Sam eats a book

Sam discovers new and exciting ways to devour a book.


1. Sam eats a book

Sam lifted an old book up in front of her. She picked up the book and leaned closer and squinted at the slightly faded title. “The Ice Cream Book,” she read.

She turned it over. It had a scratch on the back, in the lower left corner. 

She looked at the neat crater in the middle of the book, where someone had scooped up the paper like ice cream. She sighed and neatly struck out the note she had just written, laid the book on top of a stack to her left, and picked up another book from the piles behind her, all in one motion.

“The gay book,” she read and made a note. She checked the cover, then each page, made note of a minor tear, returned the book to a shelf, and picked up another from behind her.

A low rumble escaped her stomach as she lifted the book to read the title. She ignored it and read the title, “How to be Lesbian.” One of Lydia's abandoned books. Sam's stomach growled again. What was it about people and books about food? She frowned and opened the book. Several pages fell out and the back ripped down the middle, leaving Sam with two pieces of one book.

She let out a frustrated huff, made a note of the damage, struck it out, gathered the remains in a neat pile, and dropped it on top of the ice cream book.

She looked at the pile in dismay. So many books damaged ,by careless people over the years. So many books going to waste. Of course, some of them could still be sold used to people who didn't mind a missing cover, a few torn pages, or mysterious stains of unknown origin, but many of them were only good for feeding the dumpster.

Her stomach made its displeasure known again, louder this time, and was joined by the clock announcing the hour. It couldn't already be nine, Sam thought, but the clock insisted and was usually very exact, as was the moon outside the window. The low growl from her stomach dragged out into one long, grumbling and gurgling noise.

She had completely forgotten about dinner … and lunch.

Sam got up and stretched her legs before dodging her way through the maze of piled-up books to the kitchen. She pulled open the cupboard and peered into the darkest depths. Half a glass of pickled onions met her, sitting alongside a piece of stale bread, a lonely tomato, some ginger chutney, and a bottle of vinegar. Sam's brow furrowed as she checked the pantry. Someone had stolen everything but the oatmeal and a string of garlic. The bag of oatmeal was hissing loudly at the garlic.

With a frustrated groan, Sam shut the door again and turned around. She stood in the middle of the kitchen and considered her options. She could go out and get something, but that would mean leaving her all-important work, and she only had one night before Spike got back from whatever it was he was doing. She had to be done by then.

Sam turned and stroked her chin thoughtfully as she considered the cupboard. She turned again and looked into the library where books were stacked all across the floor in great big piles. She would have to work all night as it was.

Her eyes fell on the stack of damaged and destroyed books. Sam walked through the maze and picked up a sample of the books. There were a pair of heavily damaged crime novels, practically unreadable, a very old and outdated address book for Earth, and then there was the big Ice Cream Book, its contents scooped out. 

Sam considered the ice cream book and its hollowed contents. She bit her lip and looked at the other three books. She shook her head and stomped the floor to shake herself out of the absurd idea. “No! You can't eat books, it's … it's practically sacrilege!” she said and shoved the books away from herself.

“But—” She glanced at the pile. Was it really any worse than throwing them out?

What did a book taste like, anyway? It was technically plant material, most of it, anyway. Sam held up one of the crime novels and flipped through the thin pages.

Maybe if she roasted the bread and topped it with tomato and garlic. It wasn't exactly a great and filling meal, but … And she certainly wasn't going to eat the oatmeal hissing in the corner of her pantry.

Sam opened her mouth and leaned forward, hesitating. She closed her eyes and held her breath. It wasn't an important book. It was just going to go in the dumpster anyway. Her tongue touched the paper and lifted a single page. Her teeth closed on the paper and tore it slowly, the sound sending terrible shivers down her spine. She trembled as she chewed the dry, tasteless paper until it was a uniform, tasteless mush in her mouth. She sank with a gulp and opened her eyes.

Sam had just eaten a book.

