I didn’t know my way around my parents’ new house, since the old one had burned down. It was on the same plot of land, and the same treasures from travels all over the world filled it, but they’d bought a house elsewhere and had it moved onto the plot. I never would stop seeing it as a labyrinth, having trouble even finding the stairs up or down.

They sent me to the corner store to get some groceries, just like they had in decades gone past. The old IGA was open again, downtown on the corner, as if it had never left, as if all its broken tile floors and worn-out conveyer belts had just been sitting in storage for twenty years.

On my way back–at a run, because time and daylight are short–I see my aunt and uncle coming into town, my father’s big sister and part of her brood. They shout to me, sing a little “Happy Birthday” out the window. It’s embarrassing, but I know their heart is in the right place. They are driving one of the cars of their generation, outdated and gigantic, a glacier with oval side windows and faux vinyl, but it’s a good fit.

When I reach home, I have visitors. Old friends, or were they rivals? We’d gone to school together and gone our separate ways. But they’d never been far from my mind, and I was flattered to see that the same was true. The old swingset was back in my parents’ backyard, or perhaps a new one of the same design, and we sat in the three seats idly talking of days gone by. Some old secrets were shared, and we each asked after people we’d lost track of. I had to tell one of them how truly little I cared for his opinion, and the other seemed to cut me to the quick with her questions, innocent as they seemed.

I am older, yes. I am older. But that does not mean all is lost.

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“Do you ever give a thought to your legacy?” he asked, slipping out the sibilants in the question through a fog of nicotine-laced vapor.

“My legacy?” I said.

“Yeah.” Another deep puff, followed by a fresh cloud of fog leaking out of his mouth. “What you’ll be remembered for. Hell, if you’ll be remembered at all.”

I thought about that for a moment. “Do you really think that’s healthy, right now?”

“It’s just a question.”

“I guess the answer will have to be the same with me as it is with everybody else. Leave what I’ve done to stand on its own. Either it’ll add up to a legacy, or it won’t,” I said.

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Welcome to EFNB 10th Anniversary Week! This entry is a sequel to one posted ten years ago on February 26, 2010.

“Look, Graham, I don’t expect you to like it, but I do expect you to get it,” Allison said. “We’re all using somebody for something. You’re a smart guy, you would’ve used me to get ahead in your little bookstore before finding somebody your mom wouldn’t mind bringing home. I did the same.”

The .38 was trembling in Graham’s hand. “Maybe you’re right,” he said. “But I wouldn’t have left you in the gutter with two slugs from a cop in your gullet.”

“Yeah? Well, now’s your opportunity to do just that,” Allison said. She slid her hands up around Graham’s wrists and pulled the Colt up to her sternum. “Go on, shoot. If you’ve got in in you.”

The librarian hesitated. Allison saw his grip slacken, and with a deft move she plucked the .38 from his grasp.

“Just like I thought,” she said. “The difference between you can me, Graham, is that I’m willing to make things happen, and you just let things happen to you.”

Graham’s hands went up. “Are you going to shoot me then, Allison?” he said. “Even a known communist and ne’er-do-well like me isn’t going to look good dead on your expensive floor.”

“Don’t be silly,” she said. “I have people for that. Charlie?”

‘Bullshit’ Charlie, still in his officer’s blues, stepped out of the shadows, with his friends Smith and Wesson leveled square at Graham’s back. “Thanks for not shooting her, pal,” he said with that infuriating shit-eating grin of his. “You saved me a ton of paperwork.”

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Greetings and Introduction

Welcome! The editors here at Excerpts from Nonexistent Books are honored, nay, humbled that you have chosen to read from our humble site, and we are even more excited to kick off a weeklong celebration of 10 years’ literary blogging!

This blog was started in 2010 with a humble goal: to provide an outlet for the finest literature that did not, technically, exist (and as a daily, and accountable, writing blog besides!). At times it seemed like the project would not last the year, and EFNB was woefully behind at times, up to a month in some cases. But now, 3,652 entries later, it has all come together.

