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Infinite Doors by Platt & Truant

Last week I told you about the time on our podcast when Johnny, Dave, and I started our story from the same basic prompt. A Dave narrative will always go dark, with lost love being one of his off-the-shelf tropes.

But when I’m writing with Johnny, our stories always go the inquisitive fiction route, asking the bigger questions that an infinite canvas affords us, while also adding a comedic touch.

We ended up with “an intergalactic Starbucks” as our setting, a librarian as our main character, and “finger licking” as our conflict. Another tip of the hat to Dave for that one, who hates it when supermarket baggers lick their fingers to open bags, dusting his groceries with germs.

Read the two versions in either order and you’re getting a good glimpse into the differences in story experience between Dave and Johnny. One paints in shades of midnight, the other uses the colors of pure curiosity.

Dave prefers personal implications first, so those are the caves he finds most worth exploring, while Johnny inspects the big-picture implications of an idea, and in doing so, maps out constellations of possibilities that occasionally threaten to slip out of our grasp.

In these back-to-back stories, our tropes show through. Johnny’s sense of humor and world-shattering stakes versus Dave’s dead children, exploration of loss and grief, and of course, a scene where somebody pees.

If you haven’t read my Infinite Doors with Dave and would like to read that version first, you can get it here.

I notice the Clip in Aisle 1443. 

It’s on the ground, on the twining pattern of carpet that I know for a fact is only in U-section. It seems within reach, but a straight line isn’t the best path between Upper A and U-section. You’ll get lost going that way.

I turn the other direction. Two rights and a left, then another two rights. No matter how many times I clarify directions for this part of the Library, people can’t figure it out. Judging by eyes and sense, it seems like you’re making a small loop around a row of wooden kiosks. 

You’re not, but the human mind is persistent. It feels it knows best. Visitors always run back and ask again, so I usually have to show them.

I walk up a short flight of impossibly narrow stairs. Skinny people can take this path, but I send heavier visitors on a route that is, unfortunately, about a tenth of a mile longer. The library tried putting in an elevator, but of course it didn’t go where it was supposed to.

Up, around at the landing, then up again. I find myself in the basement. 

Then up another two flights and I’m back in the basement, now at the other end. 

I have to Nudge through at this point, and that’s tricky because my arms are full. I have a load of books, and I don’t want to set them down lest they wander off. But at the same time, I can’t let someone walk around without their Clip on. The Library can’t afford another expedition team. Not right now. 

I Nudge with my elbow, and the shelves comply. I’m looking down a funnel where the volumes seem distorted. I read them as I pass, but to my eyes they’re jumbled. A librarian’s tunnel of horrors.

#2532 – Ames, Adam – FC 3161-3199 – Antiquity and Studies

is shelved right beside

#228 – Engals, Linda – FC 445-531 – Primarily African History

I know that those books are over two thousand Earths apart (not to mention out of alphabetical order) and aren’t actually close together, but the distortion effect still bugs me whenever I have to Nudge through a funnel. This must be like nails down a chalkboard for most people. 

I emerge to the curious sucking sensation as the funnel closes behind me. The U-section is underfoot, and directly across from me, I see a visitor without a Clip on his belt — it’s at the foot of the shelf I’ve emerged through. 

I pick up the Clip, then quietly clear my throat. The visitor turns. Then he blinks as if he thinks I’m an apparition. 

I extend the Clip. “You dropped this, sir.” 

“Where did you come from?”

“Upper A,” I answer.

“I thought A-Section was on 5th Street.” 

“Where do you think you are?” I point to the 5th Street sign. It’s large enough to read through the window. I extend the Clip for him to take.

He’s squinting out the window, slightly shaking his head, talking more to himself than me. “I walked in from MacKelvey Avenue. That’s gotta be three or four—” 

“Please be more careful. If you were to get lost in here without a tracker, it could take a very long time to find you.”

The man is handsome, with a hero’s square jaw. He smiles, and his cheeks form dimples. 

“I’ve explored places a lot more dangerous than a Library. The Earth I just returned from was—” 

Download Infinite Doors by Platt & Truant here.

Next week is the best example Sterling & Stone has of how even a tiny story can turn into the tallest of tales. Our next short birthed a sprawling epic and the biggest world that Johnny and I have written together so far.