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If On A Yuletide Night, A Reader

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I.

You have just opened your email folder, glad to have escaped family at last for some time alone to read the special Yuletide story some kind person has written only for you. Or maybe you are spending the holidays alone, glad for the peace and quiet and the many hours you can at last devote to reading through the thousands of stories posted to the new archive. Or perhaps you have to work, but still find a quiet minute or two to breathlessly click on the link that came to you with the sound of *jingling bells* in the subject.

There is the email sitting in your inbox, and you lean back, still pleasantly full from all the food you have eaten, and click on the link provided. You read the title and smile, because you immediately realize that someone wrote a story for you based on the Calvino novel you so enjoyed.

If On A Yuletide Night, A Reader

The story begins in a railway station, a locomotive huffs, and you sigh in satisfaction because you recognize the setting and feel the pleasant excitement as you wonder just how your author will have played with or twisted Calvino's world. Then you read on. Smoke clouds the station, the small café, and then a gust of wind blows the smoke away to reveal a sign at the wall. Platform 9 3/4.

You frown at your screen. Has someone written you a Harry Potter AU that takes place in Calvino's novel? It is not what you expected, but you tell yourself that it could certainly prove interesting.

You read on and find paragraph after paragraph describing young children dressed in their school uniforms, some of them carrying cats or owls; there is even a frog or two. Any moment now you expect something unexpected, something that will rip you out of the world of Harry Potter and maybe show you the reader in a library, where he has just picked up one of the Harry Potter books - or maybe it is Ludmilla who is reading about Harry's adventures?

II.

But there is no break, no shift, and you frown. Maybe something went wrong? Having so many people move to the AO3 must have been a difficult task, and you know just how much work the admins have with this enormous challenge. Perhaps a tiny bit of faulty code mixed up the stories... Or maybe your author just clicked a wrong button and uploaded one of their Potter stories for you, while posting the Calvino story to the Potter section instead of the Yuletide collection?

You realize that there is no way you can find out while the authors are still anonymous, so you write a quick mail to the mods. After so much hard work, you are certain that they will have gone to bed to make up for all the sleep they must have lost, and resign yourself to waiting until the next morning. But already after a few minutes, there sits an answer in your inbox, blinking merrily at you until you click on it, and you see elyn apologizing for the mix-up that has happened. As you thought, some bit of faulty code made the archive send you the wrong story, but there is the correct link, and you go to read the story before you even pen a quick note of thanks in response.

Before the Gleaming Monitor

Dean squinted at the book in Sam's hand.

"Is that the new Silas Flannery? Do you want to tell me that you made me hang around in this library for hours for this? You said there was a lead here, and I thought, a cursed book, yes, a demon librarian, whatever, but the latest bestseller, Sammy? Isn't that a bit.... below you?"

"Shut up, Dean. There's some secret behind this book..."

"What, you mean it's not following the same old plot every Flannery follows?"

Sam frowned. "This is not a joke, Dean. Have you ever heard of the Father of Stories? Some say that he is the reincarnation of Homer, though I think that maybe a demon..."

"We are looking for some crazy Organization for Apocryphal Power, Sam, because you think that they have some sort of contact to the Archangel of Light - we are not looking for some tired old bestselling author with writer's block. If you want some light reading, there's no reason to come up with some lie-"

"Give us the book!" Dean froze when a gun pressed against his back. "This is a true book, even if you do not know it. It belongs to us, the Wing of Light!"

III.

You scroll down, but instead of telling you how Dean and Sam intend to take on the Wing of Light, the story starts again at the beginning, repeating the same few paragraphs until the page ends. You groan and contemplate to hit the computer until it coughs up your story. You do not even care anymore whether you got a Calvino or a Merlin RPS story, just as long as it is a finished story!

You tab to your inbox once more, wondering if the mods will even believe you this time, or think that you are just out to complain, but while you were reading, another mail has arrived. It tells you to please refresh your browser, as there was another problem with your story, but the correct version should be uploaded now.

You read the first line with bated breath - no huffing locomotive. Most importantly, no platform 9 3/4, but also no Dean and Sam this time. "Ludmilla relaxed," the first sentence begins instead, and you exhale in relief. Ludmilla. That's right. The mods got you the correct story after all! Maybe the part that was repeatedly posted in the last story you read was something from the middle of your Yuletide story, and not the beginning? Anyway, there is Ludmilla, and so at last, all seems to be well.

Looks Down Into The Gathering Stories

Ludmilla relaxed into her favorite spot on the couch. This afternoon, she had bought a new novel by one of her favorite authors, and had started to read almost from the moment that she left the store. The style seemed different to what she was used to from Calvino, but then, he was one of those authors who seemed to invent himself anew with each new publication, so this was no more than she should have expected. She had not expected a crime story, on the other hand, but she was soon fascinated by the narrator - a good novel, thought Ludmilla, should leave the reader breathless with excitement from the first sentence on and, with the last page, give that kind of satisfaction as if one were a detective who had just solved a murder case.

Ludmilla opened the book again, eager to continue where she had left off. There was a mystery waiting for her, a narrator on a suspicious mission, the ex-wife of the doctor who seemed to have an agenda of her own - and then the book broke off, only to start again from the beginning. Ludmilla frowned and looked at the page numbers, opened the book in the middle, went straight to the last page, but she only ever found the same few pages she had already read, endlessly repeatedasgfhrfzhfchdrrz

IV.

You curse aloud when the story breaks off after just two paragraphs with that string of letters, as if someone had hit their keyboard in anger with a fist, or as if your author's cat had run across it in an unobserved moment, erasing the greatest part of the fic just when you began to lose yourself in the story. You scroll up and down the page to see whether this is just some kind of narrative trick, but the page is blank; there is nothing more to read. For one moment you wonder whether this might be what your author intended, to make you experience the same kind of frustration Ludmilla experiences, but then you realize that the story would be little more than a drabble then, whereas as part of the main yuletide2009 collection, it should have been more than 1000 words at least.

Something went wrong yet again, obviously, and you do not know whether it happened during the upload or if the archive software decided to take a big bite out of your tasty gift. What matters is that all you got is the beginning of a story - the kind of story you wanted to read, even - and that no matter how often you refresh the page, there is nothing more but those two short paragraphs.

You think that you had best just call it a night. The mods will be exhausted and deserve some time to themselves, and whatever keeps sabotaging your stories might best be dealt with in the morning. Just once more you refresh your inbox before you want to turn the computer off, and there it is - another email has appeared. You read the subject and feel excitement rise up in you after all.

What Story Down There Awaits Its End?

Your eyes widen as you stare at the sender: ludmilla@gmail.com. Then you open the mail, and with shaking fingers, click on the attached .doc.