For this commemorative entry, the EFNB editors have gathered some comments from our nonexistent authors, posed questions to some of our longest-running nonexistent characters, and compiled some tantalizing statistics for nerds and nerkles. Finally, we have some exciting news in the form of a blast from the past! Stick around—if you’ve been with us for 10 years of this nonsense, you’re sure to enjoy what we’ve got in store.

Comments from Nonexistent Authors

“Ladies, gentlemen, and anything in between, it has been a pleasure and I hope it continues to be.”
Mariana Brinson

“Has it really been ten years? It feels like five-and-a-half at most. Perhaps there’s a time warp thing involved, I dunno.”
Altos Wexan

“Oh wow!!! CONGRATULATIONS! That’s wonderful!! Wooooooooow, 10 whole years. That’s an impressive milestone!”
Amanda Elton

“How did you get this address? Get out of my office!”
Phil “Stonewall” Pixa

“Nice! As someone who can’t finish nearly anything with an semblance of consistency I find it impressive.”
Akima Wren

Nokin Kobeyashi

“It’s been an delight, since most sites think my writing is for the birds.”
Sandra Cooke Jameson

“I’m honored to be part of EFNB, and I will live on forever through its fame and glory!”
Blythe Hilson

Questions with Nonexistent Characters

Q: What is best in life?
A: To crush a difficult recipe, see it served before you, and to hear the happy belches of the customers.
-Takenaka Chihiro, the wandering Sengoku Jidai gourmet chef

Q: What do you like best about appearing in EFNB?
A: Since my author will probably never finish my novel or short stories, it’s the only way I can exist. I guess I’ll take it, since the alternative is staying cooped up in his head.
-Pamela Ellen “Peg” Gregory, minimum-wage space jockey

Q: What is a good quality in a nonexistent character?
A: Existence is illusory. We only give existence power through belief; with enough belief, even the most ridiculous thing can be said to exist and exert its will. The ideal thing is to be the hand or sword-arm of that thing–no one has to believe in you, but you may as well be all-powerful.
-Pierre Richat, enigmatic villain

Q: Who do you like in the 2020 EFNB blog draft?
A: I think we’ll see more low-effort bad poetry, more graphical elements stolen from old sheet music, and the occasional return of a character from the blog’s heyday. But look out for pass interference from bizarre ideas that the blog toys with extensively and then drops, and of course plenty of hasty entries filled in after the fact.
-Carl Drake, sportscaster for NBS Broadcasting

Q: Do you think any of the characters are authorial self-inserts?
A: No, I think the predominance of college-age men giving way to greying middle-aged salarymen in stories over the years is a coincidence.
-Eric Cummings, spoiled college student

Q: Which is superior, the realistic, sci-fi, or fantasy entries in the blog?
A: All genres are puny, and all the living authors vermin, destined to wither and fail before the unstoppable tides of entropy and cool animated skeletons. So, fantasy, I guess.
-Ulgathk the Ever-Living, Elder Lich of the Seven Lands

Q: Why do all the EFNB entries sometimes feel like they were all written by the same person?
A: Well, as Messr. Whitman once said, we are large. We contain multitudes. Each idea is like its own being, with its own life and death, even if it occupies the same skull as a thousand others. Perhaps we are all, ultimately, mere notions in a head so large and a mind so vast that we cannot even conceive of it.”
-Auguste Des Jardins, French filmmaker

Q:Who are you, really?
A:I am a servant of the power behind the Nothing, and an aspiring poet.

Statistics for Nerds

Most Comments: 56, From “A Muse’s Unvarnished Perspective” by Altos Wexan

Most Popular Year: 2012, 4394 visitors

Total Pageviews (including spambots): 37,028

Total Visitors (including spambots): 17,867

Most popular day: Tuesday (18% of views)

Most popular hour: 10:00 PM (14% of views)

Average Excerpt Length: ~300 (299.8)

Wordiest year: 2013, with 130,377 words written and 357 words/excerpt average

Total comments 2010-2020: 1,061

Average comments per excerpt: .29

Total likes 2010-2020: 6605

Average likes per excerpt: 2

Countries outside the USA with more than 1000 views: Italy (1,724), India (1,721), UK (1,355), Canada (1,145)

Total words written 2010-2020: 1,010,628

Still to Come!

