they haven’t touched Queel yet, ignoring her for the objects in the room. I wonder why. Have you grown so arrogant that you’ve forgotten? One of the black holes, uh, well I’m not completely sure what it does, but it’s words that I know are coming from them. I know what they’re saying like I know I’m alive. I can’t explain it. Well, you’re writing yourself after all. It is so hard to see one’s own flaws. You’re such a strange correlation between book and story, aren’t you?And there are many of us contained in your identity, little book. You exist because of Quinn, and yet you’ve gained a certain level of sentience in your own right. How does that work? To be honest with the awful hole, I don’t know, and it makes me more uncomfortable when I realize what this means. Wait-- We are plot-holes, stupid book. The shadows in the plot-holes have grown darker, not visibly, but through the intuition only a book has. You know how sometimes a person’s face darkens? It doesn’t become a different pallor, but it changes. Their features become rigid, cuing you into the fact that you’d better back off. Aware of them, I realize I am a stupid book. I’ve become arrogant enough to forget the plot-holes. I was so busy worrying about the little civil wars between characters and writers that I forgot to remind myself of the one species that could destroy them all. Your little suicide attempt has released us, the plot-hole makes a noise that would’ve been like growling, except that it sounds like an earthquake. Could you not feel us? We are the disease, the sickness that has always been inside you, as no book will ever be perfect. We have been waiting to destroy you. You’ve burned away some of the glory in your anatomy, such a careless decision. You will pay. This whole ship will pay. We are hungry and we need to feed. In her sleep, Queel sucks in a breath. I am appalled. So, this is my fault. My attempt to save Queel has only further damned her. I’ve lost important pieces of myself through the burning, as the only story I’ve ever been able to tell is the story of my friendship with Queel. There are gaps and plot-holes in that, now, created by the fire. And the plot-holes will be our end. I try to remember what the other books used to whisper me to on their shelves. The plot-holes were the scary story we liked to tell at night, to scare each other because sometimes it was fun to be afraid. Books have a certain level of intuition towards them, the psychiatry textbook had informed the shelf: Writers don’t have this same intuition. A book can feel a plot-hole, a writer cannot. But aren’t there plot-holes in that? I try to write, and it is at that moment that Queel wakes. She looks on, staring from plot-holes to me, plot-holes to me. She has nothing to do with my creation. All of it was Quinn. Queel had nothing to do with my creation. The plot-holes weren’t going to go after Queel when they could go after me, were they? “Oh, Jesus Christ, no,” Queel moans, taking in the scene, and I find it funny, because she doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ. I suppose, however, that she needs to find someone’s name to take in vain. “Book!” She yells and tugs me off the edge of the bed, where I have sat all night. Beethoven and Bach, Queel’s sleepy pets immediately awaken and stare curiously up at us. “We have to get you out of here!” Me? I am far less likely than Queel is to get eaten by my own plot-holes. Once a plot-hole has been released, they’ll unravel the structure and nuance in a story bit by bit until the stories become confused, senseless messes. Plot-holes don’t discriminate between stories. They’ll eat a person’s histories and render them never whole again. All things are made of stories, and people are the most fragile kind. At this point, Queel and I are surrounded on all sides, and Queel braces herself, hands gripped to her bedpost, to avoid being sucked. Plot-holes are an exceedingly rare problem among Druids. Only tainted books can summon them, and since Druids don’t believe in books, they’ve never had to deal with them. Unfortunately, as of now, there is one aboard this ship. Maybe if I’d succeeded in killing this would stop. Maybe if I let myself get eaten. Plot-holes, although I have never seen one, go hand-in-hand with books, and sometimes, we learn how to coexist, but the plot-holes will always pine for a large part of their home: inside a book. I have to many plot-holes to try to bargain with them, and so I wait for Queel to pry me open so that we can speak. I don’t really like writing on my cover. Queel grabs me and pulls me close, opening me so she might read what I have to say. “Why are we surrounded by plot-holes!” Queel bellows and follows that with an expletive. She retrieves a walkie-talkie, gloriously outdated, from behind the bed and begins screaming at someone, probably Keskes, her favorite person aboard the ship, to come and help. And then she rushes out the door, taking me with her under the crook of her elbow. Black holes chew the ship from inside out, no force or god able to quench them and their insistence to eat. They are running over the walls with frightening fervor, swallowing the world with an alien ease. Keskes, Nerine and Tibbs are all holding onto the mast of the ship, trying to avoid being sucked up by their fierce wind. Bach and Beethoven aren’t paying any attention to the dilemma. I don’t know if tardigrades need to sleep, but they are ultimately pretty much indestructible creatures. I don’t believe that the plot-holes will cause them any sort of pain. Queel throws the walkie-talkie off the ship and begins berating her crewmembers. “Do you all wanna die?” She yells, “Did your miserable ass get out of bed this morning with a death wish? Huh? Huh? You’re all useless!” She kicks a stray bucket into the middle of the ship and, if it’s even possible, raises her