On September 3, of this year - it happened. Zander Lord stopped writing. Not because he ran out of ideas, or
had hit the dreaded writers block, but because of fear. Unfathomable fear. When he came in contact with ‘”it”
he froze, as if he was encased in a glacier.
What was strange is that the fear had come over him in one night. It did not creep in like fog. It didn't whisper
to him from the edges of his mind. Instead, the fear screamed at him with a bullhorn, an indiscernible dread and
loathing of something he had worshiped most of his life . . . books.
Zander told himself that it was ridiculous. What the hell was scary about books? What was he afraid of? Paper.
So what? Paper cuts hurt but no one ever died of them. Right?
This is what he used against the fear. He held these thoughts up like someone would a cross to a vampire as it
crept closer. The mantra of rationality did nothing to still the tremors of terror within. The fear had taken hold
of him deep within the marrow of his bones. The panic only worsened and grew from the size of a carry-on bag,
to that of a steamer trunk.
From his bed, he leaped and rolled to the closet where no books resided. 'Let sleeping books lie,' popped into his
head. He sprang into the closet for safety, praying he wouldn’t awaken his copy of "Wolf". Utilizing a paisley tie
he secured the door by double knotting on the hook behind the door to the rail where the clothes hung.
"Let's see the fuckers open that," he said grabbing for a golf club with sweaty hands.
As he sat in the cloister of the dark closet, Zander knew they were out there . . . waiting, watching, listening
to him breathe, to his heart pound. After what must have been hours, he made a belly crawl to retrieve the cell
phone from his nightstand. This was a risky move, but he knew he had to. "Wolf" lay only inches away from his
phone, but if he was going to get out of this alive, he was going to need some help.
Despite his fear, a small laugh escaped. "This is beyond ridiculous." Then he saw the book, laying still, waiting.
Ridiculous or not, his feeling of dread was real.
Ever so slowly, Zander reached with one hand for his cell and with the other he gripped the golf club. He hadn't
even noticed how rolling over the titanium club had bruised him. The book had moved. The once horror writer
was sure of it. Not by a large amount, but it was closer to his phone. "Tricky bastard!"
With another belly roll he was able to make it back to the sanctuary of his closet. One of the few places free of
books in his house. He pressed a number to automatically dial. Gus was the kind of friend who shared a close
bond with him, no matter how much time had elapsed, and would do almost anything for each other.
“Please be there. Please be there,” he said quickly in a kind of prayer.
“Gus, I need you.”
“Okay Zander,” a small question lingered but with no hesitation. "What for?”
“I need you to come over and help me.” Panic tinged Zander’s words.
Zander replied with urgency leaking out, “I need you to move some things for me right a way.”
“Sure, how about later this afternoon? I’ve got some stuff to do first.”
Zander curled in his lips tight, trying to hold in the words until he could form them in a way that would convey
urgency without insanity. “I need you to come right away. I wish I could explain it better, but I can’t.”
“All right, I’ll be over there as soon as I can. It should be an hour or so.”
Zander’s breathing quickened now almost panting. “I’ll be in my room. Just come through the back.”
“I’m leaving now.”
Zander shut the phone off and his eyes closed as he grabbed his knees. In his mind, he went through what Gus
was doing: putting on his shoes, grabbing his wallet and keys, opening the front door and locking it, walking to
his car . . . turning the car off as he pulled into the drive way.
Zander listened to him shut the backdoor and make his way up the stairs. Again Gus called out, "Zander? It's
Zander edged the closet door open and in a kind of loud whisper, "Here," and motioned for him to come inside
with him. As he did, he knocked down several shirts. Gus could see his friend's face was puffy and reddened,
his t-shirt still wet from tears. He was in bad shape.
"Close the door." Zander commanded with irritation.
"What's wrong? Why are we in the closest?"
Zander’s voice dripped with fear as he said, "Because . . .. they are out there."
"They? Who are they?"
"It's not really a who. It's more of a what." Paranoia coated Zander’s words.
Gus waited for him to tell him what the "what" was. Finally he gave up and asked. "What is?"
"Shh, the books will hear you," he whispered with a whimper.
He gave this friend a hard look. Gus wanted to say, "What the hell are you talking about?" but did not. How had
a man who once gave others terror, become so consumed by a fear that was so ludicrous? And in such a short
time too. At least, he assumed it was something that had not become a part of his life until a short while ago.
It hadn't been that long since they had spent time together.
Gus tried to make the situation better by making light of it all. "You know, you should stop the Q-tip when you
come across some resistance."
"Don't you think I know how crazy this sounds? Don't you think if I could stop knowing what I know, I would?"
Gus couldn't argue with that. "What is that you know?"
