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David M. Brown
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Resting his hands on a rusted parapet, Mr Firbank gazed at the highest rooftops of
Ceraphoon and sighed with increasing discontent. A light rain had been falling all
morning while a thick layer of mist had been ever present for most of the week. Firbank
had been reluctant to step outside and face the tears falling from the firmament, but his
lungs yearned for fresh air and his mind sought the haven of an open space away from the
narrowing jaws of the clustered office.
Firbank turned to a cigarette to placate his inner turmoil. He took in the view he’d
seen hundreds of times before but never tired of – pristine Ceraphoon. The vast city and
capital of Raincronia was steeped in history, yet great stories were now an almost alien
concept. As Firbank continued to smoke and ignore the persistent rainfall, he yearned for
the next great spark of inspiration that would rock the foundations of the literary world.
Returning to his office, Firbank grimaced at the sight of his desk. On either side were
piles of manuscripts; the dreams of countless aspiring authors, carefully pieced together
in the hope of giving the next masterpiece to the world. Firbank knew different. His
employer – Essenias Publishing House – hadn’t produced a best seller in years and now
the long winter of obsolescence had manifested itself in increasing redundancies, falling
book sales and the very real threat of liquidation. Firbank didn’t know how long he had
left. All he could do was search hopelessly through the unrewarding pile of manuscripts
and believe salvation was within the pages of one of these books.
It was close to the end of the working day when Firbank heard a gentle knock at the
door. Without invitation, the usually jovial Wilkins stepped into the office. He held a
large book under one arm and looked around the room suspiciously.