voice louder. “Pop fucking quiz! Can any of you worthless louts tell me what a plot-hole does when it catches up with you? Or do all of you prissy little Druids live in a state of authorial naivety?” I’m sure her crewmembers all wish they are closer to the plot-holes. Their dark void is a lot quieter, more comforting than facing down Queel’s open maw. I see Keskes swallow, his breath ragged, but impressing Queel, his long-term crush, is important, maybe as important as staying alive. If the plot-holes don’t get him first, Queel will. She’s got enough rage and anger at our predicament that she’ll take it out on anyone. Which is why I don’t tell her the truth. “Ma’am, plot-holes usually are brought about by narrative inconsistencies. Therefore, one of us has an inconsistency in narrative—” Keskes says, still holding onto the mast. Tibbs is slipping, and he tugs her into a bear hug so she won’t be swallowed. I see her sigh a little beneath his muscled arms. His words only kindle Queel’s anger. The captain’s cabin is almost gone now, and the plot-holes are diving to the floor, mere feet from the squad. Carefully, but not a tad calmly, she toughs the plot-holes’ wind and grabs Keskes by the ear, hissing, “Do you really think that telling me what I already know is going to be any help?” “You didn’t let me finish—” Keskes begins to say, but it’s swallowed up by Tibbs’s furious sobbing. Keskes’ shirt is becoming wetter by the second: “Does somebody have an idea?” She yells, “Does somebody have an actual, bona-fide idea to get rid of them because this is absolutely terrifying!” “Queel has an idea!” Nerine yells back over the sound of the wind. He’s trying to avoid what he really wants to be doing, clutching his eye, so that he can keep hold on the mast. “QUEEL, DON’T YOU HAVE AN IDEA?” None of the Druids have ever seen a plot-hole, so all they can do is joke under the threat of them. None of them want to admit they could die, or how grave the situation is. I am certain they all will die. There has never been a set method to stopping a plot-hole, but if you give them enough of a story to chew on for a large period of time, they’ll be satisfied. As a book, I should do the trick. We need to command our situation, I write to Queel, hoping desperately that she’ll look down. Which means I have to tell you the truth. Queel, you have to let me try to write something to stop these plot-holes. Anything. I was— I was the one who brought them on us. I can feel her anger, and she says very quietly, very coldly, so that none of her crewmembers can hear: “Why?” When I tried to burn myself, I burned away some parts of those stories I’ve been writing you,and now they have plot-holes. Queel, I’m so sorry. I’m so pathetic. I never meant for this to happen-- “I’m jumping in.” Captain Naheelis tries to smooth her voice over with authority, but it’s intercepted by an audible gulp. She’s never had to be afraid before, but she can work with that. She can be afraid and a leader. She’ll use every second she has. She turns to the crew even as I’m writing ‘no’ all over myself: “Guys, I’m jumping in.” “What?” Tibbs yells, while Keskes shakes his head. Nerine smiles indiscreetly. I’m sure he wouldn’t care if she did. “Naheelis, no,” Keskes says, and there are tears in his ox-like eyes, “You’ll die.” “I’d die for my crew,” Queel smiles, trying to maintain some sort of strength, “Trust me, the plot-holes are going to have a difficult time finding any inconsistencies in me. I’m a solid gal, tough to break down. It’ll give all of you enough time to get away.” “Was this your plan the whole time?” Tibbs screeches from against Keskes’ chest, “This is a horrible plan!” She started sobbing again, and Keskes squeezes her tight. “Don’t do it, Cap!” Keskes is desperate. “Please!” I’ll do it! I write. Let me do it! “Somebody’s going to get swallowed by plot-holes today,” Queel says. “The greedy little bastards won’t let up until they’ve gotten something to snack on. And for your sake, that’s going to have to be me.” Queel sighs, “I hope they’re not too picky,” and walks slowly towards the plot-holes. “Captain Queel Naheelis if you don’t get back here right now, I’ll jump in myself!” Keskes extends a quivering hand towards her retreating form, “Queel Naheelis—” He couldn’t bring himself to say anything more. A messy tear is making its way down his face. “Cap, this is not the way to go about things.” “No? What other ways have you got up your sleeve?” Queel calls over her shoulder. There is something mesmerizing about the way the plot-holes cast a shadow over her. The plot-holes are a little surprised, but amused. Quinn’s daughter? They question me, Why not you, Book? We have digested her father, but we are looking for his pride and joy, not his baby. Give us yourself, Book. We will leave them alone forever if you give yourself up. I’m weak. It would best for everyone, even Nerine, if I got rid of myself, but I have so much more to be in this world, so many more stories to tell, and I’m not going to lose myself to a few plot-holes. So, I cry out the only thing I can in my soundless voice: You— you insidious bastards, go cannibalize yourselves! We want you, Book. The plot-holes taunt. But they have stopped moving. They are fascinated by Queel’s human void. Eyes are made to appraise, and then absorb. We spend our lives gaping at the expansive, and yet we never think to wonder if the expansive is gaping at us. Does space look at us with wonder, constricted as we are by our mortal coil? Are we worth its brand of wonder? Does the universe long to be tiny, to be powered by a human’s heartbeat or bound, as I am, a book? I can tell you the plot-holes do. They long for the basest human desire: to be needed. When someone needs you, when someone can’t live without you, they don’t question your existence, they don’t overanalyze. They love what you