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Five stories the Reader never began

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1.

You are about to begin reading "Five stories the Reader never began", a gift for livrelibre. Relax. Concentrate. Close your other tabs. Turn off your notifiers. Pause your flash game. If your sister is making contemplative noises from the other room, close the door. Or perhaps open it -- shout, "I'm trying to read 'Five stories the Reader never began'!" She will understand, and subside.

You'd better assume a comfortable position. At your desktop, with the tower whirring below you. In bed with your laptop balanced precariously on your knees. Legs crossed. Chin in hands. Outstretched on the floor. The text at three times the normal size, pasted into Word -- you might even print it out, stapling it neatly in the upper-left hand corner, and read it at the kitchen table as though it is an important document from work or school.

Well, what are you waiting for? This fic isn't going to read itself. Adjust the screen brightness so that you won't miss a word -- not so dark that the letters blur and become unintelligible, not so light that you run out of power halfway through and have to fumble around, in the middle of a scene, for your cord. Perhaps you'd better just plug it in now. Make yourself coffee or tea. Make sure it's not so close to your elbow that you raise your arms out of joy and send it all over the desk, or, god forbid, the keyboard. Anything else? Do you need to pee? All right, you know best.

It isn't that you expect anything in particular from this sort of fic. You, in general, are the sort of person who has learned Sturgeon's Law inside and out, and applied it to every facet of your daily life. There are other readers, younger than you or less young, who seem to love everything, who read avariciously through every Big Bang, who leave limitless prompts on kink memes. But not you. Or rather it's that you do expect every fic to astound you, deep down, and so you have built up quite a reservoir of disappointment and hope. Perhaps this will be, yes, maybe it too will make you understand why you began reading porn on the internet in the first place.

So, then, someone on your friendslist linked to "Five stories the Reader never began" and you followed it. Good for you.

It's Yuletide season and your friendslist is overflowing with recs, half a million it seems, and you've been away from the keyboard all day -- one family issue after another, so that when you finally reached your LJ (or your IJ, or your DW, but let's assume the worst) you found that you had to skip?=40 just to reach this morning. You tabbed open the posts about daily life, of which there were only about three, and you began to struggle through the ranks of Fic You Haven't Read. You scrolled resolutely past the Fic In Fandoms You've Never Heard Of, Fic In Fandoms You've Heard Of But Hate So Much Even Fic Could Not Redeem Them, the Fic About Characters You Are Tired Of, and even the Fic Linked By That One Fan Who Reads Only Badly Punctuated WNGWJLEO. In the interest of time you glossed over the Fic The Poster Linked Because It Was Their Yuletide Gift And It's Just Good Etiquette, and you had managed to get about an inch up the page when you started clicking on cuts and were confronted with new troops:
* the Fics From Yuletide 2007 That You've Always Meant To Read,
* the Fics For That Huge Fandom You Are Sneakily Glad Made It On To The List,
* the Fics For The Children's Books That You Loved As A Child And Can't Wait To Be Traumatized About,
* the Fics Which Are Not From Yuletide At All But Are On Your Large-Fandom Newsletter,
* the Fics That Pique Your Morbid Curiosity, and
* the Fic That Everyone On Your Flist Seems To Think You Wrote
You opened a careful selection of these in tabs, already disappearing into the pulldown menu on your browser, and felt proud of yourself for your circumspection, until you were suddenly confronted with the Fics You Read Fifty Times And Have Never Gotten Bored Of, the Fics For The Fandoms You Requested, and the Fics You Pretended You Read Last Yuletide And Should Probably Actually Read One Of These Days.

At some point you surfaced from this bewildering thicket of options and found yourself with a browser window so full of tabs you didn't know what to do with them, each showing only a letter or two to indicate their content. You stopped (still at ?skip=20) and picked one at random, with one last, miserable glance at the thousand theoretically better options, that will remain so until you reopen them and are disappointed, or elated, or both. And so you found yourself at "Five stories the Reader never began."

