You are about to read mystery writer's new If On a Winter's Night a Traveler fanfic. Relax. You've been excited about the prospect of Yuletide bringing you fanfic for your favorite Italian post-modern novel, but you won't enjoy it to the fullest if you don't savor every word. You worked hard to make it happen. You wrote a long prompt in your request and, if that weren't enough, you wrote even more in your Dear Yulegoat letter. So sit back in your chair, pull a blanket over your legs, and grab the print-out in front of you. You start reading.
Two people stand on a doorstep on a cold, wintry night in December.
"I think Augusta will be up to handling this, Minerva," the white-bearded man says to his companion, a middle aged woman dressed in flowing black robes. She stifles a sorrowful chuckle, which comes out instead as a dry cluck.
"She's a tough old bird. Terrible what happened to her son, but if anyone can move on with life, she's the one. Neville should be safe here."
As they talk, a quiet roar in the distance becomes louder. The woman turns around and sees headlights heading toward her.
You're not quite sure where that came from. You were expecting fanfic set in Cimmeria, or maybe in the Reader's Italy. Instead, you seem to be reading the first lines of an AU Harry Potter story where Neville is the Boy Who Lived instead of Harry. It definitely does not belong in Yuletide, but you find it somewhat intriguing. Except that it ends there. The rest of the printouts are blank pages.
You go back to the Yuletide site, but the Harry Potter story is no longer there. When you click on its link, you find an entirely different story.
"Golde!" A tall, bearded man shouts to a tubby, middle aged woman in a full-length dress. "Where's my Shabbos hat?"
"Who am I that I should know where you put your hat?" she retorts.
"Golde, New York is not like the shtetl. It's the big city. If I go out without my Shabbos hat, I'll..."
"Look like a shlump," she finishes. "I know, I know. Have you looked on your head?"
"Do you think I'm a fool, Golde? I'm not that..." He pauses. "I found it! It was on the hatrack."
"Don't bother me. I need to watch the stove."
You didn't realize people wrote Fiddler on the Roof fic, but if it happens anywhere, it's Yuletide. Before you can continue reading, your email notifier pops up to tell you there's a message for you. It's from an email address you don't recognize, email@example.com. The fragmented sentences tell you, "Hey D00d. Saw u looking 4 Calvino fanfic. Click this link."
They always taught you not to clink on links from spammers and phishers, but this isn't an ad for penis enlargement pills. If you're ever going to find the Calvino fic, you're going to have to live dangerously.
"Look, Gus, just put on the helmet already."
"No. I know where this is headed, Shawn. We go out on a case and the helmet is unnecessary and I look like a fool. And it totally messes up my look."
"You don't have a look, Gus. And anyway, this isn't for a case."
"What is it about, then?"
"My uniform fetish."
"Sorry, Gus. I think you look hot in a police uniform. It's probably unresolved father issues, now that I think about it. Just put the helmet on and kiss me already."
The lights turn off. "Okay, then."
You hate when the porn stops right before the porn. But a quick google search tells you you're not the only one who fell victim to this Calvino bait and switch. Four LJ friends report accidentally reading the same Psych story. None of them liked it much, but they're annoyed that it didn't continue.
In the comments section of one of your friends' posts, a username you don't recognize writes that it's the beginning of a slash epic they once found on Fanfic.net. You shudder at the thought of descending into the Pit, but you click the link anyway.
"Nice headband, Zack," Billy said, stretching down to his toes with a limber motion. "Think it'll help you win the match?"
Zack pushed the black headband down a quarter inch and grinned. "I don't need the headband to beat you. My karate skills will do that. Ready to spar?"
"Ready." They got into ready positions, squared off with fists at chest level. Zack sensed a weakness in his blue-shirted rival's defenses and prepared to punch.
"Guys! Guys," Kimberly shouted from the side. "Call off the match." She gestured them over to a dark corner. "We have a message from Zordon."
That certainly wasn't the Psych story you were expecting. Power Rangers and Psych begin with the same letter, though, so it may have been an honest mistake. Honestly, you don't care anymore. It's a wild goose chase, and you still haven't found any Calvino fic. The Reader in If On a Winter's Night a Traveler persevered through 11 different first chapters, endlessly pursuing that wild goose chase. But at the end of The Reader's journey was love. Here, you're fated to find nothing but bad pornography. You're about to give up when the unknown LJ user apologizes and sends another link.
"You should call yourself Ludmilla," he said definitely. He has thin black hair and a widow's peak. He doesn't wear a hat.
"Why Ludmilla?" She is beautiful, with an air of mystery around her. There are no countries in the world where she would not ping as foreign.
"Because that is the name The Reader wants for you."
"And why do I want to give him so much control over me?"
"Might be a her. You want to give The Reader control, because their imagination will reward you."
"How do you know that?"
"Because I am the author," Calvino said.