“The body of a man was discovered in the woods behind the wreckage of the home, however authorities have not yet released the identity of the victim or the means of death. Now, time for a look at the hottest gadgets on the market this holiday season. Tony, what can we look forward to this year?”
“Well, Sandra, it seems that this year’s hottest electronic is the HoloReader. It’s an electronic replacement for books. As you can see here, it’s pocket-sized, so you can carry it with you, no problem, and it can hold up to about 60 books at a time.”
“But Tony, the screen is so small.”
“Yes, Sandra, that’s the amazing part. The HoloReader projects a hologram of the pages right in front of your face. Here, I’ll show you. Just choose the book you’d like to read on the screen and there we go. A bit of Edgar Wallace for me.” [Laughter]
“Well, that’s amazing-“
Jane turned her attention away from the television. The ad was pointless, everyone in the city already had a HoloReader. Or a Lapbook. Or an E-story. No one carried real books anymore. No one except Jane. Seriously. She was the last person in the city who even owned real books.
This is what the human world was like at this time: Libraries had been turned into Chinese buffets and everyone had an abundance of shelving in their houses that they didn’t really need anymore. The fires that roasted people’s chestnuts at Christmas were often made from the pages of classic novels or Children’s bedtime stories. No longer did people live in fear of the paper cut, at least not while they were leisurely reading. Those suffering from OCD didn’t need to worry that a guest in their house might put a book back in the wrong place. There was a kind of freedom in the world that humans didn’t even know was possible. They didn’t realize how much physical books had negatively impacted their lives.
Jane had been watching the news in a small café near her home. In front of her she had a cup of green tea with four sugars, and a small plate covered in the crumby remains of a clubhouse sandwich. The tomatoes, which had been sliced so neatly and placed so carefully onto said sandwich by the cook in the kitchen had been removed and wrapped in a napkin that lay beside the plate. Jane never asked for the tomatoes to simply be left off the sandwich in the first place, but she always wrapped them neatly beside her plate.
In Jane’s had she held a battered old copy of American Psycho. She was immersed deeply in the plot, when a man at the table next to her leaned over and tapped her shoulder.
Jane tore herself from the story, horrified that someone might actually wish to speak to her.
“Hey, love, do you mind if we borrow your book, there? Our table’s a bit wobbly.” The man smiled, but around his table, his associates were snickering. The speaker wiggled the table, just a bit, to prove that he was telling the truth.
“I’m reading it.” Jane replied.
“No one reads real books anymore. We just assumed you had snatched it from underneath the table leg earlier. Let’s put it back, all right, sweetheart?”
The man’s friends burst into laughter. He just continued to smile. Jane stood up and left leaving behind her a cup of tea that had gone cold 20 minutes earlier, and a table full of hooligans guffawing and cackling.
I think now is a fine time to tell you what the story is really about. It isn’t just about a young scholar with a love for the musty smell of an old paperback. No, it’s about much more than that. It’s about a girl who finds herself (I mean her real self. Inside all of us, there is a person who we are afraid to be.) through her tireless attempt at proving that books are more than just wastes of space or collectors of dust. Jane saw books as something more than just stories. Jane saw books as weapons and tools. Jane saw books as a way to make the world a better place. Most people just didn’t look at them the right way.
You see, soon after the incident in the café, Jane developed a bit of a hobby. Jane discovered that she liked to help people. But, not just help people. She liked to dress up in tights and boots and a mask and then she would help people.
She called herself Jane Air. (Because it was a clever play on words, not because she could fly or run really fast.)
This started one night while Jane was walking home from classes. She heard a disturbance from down an alleyway. Crime often occurs in alleyways. The beginning of hero stories often take place in alleyways as well. Almost no one becomes a hero on purpose. Ordinary people become heroes only after they find themselves victims of circumstance. Or after they walk down a dark space between two buildings.
Jane found herself in such a circumstance that night. She peered down the alleyway. There was a man waving a gun at another man. Humans love guns, this is important to know. Guns make humans feel like Gods. Gods can do whatever they want, or so humans think. Humans think this way because of things they read in books. Books are often wrong, but don’t tell the people who read books that.