Tune in starting tomorrow for a week of entries that are sequels to the very first pieces of nonexistent fiction every featured on this site!

Each of the Ministry of Seven posts is held by the eldest member of a notable Taasian family. Cadet branches and their more distant relations make up the majority of the Tynwald and the Taasian Army officer corps. It is possible for a new family to
gain a Ministry, or for families to switch Ministries, though this is extremely rare.

Family Steyr
Virginia Steyr led the Taasians at the time of the Sundering, and every firstborn female in the Steyr family since has been named Virginia in her honor. The current Virginia Steyr only recently came to power after the death of her father, Vaughan Steyr, who had been First Minister for nearly fifty years. The Steyr family maintains an iron grip on power in the city, and has managed to remain in this position despite the machinations of other families.

Family Walther
Once led by legendary patriarch Ginsberg Walther, his son Frost now holds the position of Second Minister. The Walther family was closely linked with the Steyrs during the Sundering, and a Walther has always held the position of Second Minister, despite the rift that currently exists between them. Legend has it that Ginsburg Walther’s fall from grace and sudden death were the result of a plot to overthrow the Steyrs and take their place as First Minister.

Family Colt
Another longstanding Taasian family, the Colts were originally Ministers of Sustenance, the wily Khayyam Colt gained the Army ministry after his marriage to a Steyr and the untimely death of the incumbent minister. Keating Colt, Khayyam’s grandson and the current head of the family, has served with distinction since his ascension despite rumors that he murdered his father to gain his position. Their current closeness with the Steyrs mirrors the relationship that the Walthers once enjoyed.

Family Winchester
The Winchesters were not important members of Taasian society before the Sundering; the family has been able to attain its position through distinction in battle and strategic marriages with other families. As a result, the family is extremely attached to the symbols of ministerial power and remains fiercely ambitious. Whitman Winchester is among the oldest of the Ministers, and has held his position for nearly sixty years. His heir apparent was his elder brother, Wordsworth, but after the murder of his fiancee Emily Emerson, Wordsworth was exiled and his younger brother became heir to old Walker Winchester. There has been enmity between the Winchester and Emerson families since Emily’s death, though they are united in opportunistic opposition to the Steyrs and Colts.

Family Ruger
The Ruger family once held the Minister of the Army position, but have since been demoted to the far less important Ministry of Sustenance. Maya Ruger, the family head, is the second oldest Minister, and has headed her family for forty years. Despite her father’s fall from grace at the hands of Khayyam Colt, the Rugers are still closely allied to the Steyrs and Colts, as the Army is entirely responsible for organizing Sustenance shipments. Maya herself deeply resents this, and given an opening, would willingly align herself against Steyr and Colt.

Family Emerson
The most recent family to enter the Ministry, the Emerson family rose from the Tynwald to replace a family that was demoted for plotting to overthrow the Steyrs. In exposing this, the Emersons were rewarded with their post. Elizabeth Emerson is approximately the same age as Virginia Steyr, and the two were long close personal friends. Elizabeth had a younger sister, Emily, who was engaged to marry the oldest son of Walker Winchester. Emily was unfortunately murdered before the wedding could take place, and this led to a enmity between the Walther and Winchester families. They currently find themselves in an uneasy alliance opposed to Steyr; Elizabeth Emerson’s turn on her former bosom companion is one of the enduring mysteries of the current Ministry.

Family Lebel
Hugo Lebel is notorious for his hedonism and flamboyant manner, but the Lebels are also notorious as some of the most unshakable allies of they Steyrs. So while the Walthers have fallen from grace, the Rugers plot and plan to swing their support elsewhere, and the Emersons would rather take up with their daughter’s murderer than Virginia Steyr, Lebel has been unwavering. One might say that is the quality which has seen him through all his personal and familial scandals. Despite, or perhaps because of, his penchant for marriages and affairs, Hugo is growing older and has no legitimate offspring. None of his seventeen marriages have been for political gain, interestingly, and it is not know what, if any, plans he has in place for his death.

