Haunted by Words

It always started with the ringing of a bell. An ancient door creaking open on rusted hinges accompanied by a tinny peal. There was the familiar smell of bitter coffee intertwined with the scent of musty tomes that caused Chris’ mind to quiet itself in the face of a labyrinth of words. His mind was embraced by millions of voices vying for attention. Not necessarily his attention. Simply an indiscriminate desire to be heard and truly embraced by the mind of another. An opportunity for the words held captive in one brain to migrate to another.

Chris raised a heavily wrinkled finger and ran the tip along fragmented letters and words. He hooked his finger at the top of a dark spine and gently tipped the book forward into his sweaty palms. Chris flipped it over to scan the back with a sharp, practiced gaze. He opened it to the first page, caressing paper beneath his fingertips and finding more words than he knew what to do with.

He found himself at the bottom of the sea, he found himself in the middle of a desert, he found himself in churches and cathedrals and palaces constructed from syllables and paragraphs. He found himself forgetting all his aches and pains and the weakness in his knees. Perhaps he might have continued finding himself, if he hadn’t appeared.

It was a living skeleton of a boy dwarfed by an oversize blue hoodie, coalescing from dust motes. His limbs were long and gangly. Sticking out from his jumper was a bony neck supporting a mischievous, narrow face, framed with a wild tangle of jet-black hair. He possessed a pair of mad, ocean green eyes that churned and rippled, as if in the midst of a violent storm. His was a hollow, yet piercing gaze, that sent needles prickling over Chris’ skin.

The boy, Aaron, reached out a translucent hand, as if to pluck one of the volumes off the shelf. His fingernails passed straight through it. He kept reaching until he was up to his shoulder, before sighing deeply.

“Worth a shot.”

Chris wrinkled his nose.

Aaron gave him a translucent grin.

“Let’s start where we left off,” Aaron said brightly. His voice echoed eerily amongst the shelves, as it always did.

A book tumbled into his hands and fell at his feet, falling open to about halfway. There was a flicker of the title: Paradise Lost. Chris instantly recognised it as his copy. There was Chris’ bookmark, a postcard with a picture of Aaron’s bookstore. Aaron stood outside the front, as an adult, hair as messy as ever. Aaron reached out a pale hand, his fingertip passing through the image. His expression was indecipherable.

Chris placed his finger against the first line, and Aaron rested his hand beside his. Age and youth, side by side. Chris lost himself in the words beneath their fingers.

When Chris glanced up, his only companion was the empty space beside him.

Derek and Rosie

Derek is a book.

He lives on the very top shelf of a dusty bookcase, in a dusty old bookshop, just waiting for someone to pick him up, take him home and read him again and again.

Every day he watches as people come into the shop, browse the shelves, and pick other books to take home.

“Why does no-one ever pick me?” cries Derek as the shop closes for another day.
“You’re too old and dusty!” replies one book, rudely.
“You’re just a kids book about a little girl, who wants to read that?” replies another.
“And you’re on the top shelf, no-one ever looks up there” replies a third.

Derek sighs, and a single tear runs down his spine. He feels like he will just stay on his shelf forever, and no-one will ever read his story.

“I must get myself noticed” thinks Derek as he settles down for the night. Around him, the other books were sleeping, their pages rustling as they snored quietly.

The next morning the shop opens and customers start to come in. Soon, a lady walks below Derek’s shelf.
Derek rustles his pages, trying to get noticed, but he only manages to shake dust from his cover onto the lady, making her sneeze.

Not long after, a man walks below his shelf. Derek jumps up and down, trying to get noticed, and in doing so he topples over with a thud! The man looks up, but all he sees is a dusty old book that no-one wants to read. He wanders off shaking his head.
Derek picks himself up, and dusts himself off. “I’m never going to get read”, he cries.

The shop is very quiet for the rest of the day, and no-one comes near Derek’s shelf. Just before the shop is about to close, Derek hears the shop bell ring. He looks up and sees a young girl and her parents walk into the shop. The young girl wanders over towards Derek’s shelf.

“Perfect”, Derek says to himself, “she’ll definitely want to read me”.
Derek takes a deep breath and throws himself onto the floor.

The young girl looks around to see what the noise was and sees Derek lying on the floor. She picks him up and dusts him off. “D-er-ek an-d R-o-sie” she reads slowly. “That’s my name!”

“Rosie” calls her father, “Time to go.”
Rosie runs to her daddy waving Derek in the air. “Please can we buy this book, daddy” she begs “Please, please!”

At bedtime, Rosie and her daddy read Derek for the very first time. Rosie tells Derek that he is the best story ever, and promises to read him every day for the rest of her life. She snuggles under her covers with a big smile on her face, clutching Derek tightly to her chest.

That night, Derek & Rosie both fall asleep the happiest they have ever been, already dreaming of the wonderful adventures they will have together.

