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Fiction Fantasy Mystery

Danny Groop walked down main street with heavy steps. His day couldn’t have been any worse. He had been turned down at three job interviews and somehow lost a twenty dollar bill out of his pocket. His self-esteem could not take any more blows today. And on top of it all it was raining, and he didn’t have an umbrella.

 Danny’s stomach growled as he passed all the scents fighting through the precipitation from the delis and cafes. But his twenty-dollar bill was supposed to pay for dinner and…it was gone. He sighed again. Four years he had spent slaving away at school and two part time jobs. He was so confident when he received his bachelor’s degree that he quit both his part time jobs instantly. Two months later and he was still unemployed. He should have heeded the warnings of his graphic design professors. Indeed, it is a rough field to get into.

           “Yes, I hear you now, Mr. Simons,” he said out loud, earning him a few looks from passersby. He just kept walking.

           He splashed through a puddle, not even bothering to avoid them anymore, and abruptly stopped. On his left was the library. He instantly felt a sense of comfort. Books. The greatest escape. He had spent his lonely childhood in the foster homes escaping into the stories and poems of any piece of literature he could get his hands on.

           Passing through the library doors was like stepping into another world. The pounding of the rain was hushed by the heavy walls, and it was warm and dry. The only sounds were books being shuffled and quiet murmurs. Footsteps were silenced by the plush carpet.

           Danny took in the atmosphere. He wasn’t sure where to start. He had kind of given up on pleasurable reading during college, wanting to pour all his energy and time into his studies. Not that it was bringing him great results now. Anyway, it had been a while since he had visited the library.

           As if reading his mind, a man at the nearest counter softly cleared his throat. “Can I help you find something?”

           Danny looked over at the smiling, well-dressed man. He looked to be about fifty years in age and based on his build had spent most of that time with books. In addition to his tailored suit, he sported a long black and dark blue scarf. Danny nodded and walked over to the desk. He leaned over and said, “You have any books on how to make your life suck less?”

           He meant it as a joke, but the man’s polite smile didn’t falter for a moment. “I know just what you need, right this way.” He abruptly turned and disappeared down an aisle. Danny stood stunned for a moment, then followed.

           He turned down several aisles, leading deep into the library. It was dark in this back corner…kind of creepy. What kind of books did they even keep back here? Danny tried to read the titles, but most of the old books just had blank leather binding. He was so entranced with the books that he ran smack into the librarian. The man didn’t even acknowledge Danny or his apologies, only continued his scan of the shelves with his chin in his hand.

           Danny waited and jumped when the man finally said, “Ah ha!” He pulled out an older looking book with a black cover and silvery title, which shone even in the dim light.

           “Illusory?” Danny read and gave the man a questioning look.

           The man smiled brightly, his bespectacled eyes glittering. “Yes, it has all your answers. This is a very…special book.”

           Danny grabbed it from him and started to open it about mid-way through the book. “It’s blank.”

           The man quickly closed it and put his hand on the cover. “No, no not here. And it isn’t blank. You must look very closely. Trust me. This book will change your life.” He grinned.

           Danny thought this guy was maybe not all there, but hey what did he have to lose. “Fine, I’ll read it.”


           Later that evening after changing out of his wet clothes, having a grand dinner consisting of frozen “lasagna for one,” and checking his email one last time with desperate hope, he settled down with the mysterious book. He stared at the cover for a moment admiring the way the title shimmered. Then he slowly opened the book.

           Hey, there really were words on these pages. Danny narrowed his eyes. What? He flipped through a couple pages, but sure enough there was only one chapter, then nothing. What kind of book is this? That nutcase librarian must be just pulling his leg. Shaking his head and taking a sip of his water he went back to the first page. After reading the first couple sentences, he spit out his water and started choking.

           He fell to the floor trying to catch his breath, the book falling cover up beside him. When he stopped choking, he stared at the book. It had to be a trick, right? With fumbling fingers, he grabbed the book and read the first sentence again.

           It was a bright and sunny day, perfect for Danny Groop’s first day at his new job.

           Danny barked out a laugh. “How is this possible?”

           He quickly flipped to the copyright page and checked the publishing date. 1887! He shook his head. For author it only said “unknown.” Hmm. He continued to read. According to the book he got a new job as Junior Graphic Designer at Geffreys. Geffreys was the hottest marketing business in town! He read then reread until late in the night, getting lost in this perfect version of his life where things actually go right.


           Danny awoke to his phone ringing. He answered it with one eye open and sleepily mumbled hello.

           “Hello, is this Danny Groop?”

           Danny sat straight up in bed. In a more awake and professional voice he answered, “This is.”

           “Hello, this is Chad Waters in Geffreys human resource department, I was giving you a call back in regard to your application.”

           Danny’s heart flipped. “Oh yes!”

