Saturday, November 13, 2004

Chapter 20

"I guess we're on our own for this part then," said Seamus, closing his journal. "Any ideas?"

"Well, the obvious thing to do would be to just try bibliomorphing into it," Cassidy replied. "But I'm not sure if it would work the same way. If this thing somehow contains every book that's ever existed, would that make it easier or harder?"

"I have no clue. Magic Key Boy or not, I'm as new to all this as you are." He set his journal down and looked at the Book again, realizing that he was now capitalizing it in his head, as the journal had done. It seemed appropriate, and it didn't have any other name that he knew of yet.

Seamus watched the words and letters fading and swirling, realizing now that they did so because the Book contained far more of them than would ever fit in any literal sense.

"Somehow I don't think it would work," he said. "The fraction of this Book that I've read is just so incredibly infinitesimal that I don't know how I could make a strong enough connection with it. Think of the other books I've managed to get into: The Life of Pi was one I was right in the middle of at the time, and then The Phantom Tollbooth and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are ones I practically know by heart. They were all easy for me to connect with. I could see myself inside them. I don't know where I'd start with this one."

He realized he was still holding his pen in his hand. "I wonder if I can write in it, though?" He glanced at Cassidy.

"You could try," she said.

Seamus looked down at his pen again, then watched the words in the Book for a few more moments. It wasn't clear where he could actually write, with everything that already covered every page of the Book. So he started to carefully lower the pen down towards the paper, hoping that the words might clear and make a space for him.

On the contrary, the words seemed to bunch together beneath his pen as it drew closer, forming a dense, pulsating area of ink, with words and letters still flowing in and out and around it. He drew back and the ink dispersed. Lowering the pencils again in a different corner of the page caused a new mass of ink to collect there. This time, he let the pen touch down.

The ink began swirling faster when the pen touched it, and before Seamus could move his hand to write anything, it had covered the tip of the pen and was heading up towards his fingers. He felt a cold shock when it touched his skin, feeling like it went through him, rather than onto him. With a small cry, he dropped the pen and drew his hand back.

He looked at his hand — it looked like the pages of the Book. Faint words scurried beneath the surface of his skin, occasionally rising and darkening enough to be legible before moving on again.

"Oh my god," said Cassidy softly. "Are you okay?"

"I… I think so."

Seamus didn't feel anything unusual after the initial shock, but the sight of it was unnaturally creepy. He pushed up his sleeve, but the words seemed to be limited to his right hand, and weren't spreading. He didn't like to think what might have happened if he had held on longer. He pushed some books onto the floor in a very uncharacteristic disregard for their well-being and sat on one of the tables. Cassidy sat next to him, and gave his other hand a squeeze.

After a few minutes of watching his hand, Seamus shook his head and stood up.

"I'm going to have to get myself a glove or something," he said, with a weak smile. "This is going to drive me batty if I have to look at it all the time."

"You're sure you're okay?"

"About as sure as I can be with this weird stuff on my hand. I feel alright, so I'll just have to assume I am for now. Let's see if we can figure out something else to do with this Book now."

Cassidy looked at her watch.

"You know, we've been down here longer than I thought. The library probably closed a while ago. Do you want to go upstairs? I could stand to get out of this room for a few minutes."

"Yeah… yeah, that might be good."

They closed the book and pushed the drawer back into the wall. Seamus tossed a few of the books back on the shelf, but neither of them thought it would really be worth putting everything back the way they found it. They would just be coming back down here again, and it wasn't like anybody else frequented the room.

Upstairs all the main lights were off, though there were still a few left on along the sides, just enough to let them see where they were going. They didn't want to turn on anymore, since they would be visible from outside. It felt good to move about in a more open, less dusty space. Seamus wandered into the children's room of the library and sat down on one of the couches, leaning back and enjoying the soft cushions after the book table downstairs. Cassidy followed and sat down with him.

Seamus looked around at the rows of books surrounding them in the dim light, thinking about the incredible number of words in the building. It occurred to him that it was a bit like being in the Book already. Every one of these books was contained in the Book, as well as countless others. It gave him an idea.

"Cassidy," he said, sitting up straighter. "I thought of something."


"That Book downstairs contains all books, right?"


"So there must be a connection from every book back to the Book, right?"

"Well, I suppose so, in some sense. I don't really know what such a connection would be like, though."

"Neither do I. But what I'm thinking is that we can start by going into a normal book – any book – and then working our way from there. I'm not sure how that second part will work yet, but this at least gives us a place to start."

"Hmm, interesting. It's probably worth a shot."

"Let's go find a good book."

Seamus got up and started walking purposefully towards the main Fiction section. They paced the aisles for a few minutes, squinting at titles in the dim light.

"Here we go."

Seamus pulled out a copy of The Princess Bride, by William Goldman.

"This should do nicely."


At 10:42 PM, Blogger Miriam said...

Eeee!! I love this installment! I can't wait to read the next part! Not that you should feel hurried or anything...I'll just be here patiently shorting myself out in anticipation.


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