add to their story. Plot-holes are made to be unwanted, so naturally, it’s the only thing they want. They’ll eat anything of their choosing just to feel that way, but their favorite delicacies are the things that need them the least. Why finish something half-eaten when you can have something fresh? Queel was young, fresh, and the plot-holes condensed into a shadowy mass and surrounded her. I felt her heartbeat shudder against my spine, and I wonder, then, if she will drop me. Will they swallow me, too, when she stops protecting me? This is every writer’s nightmare death. This is the anti-thesis to all literary dreams: swallowed by confusion, swallowed by failure. As her last act of free will, Queel drops me at her feet, and steps over me, ignoring me and my apologies. I can’t win, whatever way I exist. I’ll always hurt someone. I hit the floor neatly, and Queel throws her arms open to face them: “Go on, eat me! I’m an even story. All you’re going to find is a suburban childhood, overbearing father, teenage rebellion, deadbeat lover. Everything makes sense, everything’s fresh. But you’ll find out where I rot, and you can spit that out.” The plot-holes had made their choice. Queel turned her back to them and made a peace sign at her comrades. Keskes would’ve run straight at them if not for the fact that Tibbs and Forester are tugging his waist, and Nerine’s arms are around his shoulders. The plot-holes open just a little wider, like a mouth, exerting an intensely large breath. Queel’s salutes her crew, a sly little smile on her face before the plot-holes swallow her completely. I can only imagine what her last moments are like: the slow un-attachment of every particle of herself, until nothing about Queel makes any sort of sense, in this world or the next. Not once do any of her crewmembers look at the plot-holes, but they can hear Queel’s angry, broken scream erupt in the air. I imagine it would hurt, to be unraveled like that, to not make any earthly sense, and yet still be alive. My artistic vision involves a lot of peril, a lot of scenes of Queel’s life being removed, Queel’s arms and legs being thrown into strange situations, Queel dying before even the plot-holes get to her. Unconnected events that never happened in Queel’s life also get thrown together with events that did… the whole thing is nightmarish. Plot-holes do not erase, because that would be sensible, they just confuse. So Queel will be in pain forever, unable to die, unable to be erased. But for all intents and purposes, and feel to better about myself, I’ll say that she is dead. I try to tell myself that however much pain she’s in, it’s a story now. It’s over. It is. The plot-holes disappear. As long as they are eating Queel, they won’t be coming after the others. Stories take time to unravel, you would be surprised with how connected they become with other stories. The plot-holes could eat every story that had ever touched Queel’s timeline, as long as it was important to her. The side effects of that on her friends, however, remained to be seen. So, the crewmembers and I are alone together beneath the blue sky. Keskes is still gripping the edge of the mast, knuckles white. The other crewmembers are shaken, even Nerine, whose regret is externalized in how he gets up from his spot by the mast and picks me up, holding me like a safety blanket to his heart. And then he cries. It’s tortured, gasping, panicked, and guilty. He’s followed by Keskes, whose tears are pure horror, injustice incarnate, employing the same kind of fevered rage that will eventually cause one to rebel. Tibbs doesn’t know what to do, and neither do I, and neither do Bach and Beethoven, but they’re tardigrades, so I don’t really think they’re paying too much attention… Forester lets loose a defeated cry from between his teeth and slumps into the middle of the ship. Again, I am a book. I reflect pain, I can transfigure it, and sometimes, I can assuage it, but I serve only as a source of entertainment. Any manipulations of pain are sorely through that. Perhaps I could tell Queel a story… but I’m not entirely sure she needs any more stories. After all, any discrepancies will summon more plot-holes. I have nothing more to say, not to them, and not to you, Reader. You and your greediness forced me to give you a story. I am sorry for being so callous, but I need someone to blame. You are easy bait, you, confined to your unaccountability, safe behind the Fourth Wall, but not forever. Perhaps you will ride on my pages like a giant bird into wilder skies, perhaps I will build things for you and you will write and read and we will love each other, because I am a story, and in the end we are united by our love of stories. I will ask you, however, to help. In the end, only you can save the characters and yourself from the plot-holes. You must throw all the books away. Burn them. Cut them up into tiny pieces and let them catch the wind. Or else, the plot-holes will return. They will come after every book, they will eat every story in the world, and they will eat yours. You won’t be able to see them at first, when they come for you. And even if you see them, you won’t be able to recognize that they’re yours. That’s the kind of greedy you are. God. But life goes on. It must, for the sake of the crew. I help them to understand what Queel never could: that books are more, more than symbols, and I write to them and we honor Queel by trying to find a bridge between creation and control. And I know that you can’t have freedom every way, but freedom has rules. We will build something beautiful together, something strong enough to subvert the politics of our world, and when the plot-holes come back, we will be ready. If all stories must end, those of the plot-holes must, too. And at the end of all of this, they will be the only characters I will ever take joy in killing.