           “Christina Gates and her team were very impressed with your portfolio and would like to interview you for the position of Junior Graphic Designer. Would you be available later this afternoon?”

           Danny couldn’t find his voice. Isn’t this exactly like what he read in the book last night? Could this really be a prank by that librarian? It would take an awful lot of thought and coordinating.

           “Hello? Mr. Groop?”

           “Oh yes, I’m here. I can be there at two, thank you so much, good-bye.” Danny hung up and let his phone and blankets go flying. He raced to the book and opened it up. The story was still the same. It must be magic. Magic is real?

           The clock said it was ten. He had time to run to the library before his interview. He raced through the process of getting ready. He dressed in his best khakis and smoothest dress shirt he could find. Even though it was only about six blocks he took the bus to the library, book tucked in his messenger bag.

           In the library, he marched straight to the desk. An older lady looked up from her computer and smiled. Danny didn’t waste time with hellos. “I’m looking for the librarian guy who works here. Tall, wears glasses and a scarf, kind of weird.”

           The lady looked confused for a moment then she nodded. “Ah, you’re looking for Roger. I’m sorry young man, he only works on Tuesdays. He’s not here today.”

           “Shoot, well, could I get his phone number or something? Address?”

           The lady smiled. “I’m sorry sir, I can’t give out that information. Also, Roger is a little mysterious. I admit I don’t even know his last name.”

           Danny didn’t respond. He measured the woman for a moment, wondering if he could trust her enough to explain the book, but decided against it. “Thank you for your time.”


           “Your work is quit refreshing, Mr. Groop, very original and new,” Christina Gates marveled as she flipped through his portfolio. Her two colleagues nodded their agreement.

           “Really? I mean I do try to bring something different to the table. People get tired of the same old, same old,” Danny laughed nervously. The number one thing his professors had gotten on him about was being too dull and predictable. He wasn’t sure what these guys saw differently.

           Christina put down the papers chuckling. She glanced at the other two. “Well, I don’t think we even need to waste any more time. Mr. Groop, welcome to the team.”

           Danny numbly stood up with them and shook all three hands. The man to his right patted his shoulder. “Let me show you your workstation and get you set up for tomorrow.”

           Later, Danny walked down the sunny street with a mocha latte and a skip in his step. This was it. He didn’t care if he was crazy for thinking the book was fixing his life. Things were going to well. He had his own office space, an amazing wage, and he flirted with one of the cute social media coordinators. Life had done a one-eighty flip in one day.

           At home he hurried to his chair and pulled out the book. He anxiously opened it to chapter two. The story continued! Danny forgot all about dinner and everything else as he got lost in the words. His boss was going to be very impressed with his work. He was going to be a great contributor to the team. Christina is already talking about a raise! And Gale Janis asks him out for Friday night!

           Well! If that doesn’t call for opening a bottle of wine, then he didn’t know what would. With the book in his hand, he headed to the kitchen to do just that. He wasn’t sure the library would ever get it back.


           “A toast to our savior!”

           Everyone in the office lifted their glasses and cheered. Gale, who was hanging on Danny’s arm, kissed him before he took a big gulp of his champagne. It was the next Tuesday and Danny’s team had just successfully developed a sales pitch for a big automobile company, which would give Geffreys a giant financial upgrade. The auto company had been on the fence about their design until Danny jumped in with a new idea, sparking interest in almost every member of the board.

           Things were going smoothly. In addition to great business, Danny and Gale had sealed their relationship and Danny had a ton of new friends from the office. Right now, they were all congratulating him and smacking him on the back.

           Christina grabbed his arm and pulled him to the side. “You know Manny is thinking about retirement soon. The Senior Designer spot will be open, and I think you should apply.”

           Danny looked at her incredulously. “Really? Me? But I haven’t even been here a week yet.”

           Christina smiled. “Just keep up the good work.”

           Gale grabbed at his arm. “Hey, Dan Dan, everyone is going to Wesley’s to celebrate. Let’s go!”

           Danny started to turn then stopped. “Oh wait, I can’t. There’s something I must get done tonight.”

           Gale pouted but relented. She kissed him goodbye then left with the others. As the laughter and cheering disappeared down the hall, Danny quickly gathered his things and headed out. He read the next chapter while on the bus and his mood went dark. This errand suddenly turned more pressing.

           He found Roger right away when he got to the library. He was in his suit and scarf again. Putting away books in the mystery section. Danny marched right up to him and lifted the book. “What is this?”

           Roger turned to him and silently held up a finger to his lips telling Danny to quiet down. Danny rolled his eyes and whispered, “What is this? Where did this book come from?”

           Roger gestured for him to follow him down a few aisles where they couldn’t disturb browsing readers. “I told you that book was special,” he said smiling.

