All that is left

Emma loved bookstores. The intoxicating smell reminded her of the library in her late parents’ house: the sweet scent of all things lost. She liked to brush her fingertips over the sharp edges of books showcased on spotless shelves, seeking forgotten particles of dust. She could hear the hidden letters whispering to her, like the voices of men who had long since passed away.

On the last Friday of every month, there was a reading at the nearest store. Emma always made sure she got a seat at the front. She loathed sitting in the middle of the crowd, surrounded by the voluminous bodies of strangers pressing against her frail frame. 

This particular Friday there was an author who was dear to her. She had been his devotee since she was young. A love from years past had introduced her to him - now every page seemed to take her back in time. 
In agony, she pushed through the faceless masses streaming towards her on her way to the store. They were shoving her, knocking into her with their massive purses. 

By choosing a seat in the first row, she could opt out of the vivid conversations taking place behind her, lost in her thoughts until she heard nothing but a uniform hum. In anticipation of the reading, she folded her arms tightly around herself as she stared at the desk where the author would be seated. She wasn't even aware of the people beside her, though they were drawing uncomfortably close. 

Anxiously, she bit off flakes of dry skin from her lips. Determined, she fought down the nausea rising from her empty stomach. As the author read excerpts from the novel, the image before Emma's eyes gradually started to lose its focus until the person standing before her had melted into a shapeless blob. Mesmerized, she leaned forward, her brittle spine creaking under the sudden shift. The words consumed her, reviving her hollow shell. The withered skin on her face blushed with new life. Her veins filled with love and laughter, melodrama and murder. 

By the time the presentation was over, Emma was oblivious of her pain.

As the applause faded, she was the first at the buffet, hoping nobody would notice how her bony fingers trembled as she stuffed her moth-eaten purse with precious hors d’oeuvres.

by B.E. Seidl

Based on the 101word story The Remains, first published at


  1. I really liked this; you reveal just enough and manage to get so much into a few words.


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