Promotional art made by the Shelved production team

As the readers of this piece will no doubt know, I have always been rather a big fan of bookshops. For me, nothing will ever beat the sensation of walking into a shop and sensing the decay, the odour of ageing pages and ageing owners. It is an indulgence which I am aware is very much part of that ever so irresistible death-drive, and so it is one which I try to resist whenever possible.

However, I couldn’t restrain my intrigue when I heard about a new bookshop which had opened recently. The advertisement I saw for it was a mouldering poster on some equally mouldering wall near a building site. The name of the shop was ‘SHELVED’, and all it claimed was that if a discerning customer would like the ultimate bookshop experience, then they ought to get in touch with both Jeremy and Sally. It then gave a phone number along the bottom which was longer than my arm. Well, how could I do anything but phone the number immediately? I asked the voice on the other end of the phone if they were Jeremy, and they said they were. I asked if they would they be up for doing an interview about their shop, and the voice agreed on one condition. They would slip the time and address for the meeting place under my door the next morning, and I would meet them there, at the time and place dictated to me, with no weapons or blueberries upon me. I agreed. “But won’t you want my address?” I tried to ask. However, the voice had already hung up.

“I felt as if I were voluntarily passing into another realm of perception.”

The next morning, a sheet of paper was slipped underneath my door. It had the time and place on it. I had to look the place up. As I soon discovered, it was an abandoned smelting factory which happened to be not inordinately far from where I live. The meeting time was one o’clock in the morning. I drove there at the time specified, making doubly sure before I left that no stray blueberries had slipped into my pockets. I must say, my heart flittered like a caged budgie in the depths of my chest as I stepped out of my door. Somehow, I felt as if I were voluntarily passing into another realm of perception.

The road swam ahead of me; my head swam within me. All was torpor, energy and confusion as the road unspooled before me. Did I see monsters upon the side of the road? Or did I see some castle upon a distant hill, bristling and prickling in its charged unreality? The shrubs by the side of the road seemed to shuffle and whistle, as if Lucifer himself were jerking them with his intricate pulleys. God, what visions! I focused upon the pool of the headlights, concentrating only upon the space which I could manage and control. The rest, which lay beyond the pale, often threatened to surge and burst from the periphery. I sensed the white and red stripes of a jumper, a bobbing parasol, and even – though I could not dare to swivel my gaze left or right and verify it – the spectre of a recently escaped madman who had once been a children’s writer. All these visions I sensed, and yet cannot confirm to have seen.

Eventually, having passed through the country lane, I arrived at the vast abandoned smelting factory. I passed through the gates, parked my car and ejected myself from it with as much composure as my quivering body could muster. “Hello?” I called out into the vast, smelted night, “Is anybody there? Sally? Jeremy?”


Then, at last, they emerged. Or, at least, their shadows did.

“Where shall we conduct the interview, then?” I stammered.

“There will be no interview,” Sally grumbled.

“We invited you here to pass on something which might be crucial to you,” Jeremy sputtered on.

And with this, one of them – I cannot say who – advanced forward in the manner of a limping chicken, and commanded me to hold out an open palm. Transfixed by a fascinated fear, I did as they said.

Something was placed in my hand. It was not unlike the texture of an eye or a jellied eel.

“Now close your hand,” one of them instructed me.

I did so. Instantly, I felt the shape and texture of the thing transmute in my hand. One second it felt like a pair of dice, the next a pork scratching remnant. Feeling this change, I recoiled in shock.

“Keep your hand closed!” one of them barked. “You must keep your hand closed until you return home. By then the alchemy will have been completed. You will know what to do from there on.”

I returned home, clutching the object tight in my fist. It was the worst drive home of my life. Upon walking back through my front door, though, it no longer felt like home. I had brought some trace of the other realm of perception back with me; I opened my fist and looked down. I gasped.


Mountain View

The Ballonist Masterplan: Forgotten Lives

A small, pert, golden strawberry sat in my palm.

To this day, I have not been able to leave my house. I can’t leave the presence of the golden strawberry. What to do? What to do? They said I’d know what to do! They said I would!

I don’t!

I look upon it now as I write, and can do nothing but wonder. Wonder what? What? Wha.....