Shaping Fate

Book spines of all sizes and colors lined the shelves of the library. Max savored the multitudes they implied like a diver tasting salt on his lips before plunging into the teeming waters of a coral reef. He reached for a title—Lord Kelvin on a Lark—when a void took over his field of view. Every last book slipped like liquid into the space of a pinhole before him. No more shelves, no more spines, no more library.

Max bobbed his head in confusion. He imagined a crowd of dead authors bobbing along with him, the palpable traces of their long-expired minds erased from existence like yesterday’s sunshine. In the distance, a final speck of light from the pinhole snuffed out. Max tried stepping back. The void, he now saw, was actually the black headspace in the cloak of a grim reaper. Bony fingers reached towards him. A chill like liquid nitrogen spiked his veins, conveying the immediacy of his peril, but a foolish courage seized him as with the force of fate itself. In a bid to catch the reaper off guard, and perhaps waylay him from his usual end, Max thrust himself forward, arms open in embrace, and kissed the menace full on.

The scene changed in a flash. Max found himself seated, with sleeves rolled up and hands poised, before a ceramic likeness of the reaper on a potter’s table. On top of the usual cloaked body in place of the head, though, the figure had a lump of raw clay ready to be shaped.

In the distance, a live reaper sat in front of a set of empty bookshelves at a desk. With a pen in his skeleton hand he watched Max, ready to record observations of Max in the pages of a blank book placed before him.

Max wavered between relief and fright. He had apparently staved off oblivion for the time being, but to what extent could he influence his future? He forced back both further contemplation and a tremble. From some hidden recess a hunch emerged. Daring to trust it, Max reached and pressed his fingers into the clay.

© Thad Fowler. All rights reserved.

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