Zander's eyes did a quick look back and forth as if he perceived something that Gus could not. "That books are
not what they seem. They aren't just paper and ink."
"I hate to tell you this Zander, every book I've read has been."
"No!" Zander said with anguish. "What you have read is someone's thoughts, dreams, ideas, nightmares. Then it
goes out into the universe where the story is read and becomes a part of all of them, the readers. Their
thoughts, their dreams, their ideas, and their nightmares. With all of those consignees shared, don't you think it
could have a life of its own?"
Gus had no idea of what to say. Zander was serious. He could hear it in his voice and see it in his eyes. "What
do you need me to do?"
Zander relaxed a small amount, help had arrived. "I need for you to gather all of the books and put them in the
attic. Then lock the door and nail it shut."
"Will do. Where do you want me to start?"
"In here. With the book on the nightstand."
"You got it."
As Gus opened the door, Zander grabbed his arm. "Be careful, I know that one moved."
Gus shook his head, acknowledging his friend's concern. After he was done, Gus thought he’d try to convince
Zander to visit a doctor. If not, then he would call his agent. This was good. He had a plan to help his friend.
But first he had to put all of the books in the attic and that would take awhile.
Gus didn't finish until almost 2 A.M. Zander had tons of books in every room. He should have had his own
bookstore, but he was a buyer of books, a writer of books, not someone who got rid of books. Even now, when
he feared them, he could not throw any away. Gus thought that would make sense, and it sure would have
been easier, but Zander would have none of it. "No! They'll get mad. I don't want a thousand books pissed at
ME for that. That would be my death sentence."
Gus locked the door and then nailed it shut. He gave the key to Zander and handed him a beer. "If you want, I
could make an arrangement to have the books given away to a good home, like a senior citizen residence?"
He took a long pull on the beer. The cool familiar taste seemed reassuring, allowing him to relax before he said,
"No. They're fine where they are."
"If it's all right with you, I'm going to take a shower and crash. I'm beat."
Zander put a hand on Gus's shoulder and said, "I can't thank you enough."
Gus stayed over for a few days. They watched movies, ate guy junk food, drank more beer, and talked about
the old days. The pranks they had played on Gus's younger brother, Adam. How they printed their own
neighborhood newspaper, “The Raven's Roost.” It covered local events, recipes and hometown games. This was
where Zander had first published his stories, and Gus did the graphics.
Two of the main topics they would normally converse on were never spoken of: books, and what his friend was
Zander had never even gone into the room where the computer was. As far as Gus knew, up until that week,
Zander had written everyday since he was a teenager.
He could clearly see that Zander put up a good front but the fear was still there. What's more, it was like a
part of him died. He was now always preoccupied, tense, even paranoid. Gus had gotten Zander's agent,
Martha Wu, to come over for dinner, to help persuade him to get professional help.
Over pasta, Martha said, "You know, this is more than a little ironic, a horror writer who is afraid of books."
Zander gave a crooked smile and half-heartedly nodded his head in agreement. "Maybe when this is all over, I'll
write a book about it."
As much as he would like to have believed it, Gus knew he did not mean it.
"When you do, I'll be waiting. Now, I'll make the appointment for you to see Doctor Finn, and Gus will take you."
She touched Zander's hand, "We'll get through this. I promise."
Gus would be going home the following day, but he'd be coming by after work. After all, he did not live there;
he had his own life to attend to. His friend would be fine for a few hours on his own. It's not like books killed
Zander watched his best friend drive away. Maybe he was right? Maybe he should have checked into a hotel
for awhile. Although it may have sounded like a good idea, he couldn't for two reasons. Zander knew that he
would have to conserve as much money as possible. Where he had made a decent living as a writer, he had his
faithful fans and OK sales, but he was no Stephen King. Two, at least here he knew his surroundings and knew
where the fuckers were. Even now as he drank his coffee, he could hear them murmuring and rustling around.
He turned on the TV hoping to find something to occupy his mind. Normally he would have watched a Twilight
Zone but wouldn't you know, it was the one where Burgess Meredith is the only survivor of a nuclear war and
books that he can’t read because he broke his glasses surround him. Or maybe a nice horror film... but he
thought that would not be a good idea.. And what was the world's obsession with reality shows?
Zander thought, 'Did anyone ever notice when you want more than anything to avoid something that it seems
like "it" is on every channel. Perhaps some time at the computer would not be a bad thing.'
He turned on his Mac. Just because he was at his desk, he did not have to read or write anything. Zander had
the whole Internet to peruse. He put on his earphones and cranked up his tunes. After about a hundred games
of Solitaire and Frogger, he heard a thump and saw it out of the corner of his eyes. A thick, mean book landed
on the floor.
