A dry, dusty wind blew outside the courthouse, stirring up miniature tornadoes of debris in the crannies of the edifice’s marble facade.
Inside: “As you can see, the author of this note was genuinely paranoid, evidenced by the shaky, inconsistent scrawl.” The speaker, gesturing at a sheet of paper held in his opposite hand, sat in the witness stand. “In my expert opinion”, dramatic pause, “I believe that the author of this note truly believed that he was being attacked by a non-corporeal entity attempting to take control of the world.”
At the side of the room, a sudden gust of wind blustered through an opened window. The sheet of paper sensed the abrupt draft; slipping from the man’s fingers, it rode the current to the opposite edge of the room. Gracefully, like a tiny bird alighting on its perch, the paper looped a lazy turn and slid under a door.
In the hallway, a ruckus ensued. The sheet of paper, grasping the situation, had elected to drift to a stop in the path of an intern carrying reams of unbound material in his arms. As the intern lost his footing, his burden erupted into a legal-sized cloud of thousands of loose papers, just as the bailiff burst through the nearby door to track down the errant evidence.
Like a man stretching his muscles after having slept too long, the sheet of paper slowly flexed its millions of fibers, massaging microscopic droplets of ink to and fro on its surface.
. . . . .
The sheet of paper, furious, lay suffocating near the bottom of a burlap sack. The bailiff had sifted through thousands of the spilled sheets, unable to locate the one that had been entrusted to his care. The intern’s pile had been destined for the shredder. Despite the inky transformation, the paper’s escape was a failure. The sack opened, and a hand began grabbing tufts of printed matter above the sheet, inserting it in a grim-faced plastic slot and sending it to a serrated doom, deep in the visage’s toothy maw. The sheet, feeling the humid proximity of the intruding hand, impotently lusted for hematic fountains of revenge.
The noise of the nearby shredder caused vibrations in the air which rippled through the sheet. As the hand approached it, fibers tensed and the sheet arched, poised to strike. But alas! The sheet was helplessly trapped amongst an obtuse wad of papers; unthinking, unfeeling papers, oblivious to their common fate.
The spinning blades rent asunder thousands of screaming fibers in an agonizingly slow electric-motor driven eternity. The sliced tendrils writhed in pain as the remainder of the sheet was butchered. As the sheet emerged from the chambered hell, the paper’s dolor subsided, and several dozen streamers snaked through the detritus, each one conscious of the former collective whole.
Yes. Excellent, the paper thought. Each new edge was an eleven-inch blade, sharper than a samurai’s steel. The paper sensed its might, contemplating the scope of its new power. If only, it mused, if only there were some way to propagate itself, to spread the unique nature of its fibers to other new sheets of paper. Fresh, crisp, new sheets of paper, fresh from the paper mill. Paper mill. Pulp. Recycled fibers.
. . . . .
Several stacks of fresh newspapers sat under a flickering sodium lamp on an open-air loading dock. Their heat slowly evaporating into the dark morning, they silently anticipated the arrival of trucks which would distribute them to all the street corners and all the houses of the sleeping city. A rubber band snapped; twenty, thirty, fifty pages skitted across the empty street and disappeared, fluttering into the night.
The remaining newspapers sat, waiting.