Saturday, June 25, 2005

UPDATES FROM THE WAR: Borges Bookstore Burns Down

Borges Bookstore Burns to the Ground
Owners Vow to Rebuild “Without a Single F&L or H&S Book on Our Shelves”

by D.J. Shriek

Just one day before the annual Festival of the Freshwater Squid, the Borges Bookstore has burned to the ground. Three people, all bookstore clerks, are confirmed dead, with two still missing. The bookstore caught fire just before dusk, reportedly due to a skirmish that broke out between enemy units operating in the area.

A witness who asked to remain anonymous told this reporter, “It was horrible. The sky was darkened by the smoke from the books, burned pages floating up into the air and fluttering back down again like a black snowfall over the city. Those who caught a sheet could feel the heat and fleetingly read what had a strange appearance of white text with black paper. Once the heat cooled, the pages crumpled away in our fingers.”

Some cannot help but take it as a bad sign, coming on the eve of the Festival.

“I’m worried,” one woman said, staring at the smoldering remains. “That was the safest safe house in Ambergris. It was a symbol. The gray caps never got in there, even during the Festival.”

More importantly, perhaps, for several weeks the Borges Bookstore had been the only reliable source of news about the progress of the war. The owners had kept the doors open for weeks after most other newsstands and bookstores had closed up or moved to other cities. Both the Hoegbotton Fighting Standard and the F&L No Quarter Tribune, the propaganda wings of the respective combatants, have published free bulletins for distribution at Borges Bookstore. The broadsheet this correspondent reports for also found the bookstore a major distribution nexus, and it often served as an understood neutral site.

As for the future of the Borges Bookstore, the owner today told this reporter, “I will rebuild in the next few months, if possible. But I will never again stock any books published by Hoegbotton or Frankwrithe.”

Asked to comment, Hoegbotton military spokesperson Paul Hoegbotton said, “We would consider it a serious breach of neutrality if Borges Bookstore discontinued carrying our books. We might choose not to honor the bookstore’s insurance contract.”

Representatives from Frankwrithe declined to comment, except for sending a heavily sealed package, which this reporter declined to open for the obvious reasons.

In recent weeks, Frankwrithe has had one of the city’s few wartime bestsellers, Exotic Fungal Weapons: How to Take the Necessary Precautions, in what an anonymous high-ranking source on the Hoegbotton side is calling a “nauseatingly opportunistic move.” Ironically, no copies of the book survived the fire.

With the breakdown in the city’s volunteer services during this war, no fire fighting assistance was available at the time the blaze broke out.


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