"God Damnit! I knew this would happen. Why didn't I keep the golf club with me? Now what the hell am I going
to do? Don't panic." But of course that's all he did -- panic. His heart no longer felt like his own, but that of a
hummingbird's. He tried to slow down his breathing to help him clear his mind so that he could use his wits. He
still had his brain and an imagination. Zander could get out of this. No problem.
As he was regretting that he no longer smoked, he heard in a familiar voice, "Good evening, Zander."
He looked at where the voice was coming from. The book was flung open and there standing behind it was Ed
Fish. "All good things to those who wait." He wasn't see-through like a ghost, but solid with a strange shining
quality to him.
"You're not real. You're a figment of my imagination."
"As a clinical psychiatrist and as a certifiable psychotic, I can say that you are not qualified to make that
Thump . . . Thump, thump came from different areas of the house as if more books dropped. "Aaa, I see we
have company. I wonder who they could be?"
One was bad enough , and the one in the room with him was a lulu. What or who were the others? Why the hell
was this happening to him? He wasn't a bad guy.
"What are you going to do now, Zander Lord, writer of cheap horror books, with lukewarm sales? I bet right now
you wish you spent more time at the gym than in front of that computer."
"A little. But what I really wish is that I had not given up smoking. Then I'd have a lighter and could burn your
"There's the real Zander, full of shit and beer, full of false bravado. Hiding away among words of his or someone
else's. Big brave writer." Ed showed his knife and stood patiently waiting for the questionably sane once horror
writer, to make his move. "What do you say if we see if it's true? IS the pen is mightier than the sword?"
While the mad doctor's words cut through Zander's soul, he detached the keyboard from the computer.
Springing with strength of insanity, he swung at Ed with abandon. He connected hard with the skull of the
literary Goliath causing him to stumbled. Squeezing through the gap, Zander quickly escaped from the small
A gravel voice of an old woman's spoke, "Your Father's in here, Zander. Would you like to leave a message? I
make sure he gets it personally."
The words made no sense. He turned to see who was in the house now.. Ed was already pulling out the door.
Instead of a woman there stood a gray skinned girl covered with welts. Her eyes glowed with the embers of
hell. She too stood near her book and had the iridescent quality to her as well. "Ronald?"
"I'm not Ronald." Buckets of spilt pea soup spewed forth from her mouth, hitting Zander with its green slime.
A large Saint Bernard caked in mud staggered in. Drool oozed from its huge gapping mouth.
"Shit! Not you too. Fucking Wolf. That's not even his best work."
The dog stared at him with shark like eyes and gave a low growl.
"How the hell did that one end?" Zander asked himself.
"Now how is that going to help you?"
This was a voice he had only heard in his own head until now. "Pia?"
"Very good," she said smiling in a way that made her look mischievous. Pia was his lead character in three of his
books: part vampire, part succubus, all nightmare. She was everything he loved about women and everything
he feared: complicated, intelligent, sexy as hell, with a quirky kind of beauty.
"Pia, give me a sporting chance. You owe me that much."
She swept her wavy auburn hair away from her face and considered him for a moment. "All right; you know how
much I like to play with my food."
He sprinted for his room. Once there, he planned on barricading the door and going out the window. No closet
for him this time. As he passed the door to the attic, it exploded like a volcano of wood. A dreadful avalanche
of volumes poured out of the room, drowning Zander in paper and ink.
Martha Wu released a statement to the press, "Zander Edgar Lord died of mysterious causes on September 10,
at approximately four o'clock. He was a talented writer of speculative fiction. Despite suffering from bibliophobia
- a fear of books - he still managed to carry on bravely, whilst waiting for help. Ten percent of the sales of all
Zander Lord books will now be donated to the study and treatment of phobias. His friendship and talent will not
soon be forgotten. Although Zander may not be with us any longer, his books will live on."
"Can you say anything to rumors of the condition of the body? How he had been attacked by a large dog,
drained of blood or how his sweetbreads appear to have been surgically removed?"
"No, I can't. I'm not a medical examiner, nor did I see the body. I think it's just ugly rumors, due to what he
"Is it true that the sales of his books have gone up dramatically, and that not only has Mr. Lord been nominated
for The Poe, but you're making a deal with his estate's lawyer for rights to some of his books for movies?"
"I am sorry, but that's all I can say at this time."
"Too bad for Zander but not too bad for me." Martha lovingly touched the wheel of her new silver BMW. She
heard a thump from the passenger seat. It was a big, mean copy of Wolf. "Where the hell did you come from?"
As she finished her words, she could have sworn the book growled.
by Mari Mitchell