Excerpt: Keep the Books

It was hours later when she noticed that his clothes had changed. On his right side, the side he had slept on, a new outfit was growing. It did not merely cover his old one, it replaced it. It seemed to be eating it. The process was slow, but it crept along his trunk, moved around his knee, and in time covered his entire body, hands and head excluded. It was a fashionable men’s suit, a classic design. But it had gone off-course. On his right side, it was thick and well-woven, the hems sewn straight and tight, but by the time it reached his lapels, it had lost much of its vigor. The general impression was of a melted wedding-cake topper.

Ward dreamed of burning books, of the look of disgust – or was it shame? – on his mother’s face as he wolfed down a cat-burger, his own tiny face all smiles and sauce.

Sophia dreamed of Ward, eyeless and melted and dragged into the earth by the floorboards.

“What the hell is a nano-bot?” Sophia was scared now, imagining a ghostly presence, sewn into the walls and floors. Was her food made of these nano-bots? Was her chicken really ghost meat?

“I guess it was new,” Ward said, trying to piece it all together. “Must have just come out when It Happened. I guess the people who lived here were Beta.”

“Which makes us Beta now,” she said



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