There they were, stacked high in a tottering pile on the book trolley which had an anti-social front left wheel. It was a precarious arrangement and they all seemed a bit on edge, shifting slightly as the bright fluorescent lights were flicked off as the last of the staff left the library.

‘You’re not a real book. What sort of name is Apples Never Fall anyway?’

The book on the top of the pile was a luminous white in the dull room with only emergency warning lights providing a faint glow. There was a tree, perfectly shaped and studded with green apples, with a clutch of four tennis balls at its base.

‘Oh, I’m real,’ the top book assured with a confident tone. ‘And popular, too. I’m not long for this pile of books, waiting to be shelved until someone finally finds me again. I should be in the reserves pile. I’m in demand, unlike you.’

The pile of books shivered in anticipation, a slight rustling of pages rippling the air.

‘What genre are you, then? Some sort of “contemporary fiction”?’ The words were heavy with distaste, and the air quotes around the category were understood by all of the books.

Some of the thicker tomes full of epic sagas over hundreds of pages swelled a little in support of the book on the top of the pile. Even if the book was new and alarmingly popular, there was an unspoken code amongst fiction books. They had to stick together.

‘You could call me that,’ Apples Never Fall replied. ‘I’m certainly more relevant than you.’

At this the pile tottered, bracing for the response.

‘I’m a classic, that’s what I am. I’ve been in print for decades and I’ve inspired a genre all of my own. I’ll still be in demand long after you’ve been pulped.’

At the p word, the stack trembled as the books jostled, their deepest fears suddenly close to the surface.

Apples Never Fall cleared her throat and the trembling eased a little. ‘Who are you, anyway?’

In Cold Blood.’

The silence lengthened. The books knew the voice now, the clarion call of truth and certainty. But the newbie, Apples, was non-plussed.

‘That old thing. Enjoy your time on the shelf.’

This was a writing group prompt exercise which generated some great stories and was fun to write.

Photo: stack of books