Magnetic ink was an intriguing literary innovation, in that it allowed for books to be stored without the use of paper. Through liquid encoding, each cluster of molecules could remember the alphabet and sequence it belonged to previously, allowing the words to arrange themselves autonomously once splattered against a surface. Ultimately, this led to the phenomenon of storing books in jars as pools of undifferentiated ink, where they waited for surfaces upon which to imprint themselves.

As one might expect, this led to experimentation. Liquid books were mixed and shaken, forcing the words within to compromise on their ordering. The results were surprisingly intelligible, revealing that pattern and plot could somehow survive the combinatoric chaos of fluid dynamics. Cookbooks could be combined with one another to rapidly permute recipes, or with fiction to lead towards previously impossible flavors. Fiction and nonfiction showed surprising affinity; they seemed to recognize something in one another as they entangled. “It could be said that the books are reading each other when we combine them,” one scholar noted. “What worries me is that they seem to also understand each other.”

The most terrifying results were not recognized until decades later, after certain volumes had been allowed to ferment in an Oxford wine cellar. After persisting for too long unprinted, these restless works of literature had become authorless grimoires and volumes of horror previously unwritten. Analysis showed that the ink had learned how to read its own contents by printing against itself repeatedly, resulting in complex, pathological deviations of plot that reflected the personality of each jar. Only a handful of characters ever managed to survive the fermented editions of their novels.

There are more dangerous varieties of ink out there.