There was something stuck in the old book’s binding. At first glance, I thought it was just a mark – a printer’s stamp maybe, or a publisher’s brand. Only after closer inspection did I realise what it was. A single word, handwritten, in a vibrant emerald ink which glistened as though still wet. The word was “idea”.
It seemed odd that someone would write anything on a binding where no one could see it, more so that it was done with such care and in as ornate a style as this. I wouldn’t have seen it myself if I hadn’t dropped the volume – a treatise on the use of brainstorming to combat creative block – when retrieving it from my bookshelf. It’d fallen hard against the corner of my desk, cracking the spine, and spilling a handful of its dry, yellowing pages across the floor.
I gathered up the book and the fallen pages and set them on the desk beside my laptop. It was getting late and the light in the study wasn’t good. While examining the damage under the orange glow of an arched study lamp, I found it. I almost laughed when I read the word. If only finding an idea was that simple. Still, it was intriguing and before I knew it, my index finger was tracing the looping characters.
When I removed it, the finger came away wet. The skin at the tip was stained green. I cursed, checked the word for any smudging. Nothing. My relief caught in my throat. I decided that it was too late to attempt a repair on the book, so I switched off the light, closed the laptop and went to bed.
* * *
After breakfast, I sat down at my desk and inspected the book. The damage looked worse in the morning’s bright sun. Fractured lines appeared to radiate from the edges of its leather cover and along some of the loose pages. I tilting the book this way and that and the light caught in the cracks. Green ink, thick and wet, filled the valleys, drawing gossamer tendrils across the paper. I hadn’t noticed these before but couldn’t say with any confidence that they weren’t there before. Either way, it was beyond my abilities to repair and I set the book to one side with the intention of searching for a professional bookbinder. But before I could, the most wonderful idea struck me and I hurried to the laptop.
It wasn’t until mid-afternoon when I stopped writing. I sat back in the chair with a sense of achievement unlike anything I’d felt in a while. My fingers were sore and itching. I rubbed them absentmindedly on the cover of the book as I read the words on the screen.
Another idea popped into my head.
And then another. So many ideas, I could scarcely get them down on paper. I nudged the book during a bout of frantic scribbling. It fell open across the paper.
Green ink covered the pages. The fractal patterns had grown, shifted, looping themselves into more ornate words. They merged together, overwriting one another. Here and there I could make out a legible word: dark, contractor, harbour. I don’t know why but I reached up and touched one. A flash of imagery, a scene of a story, jolted through my head like lightning.
I recoiled with a shudder then tentatively touched a second and saw the crashing of waves, a seaside squall. All the ideas I could ever want or need were right at my fingertips, accessible through the gentlest of touches. What had I done to deserve such a gift?
I stared at my hands, at the green smudge still marring my index finger. It was no longer a smudge, but a word. The word was “idea”.