Friday, November 12, 2004

Chapter 17

Seamus had to struggle to get himself out of bed the next morning. At work he was groggy and slower than usual. By 10 A.M. he had told himself at least it's Friday, about 15 or 20 times. At that point Keisha, another temp worker on the same data entry job, came by his cubicle. They always took their 15 minute morning breaks together, religiously stretching them out to the exact minute. She watched as Seamus started to make his usual mug of hot chocolate, but then filled it with coffee instead of hot water.

"You okay today? You look pretty tired."

"Hmm? Oh, yeah. I'm alright. Just had a late night last night."

"Doing what?"

"Just uh… hanging out with a friend." He wasn't about to tell her he had been hanging out with a friend in a science fiction version of England.

"Mm hmm. Is this 'friend' of yours a girl, by any chance?"

"Well, yeah." Seamus felt his ears reddening. It always annoyed him how easily he blushed.

"So? Tell me about her."

He spent the rest of the break trying to convince Keisha that there was nothing interesting to tell about him and his friend, while simultaneously trying to make up a coherent explanation that didn't get into the subject of magic books. The overall result was that Keisha simply became more convinced that Seamus had a girlfriend he didn't want to tell her about. She just smiled as though she thought it were cute how he was embarrassed about it, and they went back to their respective cubicles to continue flaying their fingers against their keyboards.

When he got home, Seamus tossed his bag on the floor, kicked off his shoes, and lay down sideways on his bed with his feet up on his desk chair. He didn't go to sleep, but just closed his eyes and vegged out for a bit. After about 10 minutes, he suddenly sat bolt upright, much more awake, and reached for the drawer containing his journal.

He realized he was thinking of it as "his" journal now. For a while it had just been "the" journal, something he found that belonged somewhere else, with someone else. But it was definitely starting to feel more like his recently.

He opened it up and found a line from Cassidy waiting for him.

You there? I've got something important to tell you.

He pushed some books aside and found his pen.

Yeah, I'm here.

Oh hey, good timing. I only just wrote that a minute ago.

Cool. What's up?

Has your copy of the book been talking to you?

No, I haven't heard a peep from it since I met you. Seen a peep? Whatever.

Well it's started writing to me again. It's dropping hints about something but I can't get a straight answer out of it. It's conversational skills are pitiful – a high end digital watch could probably beat it in a Turing Test.

Ha! Yeah, I noticed the same thing, back when it was talking to me.
Seamus thought it was funny how the Computer Science types could never entirely hide their geeky sides, then smiled as he realized that his laughing at it reflected pretty much the same way on him.

So what is it saying? he continued.

There's something we have to find. Another book, I think, like ours but more important somehow. It might have a different power of some sort. I'm not sure.

Does it say where we can find it?

Not explicitly, but it keeps referring to something underground, some hidden space, full of books. And it also said that you are the key. I think it might have meant that you have the key. So I was thinking, this sounds like it might be the place you told me about, under the library, where you found your journal. You think?

Yeah, I bet it is. And I do have the key. I kept it after I got in the first time. It's still in the drawer where I keep the journal. We should go look – the library's still open.

Well, you can go check… I'm still in Oregon, remember? So unless someone's written a book about your library that you can bibliomorph me into, you'll probably have to do it yourself.

Ah. Right.



How about this? You help me bibliomorph again, but instead of going into a novel, I go into the journal itself. Then you keep writing and see if you can bring me back out where you are, instead of sending me home again.

Nice! Good idea. But do you think it will work?

What's the worst that could happen? I'd probably just have to send myself home again, right?

I don't know. We're mucking around with magic here, so I don't think we should ever assume we know the worst that could happen.

Well if we can't know it then, we can't worry about it. Let's give it a shot.

Okay. Let me know when you're ready.

Cassidy took a minute to put her shoes on and get a coat, and then she was ready. They both started to write.

Now that he had actually met her in person, it was easier for Seamus to visualize her in the bibliomorphing process. The problem was going to be going through the journal. It was a blank book, after all, aside from their own scribbled notes. How would she get there? What would "there" be like?

Then, as he wrote, other lines began appearing on top of his. Blue ink, again, from Cassidy, but overlapping his own words haphazardly, and interlaced with jagged scribbles.

Help! Get me out of here! Help!

Seamus' heart started racing. Cassidy had gotten in, and apparently "in" was not a good place to be. He started a new paragraph, trying to bring her out. He imagined her sitting on his bed, safe and unharmed, writing as detailed a description as he could manage. Then behind him, he heard a pop and the creak of bed springs.

He turned around to see Cassidy collapsed on the bed, breathing heavily and staring up at the ceiling.

"Are you okay?" he asked in alarm.

"Yes… yes, I think so," she replied after a pause. "Yeah, I'll be okay. Just give me a minute."

Seamus sat down on a corner of the bed next to her and waited, watching worriedly. After a minute or so Cassidy sat up, looked at him, and let out a huge breath of air.

"If it's all the same to you, I think I'd rather not travel that way again."

"You got it," Seamus answered, not willing to point out that it had been her suggestion. How were either of them to have known what to expect? "What happened in there?"

"Well…" she was still gathering her thoughts. "It started out like before, and I felt myself going into the book, you know what that's like."

Seamus nodded.

"But then when I was in it, it was horrible. There's nothing in that book, Seamus. Nothing. There was just darkness, but it was a white darkness somehow. It was like, I could see nothing but white, not even myself. And I couldn't hear anything. And I felt crushed, and trapped, like there wasn't even any space. That's when I started to shout, but I couldn't even hear myself."

She shuddered, and leaned against Seamus. He put his arm carefully around her, noticing the feel of her hair against his neck.

"That must have been your shouting, then, that I saw in the book," he said.

"Really? It got through? I'm glad. There's no way I would have been able to get myself out of there."

"Yeah, it came through as your writing again, but all messed up with mine. Probably because you were in the book I was writing in." He looked down at her hands in her lap, and noticed that she was holding something.

"Hey, is that your journal?"

She glanced down, as if just noticing it herself. "Oh, yeah. It is."

"How did you get it here? Mine never came along with me when I went anywhere."

"Right, I remembered that from the last time. But I thought it might be good to have it with me, so I made a point of writing it into the scene with me. It seems to have worked."

"Wow, that's good to know. Good thinking."


"Are you feeling a bit better now? The library closes at nine, so if we're going to do this, we'd better get going."

"Yeah, I think I'm good. Let's go."


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