I could hear it singing to me. You all know how it feels, when you walk into one of those second hand bookshops that smell of old paper and forgotten cakes and the hum starts. That insistent niggling, like an insect burrowing into your mind, boring in deep where it can nest and grow.
Floor to ceiling bookshelves surrounded me, threadbare carpet lying between them showing the path of customers over the years. In places it had worn so thin you could see the bare boards beneath. The humming, however, took me on a different path.
‘Scuse me, love,’ The lady behind the counter asked, barely audible over the hum. Whatever it was, it was fighting for my attention. ‘You can’t go down there. That’s stocking, that is.’ I clearly managed to look dejected enough that she let me through. ‘Go on then, take a look. But if I call down, you’ve got to come back up. Deal?’
I just nodded and started to make my way down the stairs. The humming was growing stronger and more insistent, a child pulling on the trouser leg of my brain. Stocking was delightful, piles of books heaped haphazardly around the stone floor. More bookshelves, but I followed the hum.
I was close. The humming was filling my body now, uncontrollable and invasive. I looked around. ‘Kings of England in the 18th Century.’ A brown leather book with a cracked spine. That wasn’t it.
‘The Archipelago.’ Green fabric, gold lettering. Still wrong. I went through all of them, tearing them off the shelves in frustration. There it was.
It was a slender volume, in a blood-red binding. ‘Erica’s last goodbye, volume II.’ It was dog eared, the binding peeling away. It was tattered, and well read.
I had to have it.
I picked it up and the humming ceased. This was the book. But where was volume I?
The Idiot in Tin Foil