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Missing Choir

A technical writer and photographer by trade, Caw Miller is dabbling in speculative fiction until his starship comes in. This is his third story for Daily Science Fiction. In addition to published poems, Caw has had stories in anthologies and online places. His website is cawmiller.com.

"I need a choir," Kindor shouted at the bookseller.
"Calm yourself, my good sir. I have many choirs and many full books. What book?"
"Grigif's Grimoire of the Mind, choir four."
The bookseller pulled out a list and scanned it. "I'm afraid I don't have it."
Kindor rushed out of the store, dodged a litter carried by naked slaves, and collided with a city guard.
"I need a choir," Kindor shouted.
"Have you tried a church?" the guard said. "The Ecclesiasticals have a nice choir, not too loud."
"Aaah!" Kindor dashed into the bookseller next door and repeated his question.
"I have the first three choirs," the bookseller said. "Someone destroyed the fourth choir. I have the rest of the book, though."
"Ah!" Kindor rushed to the next bookseller on the long street of booksellers.
Twelve bookstores later, a bookseller answered "yes."
Kindor flung open the fourth choir to the page marked 44. He whispered the words of the memory restoration spell.
Kindor's memories rushed back. He remembered being in his tower, working a complex spell to transmute wood to stone. Kindor mispronounced a word, the spell misfired and melted through the floor. Kindor stared down to the floor below, to his dead wife and child.
"AAAAH!" After ripping out the pages of the fourth choir, Kindor shredded the pages.
"You can't do that!" the bookseller shouted.
Kindor turned to page 52 and whispered the memory erase cantrip.
The bookseller snatched up the book.
After a long pause, Kindor shuddered, then looked at the bookseller. "I need a choir."
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, July 26th, 2018

Author Comments

A program at Balticon about the history of books inspired this story. Old, bound books were organized by pages folded together, which was called a choir, and then stitched to the binding. Because books were so expensive, often choirs of a book were sold individually. I dutifully wrote the definition, then put a star by the note and wrote, "Story idea, guy in a bazaar shouting for a choir. People think he means the music one. What is in this book he needs?" Years later I answered that question and the story wrote itself. When I went back to edit the story, it had erased itself, leaving only the title behind. Talk about life reflecting art! I then rewrote The Missing Choir. Thank goodness DSF printed the story before it could disappear again!

- Caw Miller
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