I put this up in February and can’t believe I’ve been tweaking the story all this time. I should probably just cross my fingers and put it up already. Still, we’ve had many newcomers join in on the fun here on the Bookshelf Battle Blog, so I wanted to give another shot at Beta testing the first chapter.
Your thoughts, please – both kind and cruel, especially cruel – it helps me write better.
My name is Bookshelf Q. Battler.
That’s not the name I was given. It is the name I have chosen, for it describes who I am and what I do.
I am the world’s foremost authority on bookshelf combat. I’ll give you a minute to let it sink in that such an activity even exists.
For as long as I can remember, going back all the way to the days when I was just a little Bookshelf
Battler in a pair of ninja turtle jammies, I have been the owner of a mystical, magical bookshelf. It is a shelf that contains awesome power – power I have yet to fully comprehend.
Whenever I put a book on my bookshelf, the characters in the book gain the ability to step off of the pages of their tale and onto the surface of my shelf. These beings appear as miniature forms of themselves. After all, a bookshelf can’t support the weight of a grown person. That’s just science.
One might get the impression that such a shelf is a wonderful gift, providing me with endless hours of entertainment and the chance to get to know beloved characters from classic and modern works of literature.
One would be wrong.
The space on my bookshelf is limited and these tiny characters know it. For years, they have been locked in a bitter, never-ending struggle against each other to claim and hold territory on my shelf.
Needless to say, the battles on my bookshelf have not been pretty. I hate to admit it, but the characters who call my bookshelf home do not exactly follow the rules of the Geneva Convention. Instead, my home is constantly filled with the sounds of beloved book protagonists turned warlords, guerrilla fighters, and dictators. Tiny bazookas, mini-cannons, diminutive machine guns – if it fires little projectiles, these little beings will use it against the books of their rivals. They know I only have so much space, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep the book they call home from being culled off the shelf and tossed into my trash can.
I suppose I should be flattered that all of these characters are seeking my approval. However, my position as caretaker of the bookshelf can, at times, be a tiresome burden.
You see, when it comes to my bookshelf, I am the UN. The book characters fight and fight, but when they cross the line, I have to get involved and reign their shenanigans in. I command a contingent of army men who hail from my nonfiction books about World War II history. In exchange for listening to them tell me how they’re all going to “marry Peggy Sue as soon as they get state side,” they take up residence in the middle of the shelf, acting in their role as peacekeepers in a demilitarized zone.
When this happens, the characters relent, retreat, the Army Men are dispersed, and then the characters start fighting again. It is a vicious cycle, to say the least.
Sometimes I send in humanitarian aid – little care packages to help the book characters who have been cut off from food supplies. Unfortunately, a tiny Machiavelli just steps out of my copy of The Prince, steals all the packages, then turns around and sells them to the other characters at extortionist, highway robbery prices.
I love all of the characters on my bookshelf equally. I wish they could love each other as much as I love them. I yearn for the day when they learn to live side by side in perfect harmony. Until that wonderful day comes, all I can do is keep them from murdering each other.
In the middle of a fateful night, I woke up to the sound of high impact explosions. I jumped out of bed and ran into my office, where I found a tiny Katniss launching explosive arrows at my collection of The Chronicles of Narnia.
This act of aggression was in direct violation of the Great Everdeen/Pevensie Accord of 2014, a treaty I skillfully brokered between the heroine of Pan-Em and the children who are always getting into hot water in Narnia. Up until Katniss whipped out her bow and arrow, the agreement had held strong for a year.
“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the only book in that series worth reading!” Tiny Katniss yelled up at me. “Clear the rest of those trash books off the shelf or I’ll do it for you, Bookshelf Battler!”
“It’s a box set,” I replied. “You’d miss Mockingjay if I threw it away, just like the Pevensie kids would miss Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”
I knew that Dawn Treader stunk worse than a pile of moldy rotten cheddar. But all of these book characters had become like my children, and as their adopted father, I was constantly lecturing them on the need to love one another, faults and all.
“Easy for you to say when you’re not living on a cramped bookshelf,” Katniss, who basically looked like a three-inch tall version of J. Law, said. She then turned around and fired off another exploding arrow at my copy of Dawn Treader.
“You’re violating the treaty, Katniss,” I said.
“They started it!” Katniss whined. She pointed to my copy of Prince Caspian, onto which had been placed a yellow post-it note, likely swiped off my desk by the Pevensie children in the middle of the night. On it, scribbled in childish handwriting, were the words, “DISTRICT 12 SUCKS! PRESIDENT SNOW 4-EVA!”
I crumpled up the note and threw it away.
“I’ll talk to them later,” I said. “But for now, it’s bed time. Back in your book, Katniss!”