           “Yes, but this next chapter,” Danny sputtered. “Things get really bad.” On the bus he had read that Christina was going to hit on him, causing strife between him and Gale. Manny does retire, but a new hip guy straight from a video game company is going to fight Danny for the Senior Designer position.

           Roger nodded knowingly. “Oh yes, every story has conflict and plot twists.”

           Danny grabbed the man by his scarf and pulled him close. He glared at him. “What kind of sick prank is this? You get a kick out of messing with people’s lives?”

           To Danny’s surprise Roger remained cool and collected. “It is no prank. I only suggest this book for people who need it. Remember? You needed a book to pull you out of your gloom.”

           Danny released him and sighed. So, the book gave him all this good fortune only to twist it and make his life more complicated.

           Roger put a hand on his shoulder. “Every good character must go through some trouble to learn a lesson. They go through conflict, and they come out a better person.”

           “So, you’re saying if I stick this out, the book will make it better?”

           Roger stepped back and pointed at him. “You create your own story, Danny Groop. How do you want it to go? What lesson do you need to learn for you to be a better person than you were yesterday?”

           Danny wanted to argue more, but he knew the man was right. Roger started walking away. “Wait, how did you know my name?”

           Roger only smiled. “Happy reading, Mr. Groop.”


           Well, the book predicted right like always. Christina was hostile towards him after his rejection, Gale smacked him across the face in front of everyone in the office when she found out, and the new kid, James Keller (even his name was cooler than Danny’s), was winning everyone over. It was a miserable day and Danny had a hard time focusing on his work. He started to wonder if he even deserved to be there. Wasn’t this cheating? Didn’t the book technically make all this happen in the first place?

           That night Danny lay awake, deep in thought. Roger’s words kept playing through his head. He hadn’t even read the book yet. Maybe in the morning he would have the heart to see what would happen next. It would probably only get worse before it would get better. And how would it get better?

           Finally, Danny sat up and turned the light on. He swiped his face in his hands and sighed. The drawer in his bedside table suddenly caught his attention. He slowly opened the drawer and pulled out a worn-out piece of paper. It was a letter from his dad. He wrote it just before he died when Danny was six. It was simple and yet said everything.


           Dear Danny,

           Sorry I couldn’t be with you as you grew up. Just remember to be humble, patient, and kind. Those three things will get you farther than anything, kiddo.

                                                                       I love you,

                                                                                   Dad



           Danny swiped a tear away and nodded. He knew what he had to do.

           The next morning, Danny got ready. He dressed sharp, he had to look good today for what he had to do. He grabbed the book…and put it in his bag. On his way to the office, he stopped at the library and put the book in the return bin, not once looking back. He was going to do what Roger said and create his own story.

           When he got to the office he went to Gale’s desk. She frowned, but before she could say anything he gave her a big kiss. “I love you, Gale. I know we’ve only been dating a week, but I know I love you and I hope you can forgive me.”

           He turned away leaving her stunned. Next, he stopped in Christina’s office. She was on the phone and her expression turned grim when she saw him. She finished her call and turned to him.

           “Don’t even bother begging me for that position, Groop. I am-“

           Danny stopped her. “I’m not. I’m actually quitting.”

           Christina paused. “Wait, no you can’t do that. Our number of clients has almost doubled just in the week that you started.”

           “Well, that will look good on my resume then,” Danny said grinning. “Thank you for this opportunity and for getting me started in my career.” And with that he turned out of the office.

           On his way out the door he ran into James. James looked like he expected a negative encounter, but Danny only smiled and shook his hand. “Good luck with the Senior Designer position James. I know you will be a great contributor to the team.”

           James frowned suspiciously. “I haven’t technically gotten the job yet.”

           “Oh, it’s yours. I’m sure of it. Listen, I’m going to be looking for a new position somewhere and I was tossing around the idea of the video game industry. I could use your help and advice.”

           James was speechless.

           “Can you meet me for coffee sometime this week? Say Thursday.”

           James nodded. Danny patted him on the shoulder. “Thanks, see you around.”

           He smiled brightly at Gale who smiled back and pushed open the door with gusto leaving everyone in the office staring after him in stunned silence.

           Danny Groop walked down the street with a skip in his step. He was again jobless and never did find that twenty dollars, but he had friends and hope. And he knew things were looking up.


           Roger closed the book and smiled at the silvery letters of the title. “What a great story.” He tucked the book back into its shelf.

April 19, 2022 22:52

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2 comments

Michał Przywara
18:10 Apr 23, 2022

An interesting story! I've always liked the idea of magic books which affect reality. Normally it seems the readers get addicted and things get really bad, but here it looks like Danny broke the cycle early. Overall it's a good metaphor for taking responsibility for your own life, instead of depending on escapism. Thanks for sharing!

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23:26 Apr 24, 2022

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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