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From game play of Small Press Tycoon, a publishing industry simulation game released this year by Inpatient Press. The player begins the game with $1,000 and answers a series of multiple-choice questions.

game: Which author would you like to publish?

player: Your friend Greg, who writes media-criticism-jazz-fusion in a zany style, and whose cost to print is $60 and some weed.

game: Your friend Greg is being canceled! What will you do?

player: Say nothing. Remove author from catalogue quietly.

game: One evening in the library, where you often find yourself these days, you come across a most marvelous and disquieting tome in the restricted rare books section. Its leather cover and binding are inlaid with prismatic glyphs that seem to shift and warp depending on how you hold it.

player: Try to sneak the book out of the library.

game: You get caught. You are fined $1,000 and banned for life.

player: Some things are best left in dreams . . .

game: While locking up for the night, you feel a presence pass over you. The next morning, an envelope awaits you on your desk. Inside is a gorgeous piece of torn parchment that reads 665 ashton blvd.

player: Go to the address.

game: The taxi drops you off by the side of the highway, across from a barren lot with a tottering manse set upon a hill. It looks hollowed out from an ancient fire. You feel an unwelcome serenity settle over you.

player: Ask the taxi driver to wait and approach the estate.

game: There is no front door, only a charred opening. You peer in and see that the interior is gutted and the floor is a sea of ash.

player: Walk across the ashes toward a mirror.

game: The ash swims and congeals around your ankles, as though you’re walking through fog. You approach the mirror. There is no reflection but you can see a book splayed on the other side—the book from the library.

player: Reach into the mirror.

game: You reach toward the book, but it is frozen on the other side of the mirror.

player: Break the mirror.

game: Your fist smashes the mirror. An odious blue goo seeps from the cracks.

player: Take a dab of goo and lick it.

game: The goo tastes incredible and nuanced, like a delicate mushroom. The mirror swirls in front of you, the cracks reassembling into an ornate scripture describing the history and customs of a lost civilization. You learn of a fallen society of readers who valued the book more than the world itself, and who strove to describe the entirety of existence in text. You continue reading the mirror until dawn. The glyphs fade and you begin to weep. As your tears subside, you realize it’s a long way home.

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October 2021

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