CAUTION: This is a Book

Idea : I started ‘Caution’ in college while waiting for my sister’s class to finish. I don’t remember why it came out like this.

Process : I never stopped to think about it, the plot sprang up from whatever I was feeling at the moment. Just know it was fun to write.

Edited? : Uh. Kind of.

4-book series:
CAUTION: This is a Book
WARNING: Do Not Use as A Flotation Device
DANGER: Highly Flammable
BEWARE: This is a Work of Fiction

caution book cover

cover created in Keynote

———————— Read some ! ————————

Chapter 1:

I woke up screaming in my bed, sheets wound around my legs, streamy sweat on my brow from thrashing in my sleep. The screams died as coughing prevailed, remnant of the cold I was just getting over. Breathing heavily, not sure how I ended up with any sheets on my bed at all, I kicked them off. I distinctly remember turning on the fan, stripping the bed, going to sleep in nothing but my underclothes. The summer had been brutal, but the last couple days had been the highest temperatures the state ever faced. I was still in my underclothes, which was weird to me and made me feel uncomfortably exposed, but I couldn’t hear the fan. I looked at the clock and read through the sweat dripping in my eyes that it was just past dawn. Dammit. Getting to sleep in this heat wave was near impossible. It was a miracle I’d done it, I’d never be able to do it again, especially not with 6 hours of sleep already. Normally I need about 9 or 10 hours of sleep, 11 is nice, I can function at 8, and I feel fine after 7. Not 6. Cursing under my breath, throat too dry to give full vocal to my grievances, I rolled out of bed and crawled to the door. It wouldn’t open. Duh. I’d locked it. Usually I’m OK with leaving it, as this is a relatively safe apartment complex – it’s too ugly for anyone to try and rob – but sleeping in my undies made me extra paranoid.

Not that I thought my house-mates to be susceptible. Marn is a dropout and basically a bum. Super smart, but way too lazy to do anything about anything. He’s lucky he picked up his dog, Jester, because otherwise I swear he’d drown in his bathtub for not wanting to get out. The dog also reminds him when it’s time to eat, though once he’s reminded he has little problem obliging. Port is a college student and is never around. When he is it’s only to fall into bed after a full day of class-study-work. More my age, but not a perv. The landlord and his wife, Ran and Amy, are a nice couple, who like to act as if none of us exist (don’t ask me how that works ‘cause I still pay my rent). Gina is quiet and timid, and she’s a girl. One of the remaining rooms is up for rent, no tenant, and the floor of the last room is worn away, making Marn’s room extra tall. No, I don’t see any of the house-mates peeking into my room for anything.

Worn out and yawning, I spread out on the floor eagle-pose and thought. Stupid heat-wave. Arriving just at summer break, too. I’d been planning to go out to my hometown, about a six-hour drive, and play tennis with some old friends before the start of summer term. I don’t love tennis, but it’s an excuse to see them. They’re crazy about it — Ellie, Jackie, and Fred — which is probably why we split up and I moved away to go to college. Their college has courts and a tennis team, they’ve told me. Never mind we’re close, I’ve only seen them once since high-school graduation. I’d been thinking about them a lot lately, and been planning to go visit… shit. I need some friends, I don’t care if I can still sass myself and be a brat, it’s no fun alone. No tennis this break, no going outside even. The only option is staying in with the AC… but my bill’s been too large so I just have a fan. Still better than outside. What’s there to do inside? Not what I want to do during break. I’m inside enough during the semester. Really I should be writing papers to prepare for that English class, but I thought What the heck? this is break and I get high enough grades already.

Logically the only solution left to me is to watch TV, wasting away on the couch with chips and soda watching worthless shows my mind doesn’t even have to process they’re so lame. I devised a plan to steal Marn’s, it sounded so appealing to me. Unfortunately he’s been keeping close guard on the thing, I suspect he could almost hear my motives through the walls. Port and Gina don’t have TVs either, which makes me stuck. Already the second day of vacation, and I’ve done nothing fun. I tried walking around in town, willing my body to not melt, to no avail. That’s how I led myself to wasting the first day of vacation: I saw an ugly bookstore and sort of oozed inside, feeling my parts reform as the AC hit me. Holding my hands to the vent in thanks I didn’t at first notice the old man sitting at the desk.

“Whacha read?”

I jumped about two feet in the air, his voice sounded so much like a bird’s squawk.

“Nothing,” I said quickly, only realizing what he’d asked when he fixed his piercing eyes on me.

I squirmed. “Um… comics and fantasy? But I never have any time,” I blurted. “School, you know.”

