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Haunting the Library

by Edd Vick

Tomas loved books. At first, like most children, he preferred to chew on them. That changed when he learned to read at the age of three. Dr. Seuss was the gateway drug. Oz, Wonderland, and Narnia led the way to harder texts.

He was seven when he made the promise. "I'll read every book ever!" From that day on he was never without one. Fiction or nonfiction, it made no difference. A quirk in his brain made him remember every word of every page.

Tomas visited libraries. He learned to speed-read. He taught himself other languages. Facts bubbled through his brain, joining and sparking one against the other. Were he not so busy reading, he'd have become an inventor, a philosopher, or quite thoroughly insane.

He studied dead languages. He worked in bookstores and was fired for reading on the job. He put every penny into ordering more books. Read once, they wound up in stacks he carried daily away to be sold.

He gave up sleep. It was just a matter of willpower, or another quirk of his brain. Evicted from his efficiency, he lived in his van subsisting on peanut butter and Proust.

Tomas traveled from city to city visiting libraries and estate sales and bookstores, finding underpriced books and selling them for gas money.

He read hundreds of books a day, as fast as his fingers could flip the pages. Movie novelizations and abstruse textbooks and choose-your-own-adventures, he gulped them all. Older books he hadn't already read grew harder to find, so he picked up every translation. English, Russian, Japanese, Javanese, Esperanto, he read them all.

And yet the number of new books being published grew faster than he could read. He read while eating, he read while driving. Something had to give.

Tomas overclocked himself, blazing through piles of books in seconds. Day and night he ghosted through library stacks seeking the odd unread volume. He broke into publishers' offices seeking not-yet-published manuscripts, into museums to read diaries and journals.

He gave up dying. He learned to teleport. For three hundred years he lived from page to page. Finally, he reached the day of equilibrium.

"I have read every book published. There will be a new book released in four seconds. Do I wait to read it? Or do I end it now?"

Tomas took a second to admire the sunrise. He took another to sum up his life so far. Then, with a happy sigh, he moved on to the next book.

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