Chapter Description: Jennifer heads into work, and sees a new arrival to her place of employment.
Jennifer was greeted with the familiar aging ‘BLOW---WOOOOOW!’ sound as she entered the store. The electronic door chime was from another era and had lived far past it’s welcome. Jennifer suspected that it was probably older than most of the current books the store sold, and as old as most of what was in the inventory. The musty atmosphere was not unpleasant and gave way to the fact you could count on finding old, out of print, and obscure books of all types within its walls. Jennifer had been amazed by some of the things she had seen come in and go out of the store in the years that she had been at the store. She never had guessed she’d have seen some first pressings of Gatsby, the Oz books, or The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. These titles, and Book Emporium’s hot level of business in a medium size town with no competition from giants like Barnes and Noble, combined with the area’s insistence on printed books over their digital counterparts, allowed Book Emporium to command a high price tag for premiere titles in its used selection and also budget affordably the lesser known stuff. Also with an ample space for the latest literary items, even things like 50 Shades and Twilight, business was booming.
She had also been working at the store since she turned 16, which made it her first job which she held throughout high school and her college years, and now having graduated with a degree in literary theory. She was looking forward to the future and was looking for work with a big publisher as an editor to see new books being submitted and find the next big name in books, She could dream anyway and working in a book store like Book Emporium was the next best thing. She would be sad to leave it behind and had a bit of regret at doing so, but that was life, and the only way to live was to keep moving forward, even if sometimes all Jennifer wanted to do was look back and keep things in one place for a little while.
Jennifer was usually on time, and worked her ass off for the store, so her boss was usually a little more lenient with her than he was with the other employees. She figured he’d razz her a little about it and then move on with his day. Since she had been working for the store for so long, Jennifer and her boss had a mutual understanding, and had nicknames for one another that were so endearing, they may as well have been family at this point.
“Well, well, well strange girl. 25 minutes late yeah? You must have been up to something amazing to lose track of time. Discover a new language or a secret code?” said Jennifer’s boss, hunched over a stack of books and speaking with his back to her without missing a beat.
“Sorry to disappoint you old man. New submission to DeviantArt. Last one took off like a rocket and wanted to give them something new sooner than usual. Won’t happen again.” said Jennifer, trying to catch her breath a little as she slowed her sprint and leaned up against the door way into her boss’s office.
“New picture huh? Anything interesting?” said the old man. He stood up and turned to face Jennifer and nodded and then sat down at his desk.
“Yeah a star pattern with smaller stars inside of larger ones. I saw them last night and felt inspired.”
“Interesting. I’ll have to take a look later. You know I’m following you on there right?”
“I do now. You like what you see?”
“Yeah, you got a gift. You should keep at it. It’s also strange like you.”
“Gee thanks old man. You know how to make a girl feel special.”
“It’s what I do best.” said the old man as he smiled. “Which reminds me, we got something in that I think you might like.”
“Oh really? What is it?” Jennifer was definitely interested. The old man knew her pretty well. Last time he said this, Book Emporium received an entire collection of Time Life’s Enchanted World series of books. They were all collectively older than Jennifer, but she googled them online and saw one of the Vincent Price commercials for the series and she knew she needed to have them. She had several of the books, but still needed 13 of the 23 for the complete set, which she was buying a few at a time as the old man allowed her to and at a discount from what they would have been sold by the store.
“I know you like big and old thick hardcover books, and this is one of the oldest ones I have ever seen come in. Go take a look and tell me what you think. It’s in with the rest of the new shipment in the back. There’s about 4-5 huge boxes and I need most of them cataloged and sorted to be put out by the end of the day. We got a couple folks covering the front and register, so I’ll let you focus on just the new shipment. Take a break whenever. Cool?”
“You got it old man.”
“Okay. When you see the big book, again let me know what you think.”
