Marty wasn’t having a good day.
He had just found out his job was nearing its expiry date, and his love life had already crossed that threshold earlier that morning. Katie didn’t see their relationship going anywhere so she’d gone away instead.
After an excruciating few hours at his desk making small talk with people he’d rather not talk with at all, it was finally lunchtime and Marty could have a few moments to breathe. He didn’t really have much of an appetite that day, so he went for a long walk instead. He could still hear Katie’s voice echoing in his head, telling him that he really needed to buy himself a new life.
Marty kicked a can across the street in frustration, which was about the time he realized that he had no idea what street he was on. He stopped and looked around. None of the street signs were familiar. Neither were the buildings. His office was nowhere in sight, nor any of the office blocks that surrounded it. How far had he walked?
“Plots for sale! Plots for sale!”
There was a man standing on a street corner, perched on top of a small box. He was old, though Marty couldn’t guess at his age. His hair, or what little of it he had, was iron gray, as was the scraggly beard that covered his face. He was dressed in what seemed to be maroon wizard’s robes, tattered and possibly covered in dust. Marty tried not to pay too much attention to him.
“Plots for sale! Plots for sale! What would you like, sir? A thriller to set your heart racing? A little romance to make you dance? Ah, perhaps what you need is a good mystery to solve!”
Marty looked around, puzzled. It was clear the old man was talking to him. After all, he was the only one there. It didn’t make any sense. How did he end up on this strange street by himself? Where was everyone else?
“Come now, sir, don’t be shy! I have so many plots to sell! A new life awaits you with just the turn of a page!”
A new life?
“Right this way, friend!”
The old man waved a hand in the direction of a derelict bookshop. Before Marty could blink, the man was standing next to him and steering him toward the storefront. He wanted to protest. He had to get back to work. He had to find his office. He had to get back to his life. Or did he?
As Marty mulled over the direction his life had taken from the moment he woke up that day, he allowed himself to be led into the dingy bookshop that smelled like musty old paper. Maybe he could pick up some sort of self-help book.
“Well, sir? What will it be?”
The old man’s eyes shone as he displayed his wares, books spread out across rows and rows of dark wooden shelves. The shop was a lot larger than it looked from the outside.
“Perhaps you’d like to purchase a spy plot, full of suspense and intrigue?”
Marty opened the book that the man thrust into his hands. The pages were blank. Marty looked up to ask the shopkeeper about it but he wasn’t there. In fact, the shop wasn’t there. Marty was in an elegant casino, dressed in a sharp dark gray tuxedo. There was a high stakes poker game going on, and Marty was playing one of the most notorious arms smugglers in the world. The fate of several nations would depend on the outcome of the game. Keeping his cool but nervous on the inside, Marty turned over his cards…
“Well? What do you think?”
Marty was back in the bookshop and the old man was eyeing him hungrily. He looked down at the book; there were words in it now. It was describing the plot that Marty had just lived.
“I see spy stories aren’t quite your thing. Perhaps something more in the science fictional realm?”
Marty opened the next book he was given. He was in a satellite that was orbiting a dying world. As the leader of the last remnants of an alien race, Marty had some difficult decisions to make about where they would go next. They wouldn’t last off-world very long. He had to find them a new home. A new planet. He looked at his astronomical charts to determine their next course of action. And that’s when the missiles hit. They were under attack! Marty knew he had to do something, but another round of missiles knocked him off his feet…
“No? Is this not to your liking either, sir? My oh my…you are a tough customer.”
The old man stroked his chin, thinking for a moment. “Well, my friend, I think I have just the book for you.”
Marty’s head was still reeling from the last story, but he was curious about what else the old man had in store. Maybe the next plot would be the one for him.
“Ahh, here we go,” the man said, handing Marty a heavy leather-bound tome. It was devoid of any dust, and seemed almost out of place in the old shop. Marty ran a hand over the cover, relishing the feel of it. He opened it up, hearing a soft sigh escape from the book’s spine. Like the others, it was blank.
But this time, Marty wasn’t sucked into a spy story or a science fiction adventure. He wasn’t sucked into any kind of story at all. There was nothing around him except blank space. He heard a loud thump from somewhere in the distance.
“There, that’s better. Poor fool. You’ve wasted your life, wasted the potential story you could have told. But perhaps someone else will be able to use this plot, and to tell a better tale than you were capable of.”
Marty could do nothing but stay frozen in place as the old man placed the book back onto its shelf. He was nothing more than a blank page now, doomed to stay that way until someone wrote their story.