The Family Book

I ran away from home, the summer I turned ten. And I packed for never coming back.

If there was a reason, I don’t remember. With three older brothers, there was enough reason. Too young, too short, too girl. Whatever the reason was, it carried me out of our apartment, through the endless steel corridors, and a mile or two down the nearest freight elevator.

I stuffed my backpack with jeans and t-shirts, and three changes of clean underwear. I took all the money out of my piggy bank, and a couple of stuffed friends I wasn’t quite old enough to leave behind.

And then, in supreme rebellion, I snuck into the library, collected the travel cable out of the desk, and took The Book off of its carved oak charging pedestal. For a moment, I hesitated. The Book. I wasn’t allowed to use it without supervision, and in truth, I’d never been alone with The Book before.

Before I ran, I made a nest between my t-shirts and my underwear, and tucked The Book into that hollow.
And that was what got the Police’s attention.

What kind of kid takes The Family Book, and leaves the virtual reality headset, the speakers, and the vibration motor? Without all that other stuff, the only thing you can do with a Book is read.

That’s what made them so certain I was kidnapped, so sure something horrible had happened.
The only thing I took with me was The Book.

Outside the City-building, the noise faded, and the silence began, and after a while, I found a place in the shade, where the only sounds were crickets and the mechanical drone of robotic pivots. I read until I fell asleep, and read again in the strange red light of natural day.

I sank so deep into the luxury of time and words that I didn’t hear the sirens until the police were nearly on top of me.

I left everything but the Book, and ran, stumbling through the corn.

I looked back, saw the big, blue machines coming, tripped over something, or nothing, and fell. My skirt caught, and tore, and one of my shoes fell into the water in the ditch, but I kept the Book safe. I crawled into a culvert to hide, and cut my hands on the snaggle edge of the rusting tube.

The police robot secured my ankles, and pulled with the calculated force necessary to get a foolish little girl out of a culvert before she drowned. I clutched the Book against my chest, and slid across the corrugated steel. An hour later, I was standing in front of the child advocate and my mother.

By then, the nano-bots had repaired my skinned knee and the cuts on my hands, and the only evidence of my fall was mud and the ripped skirt I had to hold shut with my hand.

“Can you tell me what happened?” the advocate asked again.

I repeated the truth. Nothing. Nothing happened. Still, she kept asking, and my mother asked.

Nothing happened. I held the Book tighter. I’d taken care of it, hadn’t I? Not a scratch on it. I was in trouble, but at least that was in my favor.

“What happened?”

I looked up at them and said what grownups always wanted to hear: “I’ll be good,” I said. I held the Book out to them, a peace offering. “You can have the Book back, I said.

The dispatcher winced, and my mother stopped being brave. She hugged me and shook her head no. “Darling, it’s okay. You can keep the Book.” I pretended not to notice the tears, and she pretended she knew how to fix whatever had happened.

Thanks for visiting! I’d to hear what you think, or just leave a comment to say hello.

If you’re interested in reading more of my work, my bigger science fiction project starts here. I’m adding chapters as I go along.

Be sure you visit the other writers in the blog hop for more short stories:

Angela Wooldridge: An Alternative to Frog
Thea van Diepen: Are You Sure It’s That Way?
Paula de Carvalho: Body Double
Kris Bowser: Tantrums
Virginia McClain: Rakko’s Storm
Grace Robinette: Georg Grembl
Elizabeth McCleary: The Door
Dale Cozort: Two Letters In A Fireproof Box
Katharina Gerlach: Canned Food
Rabia Gale: Spark
K. A. Petentler: The Twisted Tale of Isabel
Shana Blueming: Paper & Glue
Amy Keeley: To Be Prepared For Chocolate
Cherie “Jade” Arbuckle: After I Died


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  5. Pingback: After I Died: A Storytime Blog Hop Story » rpg+fiction=?

  6. Pingback: Story Time Blog Hop - Writer's Gambit

    • Reply

      Well… I’m not sure I thought as far as content. I was envisioning a piece of very expensive technology–something like a Kindle–where all of the entertainment functions have been combined.
      When I think about my own childhood, curled up in various houses, reading peoples’ books, and then compare with the tablet/kindle libraries, now…. It makes me a little sad to think about the idea that the books are there, but not visible, and not accessible.
      The thought came up while we were talking about the future of publishing over on the Bootcamp forums.

  7. Reply

    Interesting story! I love that the MC wanted nothing more than to read, that she didn’t need all the extra techy things that were “supposed” to accompany a Book, and that the world around her couldn’t understand that. It reminds me of myself, especially as a child, wanting to read rather than watch TV, and my peers wondering what was wrong with me. 😛

  8. Pingback: The Door – Storytime Blog Hop — Elizabeth McCleary

    • Reply

      Now, there’s one of the great privileges of being a grown-up. Nobody thinks you’re apt to get run-over or kidnapped. 😀

  9. Reply

    P.S. it would be incredibly helpful if readers could find your author name somewhere on the site. Preferably in the “About me” section 😀

    • Reply

      Prob’ly… But since I still haven’t settled on one for the long term, I’ll just have to promote the site, for now. 😉 Yeah… I know you’re right. Dangit.

  10. Pingback: To Be Prepared For Chocolate | Amy Keeley

  11. Amy


    Run away. Steal a book. Sounds about right. Maybe next time I’ll go with her. 😉

  12. Reply

    much as I love the usefulness of my kindle, nothing beats a solid book in the hands. Well done, and yes – I’d like to know what’s in the book too!

  13. Reply

    An interesting, yet grim take on what the future might behold for books. I like how your MC’s desire to read the Book his greater than reason.

  14. Pingback: Storytime Bloghop: Canned Food | Katharina Gerlach's English Site

  15. Pingback: Paper & Glue - Shana Blueming

  16. Reply

    Nice! I, like another commenter before me, am curious about what is in the book. And why she had never been alone with it before…. Hmmn 🙂

  17. Pingback: Essence – Blog Hop January 2016 — Elizabeth McCleary

  18. Pingback: Are You Sure It’s That Way? (part of the Storytime Blog Hop) | Thea van Diepen

  19. Pingback: “Tantrums” and other tales – Kris Bowser

  20. Pingback: Are You Sure It's That Way? (part of the Storytime Blog Hop) - Thea van Diepen

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