Microfiction: the Books serial

The seven 99 word microfiction episides of the story, grouped into a single flash fiction piece and renamed, The Man with the Golden Pen. Thanks to Charli Mills for the prompt. Follow the link for the round up of stories she inspired.


She ran her finger along the spines of the books on the shelves

Read it, read it, readitreaditreaditreadit…

Her finger ran out of books and found a door at the end of the shelf.


She shrugged. This was a public library. She tugged on the handle and opened the door. A man, bald, glasses, seated at a desk, raised his eyes.

“Sit,” he said and pushed a book across the desk. “Read that.”


“It might teach you how to find your way home.”

She turned. The door clicked closed. She tugged on the handle. It was locked.


With a glare at the man behind the desk, she took out her phone.

“Who are you calling?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. “The Marines?”

She slipped the phone back in her pocket.

“Nobody. No signal.”

“What a surprise.” He tapped the cover of the book. “Read it.”

“You can’t keep me here. It’s illegal.”

The man got to his feet. “If you say so.”

She threw herself at the door, beating it with her fists.

“They can’t hear, you know.”

“Open the door!” she screamed.

He shrugged. “I’ll be back later.”

Turning away, he walked through the wall.


She ran her fingers across the wall looking for a secret panel or something. It was smooth as ice. After a flurry of anger, sweeping papers and pens off the desk, she threw herself into the chair with a sob of rage. The book glittered, mocking her. Her first impulse was to rip the cover off and set light to it. She opened the desk drawers looking for a lighter. All were empty. The snarky fucker didn’t even smoke!

She opened the damn book, flipped through a few pages then riffled through to the end. The pages were blank.


“How can I read what’s not there?” she yelled at the empty room.

You have to write it first. The reply dropped into her head.

A string of obscenities formed a chaotic dance in counter-attack then faded into frustration. She picked up a pencil from the floor and opened the book. After writing something that resembled the graffiti you find in public toilets, she doodled a bad cartoon image of the bald-headed man. The pencil lead snapped and she tossed it back on the floor. A metallic glint caught her eye. By her feet lay a gold fountain pen.


Her first impulse was pure cupidity. Fingers gripped the pen avidly, weighing up the value. A shift, almost imperceptible, of perspective and she felt the smooth beauty of the object seep through her pores. The slender lines, the perfect balance in her fingers, like a seabird poised to dive, became the only way of looking at the pen. Timidly, she pointed it towards a clean page, let it plunge into the snowy whiteness and cover it with delicate black tracery.

She sat back and tried to make sense of the pattern. The filigree held a secret. She almost smiled.



The gold nib, a warhead, the point of magnified sunlight that starts a fire, wrote the words in a flood of emotion. This was the answer to the conundrum.

What conundrum? I’m being held prisoner!

Anger flared up, hot and red, and the words the pen wrote were passionate and full of fire. She gave herself up to the impulse to write and realised that it had always been there, bottled up inside. She wrote a poem full of wide skies, clouds, green waves and white birds, and when she had finished, the pen lay still and she cried.


“Wasn’t so hard, was it?”

The voice startled her, pulling her out of her winged flight to see what lay beyond the horizon. A smart answer bounced on the tip of her tongue then burst like a bubble.

“You could have made it easier.”

The bald-headed man smiled, and it was like seagulls laughing on a windy day.

“That would have been to miss the point,” he said.

“I know,” she said and handed him the pen. “Yours, I believe.”

“Keep it,” he said—“Souvenir”—and opened the door to let her back into a world of sunlit dreams.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

16 thoughts on “Microfiction: the Books serial”

  1. Wow! I felt like I’ve taken flight just by reading this! This is a great story you hatched and it’s one of the golden eggs from the nest of flash fiction. 🙂

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