Monday, November 15, 2004

Halfway Day

Fifteen down, fifteen to go. Sort of an interlude kind of post for tonight. Mondays are definitely the slow days for me, what with work and class and all. But at least I didn't take the night off this time, so I'm still ahead on word count. And I've got some more exciting stuff lined up for tomorrow, I think.

Chapter 23

Seamus and Cassidy stood by the tree for a few minutes, nervous about entering the Zoo of Death even though, as far as they knew, it should be deserted right now. Seamus could see the glint of moonlight on Cassidy's earring twitching back and forth ever so slightly.

"What are you thinking about?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing," she replied automatically.

"Are you sure?"

"Well, okay. Are we sure this is the right entrance? I mean, the way Fezzik and Inigo went down was different than the way them came back up, right? And one way had the four intermediate levels of dangerous animals. I'm just hoping he didn't accidentally drop us off at the wrong one. He's had a lot on his mind tonight, and his mind probably isn't used to that."

"I think we'll be okay," said Seamus, trying to sound more confident than he felt. "I can't remember exactly, but I don't think that both of the entrances would have been in trees — just the hidden one. The other one probably looks like an official entrance of some sort, because that's the one they want people to head for if they're trying to sneak in. So I think we should be okay."

He stood next to her and put his hand on her shoulder in what he hoped was a reassuring way. He wasn't entirely sure, since he had never been too good at the reassuring business. At least, not according to Natalie, who had always complained about his responses to her pre-exam worries (which usually amounted to something along the lines of "man, I'm glad I'm not taking that test!"). But Cassidy's arm slipped gently around his waist and gave him a quick squeeze. Then she stepped back slightly, still wearing a serious look on her face.

"Remember the first time we met in person?" she asked, "outside Arthur Dent's house?"

"Of course."

"There was something I didn't tell you about afterwards. While we were there, I cut my finger. It was in the pub — there was broken glass on the table we were at. Someone must have broken a bottle in the panic, just before we got there. I was pushing things aside so we could write on the table, and I accidentally sliced my finger open."

She held up the index finger of her left hand, and Seamus saw a band-aid still wrapped around the tip. Then the meaning of it started to sink in, and he remembered all the bibliomorphing experiments he had been planning to do but hadn't gotten around to. Here, one had been done for him.

"When I got home," Cassidy continued, "I found that it was still cut, still bleeding. And that's when I realized that, at some point, this all stops being fiction. It's not like reading a book or dreaming a dream. Once we're in a book, it's real. So if we're in danger here, then the danger is real, too."

Seamus nodded. He realized that a part of his mind had been deliberately avoiding that issue. It was fun and exciting to find himself inside his favorite books, but he need to accept the fact that this was not going to be something he could just walk away from as simply as closing a book. He was in this now, and had to remember to take it seriously.

"You're right," he said simply. "Thanks."

"So," she said, her voice becoming very matter-of-fact, "that's why I snagged us these."

She reached into the inside pocket of her coat and pulled out an oblong bundle wrapped in a rag. Unwrapping it carefully, she revealed two kitchen knives with six-inch blades.

"I picked them up back at the hut," she explained. "They're not swords – heck, you couldn't even call them daggers, really – but they're all I could find and sneak out with us."

"Wow. Well done," Seamus said, admiringly. "I never even noticed you taking them."

He picked up one of the knives. It felt somewhat small and puny, considering the various other weapons that abounded in this book, but it seemed reasonably sharp at least. And anything at all would be an improvement over his bare hands if – he shuddered at the thought – they were attacked.

"I did feel pretty bad about it," Cassidy was saying, "Valerie is so sweet, after all, and I like Miracle Max, too. But once we were sure where we would be going, I decided we had to have something."

"I understand," Seamus said. "I think it was entirely justified."

He tried to find a convenient way to lodge the knife in his belt, but couldn't find a workable position where it didn't seem likely to either fall out or impale him. So he kept it awkwardly in his hand, telling himself it was probably better to have it ready for action, anyway. He felt a bit silly with it.

Cassidy gave him a smile. "So – are we ready?"


They twisted the knot in the tree that Fezzik had pointed out to them, and a hidden panel in the wood slid back, revealing a pitch black stairway, the underground entrance to the Zoo of Death.