Saturday, November 06, 2004

Chapter 10

That night Seamus dreamt no dreams but slept more soundly than he had since he first discovered the room beneath the library, and even more soundly than he had within recent memory.

He woke up Sunday morning around 7:30, before anyone else in the house was awake. He liked that time of day, especially in the winter. He made himself some hot chocolate with his breakfast, looking at the gray sky out the window. He had resisted the temptation to open the journal again as soon as he woke up, preferring instead to be fully awake and breakfasted before discovering what else might be in store for him.

When he got back up to his room, he took the journal out from under his pillow and opened it. There was his title page, as before, and the welcome message on the page following it. So that at least hadn't been a dream. Seamus' entry started below that, and carried on to the next page. Underneath his final words, he found a new message.

Do you know what you can do?

It was written in the same script as before, somewhat slanted, with slight flourishes on the descenders and ascenders of the letters. It was the sort of script Seamus had always imagined one would find on ancient manuscripts or treasure maps. He had no idea what it meant, though. He wrote in the book.

I don't understand. What do you mean "what can I do?" You could be telling me I can go take a long walk off a short pier for all I know. What's going on here?

He stared at the page, wondering if he needed to close the book or go away or something, to give it time to respond. But as he watched, letters began forming below his words. They didn't just fade into existence, but were written as he watched, as though by an invisible hand. They were deliberate and unhurried, and in the same script as before.

What have you been reading lately?

Seamus wanted to snap at it and tell it not to change the subject. The last thing he needed when trying to make sense of a magical book was for it to start trying to make small talk with him. But he took a deep breath and decided that it was probably best to go along with it and see what happened. So he picked one of several books currently on his reading list.

Well, I'm about a third of the way through The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. It's about this Indian boy, Pi Patel, who was traveling across the Pacific Ocean with his family and their zoo when they got shipwrecked –

Suddenly the book was gone. The pen was gone. Seamus felt the floor swaying beneath him and realized that his room was gone as well. Shrieks and howls assaulted his ears. He was crouched on a tarpaulin that was stretched over half of a lifeboat. The swaying came from the motion of the waves, and the noise was coming from the other end of the lifeboat.

A hyena stood on the body of a zebra, which was still kicking slightly in spite of being surrounded by its own blood and entrails. The hyena was snarling and howling in a stand off with an orangutan, who was roaring, waving her arms, and thumping the sides of the boat.

Seamus glanced to his side and saw that he was not alone on the tarpaulin. A young Indian boy was looking at him, though his face was too drained and exhausted to register any surprise. Their eyes met and held for a moment, as their ears were saturated with sound – the orangutan's bellowing filling the lower registers with the hyena's howls above it.

The zebra snorted, still struggling, and sent some of its own blood into the water. Almost immediately, the sharks were there, thrashing around the boat and thumping it with their tail fins, looking for the source of the blood. Seamus started to panic, and began scrabbling across the tarpaulin, as though there were somewhere he could go to escape. Another thump, and then a larger wave tilting the boat. He slipped, lost his grip –

– and then found himself collapsed on his bed. His heart was racing and he was covered with sweat. He took some deep breaths, then sat up and clutched the back of the chair by his desk.

"What the HELL was that?!" He almost yelled it, then cringed at how loud it sounded in the quiet Sunday morning. The book couldn't hear him anyway. He snatched up his pen.

What the HELL was that?!

That, replied the book, was bibliomorphing.


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