She looked at the page she had torn and quivered. She had just done the unthinkable. She had eaten a book … well, a tiny piece of a book, but surely the amount didn't matter. She had desecrated a book, defiled and ruined the written word.

She looked around, wide-eyed, expecting the floor to open up and swallow this sinful pony for her crimes against literature and knowledge. Minutes ticked by, and nothing happened. Twilight looked back at the book and sank. She licked her dry lips nervously and opened her mouth again, carefully and reverently tearing another piece of paper from the book.

Sam chewed the paper ponderously and sank after a minute. It was dry, and didn't really satisfy the taste. But it seemed like it should be filling, with lots of fiber. Maybe if she marinated it in some garlic and vinegar and made a salad of it. What if she sautéed it with some onions? Or she could boil it into a thick slurry, like porridge.

She looked down at the book and gave the paper a long, sloppy lick. Blushing guiltily, she ripped two pages in half and chewed the paper noisily, trying to contain a chortle at what she was doing. It was absurd and unbelievable. It was terrible. And yet it felt so … liberating! She burst out into a hearty giggle and spun around, trotting back into the kitchen with the books floating along beside her.

In a flurry of activity, and with her work entirely forgotten, Sam pulled out pots, pans, knives, and plates and set to work. This called for scientific experimentation!

With masterful precision and speed, Sam chopped the four books into thin strips and sorted them into piles. Oil went on the pan, water in a pot, and a bowl was filled with paper and sprinkled with vinegar and garlic. She grinned madly as she stirred, sautéed, and mixed her meager ingredients all at once.

“This is great!” She giggled as she dropped a large hoofful of paper in the boiling pot and leaned over, breathing in the rising steam from the mushy gray contents. “Just great!”

Sam arranged the products of her experimentation on the kitchen table and took in the spread: Garlic and vinegar-marinated paper-and-tomato salad, roasted bread with sautéed paper and onions, and paper porridge with ginger chutney. It probably wouldn't win any awards, but she was quite proud that she had managed to use everything in the house, except the oatmeal, in this little culinary experiment.

Her first such experiment! Certainly she would have to conduct more research, try different recipes, figure out what worked and what didn't with different types of paper, the influence of ink, and what to do about hardbacks versus paperback. So many venues of exploration opened up before her, filling her with pure, undiluted glee!

But first, to test it!

Sam picked up a fork and dug into the salad, rolling up a mouthful of paper and tomato. She wiped a few drops of vinegar off her chin as she chewed it thoughtfully. “Mmm, not bad,” she muttered. “Much better than plain paper. Needs less vinegar and longer soaking; to retain crispness, reduce volume of liquid and let sit longer in proportion,” she noted and licked her teeth as she looked up at the ceiling. “And pepper. Definitely pepper.”

She picked up the bread and sniffed it before taking a large bite, making sure to get a good helping of the paper-and-onion topping. “Fresh bread would help, and I could do without the onions,” she muttered. “But paper appears to be good sautéed. Crisp, and not as bland as raw paper or soggy like the marinated paper.” She looked around for a scroll and quill. It wouldn't do at all to not take complete and detailed notes of her observations.

Finally she picked up the bowl of gray gooey paper porridge. She looked at it skeptically and added a little more chutney to be safe. “For science!” she proclaimed to reassure herself and dug her spoon into the heart of the gruel. 

“Eww!” She grimaced and resisted the temptation to stick out her tongue, if only because she did not want to see what she was doing her best to swallow very quickly.

“Yuck!” She held the bowl out at quite a long length and set it down on the table again. “Cooking paper definitely is an exercise in limiting water content,” she noted and wrote her observations on the scroll while flushing the bad taste with a glass of water.

She looked up and held a hand to her lips. But maybe porridge could still be saved. It was too early to give up because of one failed experiment. She had to do more, in the name of culinary science!

“Ooh, I hope the stores are still open,” she mused as she walked through the library and out the door, leaving her preliminary cookings on the table and her earlier work on the library floor.

*          *          *

To be continued!

Read the original story here:

Edited by me into a much more fabulous version.

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