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Barnaby Is Confused
Once upon a time, on a far off planet some time in the future, someone was reading a book. His name was Barnaby. Barnaby was on his porch, with his cat on his lap and a good book. He frowned. Then he frowned deeper, but he kept reading. How could this be? He reread the last paragraph. Barnaby. His name was Barnaby. The name of the man in the book was Barnaby. Barnaby was just a name, it could still be a coincidence. Barnaby sat on his porch with a cat on his lap. Fine. Plenty of people had cats, plenty of people had porches. Frowned, but kept reading? Perfectly normal. Satisfied, he kept reading, but soon he jumped up, sending the cat flying.
“I just thought all that! I just did that! I just SAID that!” He shouted at the book. He closed his eyes, took several deep breaths. He was overreacting. Maybe it’d be best if he just put the book down for a second. He sat back down, and after a while the cat came back. Barnaby looked out at the rest of his mundane little neighborhood, he stroked his cat. After a while, he decided that there was one way to figure out if the book really was a coincidence, how everything he did seemed to show up. He took the book up and looked at it. Author, A Kid, planet Earth. Written, April 2015. It had to be a coincidence, 2015 was a long, long time ago.
Barnaby picked the book back up and kept reading, but as he read, he became sure. It couldn’t possibly be a coincidence. Something was up. Part of Barnaby wanted to put the book away, never speak of it again, maybe just throw it over his shoulder and go yammering off down the street. But something made him keep reading. Maybe the fact that the book said he kept reading, or maybe the fact that the book said something really, really exiting was about to happen that had to do with a footnote.* There was a footnote. It was rather disconcerting. It read, Muahahahahaha! I can make this go however I want, and there’s nothin’ Barnaby can do about it!
Barnaby started feeling tired. He didn’t know why. It just said he did in the book. He put the book down and went and made a cup of tea, then sat in his chair on his porch, and picked up the book again, and fell asleep reading about what happened next. Or, to be precise, reading about him reading about what happened next. He didn’t actually know what happened next, the stupid author wouldn’t get to the point. And anyway, it was almost the end of the chapter anyway. Barnaby dozed off.
The Author Is Bored
Eventually, Barnaby went to bed. The next morning he got up, made a cup of coffee, then left to get more potatoes. He’d only gotten as far as the porch when his eyes fell on The Book. He shrugged and picked it up, flipping to his place. Chapter Two. The chapter title read, The Author is Bored. Barnaby felt a strange feeling of uneasiness wash over him. This couldn’t be good. He remembered the footnote from the last chapter and shuddered. Unsure why, Barnaby sat down, book in hand, and read the first paragraph.
“Ah well,” He said aloud, “That’s not too bad. It’s just SAYING EVERYTHING I THINK!” With that, he ran out into the street, and over to his neighbor.
“LOOK AT THIS!” He shouted, pointing to a spot on the page. Shaking her head, the neighbor read the paragraph.
“Hah hah!” She said, “Nice trick. Now I really need to get going. I’ve got a golf club club meeting.” She wandered off.
With growing worry, Barnaby read on. He didn’t notice that his house had changed color until he read it in The Book. He looked up to see it a pleasant spring green, with blue dots. Then a thought struck him. What would happen if he peeked ahead? With a witty chuckle, he flipped forward. His eyes alighted on a chapter title. It read, Don’t Skip Ahead Barnaby, It Degrades The Overall Reading Experience. He huffed and flipped back to his page. He read a couple of sentences, but they weren’t very interesting sentences, just sentences about sentences, and something to do with infinity. How it was really a sentence about a sentence about a sentence, etc. going on into infinity.
Then he remembered the potatoes, how he was going to make a potato salad, so he put down the book and went to the store. At this point, Barnaby was just goin' with the flow. When he got back to find his cat’s gravity had been flipped and she was now walking on the ceiling, he hardly batted an eyelash. Tulips sprouting tentacles? Meh, no biggie. He made himself some potato salad, then went back outside and sat down again on the rocking chair. He read about the cat and the tulips, and then he read about himself reading, and then he read about how the author was really bored, and would flip the cat back when she got the chance.
He frowned. Wasn’t this story about me? He thought, feeling a little left out. He crossed his arms and glared at the book, then just to spite it, he put it down (Barnaby should not put books face down, because it is bad for the binding) and went inside to get more potato salad. He watched, bemused, as the cat slowly floated back down to the ground, licked her’s paw, then cheerfully began attacking the tentacle tulips. He shook his head. Why not keep reading? If he didn’t keep reading, then it would just happen anyway, wouldn’t it? Or would it? And either way, he needed to finish the chapter for the book club.
He shook his head, and sat back down, and the first thing he saw was that it was a bad idea to put books face down, because it’s bad for the binding. Then he read on. After a little bit, he came to a point where it said again that he should not put books down on their bindings. And then it said it again. And again. And again. He sighed and looked at his place. Almost half way through, soon he’d be up to date with the book club. He wondered what the other people thought, reading about him. He sighed. They’d probably be bored. Then Barnaby wished he hadn’t thought that. Just then, it started raining eels.