It isn't too long, fortunately; it looks like it might be midlength, just long enough to get you through the hours between dinner and your sister knocking on your door with a mug of cocoa. (Unless you have a brother, or a chocolate allergy. Let's assume the best.) You glance at the fandom: Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler, a book you love. It may have even given you your username. You may experience that funny double-vision you get whenever someone uses your real name in a story, or a sentence. You are briefly tempted by other tabs. Stay strong. Keep the window open. Begin to read. You expect to recognize the style, surely all the people who could conceivably have written fic for this are on your friendslist in the first place, but you do not. You do not even recognize the form. It's certainly not Five Things. It starts in medias res, and so you are not sure at first when it is set, what is the pairing. In fact, this is exactly the kind of story you like, where it emerges slowly, anchored only by the names of the characters. But don't interrupt your reading now with the post you'll write about it later. Scroll down a little farther.

Five stories the Reader never began

The fic opens in a railway station, you can tell this from the blare of the train whistle obscuring everything but the title of the Reader, who has not been given a name and is spared the second person (which you may feel obscurely is your personal property.) The Reader is leaning towards a station bar, his feet scraping against the sentences, reluctantly, a suitcase clutched in one hand, or, no, a briefcase, because it is light enough for him to sling over his back as he finally makes up his mind to begin walking. A steady rain is beating against the ceiling of the railway station, low and heavy, and the Reader identifies the reference just as you do. He does not laugh, but checks his watch and walks a little slower. Now the doors of the bar are in front of him, now he is pushing them open, with a sense of fatality.

The Reader has no physical description, no potentially character-destroying marks of height, weight, hair color, nor any marks of age to put this in the past or present. But the man in front of him has many. He is a small man, with thin-skinned, veiny hands wrapped around the glass he is holding, which has some amber liquid in it – the Reader sniffs and it is whisky. The man at the bar is brown-haired, with one ear twisted in on itself in some accident. He is wearing a bad suit.

"Well, sit down," he says, and it is his voice (querulous) that identifies him for you, finally, even before the Reader takes a seat and says, "Signori Marana, I--"

"I know who you are," Ermes Marana says, a neat trick. "It's a pleasure to finally meet a devoted reader."

The Reader slides his wedding ring over his fourth finger and the time of this story rockets suddenly into the future. You may have been misimagining it all along. What you thought was the nervousness of a man set adrift even from books may be the nervousness of a man on a secret errand from his wife, and what you pictured as a train station far from Italy, perhaps in South America or Cimmeria, may be the low-slung roof of the station in Florence, which is open to the air and invites stray cats. Then again, it may not be, the steam from the train, the sparks from the tracks cover the identifying details, they shroud the station name and cover the words when and because. Don't be fooled! Battle through the unnecessary description, the vague referents, to where the Reader is awkwardly making his way through a long silence of Marana's manufacture and Marana is evidently finishing his drink.

The drink is empty. Marana steeples his long fingers. "You are a married man," he says.

"Not anymore," says the Reader. You can't tell if he is bitter, resigned, or merely stating a fact. Your previous experience of the Reader suggests that he is confused, but you've learned to be wary of such things.

"I was a married man, once," Marana says. "I was a strange one, I'll admit, but she was a strange wife. She took me in, you understand, when I was on the run from a particular branch of the School of Critical Destruction and Deconstruction. Her home was welcoming, as was she."

The Reader evidently feels it is impolite to tell a man that he is lying. Instead he says, "You've made a mistake, you know."

"Have I?"

"You've implied an ending."

Marana pushes his empty glass away from him. "Our separation, I take it you mean. But you married her, signiori, so presumably you knew she was not still married to me."

The Reader is horrified, then forces a laugh: "Signiori, if you're trying to make me angry!"

"I'm trying to ascertain," Marana says, as the train they have both been waiting for fires itself into the station, and their heads lift to watch the platform doors, "no, I am convincing myself to transmit the emotion that I am receiving quite clearly from you, and I am totally unsure whether it is lust or only panic."

The doors open.


2.

And with a sudden jolt you are at the bottom. This is all that loaded the first time you clicked the link, a consequence of strained servers. Fine, no problem, you can just hit refresh, there's no need to get so worked up. It's all still there. Except for that it is not. The page is suddenly Not Found, an empty outpost. You refresh again: nothing. Your connection is still going strong, and when you tab open your flist to check it you see a post from Elyn on yuletide-admin:

I'm sorry to announce that this year we've had reports of plagiarism. For the moment we've taken down the fics in question, of which there were three: Ready Hands, Mrs. Dalloway Battles the Pink Robots, and Five stories the Reader never began. The recipients are being kept abreast of developments by email but we won't be posting identifying information until the plagiarism allegations can be confirmed or denied.