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The Tynwald, the Supreme Assembly of the Taasian People
1000 hereditary deputies from Taas and Included territories. Serve a consultative role, advising the Ministery of Seven on local concerns and rubber-stamping all acts proposed by Ministers, especially the First Minister. Each Deputy is, theoretically, eligible for appointment to the Ministry of Seven and each of the Ministers is, in turn, theoretically a Deputy. But aside from those rare occasions when one of the Seven has been demoted or their line has gone extinct, this rarely occurs.

Each of the 1000 deputies is also theoretically elected by direct universal suffrage. But in practice, the elections are formal affairs asking citizens to simply affirm a ballot put before them. In the rare occasions when a citizen rejects the ballot, even accidentally, they are often immediately arrested. New Deputies are only appointed when an existing Deputy is removed or when one dies without issue.

Grand Army of the People of Taas
Divided into several combat divisions, each headed by a People’s General. Groups of ten divisions are commanded by a People’s Marshal. The Third Minister, in his capacity as Minister of the Army, hold the rank of Grand People’s Marshal. At every level, the officer structure is mirrored by “Ministerial Officers” who are members of the STASI and serve to keep the troops loyal. Promotions are usually given based on family connections, though soldiers can distinguish themselves on the battlefield and earn field commissions.

Included territories furnish soldiers as well, though they are ineligible to become officers and are, in fact, preferred as laborers and auxiliaries. When they are allowed to fight, they are typically issued the worst equipment and sent into battle against the longest odds.

State of Taas Association of Security Information (STASI)
The security force responsible for maintaining order and enforcing the will of the Seven Ministers. Stasi agents function in uniform as police officers and Ministerial Officers, but also work undercover to expose anti-Seven sentiments and other forms of subversion. The Stasi hierarchy reports directly to the Second Minister, and only the personal intervention of the First or Second ministers can reverse or nullify a Stasi order or decision. People deemed gulity of anti-Ministerial conduct are dealt with in a variety of ways; some minor offenders are recruited as Stasi agents, others are sentenced to hard-labor gangs in Included territories. Serious offenses are usually punished by execution, though this can be commuted to exile as a Taasian Scout on a case-by-case basis. Exile is usually applied to members of Ministerial or Tynwald families.

Taasian Scouts
In lieu of execution, people accused of crimes by the STASI may elect to serve as a Taasian Scout. Scouts are given a weapon and supplies, as well as a focusing mechanism that allows the Gate in Taas direct linkage to a corresponding Gate. The Scouts are then deployed into an unfocused Gate, hopefully landing in an area that his not yet known to or occupied by Taas. They will then affix their focuser to the local Gate and aid Taasian troops in overrunning the area they have discovered. If a Scout fulfills their duty, they are absolved of all crimes, granted a Taasian Army commission, and their STASI files are sealed. Few survive to claim this reward, however.

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First Minister: Virginia Steyr
First among equals. Delegates tasks to other Ministers, dictates policy to Supreme Assembly, oversees major policy decisions and Inclusion concerns. The current First Minister is quite young, having inherited the position from her father less than five years ago. The Steyr family has provided eight of the last ten First Ministers, and the two others had a combined term in office of less than a year, combined.

Second Minister: Frost Walther
Minister of Security. Oversees internal security of Taas and Taas-controlled territories. Head of the STASI and responsible for occupation of Included areas. There has been a bitter power struggle for years between the Second and Third Minister for control of overall policy. Second Minister Walther is an old man and currently on the losing side of this struggle now that his old rival Kipling Colt has been replaced by his son Keating.

Third Minister: Keating Colt
Minister of the Army. Commander-in-chief of all Taasian armed forces (subject in practice to the First Minister), directs military campaigns, devises strategies, and oversees the production of armaments. The Third Minister is currently the second most important person in Taas after the First Minister herself, and rumor has it that he and First Minister Steyr are actually lovers. There is also a rumor that Keating murdered his father, the traditional but doddering Kipling Colt. That he has soundly beaten Second Minister Walther in the long-running dispute between the two offices is beyond doubt.

