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  • Writer's pictureJohn Simons

RinthCon Day 3 - Kirby

“I think I’ve talked to every other book vendor in this whole place and no one else has what I’m looking for,” said Kirby.

“I’ve got 100 million different books, but mostly I sell plush toys,” said the man.

Kirby chuckled awkwardly and frowned. “That seems… out of balance.”

The vendor seemed to Kirby like a wild-haired prospector from another century who spent all his time in a hole and whose claim did not produce enough money to purchase soap. He pulled a palm-sized rectangle from under his display case and set it in front of Kirby.

“What’s that?”

“That,” said the man, “Is a vintage book reader. It’s about a century old and it contains 100 million different volumes. It still works though! They don’t make them like that anymore.”

“I’m only looking for books by one author, Kirby Chen. They were written about 160 to 170 years ago.”

“Didn’t you say that was your name?”

“You know there are alternate universes, right?”

The vendor arched one eyebrow in response. “I’m not stupid,” he said, “That’s common knowledge.”

“The me in an alternative universe wrote the books I’m looking for. I’m hoping they found their way to this place. I just want to see what my career would have been like if I had chosen that path instead.”

“You look mighty spry for someone who’s supposed to be more than 170 years old.”

“I hibernated a long time,” said Kirby.

The vendor shook his head and sighed. “Sure you did. That doesn’t sound like a delusional fantasy at all.”

“Can you just check to see if you have what I’m looking for?”

The vendor shrugged. “I’ll do that right now. But it’s not a good idea to think too much about alternative universes. I’ve seen kids like you spend all their time obsessing about what might have been instead of what is. It will drain everything good out of your life if you let it,” he said as he typed Kirby’s name and date range into the small device.

“I’ll be!” declared the vendor, “There are 17 books by Kirby Chen in the period you’re looking for.”

“Woo hoo!” exclaimed Kirby as he fist-pumped the air, “How much do they cost? I’ll take all 17 of them!”

The man named his price.

Kirby stopped moving, his face dropped. “You are out of your mind!”

“That is incredibly cheap for 100 million books.”

“I only need the 17.”

“This device has proprietary file formats. You can’t transfer them to anything else. And it’s over a century old. It’s the last one of this type. It’s a priceless museum piece. If you want the 17 you have to buy all 100 million and my price is rock solid.”

“I don’t know where I’ll get that much money.”

“You have two more days before RinthCon is over, so you have a little bit of time.”

“Please?” asked Kirby, but the vendor pretended not to hear him.

Kirby Chen pinched his lips, furrowed his brows, and walked off with his head down and face clouded.

The vendor’s wife walked up to him. “What are you playing at?” she asked, “You know that if you let a customer walk away from the table without making the purchase, you lost the sale!” She grabbed the book reader off the counter and tossed it in the box under the counter with dozens of other book readers. “We’ll never be rid of these things at this rate!”

“Don’t worry,” said the vendor, “I got this guy pegged. He’ll be back!”

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