Authors: Chris Fabry,Chris Fabry
Tags: #JUVENILE FICTION / Religious / Christian, #JUVENILE FICTION / Religious / Christian
The man bit his lip. “Open it. Read it. Try it.”
The thick, rich leather squeaked as Owen opened it, and it felt tight and new, as if he might be the first reader. The front matter consisted of a three-sectioned map, one showing mountain ranges, fields, and walled fortresses. The map to the right looked very much like Owen's own community, and above the two was another realm with strange, winged creatures.
this must be a fantasy.
He couldn't wait to dive in, so he turned to the first page.
The Book of the King
When the shadows of two worlds collide and the four portals are breached, know that the end of the reign of the evil one is near. Men will bring news of the return of justice and righteousness, along with the return of the Son. What has been two will be made one throughout the land. Make way a path in the wilderness for the Searcher. Open the portal for the Wormling, for he will be armed with the book.
Let there be rejoicing in every hill and valley, from the tops of the mountains to the depths of the oceans. Let every creature that has breath, on earth and under and over, cry out. Victory is at hand. The shadows will be dispelled, and the Son will return for his bride.
Owen trembled as he leafed through the pages. Everywhere he turned, passages read like prophecies, telling the future of some distant landâurging the people to be happy, to look forward to their day of deliverance. Other pages contained warnings or encouragement to do what was right. He could see the tome also contained stories of battles and heroic sacrifices made by warriors. Others appeared to be love stories with heroes rescuing damsels from certain death. Owen didn't want to be rude, but he had become so immediately captivated that he wished he could just go somewhere and curl up by a fire to immerse himself in this treasure.
Toward the back Owen found blank sections where it appeared the reader could jot his own thoughts, but who would write in such a book? Without perfect handwriting and lofty thoughts of deep insight, scribbling here would defile a work of such beauty.
Owen shot a double take at the book when a page seemed to move of its own accord. This was not a shudder due to a draft or breeze but the very rising of a certain section, like something lay beneath the page. Owen lifted the page and looked underneath, but it floated back, as if he had broken a spell.
He closed the book and cradled it to his chest. “Sir, I'm not sure my father could afford what this book is worth. But if it were in my power, I would trade every volume in the store for it.”
The man stared into Owen's eyes. “You have no idea of its true worth. Nor of the danger it presents.”
The man grasped Owen by the shoulders. “In the right hands, this book represents life and health and peaceâall that is good in the land I call home. But should this book fall into the wrong hands, if its secrets should be taken to heart by the wrong entities, if it were somehow twisted for another's scheme, its power could be used for the very evil it is meant to overcome.”
“I don't understand.”
The man's eyes shone. “Have you sensed something lately? felt watched? overheard strange conversations?”
Owen nodded. “Even here, in my own house.” Then he felt compelled to blurt, “And the other night, I should have died, should have fallen to my death. But I was saved, plucked out of the air by an unseen arm.”
The man smiled. “The power of the King reaches even here. Far beyond the Lowlands.”
“King? The author of this book?” Owen's heart was stirred like the churning of the ocean before it unleashes its mighty fury on the shore.
Before the man could answer, Owen's father entered. Owen could immediately tell by the look on his face that his father had done something terrible. But what?
“Yes?” Owen's father said to the man. “May we help you?”
“Father,” Owen gushed, “he brought us a book. A magical, wonderful book. I've never seen or read anything like it.”
Something passed between Owen's father and the manâwords without sound, action without movement. It was clear that Owen's father was repulsed by the man, but Owen had no idea why.
His father reached for the book, but Owen pulled away. “We're not buying books today, Owen. Too much inventory.”
His father glared like a man possessed. “Enough, Owen. We're not buying any more.”
Owen pressed the book even harder to his chest, as if letting it go would be like letting a treasure chest sink in the ocean. “Then let me buy it!” He turned to the man. “Sir, I have money put awayâ”
“You have nothing,” his father snapped.
“I have a dollar left over after buying the chair and a few more dollars I've saved from working here. Plus, I have the coin, the one my mother left me.”
“Your mother?” the visitor said.
“She died when I was born. She wanted me to have itâ”
“Give me that,” Owen's father said, grabbing the book and holding it in front of him. His face turned white, and his mouth dropped open, revealing his darkened teeth.
“Let the boy have it,” the visitor said with the authority of an armed regiment. Owen had never heard anyone speak to his father in such a way.
Owen's father stared at the intruder. “He's my son, and I say take this away or I'll burn it.”
The man took the book, and Owen's father wiped his hands on his coat as if it had left some residue. The stranger glanced at Owen and seemed to say with his eyes, “I'll make sure you get this book. Someway. Someday.”
The visitor leaned close to Mr. Reeder and whispered something Owen could not hear, but whatever it was left his father quaking and looking small and weak.
And with that the stranger left.
