Bloodwork

Jim gasped as the needle sank into his arm. A small bead of blood formed around the needle as practiced hands pressed gauze to the site. The librarian smiled. “There, Mr. Carter. It shouldn’t take long now.” She pressed the IV tube in to the injection sight, and a stream of red began flowing out of him.

He took a deep breath to steady himself, leaning back into the leather chair. “That felt… sharper than I thought it would.”

Yes. The pen is sharper than the sword, and all that.” She checked off a few items on her tablet. The warm light of the library’s research room made her pale skin look almost golden. Shelves of books surrounded them as Jim leaned back against the medical chair.

And it won’t hurt?”

No more than reading a book,” answered the librarian as she took up a blank leather journal and hefted it in her hands. “What do you think? 300 enough?”

What?”

How long will your life story be, do you think? I would hate to have to add on an addendum if we don’t get it right. And blank pages are a mockery of anyone’s life if we guess too long. So, will 300 pages be enough to cover your life story?”

Yeah. Yeah, I guess.” He blinked. It’s not like he ever read about anyone else’s life.

The librarian took the other end of the IV tube and pressed it into the spine of the journal. “Would you like to watch?”

Can I?”

I don’t see why not. It’s your life. And it’s not like you’ll be able to edit it when you’re done. I should warn you, again though. There’s no secrets.”

Yeah. That was on your site. I suppose so. Are you sure this will sell?” He gulped. “I mean, we need to have enough to take care of Thomas.” A cold blossomed through his arm from the needle.

The librarian pursed her lips, placing the book open on his lap. “I can’t predict that. I can’t even guarantee anyone will want to buy it, but blood stories are all the rage now.” She gestured to the volumes on the shelves lining the walls.

How many of them did publishers buy?”

Honestly? Not many. But then again, not many of them were the life stories of confessed murderers.”

I never confessed.”

No. Of course not.” The librarian gestured to the book. “But now we’ll know for sure, won’t we?”

As he watched, the off-white page took a pink tint. Red letters rose to the surface. I remember the summer light and chasing Amy. I wanted to kill her, but my hands were too little. He gasped. That was… that was too honest. His first memory.

The librarian glanced down. “That’s a solid opening line. Probably entice someone to read more. A promising start.”

The cold crawled from his arm, inching toward his chest.

The librarian reached down and flipped a page as it filled with the words the color of his blood. And then another page. Through his childhood. Through his first murder. She read with him, without judgment, without comment. She adjusted the pillow under his head. She flipped more pages. More. The chill chewed through his veins, down his legs, his other arm, to his head.

And then I heard about bloodwriting. I heard that it paid well. And if they were going to catch me anyway, and then execute me anyway, if it looked like I was going to be caught, might as well go out with a bang, right? Look like a hero, maybe, even. A last stand in a library. Who’d ever expect it? It’d probably make me look pretty good.

What?” He shook his head. Well, tried to shake his head. His voice was a whisper. “No. I’m doing it to help Thomas. He needs the money.”

I’m sure. And you looking like a hero has nothing to do with it.” She pressed her lips together and shook her head. “Blood doesn’t lie, Mr. Carter.” She stood. “It looks like we’re almost done here. I’ll make sure the book gets where it’s going, and your mortal remains will be sifted in the back to make more journals.”

What?” The word fell from his lips. The room started going black.

Yes, Mr. Carter. Every part of you will be made into a book. That’s why collectors want them so much. We thank you for your deposit with the library. Enjoy your death.”

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