The comments are rife with rage, and you, feeling terrible, open a comment box to give Elyn your condolences when you find yourself ranting about the injustice of deleting a fic when you were halfway through it – come on! Do they or don't they hook up in a coatroom? -- and, embarrassed, you click away.

An icon catches your eye, stock or fashion, a woman looking away in the gathering shadow, and you see that the comment that accompanies it is properly spelled and punctuated. otherreader: Please do let us know when 'Five stories the Reader never began' is back up. I was so excited to see fic for the fandom – I thought I was the one girl in all the world who still cared.

lotaria: You too? Hah – I thought it was just me, but obviously it's the two of us, or us and livrelibre I guess. you type, inanely, and hit send before you can regret it.

otherreader: And there's strength in numbers. Are you a big litfic fan?

lotaria: I read everything.

But it turns out the Other Reader has actually read all the canons she cites, and has informed opinions on the relationship of Bob Cratchitt to the characterization of Queequeg in 2007's offerings, and you're kind of afraid she's a guerilla gen girl, so you click through to her journal and see:



FRIENDS ONLY.

otherreader: But being ~mysterious~ is cheating. I like fics, I suppose, she tells you in your thread, where everything is clear and sharp and yet you still can't figure out what's going on.

Your notifier pings you. It's Elyn making a new post and you tab it open, but not before dropping a comment as nonchalantly as you can: lotaria: If you don't mind, I'll friend you. I want to hear what you have to say about this one.

elynross: We've confirmed the plagiarism allegations. The writer has been banned from future participation in Yuletide. A reminder from the Archive FAQ: "Plagiarism is a violation of the ToS and will incur the penalties described in the abuse policy. As with all content that violates the ToS, plagiarized content must be removed."

And the very first comment is robin_fate: Here's a link to "for reasons of cowardice and disinterest," which is what Five Stories stole from. You'll recognize the whole second half.

You click.

for reasons of cowardice or disinterest

Ludmilla and the sway-backed horse are in the middle of the desert. The story informs you of this immediately. Perhaps it is trying to let you know, in its short declarative sentences, that it has no connection to the story you began half an hour ago. It has nothing to do whatsoever with fog. Ludmilla has not seen fog since this wasteland was a city. There is occasionally a little bit of smoke from one of the last few campfires. This is not, she has decided, the same thing.

The sway-backed horse is as lucky as she is. She remembers when she believed the horse to be an escapee from a petting zoo. This is how she remembers things for you. Her memories sketch an outline around the things she is not remembering. The answers to her implied questions. Or answer, singular; it is implied that the answers fit together very neatly, that they make a fist-sized solution when bundled up tightly. Ludmilla has left this solution behind somewhere in the desert, when she lost the other horse and two out of her three last books.

There's a quiet whuffle from the sway-backed horse. It objects to its load. The story shifts itself around to reveal the weight on the horse, a man splayed completely flat across its back. It is reasonable that you had not noticed him, since he looks so very much like a sack. He is breathing a little bit. She is very sorry for this, but there is nothing to be done. He is not going anywhere. She considered very strongly leaving him behind. He would have fit neatly on his couch. He would have lain on that couch until his heart stopped even the mediocre effort it is making now.

The desert is broken now by the upsurge of a tall building. A church. It is still standing. Lotaria is waiting for her there in the door, running her thumb up and down the barrel of her rifle. "It took you long enough."

"I'm sorry." Ludmilla slings the Reader off the horse, and Lotaria moves in to take his other arm, showing no surprise at him. This is how the story tells you that Ludmilla left the church for him, and in Lotaria's pinched lips and miserable cheeks it adds that she did so against all sense or advice, that it took her a very long time. "I got lost."

"You're very scatter-brained, sister mine," Lotaria scoffs, helping him inside. She brushes the hair off his forehead in a gesture of surprising tenderness. She is still wearing her crumpled uniform and at the sight of it through closed eyes he stirs a little. Ludmilla looks from her sister to the man she saved from his erased house, white and raw as dough. "You two know each other," she says.

"We met again after your lecture," Lotaria says. She fidgets at the table. "You're not the only one with a life of your own."

