Peddling Words

I never understood why kids were still into these things. I grew up without ever reading and I got by just fine. They all told me it was about the high you got from it – a feeling that couldn’t be recreated by film or computer games. I just shrugged off their opinions – after all, why spend days reading a novel when you can watch a movie adaptation in two hours?

Before my time – a long time ago – I heard that these things were legal. You could buy them anywhere and sometimes they were even mandatory. There were even public areas called libraries where people could read books without paying a single cent!

People read in public – on busses, in restaurants, at the side of the street – it was a completely different world back then. They could even claim for them in their taxes returns. People were encouraged to read.

I don’t know when it was, but books were finally outlawed when trees couldn’t grow anymore. Production of new books, newspapers and magazines became illegal. The value of existing books suddenly skyrocketed. People were committing crimes to get their hands on these paperback treasures.

Criminal activities flourished out of control until governments decided to put their feet down and declared it illegal to own a book. Those who were caught with books were sentenced to death. Suddenly nobody wanted books anymore. People turned their books in to the police, who then stashed those books away in vaults.

Many years have passed since those laws were put into place, and silently, these books started to trickle into the streets. Nobody knows who has been releasing them, but according to the rumors, some corrupt officials in third world countries are exporting them across the world.

Even my supplier had no idea who was giving the books to him. Regardless, it didn’t matter to me. These books were easy to sell and I made a decent living, so I never asked any questions.

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t read them – but in my experience, the best dealers are the ones who never partake in what they sell,” he had told me when I was starting out.

It’s been eight years since then, and I haven’t been caught. The temptation – no, I wouldn’t call it that… curiosity? Yeah, that’s a better word – to read has long been gone, and I couldn’t care less about what I sold to kids. As long as they were happy and didn’t rat on me, I was fine.

“Excuse me… uh hm!” a scrawny teenage boy standing in front of my stall cleared his throat. Oh shit, I was daydreaming again.

“Sorry about that,” I said, while wiping my face with my hands. “What can I do for you?”

“How much for that book?” he said pointing at a 100th anniversary edition of A Feast for Crows with a shaky hand.

“That’d be fifty five dollars,” I said.

He nodded, reached into his pockets and fumbled around for the cash. He placed the money on top of the other books in my stall with his still shaky hands and held onto the book tightly.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve had myself a fix,” he announced sheepishly, noticing me notice his shivers. He quickly tucked the book under his shirt, turned and slipped away.

This is probably why I don’t want to start reading, I tell myself. However, I’ll probably give it a shot one day. Before I die or caught by the police – whichever one comes first. At that point in time, it’ll be too late for me to regret it anyway. For now, I’ll just give these kids what they want and stay clean.


Writing Prompt from Reddit – Books are illegal. You are a book dealer.

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