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And Then...
by Marius Damian

 
The alarm clock rang again, like every other day… Geo got on his feet slowly, yawning and stretching lazily. After a frugal breakfast he hastily ran out from the staircase holding the handles of his old bike. After a glance at both left and right directions, he sprinted into the traffic heading for his office… At his office he turned on his PC and checked his email… Just the everyday spam… He checked the lists he was subscribed at, but there was no email. "Who knows, maybe later…", he thought and started working.

In the afternoon, before leaving, he checked for messages again, but the mailbox was still empty. "It's probably because of the heat that everybody feels drowsy", he said for himself and left.

On his way he stopped at the kiosk where he used to buy his books from. He looked towards his favorite corner and saw nothing.

- How come that you don't have anything here, sir?

- What should I have? asked the shopkeeper.

- Yesterday, about three SF novels and a book regarding UFOs stood right over there.

- I beg you a pardon, what was the book about? The entangled shopkeeper stared scratching his head top and looking toward the specified corner.

- About UFOs, repeated Geo, pitching his voice a little and looking straight into his eyes.

- Hear, son, I don't know what you're talking about said the bored shopkeeper and turned around to another customer who was approaching the kiosk.

Geo hopped on his bike and went on. "What happened to this old fellow, he seems to be from another planet" he laughed spitefully at his own joke. Suddenly, he decided to stray to the neighborhood bookshop. He locked the bicycle carefully and entered the room. Inside, he rapidly moved among the stalls and arrived in the area where he always used to halt. But on the shelves stood several medicine treaties… More and more vexed, Geo searched the entire shop but his fear turned out to be reality - the SF books were indeed missing!

He headed for the exit, while his mind was oozing with questions; on his way he stopped at the shop assistant who replied just the the old man from the kiosk did earlier, leaving him speechless.

Outside, the afternoon sun was so hot that Geo had to shelter at the shade of the terrace where he seldom went out with his friends. Ilarion was sitting at a table there.

- Hi Geo, what's up? You look like you've seen a phantom, laughed Ilarion.

- Cut it out Ile, I'm not in the mood for jokes now, said Geo and set down. Let me tell you something peculiar, you wouldn't believe it… And he told his friend everything that had happened to him since he left the office.

Ilarion listened to him calmly until Geo finished his story and then asked candidly "… hey Geo, what does SF mean?"

- Did you also go crazy like everyone else? Everybody repeats the same question today! yelled Geo attracting the others' disapproving looks.

- I think you got sunstroke Geo, you'd better go home, take an aspirin, and stay in bed and 'til tomorrow you'll get rid of both the sunstroke and this story… tittered Ilarion, making Geo leave angrily….

"I can't figure out what's going on" he sulked and got on the bicycle and speeded up home;" and what on Earth did I do to Ile to make him laugh at me like that" he wailed while pedaling furiously on the boulevard going past his street.

After he arrived, he carried his bike up to the second floor in front of his apartment, unlocked the door and entered. It was cool and he felt better… He hastily ate something, not even he knew what exactly he was eating, and his mind was troubled by the question which wouldn't disappear "…what happened?... Is it that…?"

He headed towards his library, which he was very proud of. He looked anxious at the shelves and felt relieved- his books, his dearest books were there… He took one of them, walked to the armchair and remained stock still- the cover was blank. He skimmed through it and he went totally vexed- the pages were blank. He started to look through all his books and they all were the same… Nothing written, the pages were blank… At last he collapsed sobbing on the scattered books… "I don't understand, I don't understand……." He finally painstakingly got on his feet and set at the desk leaning his head on his palms… "It seems that SF no longer exists… yesterday everything was alright, but today it no longer exists!!! What happened?" All sorts of hypothesis passed through his mind, but none of them seamed plausible and in the end he fell asleep.

He suddenly woke up. It was night and the silence surrounded him. He looked at the clock- it was exactly midnight… He felt that his mind was clear and than a unique statement he had never felt before overwhelmed him. That very moment, he took out a sheet of paper and a pencil and started writing… Translation from Romanian by Tudy (www.tudy.home.ro)

-- Marius Damian


 
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