"In fact that's exactly what I am," Ludmilla says, and Lotaria snaps, "Don't talk like that. It isn't as though this were your idea." When her sister makes no answer, she goes as white as the man on her shoulder. "Ludmilla," she says. "Isn't it."


3.

The story breaks off here, midcharacter. You know better to refresh now and you look up at the address bar, and groan out loud: the Wayback Machine. This is an old Geocities page. You click frantically through the saved versions of this site but it's no good, this is the most complete package.

The author, who has one of those long names that means she's old school fandom, Beatrice Cavedagna, had updated the site in 2004 when it was last archived. Her news posts are brief, bitter, and uninformative. "Didn't get many comments on the remix this year but I'm serializing it here anyway." "Life is tough right now so don't expect too many updates." "I'm sorry to tell you I'm going on extended hiatus." She has a guestbook which, of course, won't load. You feel obscurely like you should leave flowers.

You click your way back to yuletide, where a fuss has arisen over the link. "That's not plagiarism." Etc. You are interested – you really try to be – but most of you is still with Cavedagna's Ludmilla in postapocalyptic Milan, and you are about to leave a comment when your notifier pings. otherreader has accepted your friend request.

She's made a post about it. It's there when you check your flist, compulsively, above twenty more guessing posts and lists of recs. It was excellent she says, but there was something about it that didn't quite satisfy. I like stories where the characters are many things at once. And then, startlingly: I had a full-on flashback to my early days in IOAWNAT.

lotaria: There was a big fandom for this?

otherreader: Medium-sized. Some of the media fans fell into it from X-Files, and then the three year summer gave us some Harry Potter fans. There was some drama, though.

Reader, we hope you've noticed by now that the Other Reader is someone who says rather less than she means.

One of her friends is very indignant. I don't know why anyone would plagiarize a remix anyway. What sense could it possibly make out of context?

When the page refreshes after your reply, you see you and the Other Reader have left the same comment: Do you know where the original is?

It is, of course, on the creaking Remixredux archive, which you cannot convince to load. But the friend vaguely remembers the name and the genre. Some crossover. And the Other Reader knows about an archive.

It's called Travelers, of course. You're lucky it isn't called Travelers' Tales. It's run by some woman named be_not_fair who calls her authors 'children' in her newsposts and hasn't manually updated since 2006. Out of curiosity you click on one of the comment threads, and are startled enough by the vitriol that you nearly jump. Trolls, something, but be_not_fair has obviously pissed in a lot of fans' Cheerios.

It's by someone named At The Bonfire and it's not very long. You have stopped thinking of this as a good sign. You wonder that you ever loved a drabble at all. But before you can be cautious, you scroll down to the first sentence, and surely it couldn't hurt...

and one that was too good

It begins with an epigraph from Shakespeare, as all things do, because Ludmilla is doing her stint in Shakespeare. ...to act his earthly and abhorr'd commands/refusing his grand hests, he did confine thee/into a cloven pine... She feels she fits well into the confines of air, enjoying the rush of different faces, hundreds of them, every age and size and color to suit. She does not even really mind when he calls her down to Earth, he who says insistently that he liberates her, and who cannot speak one syllable of her true names.

"My library was dukedom large enough," he told her, once, carding what she was pleased to call her hair back from what she was pleased to call her ears. "But then I was set adrift. You will not let them founder me again, will you, Ludmilla?"

"I'm but a sprite, my lord," Ludmilla said, and kissed him with a grave smile. "Shall I befuddle the swine again?"

In truth she is very fond of Irnerio, Irnerio who Lotaria the duke's half-mad daughter taught to speak with patience, but it is the pleasure of her reader duke to do such things as call him swine and kick him. She suspects that the duke believes the monster to be her lover. It is nonsense, of course. They've tumbled once or twice, but then Ludmilla's tumbled everybody in her time. She's slipped inside books and slept with their heroes, fallen through screens and kissed befuddled readers before they knew what they were doing. She is trying to explain to you the effect of a good story, which binds two elements together so closely you can't remember which is referring to what and who is a part of whom, and then leaves you gasping afterwards for the climax again. This is her intention at the present.