His narrow eyes got narrower. I strode confidently over to a shelf.

“But it’s summer break.” There were worse things than flipping through old books… like going back outside. “Don’t you have anything new? All this stuff stinks. It smells like my grandma’s old attic.”

Lips pursed in silence, he got down from his stool and stared up at me. In middle school, Kindergartners were taller than me. This old guy was like a dried up bean. I edged away from him, as if his tiny gnarly hands would suddenly shoot out at me. Instead, he reached into his long coat and pulled out a dusty paperback. “This.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Do normal people keep books hidden in their coats?”

His mouth opened showing perfect teeth… like a hyena.

I took the book, my tongue sticking out. “It’s still old, though not as much as you.”

He didn’t change his grin. I looked at the title. “ ‘Cookies’? What type of title is that? I’m not a baby.”

I pushed the book back into his hands, whereupon he returned it to his coat. His other hand slid into the same spot and pulled out a different book. This one looked like it had just come off the presses. I snatched it and flipped through. It even smelled new. “This is more like it.”

His lips closed, but he was still grinning. It felt like he would growl any moment. Eeew! I had a bad feeling about the whole thing.

“Ok, I’ll take it.”

I stamped over to the desk and plopped the book on the counter, rifling through my purse for my wallet. It was so tiny I had to empty everything out to find it. The old bean rang me up — I was surprised to see a cash register with a digital display in this antique box — and I barely managed to scrounge the total from my wallet. The day I can barely pay for a book is a sad, sad, day. That was a sad, sad day. I swept up the book and headed for the door. “Thanks, gramps.”

“Careful.” I barely heard the rasping response. Weird farewell, like— was I in danger of actually melting or something? Anyway, so I ended up spending the rest of the day sick in bed reading this weird little book. It was totally unreal, which I might’ve guessed by actually reading the title first. If that really is the title, I have no idea. The only text on the front — and there’s no author, no copyright page — is ‘Caution: This is a Book.’ Like I couldn’t figure that out for myself, and what the hell do I need to be cautious for? Unless it means I was in danger of pulling my hair out at the stupidity of the plot.

When I finished the book I’d gone to bed, after hours of tossing I even got to sleep. Now all I could do was feel miserable on the floor, mumbling about the stupid book. Summer break only comes once a year, I should be doing something fun! I sat there for a while, drowning in my woes. I took a break once and crawled to the cupboard to find nothing to eat. Do books taste good? I crawled over to the bed but couldn’t find where I’d left it, so I went back to wallowing.

My life sucked.

College was too boring to enjoy anymore. At first I slurped information like a mosquito sucks blood, until I was squashed. Stupid teacher’s like, ‘do this’ ‘do it my way’ ‘do it now’ ‘not like this’ and drove me crazy. I almost failed that class, and didn’t do so sweet in the other classes I was taking either. Since then, life has really sucked. I’ve had three jobs since I came to college, the first two were stupid, the current one’s ok ‘cept it feels like a graveyard. It’s a spooky basement with flickering lights and people who gossip in whispers. I said something stupid one time and they told on me, so I got a scolding from the boss and now no one talks to me. It’s kind of lonely. I never made any friends in college either. I’m deaf in one ear. My grandma was a witch. I’ve never been kissed. My mom likes football. Wallow, wallow, wallow. I could almost feel the waves of misery gurgling out of me like tar. Have you ever heard that story about… uh… what was he called? Tar bunny or something like that. Tar rabbit? No, no, it was a bunny and a fox. So the fox wants to catch this bunny, so he makes this tar thingy, see? and leaves it out in the open. The curious bunny tries to talk to the thing, then hits it for being sassy. Stupid rabbit gets stuck, and the fox comes out all puffy proud of his wiles. So the rabbit says ‘do anything to me you want, just don’t throw me in the briars!’ ‘anything but the briars!’ and so of course the fox does and the rabbit hops happily away in his home territory. What’s this got to do with anything? Just tar, that’s all. What happened to the tar thingy? Dunno, I bet it melted. Awwww… I felt so sorry for the tar thingy I started crying. I guess I felt a bit like the tar thingy. Determined not to give my scary granny an inch, I hadn’t cried much since grade school. The tears kept flowing out of me, cooling my cheeks, cooling my neck, cooling my back… they died down as I felt wonderfully cool, like I was floating in water….

My eyes sprang open to see the floorboards level with my nose. I flailed, trying to grab onto something. All my hands found was that stupid book.

“What the hell!” I screamed as I slipped through the floor, still in my underclothes.

——

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