“Awww!” Katniss stomped her feet. “You always side with the Pevensies!”
“Right now, young lady!”
And with that, Katniss opened up my copy of Catching Fire, walked into one of the pages, and disappeared.
I felt like I’d inherited a bunch of kids. These characters had traveled to breathtaking lands that exist only in our imaginations, fought vicious creatures, and saved the day more times than I could count. But once they were on my bookshelf, they resorted to acting like a bunch of cranky toddlers.
I couldn’t sleep. And I knew that Katniss’ explosions must have jostled the protagonist of my copy of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I needed to walk away quick or face a lecture about the need to never abandon a dream, even when surrounded by a pack of treacherous sharks. Sound advice, but it was too late for me to listen.
I was hungry. I walked downstairs and headed for the kitchen. I popped a frosted cherry pop tart into the toaster. Don’t judge me. Those things are delicious and with all of their preservatives, they will be here until the next ice age. When the apocalypse happens, I’ll be the one laughing, and you will all be my slaves, doing my bidding for the low wage of one pop tart per week.
No. I haven’t thought about this to great extent at all.
I plugged in the toaster. With the help of an enormous wall outlet adapter, I also plugged in the following devices:
iPad charger (to allow me to watch House of Cards while eating my pop tart)
Cell phone charger (in case I needed to call someone to tell them about my pop tart)
Nose hair trimmer (I like to look good at all times because you never know when you might bump into an elegant lady)
Palm Pilot charger (sometimes I grow nostalgic for the iPads of yesteryear with all of their green pixel glory)
My belt sander (my belt had been looking a little rough around the edges)
My electronic toothbrush (cherry pop tart residue is not a substance you want to leave on your teeth for too long. Just ask my Cousin Gummy McGee)
My automatic bass finder (because it’s all about the bass, bout the bass, no sturgeon)
My Kindle (I like to read indie authors while I eat pop tarts)
My Kindle Fire (I like to watch and read Game of Thrones on the same device)
My television, on which I only display a video of a pile of kindling wood on fire. I find it relaxing.)
My Calicovision (no explanation necessary)
And my limited edition talking Steve Urkel doll (after all these years, he still asks if he did that, though these days, he is starting to sound less like Steve Urkel and more like Stone Cold Steve Austin).
In addition to being an expert on bookshelf military maneuvers, I am also a distinguished scientist. I hold an Advanced Degree in Science from the prestigious Science Institute of Science University. It was presented to me by my mentor, Dr. Hugo Von Science.
I am very proud of my prestigious degree in science. Sometimes I wear it on a chain around my neck when I go out clubbing. Women come up to me and are all like, “Wow! Is that a prestigious degree in science??!!” And I’m all like, “What? This old thing?”
Anyway. Since I am a scientist, I am fully qualified to explain to you what happened next. In hindsight, I should have seen it coming and saved myself. Alas, hindsight is 20/20 and I was too focused on the warm cherry goodness percolating inside my toaster to pay attention to the storm that was brewing outside.
High in the skies above my home, the clouds belched out buckets of rain. Claps of thunder shook the surface of the earth and lightning streaks brightened up the normally pitch black sky.
I ignored it all. I wanted that pop tart. And at the exact moment when said tasty treat popped out of the toaster, a bolt of lightning, attracted by all of the energy surging through my overburdened wall adapter, launched itself into the wall of my house, through my adapter, and into my toaster. With nowhere left to turn, the lightning jumped out of the toaster and into my late night snack.
Before my very eyes, my pop tart grew six feet tall.
Most men would tremble in terror at the sight of a colossal toaster treat. Me? I laugh in the face of supernatural baked goods.
I ate the whole thing…and it was delicious.
An hour later, I was engrossed in a rerun of The Big Bang Theory. (That Sheldon! What a card!) Without warning, my stomach rumbled furiously. I felt intense pain in my bowels, a pain no human being had ever felt before.
And then it dawned on me.
I ate concentrated lightning.
The bolt in my belly scrambled to and fro in my gut, tearing my insides apart as it desperately searched for an escape route.
And we all know the path of said escape route.
I ran to the bathroom, dropped my trousers, sat on the throne and….
Darkness. I was surrounded by nothing but darkness. I walked around for what seemed like forever until I finally discovered a light.
It was the light at the end of the tunnel that we’ve all heard so much about. It was finally my turn to see it.
I did what anyone would do. I walked toward it
Author’s Note – Obviously, characters Katniss and the Pevensie children belong to Suzanne Collins and CS Lewis, respectively. I hate to call this fan fiction but I suppose it some ways it qualifies. I like to think about it as one-half parody and one-half commenting on books in a different way.