Lotaria is seated on a stump instructing Irnerio to read. The monster will not. "He's but a sluttish fool," she complains to Ludmilla, who is watching with interest as an improbable swan in a tree. Lotaria has never had any trouble seeing exactly Ludmilla. "What can you be without a critical understanding?"

"You can see without looking," Ludmilla suggests, "which I believe is plenty for Irnerio's fancy."

"Words," Irnerio growls, though his face as always is stretched in a smile. "I'm chained in your English, which is poor gift enough, and you'd write those jailer's bars around me!"

Marana had left Irnerio alone. A sound strategy. Marana had loved Irnerio, she thought, and had not understood her. That is perhaps the best way to think of it, the way that does not make her sight go dark with the hallucinatory wood of the tree he'd prisoned her in.

The reader duke had cut her down, and when the wood was splintered around him he'd not been able to see her lying in the shadows of it. Had he made a staff of it he'd have killed her, or a rocking chair, or a cradle for his daughter. But he took his power and pulped the wood. He pressed the pulp carefully and drew it out in long, thin sheets which smelt of dirt and starch. He made a quill of one of Irnerio's feathers – he had found Irnerio. He copied what he could remember.

"My father wrote this book," Lotaria tells Irnerio, coaxingly. "It has no stories. My father couldn't think of a story to save his life. It is only true things."

He had drawn long lines down her pages and she had shuddered, her skin tightening against his quill, and he had gasped and dropped the book and called for his mother. She had loved him for that. He had demanded to know her name and she had told him Ludmilla.

"And what are the letters up the spine?"

"That is the book's name," Lotaria tells him, shaking her head. "It is Lyud Myla. How To Be Loved By One's People. It is irony, you see. I will teach you all about irony. You really are astonishingly ignorant."

"I know one more thing than you," Irnerio says, shaking his ears back at her to make Lotaria laugh.

"What is that?"

Irnerio points out to sea. "I know there is a boat on the horizon. And it is sinking fast."


4.

"TBC in the sequel 'so he did'," it adds, with cheery scorn.

"This is nonsense," you say, out loud, and from the other room your sister makes a loud, snorting noise of agreement.

otherreader: I can't believe it! Do you have an IM? I need to commiserate with someone who understands.

You are not entirely sure you do, but you hand it off to her anyway and log on. She signs on only to tell you she'll be right back, and you are left staring at the other window, with the Other Reader's journal open before you.

What are you like, Other Reader? For it's time we addressed you on your own terms, neither as our Reader's interest nor as the shadow of another other reader, who kept a string of garlic by their sink. You may keep a string of garlic by your sink but it seems unlikely. Your journal is spare, blue and white, dark text on light and large enough to read. You have modified one of the default layouts enough to show that you know CSS, that you could, if you were interested, build a more spacious layout for yourself; it remains to be seen if you simply weren't interested or if you don't have the time. You seem to be someone who uses her time, instead of letting it accumulate by the wayside in piles. You don't have any posts about Yuletide panic, or about finals or end-of-the-year work. You have posts that make lists using asterisks for bullets of what you will and will not do before February. And yet too you talk about covering your eyes and listening to podfic until you look up and see that it is day.

Your icons are eclectic, some long strings of stock with keywords from Tori Amos songs, but many more text-only. There are no pictures of you among them, but you made a post a while ago showing off your new tattoo, an ellipsis against the base of your spine: three black dots on brown skin. The Reader is staring at you, her face growing hot and flushed. That's rude, terribly rude. We will tell her to click away.

One post is a list of songs that you own that begin with the word "red." Another is fifteen paragraphs on the uses of tight third person. A third is about the stoop in front of your house, which has cracked and through which a family of ants march daily, stopping only to ransack your groceries when you leave them outside the door. You find it very upsetting.

Perhaps you didn't panic over Yuletide because you didn't sign up. There is no letter. In fact there is no fic. Υοu are a reccer, then, it seems, unlike the Reader, who is a fraud and a Writer as well. You speak briefly and amusingly about the one and only time you tried.

You have one voice post, from a train station, which the Reader listens to halfway and then is overcome with an attack of embarrassment and must stop. Your voice is low and gravely with cigarettes. It is the voice of someone who reads books in which smoking makes you stronger.

