Forgotten Souls, Neglected Skins

Few are aware that I aman active member of a relatively unknown Resistance. Depending on the tasks needed, I’m a doctor, a repairwoman, an artist, a conservationist. Butgenerally speaking, I’m a protector of a dying art.

I’m a bookbinder, you see. And I’m involved in the work of preserving books.

I entered the Resistance at an essential time. The rise of e-books and factory-made paperbacks manufactured with “perfect binding” have become a market for selling information, rather than a community for sharing art. Yet, this is not a new Resistance by any means. I find myself echoing Herbert P. Horne who publicly attacked the binding techniques of the 1890s and accused the ‘modern’ binders of producing second-rate souls that fall apart more often than they stay together. My outcries are much the same. I am disgusted by the way the bookselling industry has taken an ancient practice and replaced it with cut pages sloppily kept together in a flimsy paperback skin using an excess of glue that loses its flexibility before the soul has a chance to leave the factory. Considering that half the joy of books is in their construction, there can be little wonder as to why media has moved to centre-stage.  

 Luckily, the greatest enemy to our Resistance also becomes one of our greatest allies. There is now widespread awareness of our Resistance’s work in today’s age of media platforms that have begun to favour the creative, behind-the-scenes processes of art and craftsmanship. We are fortunate to be mid-swing in the pendulum away from the mass-produced and toward the handcrafted. But with the swing comes transparency, and I fear the public’s reaction to the harsh techniques I must employ in my work.

Often, the poor souls I am tasked with repairing come into my workshop with a simple page loose from its binding. But I cannot simply glue the page back in for more pages will come loose, and they will drop like the leaves of a tree in a burst of sudden autumn. These repairs require refinement like that through fire. I must undo all done to the soul in the “perfect binding” process before the real repair can begin. It is a painful, but necessary liberation.

On more encouraging days, I am called in as a doctor to heal. I flip through the worn pages of a Bible. I am lured in by the words of wisdom and Gospel illuminated with pen and highlighter.The Bibles I’ve encountered are always meticulously crafted so that Herbert and I can both be proud. The crimes committed against these books are their daily use, a crime that is hardly wicked. I reattach skins by replacing the gauze-like material that connects spine to cover. I remove unintentional creases by sprinkling water onto the page, tickling the paper into stretching out. I stitch the seams of ripped pages, reuniting them with their folded siblings. I splint up wounded and broken spines. I bring the broken back to health.

Another of my tasks is the art of altered bookbinding. But I won’t deceive you. It is the task of destruction.

There are books in our digital-obsessed world whose pages have not been opened for decades. These are books that rot in the open graves of landfills because they have lost the irrelevancy in a world that has moved to a new edition or because their soul is considered unreadable in a cultural moment that can only swallow list-formatted information. Is it only our Resistance who remembers the moments of history when disposing of books like this was a way for tyranny to flourish, a way to try to stamp out Truth? I save those condemned books. But I cannot simply reintroduce them to the world in their unwanted state. I must disguise them.

So I take upon myself the painful task of separating soul from skin. From the soul of the book I remove words, I paint the pages, I write over the story. I breathe new life into tired narratives the world has abandoned. I create poetry.

I create a new soul for the skin of disowned books. A blank soul that is ready to be matched with another soul. A human soul. Ready to spill the “breathings of [their] heart” with ink. I am in the business of destruction in order that I might conserve that which has been abandoned.

I’m part of an active Resistance. I’m a bookbinder, you see. I’m a protector of an art kept alive by humans who care enough to remember, and humans who want to see a renaissance ofsoul-filled books.

*Quotation by William Wordsworth

The Last Days of Strider and Trek

Photo by Kenny Webster on Unsplash
Photo by Kenny Webster on Unsplash

Ice cream is the dessert of abandonment. Think about it. In all the movies, after a break-up, the food of choice is always ice cream. People drown their sorrows in ice cream. I’ve never seen the point in doing so. I think perhaps it’s because of an incident during the summer of grade 1 involving me, my best friend, and our horses Strider and Trek.

Strider was my horse. And he was a beauty. Purple. White mane. And best of all, no training wheels. That’s right. You read that right. Strider was a bike. As a young cowgirl stuck living in a town instead of a barn like I dreamed, my purple bike with the word “Strider” across the bar in bold lettering was as close to a horse as I was going to get.

My best friend, Heidi, was also a cowgirl stuck in a city-girl’s body. Her horse, Trek, was blue, a little rusty, and had to be shared with her two younger brothers. Trek was a little worse for wear. He had a pedal missing, and he had a handlebar that was slightly askew to the right, but Heidi loved Trek as much as I loved Strider. That’s what brought us together.

It was me and her. Strider and Trek.

Starting in kindergarten, we did everything together. And everything we did was horse related. We were the embodiment of that weird girl obsessed with horses in any given classroom. Neither of us could read, but that didn’t stop us from collecting all the Pony Pal chapter books. I collected magazines with pictures of horse breeds in them. Heidi supplied the hats and cowboy boots and we formed the ever exclusive and creatively named, ‘Horse Club’ of which we were the only members—Me and her. Strider and Trek.