Speaking of books, Jane held one in her hand that night. It was a large book. A law textbook, in fact. Humans were always making up new rules for things. Only special humans had a say, though, in what those rules should be. They were chosen to be responsible for the well-being of the world by making up fair and reasonable rules about everything. For instance, there were important rules about not killing other humans, or stealing from other humans, or touching other human’s genitals if they didn’t want you to. (None of these rules applied to humans with money.) It was thought that in order for society to function, the common masses needed rules.
Jane looked at her law textbook. The abundance of rules in there made it a very hefty book. She looked at the man with the gun. He was yelling. Then she looked at the man who was gunless. He was cowering on the ground. Then she threw the book.
Every one of Jane’s classmates had opted for a digital version of the textbook. After all, it was heavy and humans are not mules, they shouldn’t have to carry heavy things on their backs. But Jane liked the feel of a real book. She liked the smell of a real book. And as the book soared through the air towards the man with the gun, she was glad that she had chosen the physical copy. A HoloReader couldn’t have possibly crushed the gunman’s occipital bone in the same way that the enormous law textbook did. It cracked the bone into pieces, and crushed the spinal cord. The man crumpled to the ground. He was dead. Dead is kind of like sleeping, but without twitching or snoring or awakening to use the bathroom.
So, this was how Jane Air was born. Jane felt good, knowing that she had saved a person, or rather, had taken a bad man out of the world. The other man ran away, without even a thank you. Jane supposed he was just in shock. She retrieved her book. There was some blood on the cover, which she wiped away on the dead man’s shirt. Jane felt good, as she watched blood seep from the man’s cracked head. She watched it pool around the skull, the puddle getting larger and larger. She saw in it the reflection of herself and (I repeat this for a third time, because it is so so critical for your understanding of who Jane IS) she felt good.
Jane went home and showered. She showered for a long time. She used soaps and scrubs and afterwards she used powers and moisturizers and oh, goodness she just felt so GOOD about herself. She began work on her costume. Because, as we all know, you cannot be a super hero without a super get-up. Jane knew this just as well as anyone. She found a police scanner radio online for a good price. She bought it. She listened to it day after day. She was excited to show the world what good books could do, that they were more than just something to hold up a wobbly table, or something for a toddler to sit on. Books could perform justice.
It was a week before she found her next opportunity to save the day. There was a teenage boy who had robbed a liquor store right down the road from her apartment. Liquor was not good for teenagers. While adults used liquor to combat complications in their lives, it had the opposite effect on teenagers. It created more problems, like pregnancy and crime and poor grades. Jane needed to save this teenager from all of that.
She found him in an alleyway. He was breathing hard and his eyes were wide. He was a wild boy, Jane could see that clearly. But he didn’t see her, not in time. If he had looked slightly to the left he would have seen a girl with wide eyes and heavy breath, similar to his own. She swung her hardcover copy of Les Miserables right at his face. She made contact with his nose, which broke immediately. Jane thought about swinging again, but the man started gagging. Blood poured out of his nose and covered his face. He was choking on it. As he fell to the ground, Jane walked away. She took his bag with her.
Things went on like this for quite some time. Jane was excited to prove to the world that books still had a purpose. Books could save people. And saving people felt SO GOOD.
And time went on…
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare fractured a woman’s skull in four places after she threatened to stab a man on the subway platform.
Desperation by Stephen King pummeled a mother’s body after she left her child in the car on a warm day.
War and Peace crushed a man’s face after he refused to pay a taxi driver.
And Jane Eyre came down again and again on the head of a homeless man sleeping in an alleyway…
“And that marks the sixth mysterious death by blunt force trauma in the city in the last couple months. There are no suspects although there have been reports of someone dressed like a superhero in the vicinity of several of these incidents. A superhero who’s always just a little too late, it seems. What do you think, Tony?”
“Yeah, Sandra, I think that hero needs to get himself a bat mobile instead of taking public transportation. Which brings us to our next story, bus fares will be going up!”
Read the first draft here -> http://iwroteastoryformyself.blogspot.ca/2013/12/jane-air.html and (if you'd like) let me know how they compare.