Your memories are the only thing not categorized by size and color. The Reader fumbles through them while she waits for you to sign on, jumping from Fic (which contains recommendations and discussions, but no stories) to Hallie (which is a set of locked entries that go nowhere) and, of course, If On A Winter's Night A Traveler (which has one entry in it, on an otherwise blank journal, with the text of the Silas Flannery diary.)

In Housekeeping > 2004 you keep a link to dvd_commentary. The commentary is from 2007 but the fic is from 2003. The Reader follows the link to see the Traveler archive, and there she sees, under chapter 1 of 1 and the unsuggestive title, your name.

The IM window makes a sound.

lotaria: are you serious? were you screwing with me?
otherreader: It's not mine. It's be_not_fair's.
lotaria: jesus, how close were you?
otherreader: You don't understand. She used us all as pseudonyms, it was easy enough to do.
otherreader: She said it would make people realize how nebulous internet names were. That it was the same thing as being anonymous anyway.
otherreader: That was before we learned she was doing the same thing in the real world.
lotaria: ...
lotaria: i don't even know what to do with that.
otherreader: Neither did I.

so he did

It is warm today, and again I'm writing this in lieu of a story. My view of the valley below--

The first person breaks off before your eyes and gives way to the comfort of third. (it is you, Reader, isn't it? The Other Reader refuses to look at this story at all. She says she read it when she was supposed to have written it. She found it very convincing. She does like stories that go all out. But now she is waiting in your IM window for you to return. You had better pick up the pace.) Silas Flannery puts down his diary and his subjectivity and gazes out the valley instead of discussing it. There is something there, a faint glow that causes him to shade his eyes and squint at the distance. After a minute he removes his reading glasses and tries again.

"Mr. Flannery." It is a quiet voice behind him, barely accented, which immediately puts you on alert. "We are sorry to take up your time."

Silas turns, readying his 'world-weary cosmopolitan writer' speech, the one that seems to turn away hardly anyone these days, and is stopped before he can produce even one ennui-laden syllable. His visitors are not fans of his books. They are not locals. They are not, in point of fact, human.

"You're the aliens," Silas says. He doesn't have to say anything else, your imagination is already filling in short gray moon-eyed monsters, which is good because it's evident he can't think of anything else to say.

"Yes, yes, yes," they agree, "we are the aliens." They beam at him. Probably.

Having lost track of everything else, Silas falls back on the world-weary author speech anyway. "I'm sorry," he babbles, "but I have nothing to give you, I understand you are waiting for me to have some blast of inspiration but I'm working very hard on a completely different project, and then perhaps my memoirs, so I couldn't possibly write to your contract just now..."

The aliens look at each other. Finally one of them says, "This is somewhat awkward. It is not stories we wish you to perform."

"Yes," the others agree, "yes, yes, yes, it is very awkward."

"Well, what is it then?" Silas demands, his voice cracking a little. "Writing is all I do! And I can barely do that anymore, let me assure you!"

"It is a much simpler task," the lead alien says, happily. "We wish to-- excuse me here, we must consult our literature--" He produces a sheaf of white printer paper. "Yes, yes. We wish to 'make you do it.'"


5.

The journalfen servers spit you out, robustly, onto the moldering shores of fandom_wank eventually. There is a 'fandom: if on a winter's night' tag. There's also a 'people: be_not_fair'. It tags entries from 2004 to 2006 and then peters out into use for overtagging and wistful searches for wanks of ages past. She can't outwalk a hurricane, but apparently she leaves trails of splintered stories behind her, unclear who stole what and which of the many authors she hosted were her sockpuppets. Their styles were distinct, the mouse detectives opined, but at least one of them believed that it'd all been her. That every single update on that site had come through her fingers.

"How do we know this is a large fandom at all?" asked one wanka, her icon gyrating to an invisible beat. "It could just be be_not_fair. The only other IP I've seen authenticated is yours."

There is the Other Reader. Her icon is the same. "Thanks," she says. "But it wasn't just be_not_fair. There were a lot of us, and a lot of us were bitten."

One comment suggests a zine. Another suggests a cache of zines from before be_not_fair was supposedly born. "She's probably a ghost," says caito. "That totally beats bartending in the dark."