All summer long we rode our horses around and around the block, the wind streaking through the holes of our helmets, and the sweat pooling in our cowboy boots. From an outside neighbour’s perspective, it looked like two girls endlessly riding their bikes around the block as if they expected to find something new every time they turned the corner. But to Heidi and me, we were riding in the open fields with nothing ahead or behind, the sun beating down on us as we surged forward on our powerful and mighty steads. Just me and her. Strider and Trek.

When our horses were in the stable, or being ridden by Heidi’s brothers, we piled our horse supplies into the clubhouse—Pony Pal books, horse breed magazines, and stuffed horses to match. Together we poured over the pages, learning the names and colours of the breeds we loved and wanted. Heidi always went with the classic Thoroughbred or Mustang, while I leaned toward the draft horses—with feathered feet of course.

I never thought that Heidi’s dedication to Trek, to our Horse Club, to me, was ever to be questioned. But I also thought ice cream was just a cold treat to eat in summer; however, that summer, between Kindergarten and Grade 1, I learned otherwise.

Heidi was at my house, as usual. We were preparing for a cross-country tournament. The first of the summer. It was an exciting expedition. The elementary school had just poured cement for a basketball court, but Heidi and I saw a horse-riding arena like no other. Our helmets were secured, our boots were polished, and the brakes on our bikes were checked and double-checked. We were ready to take off! I could hear the cheering crowd as we mounted our horses, waiting for the signal. I could hear Heidi’s name being chanted.

“Heidi! Heidi! Heidi!”

I opened my eyes, the stands of cheering fans faded away, and the triumphant shouts died in my ears. I saw Heidi’s little brother, Jordie, thumb in his mouth, standing in front of us, moments before our cross-country race could begin.

“Mum says we are going for ice cream. Are you coming with us?” Jordie asked, removing his thumb just long enough to deliver his wretched message.

I saw the tournament at the new horse arena fade from Heidi’s eyes. She dismounted. Suddenly Trek was just a blue rusty bike to her. She gave me an apologetic shrug.

“What about our tournament?” I asked.

“I’ll come back after,” she said, shrugging again. A dangerous sign I should have seen. The indifference of that shrug should have warned me, it should have set bells ringing, but it didn’t. I was clutching at the tiny piece of hope that after ice cream, we would have our tournament.

So I watched her go down that dusty road, Trek walking beside her, Jordie running to keep pace with her, no doubt thinking only of ice cream.
I wish I could say I went inside, explained to my mum the situation, and she would have told me…told what was going to happen at Heidi’s house.

But I didn’t. I stayed on the edge of my driveway, sitting in the gravel, Strider grazing on the lawn. Halfway through the afternoon, when the sun was relentless, I took off my helmet, and then my cowboy boots. But still I waited. And I waited. And I waited. Finally, my mum called me in. We had supper.

And the summer went on. It was supposed to be me and her. Strider and Trek. But it wasn’t, and it never was again. Heidi moved away that summer. I wish I could say I went to her house and found Trek there, with Heidi’s hat and boots. As a symbol, an apology for never competing in that cross-country tournament. But I didn’t find anything. She was just gone, simple as that.

It had been me and her. Strider and Trek. Until the day I learned that ice cream is the dessert of abandonment.

March Micro Fiction Challenge Week Three

microfiction challenge

“Follow the falcon and he’ll lead you to the fountain,” Amahris whispered to herself.

But the falcon swooped down, darting into the dark towering trees that touched the clouds on the horizon. Amahris stopped. She dropped her pack and sank to her knees, feeling the weight of weariness and days with little water, less food, and no sleep pulling at every fibre of her body. She couldn’t follow the bird into that forest, she’d be lucky to make to its edge. But she had to. Sahja was counting on her.

“Follow the falcon and he’ll lead you to the fountain.”

this is a day.jpg

March Micro Fiction Challenge Week 2

“I told you, I’m not like the others.” He shouted after her.

She didn’t stop, but ran from the house into the night. The rain had been steady all day. Sahja wondered if it would ever let up. Her running slowed and the sharpness of the brisk air stuck in her lungs. She shouldn’t have left without a cloak.

“Sahja!” His voice broke through the distance and a faint light made its way to her, but she had no more energy to run away. “We need to get out of the rain,” he said.

Reluctantly, she took his outstretched hand.


day 10

Micro Fiction Challenge Week 1

microfiction challenge

Of the three 100 word stories I wrote this week, I think the first one is my favourite. Enjoy:

march 1

“Have you ever seen something so breath-taking?” Sahja asked, gazing upward while her fingertips brushed through the water, disrupting the twinkling celestial reflections.

They were sitting together stranded on a rock until the tide went out and with it the dark canvas for the stars.

He nodded, but he wasn’t looking at the sky. He was looking at her. At her stormy blue hair cascading down onto rough, weathered shoulders. At her bright fiery, yet impossibly distant eyes. At her winking smile that was only visible in its true glory during the darkest times.

“Yes, I have.” He breathed.