With that, Jennifer headed to the back stockroom to process the new shipment of books. She passed by the registers and her coworkers on the sales floor and waved to them to let them know she was here. As she arrived in the back stockroom, Jennifer noticed the HUGE boxes and saw that the old man had already gone through some of them. She opened the closest box, and the first thing she saw inside when she opened the box was the book in question.
It was a huge musty old book, even larger than the largest coffee table book that Jennifer had ever seen. The book also appeared to be the oldest one she had ever personally seen. The cover betrayed no actual print date and only showed the signs of battle it must have been through over the course of its life. She knew you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but this was one time she wanted to make an exception, and it would be amazing if she could in this case.
Jennifer then opened the book and was shocked to find that the interior of the book looked really well for its age. There were no apparent signs of water damage, only the natural yellowing of the paper with the passage of time. There was also no text on any of the pages in the book which she doubly found strange. She thumbed through them slowly and carefully, and there was not a single line of text, nor was there a print mark of any sort. Jennifer wasn’t sure how this was possible, but she was strangely drawn to the book and felt like she should keep it out of sight from anyone else. She was also going to ask the old man if he would consider loaning it to her so she could study it closer and more carefully at home on her own time. The backlog of stock from this new collection that had been received was enormous and if she stuck to this one book, she would lose a lot of valuable time. She also looked at the clock and noticed it was 6:55 P.M. She had spent 2.5 hours just looking over this single tome and wondered how her time management skills had just up and left her without so much as a not as to where they had gone. She closed the book and headed to the boss’s office.
She walked back up to the old man’s office and saw that he was still at his desk. He was busy on his computer with something when Jennifer approached the door way and he looked up at her when he was finished with his work.
“You weren’t kidding! That book is fascinating! I love how old it is, but it’s blank!” said Jennifer.
“You see what I was talking about. Strangest thing I’ve ever seen. Someone would go through all that trouble to keep that book together and the pages were blank.” said the old man.
“I was wondering though……Do you….mind if I take it home and take a look at it?”
“Like a loan? I would like to have it back at some point.”
“Yes, exactly. I’d like to research it on my own time, and see what I can find on my own.”
“Sure strange girl. Take your strange book and research it strangely. Just make sure you show up on time when doing so.” and the old man gave her the mock stern facial expression.
“You got it. I’m grabbing food. You want anything while I’m out old man?”
“Nah, I’m good. Thanks strange girl.”
With that, Jennifer went and grabbed something to eat from the party store next door. Having gotten her food, she headed back to Book Emporium and got back to work processing the shipment they had received. Book Emporium had an online inventory and it was setup to be instant so that as soon as a book was entered into their system, a listing for it was available on their website, and was removed when purchased. A record of previous books bought and sold was kept separately and was also updated when information was entered, thus it was doubly important that Jennifer entered this info correctly into the computer. She was also the only employee out of the 12 that worked for the store that the old man entrusted to do this properly not counting himself.
All the while Jennifer was adding the books for the new shipment, she couldn’t stop thinking about the book that the old man had told her about. She would stare at it intently, almost as if it was flashing or calling to her, but she resisted the urge to open it up. This went on for a little while, and finally she got sick of it taunting her, so she picked it up and slipped it out of sight. This seemed to help so she could finish her work for the rest of her shift. After what seemed like an eternity, Jennifer had entered 3 full boxes of books into the system and was exhausted. She had finished eating and drinking in that time too. She looked at the clock and it was 9:15. She was tired and it was almost time to go home. She saved all her work on the computer and shut it down. She packed up the rest of the books and put them back in the box she was working out of. She could do the rest next time she came in if she had too. She thought about the book again and grabbed it off the shelf and thought about its origins and how much it could be worth. She also remembered she got paid tomorrow and needed to buy some new clothes to freshen up her existing collection and she would donate older ones to Goodwill. She stopped by her boss’s office and let him know she was taking off.
“Alright old man. I’m done for the day. I finished about 3 of those boxes of books, and I’m snatching this to be brought back later.”
“Okay strange girl. Take care. Hope you find something interesting about the book.”
“I hope so too. Good night!”