She extrudes into real life, too. With a jolt you realize she and the Other Reader live in your city, which is not so large that it's impossible you've met. Your knuckles go white on the sleeve of your sweater. Be_not_fair, as Hallie, had met and scammed a few people in their time. Little things, scarier for that, somehow: not rent but a few nights of sleep in their basement. She'd stolen the Calvino from every house she'd visited. This you find unsurprising.

You want to rant about how much this matters, but some anonymice have already done that, and you can see the results for yourself. There's nothing like a withering wave of teal deer, "okay!" macros to scare you away. "It sucks that she's a scammer," it's agreed, "but it's the internet." There are "I am be_not_fair" icons distributed. You wonder uncomfortably if anyone wearing them means it.

There is only one authenticated story by be_not_fair, which restart, a regular, had watched her write when they were meant to be working on NaNo together. Restart still has the draft she was left on her computer and she leaves it in a comment, but you can see from the formatting where, exactly, it ends.

or to be more accurate

reader, n., 1a, one that reads, is vacationing in the Ls when he meets her. Ludmilla, proper noun, has only two definitions, one of which she keeps tucked demurely on the top of the following page. This ravages reader, who cannot stop carelessly staring at her tall capital, and he swallows his pride and ducks through a forest of lud, Luddite and ludicrous and ludic, and approaches her. "Excuse me," he says, "I'm lost."

"Lost is two pages down. I know him."

"You misunderstand. I'm reader, and I'm lost," he says, and hesitantly extends the foot of his r. "May I parse you?"

Their affair is lustful and luminous and lucky and lustrous. They rub ds, the long stems interlocking, and he bends up into a pretzel so as to make his es meet her lls, which she tilts forward, and, oh, God, noun, 1. the supreme and ultimate reality!

"May I see your second definition?" he asks, one day, and she hesitates and is grave but finally says yes, her kerning going soft with embarrassment and privacy. He surmounts the page number and waits for the train to the other side, Ludmilla-lysis finally arriving in a great cloud of steam, and he boards it as it chugs up the side of the page. The fog obscures nearly everything but he can see as through a clouded haze Ludmilla's second definition, biographical noun, 2. woman who once


6.

/join #yulechat
otherreader: Lotaria!
OR! hey, sweetie
HematiteBadger: Are you doing it randomly? I'm going alphabetically. Some members of the household are very frustrated since they think we should read the Submachine fic first, not to name names, but he will have to wait.
spoke-KOL: i've been reading for the fandoms i wrote in. but it's killing me. either it's worse or it's better and they're both disappointing
mireille: I can't even get started! I just keep looking the stuff I was gifted and blushing. Merry Christmas to me.
tree: haha, mine had a link to TVTropes. Guess where I am now instead of Yuletide
Cedara: i'm still in the big fandoms. white collar this year is fantastic. like a ficathon unto itself.
ZoiHasTentacles: i've been following tags. i'm halfway down 'tentacles' right now but i was going through 'machines' before. it's all kind of blurring into a tentacled robot war between the transformers and the Giant Squid though.
lately i'd settle for a story with an ending. i started reading 'five' back when it posted and it's totally given me the runaround.
spoke-KOL: didn't they post the story that was from?
otherreader: Yes, and then every other story went missing as well. We gave up when we hit the fifth.
Cedara: i had the same problem a while ago
Cedara: right when the show first came out I read something that was White Collar choose your own adventure fic
Cedara: hot, well-written, and six stories you began instead of one
Cedara: then i booted in windows and now it's like it never existed
i'll add it to the list...
ZoiHasTentacles: now i want to see this list :)
Five stories the Reader never began, for reasons of cowardice or disinterest, and one that was too good, so he did, or to be more accurate, six stories you began instead.
HematiteBadger: That's the title?
HematiteBadger: Doesn't narrow it down any.
tree: the prototypical fic! does it end with them having passionate tentacle love or does one of them tragically die to make the other one strong?
HematiteBadger: Only if they die from tentacles.
/query otherreader passionate tentacle love?
otherreader (Private): Maybe if you play your cards right.
otherreader (Private): :)
spoke-KoL: so, how about it?




*




six stories you began instead.

You are lying in bed with the Other Reader, side by side. She is reading what you write over your shoulder, but she has grown tired and, resting her chin in the hollow of your neck, asks if you might close the computer.

"Just a minute," you tell her. "I'm just about to finish my sequel to five stories the Reader never began."