A Story From Long Ago

The bell over the door let out a musical chiming, disturbing the muted stillness of the book-lined shop. The keeper glanced up from the half-turned page, waiting to gauge her customer. A peruser, happiest left alone? A muser, who needed a nudge, a well-placed recommendation? Perhaps a family with excited little readers, who required a keen eye for half-trained hands? Gillian had known all types, and was quick to interpret their preference.
The man by the door, however, had Gillian sitting up a little straighter, and anyone who knew her well would know that the small line at her brow meant that she was watching shrewdly. The man was tall, solidly built, but his demeanour was that of one who wished to go unnoticed. His eyes shifted through the store, and it seemed he quickly realised the shop was empty but for him and Gillian. He turned slightly, as if to go.
“Can I help you?” Gillian asked, her finger poised on her page, her voice closing the distance between them.
The man hesitated, his hand still on the door. “I’m looking for a book,” he said, in a voice much smaller than he was.
Gillian raised her eyebrows, but caught herself before she replied, ‘just any book?’ Instead, she asked, “What was it called?”
“I don’t remember,” he said unhelpfully. She let out a quiet sigh, but she refrained from rolling her eyes. So that was the type of customer he was. She put down her book, resigned, and her page settled back to disappear amongst the rest. “Do you remember what it was about?” she asked, beginning the familiar script.
“It was a picture book…”
“Okay. Do you remember the colour?”
“Blue, I think.”
“How old were you when you read it?”
“About three.”
She registered something in his tone, some earnest longing. Her voice softened as she continued her questions. “How long ago was that?” “Was it wider than it was tall?” “Were there many words to a page, or only a few?”
To most, he only said, “I can’t remember.”
Eventually, she held up a finger, then disappeared between book-laden shelves. The store was silent around the solitary figure of the man. Just as he grew restless, Gillian reappeared. She held forth a book. The man’s eyes grew wide, and he approached, his hand extended. He took the book as if it were made of glass. Gillian watched in silence, giving the man his moment.
“My mother…” he said thickly, “died recently. When I was a boy, we came to this shop, and she told me to choose a book. But I was,” he cleared his throat and swallowed, his voice trembling, “angry. I can’t remember why. But she forced me to choose a book. That night, she read it to me, and I hated her the whole time. When she finished… she said, ‘hate me all you want, little one. I can’t help but love you.’” He blinked rapidly, and wiped a rough hand against his cheek. He stared at the book’s cover, then looked at Gillian, whose hand rested softly against her lip. He gave a weak smile. “Thank you.”

Bunyip in the Bookshop

Just before I open the door, I smell an awful smell.
There’s a bunyip in the bookshop, but I promised not to tell.

First I hear my mother say, ‘no more eggs for you!’
Then I hear my father laugh, ‘I think you need the loo?’

Every time I find a book, I touch some sticky slime.
There’s a bunyip in the bookshop, his favourite books all rhyme.

First I hear my mother say, ‘what happened to that book.’
Then I hear my father shout, ‘are you feeling crook?’

At the end of story time I hear a snoring sound.
There’s a bunyip in the bookshop. He’s sleeping on the ground.

First I hear my mother say, ‘Did you hear that snore?’
Then I hear my father laugh, ‘Geez that books a bore.’

Every time I try to read, I hear a crashing noise.
There’s a bunyip in the bookshop. He’s playing with the toys.

First I hear my mother say, ‘What happened to that cup?’
Then I hear my father scream, ‘You’d better clean that up!’

Every time I go to leave, I tread in yucky stuff.
There’s a bunyip in the bookshop, I’ve really had enough!


‘IT WAS THE BUNYIP IN THE BOOKSHOP, but I promised not to tell!’

Tim’s Bookshop

Tim was just a young boy
Of very little height
Just a few years in age and
Rather short in sight

Tim lived at home
With mum and dad
A cat named Calvin,
And a dog called Sinbad

Tim’s most favourite place
In the whole of the world
Was a little bookshop
Where the road curled

His mum would take him
Once a week
To story time
It was such a treat.

Tim would sit and listen
To each and every book
Tim loved every minute
Every page was worth a look.

There was a little table
Where he could sit
Books all around him
A chair that was just the right fit

Authors came in
To sign their name
The workers ran around gathering books
They left with just a bit of fame

Paul he is the boss man
With his glasses on his head
He runs around the store all day
Does he ever go to bed?

When people come into the shop
Paul greets them all by name
They browse around and buy his books
They always leave with more than when they came

Beth is always working hard
She greets everyone with a grin
Nothing is too much trouble
For everyone it’s a win

Mum sits in the big cosy chair
Giving her books a sneak peep
Choosing one she would like to read
Hope she doesn’t fall asleep.

The books they were Tim’s favourite
So many on the wall
He could just sit and look all day
But he can’t possibly read them all

Which one to choose, it was so difficult
There were many he would like to get to know
Great covers all on show

Tim made new friends
He travelled far and wide
He always learnt new things
With every book he spied

Finally Tim has chosen his book
To the one he has bestowed this glory
Is about a caterpillar who eats too much
It will be a great bedtime story.