“What else is out there? Outside of town. And the Swamp.” Black Note Benny stood on the roof of the Book Butchery, gazing at the sunset. The low buildings of Barrelbottom clustered close. Beyond that, a vast desert stretched.
The Sniffer stood beside him. “Oh, many things mapped and unmapped. The vast suburban stretches of Mundania, the characters who were rejected because they were too boring go off thataway. The Asphalt Sea goes about where you’re looking. Homesteaders try to tame the wilds that way. And beyond? Every kingdom, every country, every city, every planet ever rejected by an author. Barrelbottom goes on pretty much forever. No one’s ever found the end of it.”
“So, now that our stories are here at the Bookbutchery, now what?”
“Well, if you want, you can attempt to pry your sister away from Brarrian. I should warn you, though, she can be rather enchanting.”
“Well, I ain’t anything without Wanda. My entire hook is that I’m a musician, but really I’m only half a musician.”
“That’s very honest of you.” The Sniffer thrust a finger into a prodigious nostril and dug around. “You may wish to see what other talents you have. It would be easiest to settle in Mundania; everyone can find a home there. The problem is, not many people get back out. The normalcy… sedates.”
“Hm. What Brarrian said back there. Was it true?”
“What part of it?” Sniffer withdrew his finger and rubbed it against his dirty pantleg.
“The part about Aragorn forcing his way into another story?”
“As far as I know. That’s before my time here.” Sniffer shrugged.
“How come no one else does it?”
“Oh, some have tried. We never know if they succeeded or drowned themselves in the Swamp, though. Sometimes I get the odor of their death; other times I don’t.”
“So others have made it out?”
“Others have been immortalized in stories in the mortal world, yes. At least, it would seem so.”
Benny was silent for a while.
“Do you want to try to force your way into another author’s story?”
“Sniffer, look at me. Who would want me in a story?”
The man with the humongous nose nodded sagely. “That is the question that haunts every resident of Barrelbottom. We all try to ignore it in our own way, but that is the question. If one author rejected us, who would ever want us? So we hide in making our own stories here. I hide in being useful to newcomers. We are too frightened of ever being rejected again.” He paused. “I personally suspect that that’s why our authors really rejected us. We reminded them too much of themselves.”
Benny gazed out at the red, red sun dipping under the horizon. He breathed deeply and shut his eyes. He shook his head. “It doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“Why he rejected us? All that matters is that he did.”
“The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can move on with your life.” Sniffer turned back to the door leading to the stairs. “Welcome to Barrelbottom, Black-Note Benny. Welcome to the rest of forever.”
This is a Barrelbottom Tale.
Black-Note Benny was last seen in “The Battle of Barrelbottom.”