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SEE OTHER FILE

244

 Skip expected a weak argumentative dialogue to be waiting for him at the Starbooks information desk, but everything there was different. (Perfectly predictable since he also had expected his expectations to be dead wrong as they often were.) The air reaked of a foreshadowing danger to the stability of Starbooks, Flutonia, and perhaps even the known universe, which if it followed through would of course be a rare and exceptional source of inspiration for future writing material. Of course, there was the threat of being banished into nothingness or oblivion or even hell (how do the sins of a freelance novelist compare to that of a serial killer bent on mass destruction, Skip wondered?), but novelist or terrorist, either would be a horrible one if they didn't leap to have a role in such an important ominous event. It wasn't totally overwhelming, of course, since by the attitudes of the beatnik lemmings around him, not much in existence seemed to matter outside Starbooks anyway. (Skip made a note to work himself in to the whole cafe/bookworm scene more if events led to the realization that was nothing else besides acidic espressos and stylish laptops.)
 "Hmm. That's funny." Darlene seemed to time this whimsical self-comment at precisely the moment Skip passed by the Starbooks information desk just loudly enough for him to pick it up, but softly enough that he'd be accused of eavesdropping if he gave into the curiosity that its hearing would of surely raise.
 "I'm sorry, Darlene, I couldn't help but overhearing. I've managed to hone my hearing to be a little hypersensitive to absorb the sounds of human interaction around me to give me some ideas for any kind of meaningful human theme."
 "And how is that not eavesdropping to begin with?"
 "Uh, well, touche." Skip, ashamed, moved to leave with unquenched curiosity, but when reaching the exact distance from which he originally heard Darlene speak, he was further framed as she did it again.
 "This is the strangest error message I've ever seen."
 "I'm sorry, Darlene, I couldn't help but--"
 "Yes, yes. It's fine, now shoo."
 Skip shrugged and began walking over to the--
 "Who in the world would install a faulty error claiming a mass database self-destruct routine?"
 "I'm sorry?"
 "Well, as long as you're intruding again Skip, have you ever heard of a virus that jokes that your entire database is being deleted?"
 "I wouldn't be one to ask. As far as I can remember I've never heard of any virus at all, given I've never had a computer or even heard of one before today. So naturally, I've never heard of any sort of virus as you just described."
 "Ah, alright, it must be a real one then."
 "Huh?" Darlene picked up the cafe spoon to page Liza while Skip gave the screen a glance. It read:

ERROR: INVENTORY DATA INNACESSIBLE WHILE DATABASE UNDERGOING TOTAL DELETION. PLEASE TRY AGAIN LATER.
\
 "That has to be a joke," Skip almost seemed personally offended.
 "Well who would bother joking that the database is going to--"
 "No, not that. What I meant is that logically, running a search after your database deletes itself would be pointless giving there wouldn't be any data. Whoever programmed your virus had to be exceptionally dense to--"
 "Well what about the database deleting itself in the first place?"
 "Oh, that part's probably true. Seems kind of pointless to program a virus to joke that your system is deleting itself when they could just go all the way and get a hell of a lot more laughs. I can't imagine my job of friting the greatest Flutonian frwoa ever fritten would demand any less.
 What is it, Darlene?"
 "The computer is deleting itself."
 "Suicide? I think there's a support line for that. Suicide prevention or something. Here, give me the phone." Liza picked up the phone and Darlene tapped nervously and looked around as if expecting terrorists to smash their way into the library at any moment. Skip just tried to burn as many details of the strange situation into mind in case they'd be of use later for a silly comedy frwoa fragment.
 "Yes, we seem to have a computer glitch. Our computer is threatening to delete our book inventory. What should we--? Yes, you're right, I'm sorry, it says it's already deleting our book inventory. I don't suppose you know how to..." She trailed off with an increasing frown as Skip and Darlene helplessly stared at the status bar that read "TOTAL PERCENTAGE DELETED" and the sub-bar "ESTIMATED TIME UNTIL COLLAPSE OF THE ART OF PROSE".
 "Tech help says it's probably a screen saver someone set by accident."
 "Skip and Darlene gave a sigh and Darlene gave the mouse a little push toward the cheese and moved the pop icon on the screen a couple inches. "Nothing."
 "Then he said if it's not a screen saver, it's probably just a bit of cross-frwoa static intermixing a book about this sort of event with the potential of it happening in real life. Just a little discrepency, not any type of actual dangerous cross over. Check the static frwoa surge meter."
Darlene hit a key
 "ANTI-STATIC FRWOA CROSSOVER 100%".
 Then he says it's probably a series of monitor after-burn images that in conjunction happened to look like this message. Darlene gestured to the computer. The bars were moving in real time.
 "Ah. Then he said that whatever else it is, there's absolutely no need to worry unless the books simply start vanishing off the shelves."
 In response, a noise sounded akin to the paper-ruffle sound when the Recyle Bin is emptied on XP. All three looked toward the sound and saw a poof of smoke where a book on computer systems management had been. Darlene gasped, Skip frused, and Liza glanced toward the front registers. One by one Starbooks' books began vanishing off the shelves. Each vanished in a different manner; some vanished in a poof of smoke, others burnt up in a whiff of fire; others dried and shrivled up as they realized their writers' dreams from which they came were deferred shortly after they were brainstormed, in honor of the sell-outs of professionally published material.
. A book of Robert Frost poems couldn't decide whether to freeze or burn. Others got hit with a sudden drizzle and became so wet that they decided they were useless and simply forgot about themselves for lack of a sense of purpose in the world. Others decided their writers had written them long after their initial inspiration had run out, and realized they were running on the fumes of dreams deferred and really hadn't existed outside of their initial brainstorming. The customers quickly noticed and frused in confusion, partly because they hadn't made their purchases yet and would have to leave the store if the book they wanted end up disapearing.
 A shelf of Star Trek books beamed away; a shelf of generic formulated Star Wars books collapsed into a single generic novel then light-sabered itself to death. An abnormal psychology book turned to a can of nuts and got eaten. A copy of Freud's Interpretation of Dreams vanished as it woke up wherever it really was. The entire philosophy section was slowly fading in and out of existence as its books debated whether or not any of them existed and whether Starbooks was the appropriate place for them to be if they did.
 "Impossible! Impossible!" Liza pushed Darlene away and began typing frantically. Something she did was working for some of the books returned to their places, although two books seemed to disapear for every one that returned to compensate. "There is only one thing I've ever heard about that could do anything like this, and it's been protected by the most competent desk secretary I know of in all Flutonia."
 Skip gulped.
/guy came up instead of liza; insert short thing written down yellow notepad/
 "So what do we do now?"
 "Nuthin' we can, do, Squip. Basically just look around and enjoy the poetic beauty of destruction."
 "Doesn't sound very entertaining to me."
 "Well, it worked in Fareinheit 451."
 "Touche."

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