Apex Microfiction Contest winner (April 2021)
The Taste of Our Pages
by Sagan Yee
When the Deselit made first contact, they ate books. It was an honest mistake. We wanted to show them a place that represented our knowledge and culture. The Deselit thought we were offering them a snack. They chewed their way through half the YA section before our translators could intervene.
The point of libraries, we said, is that you must return what you borrow. The Deselit wanted to make amends. They went back to their starships which lay fuming on the horizon, and emerged days later with exact copies of the books they had devoured. Good as new.
The Deselit ambassador tried to explain. The shortest translation was something like “the teeth remember everything”.
With the advent of datacube technology, physical books were mostly obsolete. We built new libraries that doubled as eateries for our alien friends. They regard ink on paper as a great delicacy, but only after the books have been in circulation for some time. They like the taste of our thumbprints, the bits of dried food, whatever unmentionable fluids cause pages to stick together. Making meals of a reader’s creased history.
At first we tried filling the shelves with volumes of blank paper. But people had no reason to turn the pages, dogear the corners, break the spines. So we put interesting stories in them, so humans could prepare the books how the Deselit liked. They say this is the best way to understand us, so exotic a species, so far from the intimacies of home.
Sagan Yee makes indie animation, videogames, and words in Tkaronto, Turtle Island. Catch them on Twitter @saganyee