Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Chapter 25

Seamus, crouched on the floor, drew back his hand from the book as the dagger began crumbling and dissolving. It left a hole right in the middle of the insignia, in the palm of the hand reaching out of the book. The hole deepened, stretching down through the stack of books below it, where the dagger had pierced and beyond, and as it deepened it widened as well. The sides of the hole seemed to melt down, mingling the pages of the notebook with the pages of the books below it.

Cassidy came up slowly behind Seamus, both their eyes fixed on the process unfolding before them, Count Rugen forgotten. Count Rugen, for his part, was backing away. He was happy in the torture chamber as long as it was his own personal den of evil, but as soon as something else unknown, sinister and powerful showed up, he wanted no part of it. Any magic book that could mysteriously dissolve his best dagger fell firmly in that category.

The hole made by the dagger had now extended into the floor. Its interior was pitch black, making the depth impossible to judge. All of the books and notes and journals around it had now melted. Seamus had never thought of paper as being something that could melt, and would have been hard pressed to explain how it could happen. But that was the only way he could think of to describe the transition of the documents to the strange, flowing, papery liquid that now crept around his and Cassidy's ankles.

He dipped his fingers in the substance at his feet, and felt a smooth sensation as it glided across his skin. It was filled with words that flowed along with it, words from the melted papers. Some of the words seemed to swim like fish in a stream, darting and maneuvering purposefully around others which simply drifted like leaves or bits of bark, flotsam and jetsam on a stream. He pulled his hand out. It felt dry, but a few words still clung to his skin. He noticed "chains" on his index finger and "blade" on his middle finger, before they seemed to soak into his hand, joining the other words that had continued to inhabit it since his first encounter with The Book under the Menlo Park Library, a world and a reality away.

The papery liquid around their feet began to move faster, now revealing a distinct current traveling widdershins around the hole in the floor. Seamus reached for Cassidy's arm to move them away from it, but when they tore their eyes away from the floor they saw that the room around them was starting to fade and shimmer. They could no longer distinguish Count Rugen or the far walls of the room. It was only the strange thing that they were caught in that continued to grow more vivid. It flowed faster and faster around them, and looking at his right hand, Seamus could see the words beneath his skin becoming more and more agitated, as though sensing the movement below.

As the current increased, so did the depth. Soon they were up to their knees, then their waists. Escaping was now out of the question, since nothing of the room they had been in was visible any longer. As the level rose to their chests, it became difficult to stand up, and they started to tread – for lack of a better term – water. As soon as their feet left the floor, their last connection with the room and the world they had been in was broken. With a roar, the hole beside them doubled in size, and the papery current, now a whirlpool, swept them in.

There was a brief moment when Seamus and Cassidy felt covered and suffocated, as though drowning in a real whirlpool of water. Then suddenly they could breath normally again, though they still felt themselves to be floating. Seamus realized that he had his eyes squeezed shut, and opened them.

As far as he could tell, the smaller version of The Book that they had found in the Zoo of Death had taken them on a forced bibliomorph. The problem was that the dagger wound and the subsequent melding of all the surrounding books and notes had made this a highly unpleasant place to be.

All of the Count Rugen's books were non-fiction, which meant that, even had they not merged together, none of them would have had a specific, coherent world or plot to bibliomorph into. So Seamus and Cassidy were floating vaguely through a badly defined space, surrounded by weapons, instruments of torture, wounded, dead or dying victims, and grim executioners, all also moving aimlessly through space, taking no notice of the newcomers.

Seamus saw Cassidy on the other side of a guillotine and called to her. It was difficult to maneuver around, since they mostly had to push off of other people or things floating around next to them. Given the general subject matter, this was something to be done extremely carefully. However, they managed to reach each other and link arms without injury.

"So what just happened there?" Cassidy asked, as they shifted slightly to avoid a passing battle axe. Seamus explained what he had been thinking.

"We think that book we found was the portal to The Capital-B Book, right? So it would let us in from that fiction world, even though we couldn't go directly from our world."

"Right. That seemed like the right idea, anyway. But where are we now?"

"That's the problem. The accident with the dagger sliced into the book, which then effectively 'bled' on all the other books, creating this whole mess that we're in now. Or something like that, anyway."

Cassidy thought about that for a minute. "Alright," she said, "so even though things have gotten pretty messy, we're still just bibliomorphing, right?"

"Yeah, probably. I think it's basically the same thing. We were just thrown in here rather than doing it deliberately."

"So we should be able to get ourselves out then. Just by writing, like before."

"It's worth a try. Though I don't really know where we would be if we got 'out.' Would we be back in The Princess Bride, back home, inside The Book finally, or what?"

"Well, you have your journal, right? We'll just have to find out."

Seamus had put his journal in his pocket sometime back in the Zoo of Death, and he brought it out now. He opened it up and wrote

Book – get us out of here! What do we have to do?

Cassidy, who had been watching for obstacles as he wrote, suddenly squeezed his arm. "Look!" she said, pointing ahead.

Seamus looked past a floating Iron Maiden, a charred corpse, and an assortment of whips, knives and other weapons, and saw what she was looking at. There was a gold glow in the air, and as they drew nearer it resolved itself into a clear outline of a book and a hand.

"Let's see if we can get to it," she said, grabbing a spear and using it to push them off of the passing bodies and objects, like some sort of macabre gondolier. Soon, they were right in front of it, the glow brighter now, and pulsating. They reached out their hands towards it, and as they touched it simultaneously, a brilliant light flashed. They felt nothing.

They were standing side by side now, at the steps leading up to Seamus' front porch. The clear, sunny afternoon was warm.

"Well," said Seamus, blinking a few times. "We seem to be home. Would you like to come inside?" And they headed into the house.

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