Fourth Minister: Maya Ruger
Minister of Sustenance. Responsible for all food and other amenities in Taas and Included territories. Oversees production, distribution, and rationing of food, medicine, and other like materials. Due to the harsh climate of Taas itself, most agriculture requires intensive labor and irrigation. Unincluded are used for this purpose, but in actuality Taas is completely dependent on food imports–imports that are escorted by army patrols. For this reason, the Fourth Minister is almost completely subordinate to the Third Minister. Minister Ruger deeply resents this, as well as Minister Colt’s perceived warmongering, but is powerless to do anything about it.

Fifth Minister: Whitman Winchester
Minister of Inclusion. Charged with preserving Taasian customs, laws, and language and recruiting “suitable” outsiders for Inclusion into greater Taasian society. With the power to strip any Taasian of their citizenship, as well as the power to bestow citizenship at a whim, Minister Winchester is a much-feared wild card in the Taasian government. Closely resembling his late father, Minister Winchester also holds similarly guarded views and no one is sure where his ultimate loyalty lies.

Sixth Minister: Elizabeth Emerson
Minister of Consumption. Responsible for inorganic consumer products, heavy industry, and construction (except for arms manufacturing, which is controlled by the Minister of the Army). Minister Emerson is a close ally of Frost Walther, and finds herself similarly on the outs, with the military dictating policy and favoring guns over butter. For reasons that are unclear, she and Minister Winchester have bitter enmity for one another despite being nominally close allies.

Seventh Minister: Hugo Lebel
Minister of Materials. Is in charge of public works projects, buildings, and raw materials extraction in Taas as well as Included territories. Easily the wealthiest and most decadent of the ministers despite being last in precedence. Minister Lebel is a well-known hedonist who nevertheless manages to discharge his duty with a semblance of aplomb. Despite the great contrast between his freewheeling style and Minister Steyr’s austerity, he is one of her closest allies, and the final leg of the First-Third-Fourth-Seventh ministerial alliance that dominates the council against the Second-Fifth-Sixth coalition.

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Mirabelle was through listening. “What color is the sky today?”

“Not this again, sweetie,” June said. “Come on. We haven’t even checked the scope yet.”

“When will you check the scope?”

“Didn’t I just say I’d check the scope after breakfast?” Richard cried.

“When’s breakfast over?” Mirabelle stuffed everything that remained on her plate into her mouth. “I’m finished.”

This time, when June and Richard locked eyes, their expressions broadcast in stereo: Conference. Now.

“Chew your food, rock-a-bye-baby, and give it time to settle,” Richard said. “I’m going to go check the scope, okay?”

“Okay!” Mirabelle beamed. “I hope it’s the right color!”

June and Richard moved down the corridor that led to their communications array, rolling shut the blast door that served to isolate the rest of the tunnels from the smoke and flames of an electrical fire.

“The dumb thing doesn’t work,” June cried. “How long are we going to keep up the fiction that it does?”

“As long as it works,” snapped Richard. “Looking through a broken instrument and saying the sky’s not right is a lot more convincing to a six-year-old than a simple ‘no.’ I remember what it’s like to be that age; my dad used to check his ‘weather rock’ the same way.”

“That damn Cassie,” June said. “If I’ve told Popovich once I’ve told him a hundred times. Those windows could be a death sentence if that location isn’t. But he’s as insufferable as that brat of his.”

“Do you think…” Richard bit his lip. “Do you think it might be time to show her?”

“You mean suit her up?” June said. “March her out and show her that, yes, it’s every bit as bad as mommy and daddy have been saying? That the sky really isn’t the right color today?”

“You never know,” Richard shrugged. “It might actually be. Remember when we had to go to the Horowitzes to barter for water purification filters? I didn’t even need the suit that time, just a breath mask.”

The nascent lines on June’s face seemed to lengthen and deepen in the half-light of the communications array. “But would you…run the risk? It’s one thing when it’s you or I, but Mirabelle…”

“I think it’s time,” Richard said. “We’ll take her out, answer her questions, and go from there. It’ll be fine.”