Have you written any stories based on this week’s prompts that you want to share? I’d love to read them, put them in the comments down below!

Nameless One

Here’s a scene I wrote using the tips described in this post. My starting point was this wonderful concept art! Enjoy!

photo credits to Michel Donze found at

“M’lord, we found her,” Adrian’s advisor said, bowing before the king.

Adrian nodded, gesturing to his guards to relax at the advisor’s sudden entrance. “Bring her in immediately.”

The advisor then turned, pointing to the door. The guard nearest opened it. The woman was escorted in, though Adrian could clearly see there was no point in his guards who looked positively shabby next to the legendary woman.

She did not bow her head as she drew near. She was dressed in a tunic of many materials, all wrapping tightly around her torso and her head was covered in a cowl, but what struck him was not the long thin sword at her hip, or the magic dancing in between her fingers, but her face. Which he couldn’t see. It was behind a smooth, shapeless mask that seamlessly blended into her cowl. There were sword marks hacked into it, likely from previous encounters, and the smooth surface was scraped from years of use. There was one eye hole, and though he could not see the eye, stories said it was deep and endless like the sea, but held many more secrets than even the vast ocean.

Adrian gestured to his guards and advisor to leave the room. Once they were gone, he left his throne, advancing slowly on the woman.

“You are a hard person to find…” Adrian struggled with what to call the phantom in front of him. “How should I address you?”

“If you are hiring me, whatever you wish, son of Abrinac,” she said, her voice airy and surprisingly feminine.

Adrian closed his mouth. What should he call her? This legend? In the flesh before him? She was a destroyer of armies, a slayer of beasts, a master of magic, a friend to none, but a foe to many. She had no allegiance, no place to call home. In the most basic sense of the term, she was a sword for hire.

“I would like to hire you. As a companion for a journey I must make,” Adrian said at last, not settling on a name at once.

“What is the job, son of Abrinac? My contract must first be in order,” she said.

Adrian nodded. “In good time. But first, surely you can understand that I can’t hire you on the basis of legends and stories.”

A chuckle laced her voice like poison. “You want a demonstration?”

Adrian barely nodded. He was playing with fire and they both knew it. But she did not hesitate, drawing her sword swiftly and smoothly. Adrian blinked and found the blade inches from his throat, suspended. He tried to move, but the room had grown dim except for the figure, who was glowing with a greenish light. Her hands were engulfed in magic, and though he could not move, he watched the magic dance across the room, around the blade, sizzling as it went by his head.

Now she was advancing on him, slowly, with ease. “Normally I kill those who ask for such a petty show, but, son of Abrinac, you, and your heritage intrigue me. I am as the legends describe, but not everything makes it into the stories, young king. You’d do best to remember that.

Adrian tried to nod, as the woman took hold of her sword, the magic vanishing from the air releasing a harsh cold over the room. She sheathed her sword, standing in wait for Adrian.

“What is it you want me to do, son of Abrinac?” she asked at last.

Adrian straightened, his eyes brightening. “Are you aware of the stories of the Portal in the centre of the world?”

She nodded.

“For centuries it’s been said the centre of the geographical world, but I believe it’s the core of the world, and I know a way down,” Adrian said, the stories his father would tell him ringing in his ears.

“Adrian, my son, you are going to inherit a peaceful land. You will be able to chase whatever dreams you can catch. I hope you find what your heart desires.”

“I would like you to join me on my journey, as protection, as companionship, as a guide of sorts,” Adrian said.

The woman’s shoulders shifted. “I see.”

“What is your price for such an expedition?” Adrian asked.

Her hand resting on the pommel of her sword tightened. “What’s on the other side of the portal, son of Abrinac?”

Adrian faltered. “There are stories, but no one knows for sure. It could be a portal to another world, it could lead to the future, or the past, or any number of things.”

Her hand was shaking now. “There is no telling what happens on the other side of the portal. You would risk your life, the security of your kingdom?”

Adrian had thought of this. “I have a council ready to take over in case I don’t return, but I don’t plan on dying.”

“What do you think is on the other side of the portal, son of Abrinac? Surely you’re not stupid enough to chase a legend alone.”

Adrian swallowed. “I want to find my parents and I believe that’s where the Portal will lead me.”

Her grip loosened now, and her hand fell to her side. “It’s been nearly a decade since they disappeared.”

Adrian nodded. “I’m not waiting for a second decade to pass. Name your price.”

She was still. “There is only one thing I want, son of Abrinac. To disappear. Forever.”

Adrian’s brow furrowed. “I don’t understand.”

“I want to go through the portal,” she said.

Adrian felt like it was a trick. “That is your price? Not gold, power, land?”

“I have had all that, son of Abrinac. All those things fade away, yet I continue. Let me go through the portal, and I will accompany you.”

Adrian shrugged. “If that is your wish, I cannot deny it.”

She nodded, and now, her head bowed. “Then a contract is made. Seal it by giving me a name.”

Adrian swallowed. “Zaraj.”

She looked up. “Dragon tongue. What does it mean?”

“Nameless one,” Adrian said. “Zaraj.”

And he could have sworn she smiled.