Thursday, 18 April 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge

Book Burner

Once James accepted that he had no choice but to burn the books, the question became which to burn first. — Valerie Valdes

He surveyed them with a curious mind, it was a more than substantial pile, enough to make a killing on the black market, even. It was no wonder he had been brought here before the sheriff himself.

Picking up a book the size of his palm, he turned it over in his hands, fingers tracing the leather bound spine and dry parchment. This one fascinated him. He leaned closer to the table, catching the candlelight, and touched the designs on the page.  The strong drawn lines detailed something mechanical in nature, or they would, if it weren't for the obscene additions of gore and organic flesh. He'd filed through all of the books, of course, but this one was different, he had to have it.  The prints were so beautifully abstract that anyone who didn't know what they were looking at would be completely lost.

Pulling aside his jacket, he tucked the little book into his pocket. Of all the books he'd examined today, this one could be slipped under the radar.

"Halloworth! There you are man, what's keeping you?" Sergeant Guffy entered the cabin, appearing from the shadows outside of the shallow light, the small, sharp, horns that protruded from his head looking sinister in the dark.

"I was just examining the items, Sergeant. Almost half of this junk violates The Institution's 508 by-law; black magic, looks to be of alchemic origin."

"Burn it."

"My thoughts exactly sir, and the cabin itself?"

"Destroy anything you come across, good work Halloworth, I trust you'll get the job done."

"Of course sir." Operative James Halloworth spoke, selecting another book from the many, an old almanac filled with lists and forbidden information. This time, however, when he placed the book on his palm he didn't flick through it. He incinerated it. Just like that the book collapsed into hot ash.

The incineration technique was one of his most intimately familiar.  He was a pyrokinetic agent, far more expensive than a demolition team but not quite as destructive. The thing was that fire didn't just cause ruin, it was also the universal cleansing agent for magic, that was his niche. And it was a damned good market to be in.

Throwing  his energy into the pyre of books, the rest caught fire quickly. It was more efficient than bursting them all into ashes, as he had the previous book. To do so would have been a waste of energy when they were quite capable of burning all on their own. He tipped the candle onto the parchment filled table for good measure and slunk out before the roar of flames blocked the exit. Not that that would have been a problem. As soon as he stepped out of the doorway the old wood of the cabin cracked and fell together in a burning pile. Sometimes he hated being the one to censor knowledge, but his was a necessary evil. He touched a tree on his way through the forest, sending flames spitting up the trunk. 'Better to let it all burn,' he thought, humans were a predictable bunch, after all.

Word count: 546

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