He made rules for himself. It had to be something that they'd discarded. But not in garbage cans. It was best if it was something they'd gotten rid of unintentionally--well, he had no way of knowing if it was intentional or not, but at least it was usually an afterthought, left in with something else.

For a short time he got a job cleaning out rented cars after they were returned to the agency. He got a few choice items, but it was mostly unrewarding. He tried the same on planes. But most people didn't bring enough of themselves into these places to leave anything behind.

Second-hand bookstores were better. He would go through them--not spending too long in any one in case the owners got suspicious--picking up books and flipping rapidly through the pages. If there was anything tucked into the pages, then he would buy the book and take it home. So far, that way, he had acquired such things as used ticket stubs(Marcel Marceau in Calgary!), bookmarks with personal notes written on them(and sometimes phone numbers, although he would never presume to call them), and pictures of people he didn't know and wouldn't recognize on the street.

Most of the pictures were too small to put in frames, but he put them together. He had no pictures of his own, so he took care to arrange them so that anyone going through his effects after he was dead would think that these people were related to him in some way. He kept a similar list of phone numbers.

One day, in a book, he found a small card, with several signatures on it. After examining it closely, he realized that each of the signers had put not only their name, but a date, a city, and the title of a book, none of which matched up with the book he'd found it in.

He sat contemplating the card for a moment. Then he added his own information to the card. He chose a book from his shelf--he had read them all, at one time or another, even the trashiest of them--that he had enjoyed the most. That evening he went to one of his old places of work and concealed the book carefully on a plane, bound he knew not where.

It was nice not to be alone.

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The Den of Ubiquity / Aaron V. Humphrey /