The Orange Book
The bookshop was so stuffed that you almost wondered why doesn’t it explode. For such a tiny place containing so many bookcases, it was an achievement. Most of them covered the walls from floor to ceiling so that you needed a ladder, and a rather big one, to get to the higher shelves. Another three were about 1.5 m high and formed an unfinished square in the center of the room. The space between big bookcases and smaller ones was so narrow that two people couldn’t pass each other. No wonder I loved the place so much.
I found that book in the far corner of the highest shelf in the ‘German’ bookcase. It wasn’t unusual for me to rummage through places in the shop nobody ever takes a look at. On the contrary, I was mostly doing just that. However, never before have I found anything that remarkable.
The book was orange. I don’t mean an orange cover. Didn’t I see covers of all possible colors! No, the book I’m talking about was totally, entirely orange. With orange pages, orange flyleaves, orange spine, orange everything. You know. Completely orange. Well, okay, the ink it was printed with was black. I could’ve even read it if I knew the language. If I knew what language it was, for that matter.
The fact that neither Francina nor Antoine recognized the book wouldn’t have been unusual as well if we were talking about any other one. After all, if you have thousands of books in the shop and practically the same amount in the storage, you can’t remember them all. But such an outstanding piece would’ve been noticed. And yet it wasn’t.
I didn’t know what language it was so I just put it back where I’ve found it. For some reason, I didn’t undertake any research on it. But I kept thinking of it once in awhile.
Next time I found it two weeks later in the bookcase that kept books in Romance — Italian, Spanish, Portuguese. I wasn’t surprised to find out that neither Fransina nor Antoine put it there.
Next time the book appeared in the box marked ‘To be sorted’; it was brought by some guy who was changing apartments and didn’t want to keep anything unused. Next time I discovered the book in the cooking section.
I took it home. I’m not supposed to, and as a rule, I don’t. But the book was beyond intriguing. Besides, just like Francina and Antoine didn’t remember it at all, they seemed quite uninterested in it. I decided it wouldn’t do much harm if I took it for some time.
That night I was lying in my bed, thumbing through the orange pages. It was tragic, really: books are meant to tell you something, and this one was unable to. I wondered if there were a lot of people who knew the language. I fell asleep with the book on my nightstand.
I’ve never seen a city so beautiful. It was lying among the hills, and it’s narrow streets went up and down. Most of them were stairs which seemed logical enough for the passages that steep. Its roofs looked like domes, domes of all colors: blue, yellow, green, red. Houses under the domes were colored as well but in less bright colors, more like pastel, beige, light blue, light gray, yellow, white. The city between the hills was flooded with the sun, and it all was so bright and shiny that I had to close my eyes.
I opened them when my alarm started to shout: Psycho, groupie, cocaine, crazy. Nothing wakes you up in the morning better than System of a Down.
About a week later I was working behind my desk, right under the window. It was a beautiful sunset, and I often took a look at the clouds and the sky. I got distracted by something from my working process and noticed that the orange book was laying there on the windowsill. I took it and flipped through it absentmindedly.
When I looked up again, there was something behind the window. Something that was watching me.
It was almost dark already, but I could see clearly. It was a living creature out there, and it stared at me. Most of all it looked like a bird, like an owl, but much bigger, maybe half my height. Just like an owl, it had big yellow eyes. Very big eyes.
Somehow it wasn’t scary at all. Honestly speaking, I wasn’t even much surprised when I found out it was here. It looked at me with a friendly interest, with genuine curiosity. I could tell it had never seen anything like me.
We were eyeing each other for a couple of minutes when my dog barked at something he heard behind the apartment door. I turned my head and told him to stop it. When I looked at the window again, the bird was gone.
Life was going on, and everything seemed normal. But the orange book was always there, and I didn’t know what to expect at any given moment. One time I was going to a French class, with the book in my bag; I have no idea why did I took it. I turned left and then right, into a tiny narrow street. Except it wasn’t a tiny street. I was standing on the river bank. It was high, the river ran pretty far below me. The other bank was low, the forest on it started right near the water.
It spread up to the horizon. The clouds hang low and drew shadows on the trees. It was late fall, beautiful, warm, and colorful. It was peaceful but at the same time noisy: a strong wind made the river bubble and the trees whisper. I could see no sign of any life, no animals, no trace of humans.
I made a step and felt a slop under my foot. It always was there when it rained.
Two months later the book disappeared. I went through my apartment twice. I turned the shop inside out, which was a challenging endeavor. I checked every place I’ve been to in the past three days even though I was sure I didn’t take the book anywhere. It just vanished.
Well, what can you expect from a book?