Don’t Skip Ahead Barnaby, It Degrades From The Overall Reading Experience
Barnaby hopped up, dodging the still falling eels. With The Book over his head, he ran inside, only to find the ground covered with banana peels and marbles, and over that, a force field to keep Barnaby from falling. The force field was nice. Soft. He went to sit down, but before he could get settled, he remembered the thought he’d had, about how everyone must think his life awfully dull. Suddenly, the force field started to wobble, and in a moment it had turned into a patch of mushrooms. Then the mushrooms started to explode, one by one, in slow motion, making little pictures in the air of green plastic flamingos. The cat hovered past, floating on a cloud and sneezing. Barnaby sighed.
“Alright!” He said aloud, “I don’t have a boring life. Could you please leave me in peace now?” He wasn’t sure who he was talking to, but soon the pitter patter of eels on the roof slowed, then stopped, and the mushrooms began to wander off. The cloud holding up the cat let out a short flurry of snow, then dissolved, leaving the cat free to chase the straggling mushrooms. Barnaby picked up his book as if nothing had happened, and started to read chapter three. Then he remembered the time.
“Ye gads!” he said, “Is that really the time? I must get to my book club!” He hopped up and put his book in his book bag, waved goodbye to the cat, then rushed to the library. He walked past the sign for the chess club, and the sign for the mustard club, and the sign for the golf club club, until he reached the sign for the book club. It said, Book Club. He knocked the secret knock, then went in. He was only a little late.
The discussion had already begun, on the subject of the Dragons of Escondir. Barnaby sat down.
“Um, hey, what are the Dragons of Escondir?” He asked.
“You know, from the book? Please don’t say you heaven’t read to chapter three?” Said the club leader. Barnaby nodded.
“Of corse I’v read it, but there’s nothing to do with Dragons from Escondir. I’ve got more of the raining eels, tentacle tulip sort of thing.”
“Oh,” Said the club leader, taking the book from Barnaby’s hand. “Sorry, I think this is the wrong book. Oh, Earth, 2015? Yah, wrong book.” Barnaby shrugged.
While the others were talking about dragons, Barnaby kept reading his copy of The Book. There was a footnote. It read, The author should remember to give her writing a better name than The Book next time. Barnaby agreed. He decided to read to the end of the chapter. It wasn’t too far off. He read about him shrugging, and about the footnote, and about reading, and about reading about shrugging, and about reading about reading about shrugging, and he read about how the author liked to drag on the end of chapters. He agreed with that, too. He thought the author should try harder for a plot for the book. For that, he got an eel on the head.
Insert Incredibly Clever Chapter Heading Here
Barnaby walked home, enjoying the pleasant weather, but half way home, he stopped dead in his tracks. The book in his hands was thin, and his bookmark was extremely close to the end. The book was in real time, he thought, with only a few minutes’ difference in either direction. What would happen when he reached the end of the book? What then?
A feeling of dread crept over him. He didn’t want to know how the book ended. He knew it wouldn’t be good. He ran home, and arrived breathless and panting. He sat down and stared at the book. It now had a sense of menace about it, more so than it had before. But he had to find out. Barnaby opened the book to where he’d left off, and read for about a paragraph.
He sat. Still as a statue.
He read that he sat still as a statue, then panic surged though him and he snapped the book shut. He ran into his room and got a shoe box, and put the book in it. Then he got some duct tape, and used the whole roll to wrap up the book.
“I just won’t finish that stupid book. It doesn’t control me. It’s just a book!” Barnaby said aloud. And with that, he stomped off.
After a while, Barnaby started to forget about the book, or at least stop worrying about it. He got a new job, and got a second cat, and basically got on with his life. Every few years, he’d take out the book and read just a little, then get overwhelmed by the idea of his own deafening mortality and put it back, with twice as much tape. By the time Barnaby was an old man, the tape on the shoe box had reached such an enormous size that it filled half the closet.
Barnaby was 97, and lying on his death bed.
“Please,” He said softly to his loved ones, “Bring me the book in the shoe box covered in duct tape in my closet. I want to see how it ends.” His loved ones nodded solemnly and got the book. Barnaby opened it and flipped to the end. He saw the last few words and nodded. It was how he’d expected it. It read, Barnaby laughed, and then, still smiling, dyed. Barnaby chuckled. The last word in the book was a typo. But no matter. He was no longer afraid of the book. All he had to do was sit and wait for the last couple of sentences before the end.
But it was not to be. Just as he finished saying goodbye to his loved ones, immortality was invented.
“Woot!” Said Barnaby, “This is great! Now I can fulfill my life long dream of becoming a Tie-dye shirt maker!” Barnaby went and got all the supplies needed, then got to work. A thought struck him. It hadn’t been a typo after all. Barnaby laughed, and then, still smiling, dyed.
*Muahahahahaha! I can make this go however I want, and there’s nothin’ Barnaby can do about it!