What had he said? Owen's father would never tell, of course, but again because this is our story and we are telling it and we want you to know things that even our hero doesn't know, we will tell you. The strange visitor said only two sentences, and they were enough to send a shiver down the back of any man.
“Tell them I have found him. Tell them the battle has begun.”
The bell above the door as the stranger left was the worst sound Owen had ever heard. He wanted to run after him and plead for the book. He had never been as exhilarated in his life as when he had that book open before him. Now he felt as if he had suddenly become a man, sadly watching the visitor walk away.
Owen turned desperately to his father. “Please, it might be worth much more than he's willing to sell it for. You've told me yourself that most people don't know the value of their own property.”
Mr. Reeder slumped into his chair behind the register. “I know books, and that one is worthless. We have too many as it is.”
“But you didn't read it. You don't know what it did to me. It was as if something opened a spigot in my heart, and I can't stop the flow.”
His father sneered. “You read too much.”
“I don't read enough.” Owen's world felt empty and cold and small. “I never knew how much I was missing until I saw that book. And I read only a small part. Just think what would happen ifâ”
“You'd do better to get your mind back on things that matter,” his father said. “I went to your school this afternoon. The problem has been solved.”
“Gordan? You heard aboutâ?”
“Your problems are bigger than some bully. You'll see.”
Owen tried to shift gears, tried to think about school and Gordan and his speech and whatever it was his father was hinting at. But he couldn't. He was overcome by a yearning so strong that he couldn't keep quiet. He had a feeling that book could unlock a door he hadn't even known was there.
“Father, strange things have been happening. I've heard things. Seen things. It's as if my life has some kind of purpose beyond here, beyond anything I've ever imagined.”
“You're talking nonsense. That rap on your head's made you a numskull.”
“No.” And now the thoughts came so rapidly that Owen could not separate the ones he should share with those he shouldn't. The whispers in the night. The voices below. Beings emerging from behind the bookcase. “The other night I was chased by some guys. I ran down a dark alley and suddenly I was stopped, my feet suspended. I looked down and saw a deep hole with concrete at the bottom. I had been saved by something, someone.”
His father scowled. “You're talking nonsense.”
“I should have been killed, Father, but I wasn't. And I can't help but thinkâ”
“Just thank your lucky stars you weren't killed. I ought to have known better than to let you go out aloneâ”
“And there was something elseâ”
“I give you the freedom to enjoy yourselfâ”
“There was a voice, Father.”
“âand what do you do?”
“It whispered to me.”
“You mock me!”
“Did you hear me?” Owen was near tears, desperate to share this experience, desperate to be known by his father. “IÂ heard a voice.”
“You're demented, hearing things, seeing things, dreaming when you should have your feet planted in reality.”
“It said, âCourage, Owen.' And when that man showed me the book, I swear to you, every page screamed at me to have courage.”
“That's your own mind telling you to quit being afraid of . . . whatever it is you're afraid of. Listen to it.”
“No, Father. No. This isn't about courage to face little fears. It's as if I was made for something more, destined for somethingâsomething really dangerous.” The stranger had warned of the danger of the book.
Owen knelt by his father and touched his arm, but the man pulled back as if Owen's hand were dead or dying. “Father, I believe there is more for me than what I can see here. I don't know what that means, but I think if I have the courage to act on it, it could change my life. It could change
Owen's father's nostrils flared like a wild animal's, and he ran his hands through his thinning hair. “I should never have taken you on.”
“Taken me on?”
“This is all there is, Owen,” his father spat. “There is nothing more. Do you understand? You have to live for this world, not something you've dreamed or heard from some voice in the night. Clear the cobwebs from your mind and get used to it, child. This is all there is.”
Owen slept fitfully that night, hearing voices and dreaming. The fire. Red eyes watching him.
He awoke with a pain in his foot and nearly cried out, the echo of his father's words in his ears:
“This is all there is.”
He thought about all these things on his way to school, but he had no idea his father could be so intrusive, so violating, until he saw Mrs. Rothem's empty desk. Her things were gone.
Owen rushed to the office.
“She's been reassigned to another school,” the vice principal said.
Owen could barely catch his breath. “Why? What did she do?”
The man shuffled papers and would not meet Owen's gaze. “Owen, you should get to class.”
“Was it my father? What did he say?”
“Hurry. You'll be late.”
But Owen did not want to go to class, and he could not imagine a school without Mrs. Rothem. He could picture nothing crueler than his father driving her out. And why would he? Why chase away the one person who had befriended Owen?
Owen could not shake the thoughts of his father's clandestine meetings, the moving bookshelf, the underground caverns, the footprints, the pursuing monster, and then his father's reaction to the strange man and his book. Oh, the feelÂ of that volume in his hands!
As he limped out of the vice principal's office and into the stream of humanity that was his high school, he felt like a stranger, an alien. Was this no longer his world? He ached for the book the way he ached to be held by the mother he had never known. What a feeling of hope the book had given him, encouraging words from his invisible helper.