June leaned against the wall. “Promise?” she said.

“I would if my promiser still had any kick left to it,” joked Richard, drawing her in close. “Sadly, the dumb thing doesn’t work. I think I might have been made by the same two-bit outfit that slapped together our scope.”

“That…would explain why you’re never clear about anything, especially with Mirabelle.” June managed a weak laugh, but the worry lines remained deeply incised.

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I knew I couldn’t give them all a home
That they wouldn’t fit my bulging bag
Tipping the scales at the airport
And yet I took them anyway
Filling arms, filling bags, staggering
Hungrily seizing them from hands outstretched

Advance Reader’s Copy, Not For Sale!
I scooped them up by the armful from tables
Pre-Production Version. Not Final Cover Art!
Chatted up empty marketing smiles for minutes
Uncorrected Proof. Some Content May Vary From Final!
Willingly tolerated the sociopathy of sales, of salesmen

When the weeding began, they sat there forlorn
Lost among the folds of a hotel bedspread
I knew I would never read them
Too esoteric, too juvenile, too biased, too surface
The shelves at home are already groaning
Bursting with the unread but well-loved

I could throw them out
Tumble them headfirst into the trash can
Fill a recycling bin, emptied with both hands and a grimace
But as Iook at them there, laid out
Claimed but unwanted, taken but unloved
I find I can’t

The cover in bold red white and blue, advancing men in Smokey hats
Orange and aggressive, a ballot box becomes a shredder
NO VOTE, NO HOPE: A juvenile guide to voter suppression
Violet liquid fumes before a heart-speckled chalkboard

Kennedy on the cover, hand in hand with the woman he cheated on
I know its author’s a cult leader, but the cover is cowboys and rocketships
TALES FROM THE SILVER AGE: Fiction From The Enlightened One
The vendor was a friend of mine, once, and I felt so, so sorry for them

People poured hours of their lives into these
Put forests of trees into these
Artists for the covers, binders for the books
A whole industry behind each of them
Even the salesmen with mouths to feed behind the smiles
Their lives, their livelihoods, their life’s work in my reject pile

I gather them up gently into a bag that is itself rejected
Swag and tchotchkes aren’t guilty, but bags are different
A last pilgrimage to a conference hall already ebbing
My plan is desperate but with a gleam of hope
I lay them on a table, spread out to show off their beauty
The colors pop against the off-white ice

Then I leave, walking briskly away without a look back
They are babes on the orphanage stoop
Puppies wriggling at the humane society door
Awaiting only a little kindness to live their lives
Years caressed by loving hands
After the cowardice that brought them there

They’ll probably go in the trash anyway
Swept up with the rest of the detritus
But it won’t be my hands that put them there
I walk away a reader in spite of my crime
Believing in the comfortable fiction
In a reality that couldn’t care less

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Aldebar is a merchant along with his kin
There’s nothing in town he hasn’t smuggled in

Ilona his daughter with a head full of trade
Competing all others into an early grave

Cousin Tor who handles the bulk of the work
The other names shine, but the other names shirk

Old Vittorio sits on a throne made of steel
The kingdom is safe, but what’s the unease he feels?

Young Otho his son, a warrior of reknown
So rarely seen by any here in this town

Octavia walks the halls of their home
Decked out in mourning, but is it her own?

Alma, shining, now the lady of artists
Bereft of a mate who was not the smartest

Alonzo the wealthy, flush now with gold
From whence did it come? The trail grows cold

Silvio the chatterbox, always ready to talk
His golems, though silent, prepare now to walk

Lord Ivan with a secret in his chest
Nobody told though for time he is pressed

Young Tibor his nephew, long thought a fool
Has now found himself a useful new tool

Gizela, once heir with mail in her glove
Now lost and cut deep by one she did love

Melbourne counts his coins of gold
But imperiled are his dreams of old

I see dark Sydney, born of greed
A mother by an unknown’s seed

Fell Mortimer, her uncle hewn of stone
Who three times now turned down the throne

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