There is a bookstore down the road from where I live, a little hole-in-the-wall store at the back of a dying strip center, with a fading red door and a single window that simply reads “Books” in what was once yellow window paint. It is one of my favorite stores to visit.
When you enter through that faded red door, the glare of the Texas sun pouring into that door blinds you just for a moment so that you can't see anything of the dim interior and the first thing you sense about the store is the smell. How do I describe it? It is the smell of books. The slightly musty, slightly dusty smell of books. Along the edge of that smell is the sweet smell of leather, the tang of cardboard, and the merest nibble of glue in various stages of dryness and even decay in some instances. It is the smell of books; hundreds of books, packed into a small space no larger than a convenience store. The first time I walked into the store the smell was a bit of a shock, but now it is like an old friend welcoming me home.
As your eyes adjust to the gloom inside, books shelves appear out of the glare, bookshelves packed so close together that you need to turn sideways to walk between them. If you happen to run into another customer while browsing a shelf, a rare occurrence but it does happen occasionally, it is impossible to pass one another even if you are willing to get cozy.
To the left of the door, in a tiny open space is Maggie, the store owner, sitting at a small desk usually surrounded by stacks of books that she hasn't yet found a space to stash. Maggie is a retired librarian, she told me once, and the store is just a way to pass the time and to keep her days occupied. I asked her if she made any money, when we were chatting one day, she said she had no idea. It didn't really matter to her.
There aren't just stacks of books around the desk, they are all over the store, like silent monuments to authors past, present, and future. For some reason as I make my way carefully around the store, I always think of Easter Island and the statues on it that nobody really knows much about. These stacks of books, these monuments of words, stand silently yet each one has a story to tell. A story that no one yet knows, but may yet one day.
It was on one of these stacks near the back of the store, in a dim corner that I hadn't visited in quite a while, that I found the little brown book. I was running my hand along the top of the books, exploring the different textures of the covers, when my fingers fell on this particular book. I stopped immediately because there was something different about this book, something unique about this book, something that I couldn't quite put my mind to or put into words. The book was small and thin, and did not look like anything special, a brown cloth cover—but it felt different, slick and warm, and completely unlike its appearance.
I opened the book and looked at the lined pages, and I remember thinking, what is this? On the lined pages, in a small and very neat handwriting were URLs, organized in sections. The sections had headlines, Beginning, Means, Method and under some of the URLs were small notes. I looked at one note and it read, “We lost.” I pulled out my phone and typed in the URL and it when the page loaded, and I realized that this was something strange. A joke perhaps, or something else. Whatever it was, my curiosity was piqued and I took the small book up to Maggie. There was no price on the book and she eyed it for a moment and then charged me a dollar.
I have since looked at all the URLs and I still do not know exactly what this book is all about. It is both interesting and puzzling. If it is a joke, the joke is lost on me. If it is a journal of some sort, I cannot fathom the purpose. After going through all the URLs I decided to post them here on my website in the hopes that someone may have better insight than I do. The URLs are interesting and bizarre, things I would not normally come across myself. But what do they mean? That is the question.
Here are the URLs as they are presented in the book, with group headlines and notes copied exactly as they are in the book.
The time period is wrong; it was much older.
We had to do something.
We gained some time.
Running out of time.
That is all there is in the book. I can see a picture being painted with these entries, but the picture is too bizarre to take seriously and if a joke, as I have said, I just don't get it. I will leave them here for you to decide for yourself.
Edit: After I had put this all together, I left it on my computer to be published after work, and I left the book next to my monitor. When I came home I found my front door closed but unlocked. I am sure I locked it when I left for work. I looked over the house and everything seemed fine, and then I noticed that the book was missing. I distinctly remember placing it beside the computer monitor but it is nowhere to be found. Not sure what it means.