Authors: James Bow
“Come with me to the library,” said Puck. “Your quest starts there.”
“And if I don’t?” demanded Rosemary.
For the first time, Puck stopped smiling. “If you do not, Sage Rosemary, brother Theo will not come back. The hauntings will get worse and worse, alack.” He raised a hand as Peter started to speak. “I know your thoughts, young fellow, but be assured that I have naught to do with this. I have no quarrel with Sage Rosemary. I only wish to see her free.”
Rosemary and Peter looked at each other. They looked back at Puck. They started to back away.
Puck raised his hands apologetically. “I understand your doubts, my good children. Let me show you that I speak the truth. Go home and go to Theo’s room and read the book he’s reading. Then you shall understand
what ails him.” He stepped aside and extended a hand towards the road. They had a clear path.
Rosemary and Peter looked at each other again. Then, giving Puck a wide berth, they ran to the road and back to Rosemary’s house.
The house was still asleep. Shamus slunk up the stairs behind them, his toenails clicking. Rosemary led the way to Theo’s room.
She pushed open the door. Theo was sitting up in bed, staring into his book.
“Hello, Rosie,” he said. He looked up and smiled at her.
He did not look at Peter. His eyes trailed down to his book, and then up again sharply. “Who’s your friend?”
“You’ve met Peter,” said Rosemary, shutting the door behind her.
“Really?” said Theo.
“Yes, at the library. And he was over for dinner the day before.”
“You brought a boy home for dinner? Good for you.” He turned back to his book.
Shamus whimpered. Rosemary patted him. She and Peter crept forward and leaned across the bed to peer at the cover of Theo’s book. It was just a normal paperback, with a painted image of a figure in smoke
emerging from an open book. But there was no title on the spine.
“It’s not a book,” she said. “It’s a journal; a blank journal!”
Peter peered over Theo’s shoulder. “Something’s been typed in it.” Theo turned the page. The new page started blank, but text appeared in the top left corner and streamed down the paper. “Something’s
typed into it right now!”
“What?” Rosemary reached for Theo’s book.
Theo snapped out of his trance. He pulled the book to his chest. “Rosemary, no!”
She gripped the book by its spine. “Theo, let me see.”
Theo shook his head. He wrenched the book back. With a tremendous yank, Rosemary pulled the book out of Theo’s grasp.
“No!” Theo’s voice choked off.
Rosemary looked at the pages and saw a line saying, “Rosemary looked at the pages and saw a line saying, ‘Rosemary looked at the pages and saw a line saying, ‘Rosemary looked at the pages and saw a line saying, ‘Rosemary looked at the pages and saw —’”
Peter tore the book from her hands.
Rosemary staggered back and covered her eyes.
There was a tapping at the window. Puck’s face was centred upside down in the frame, hanging by his feet from the roof. He waved.
Peter opened the window, but Puck did not come in. Instead, he said, “Do you believe me, Rosemary?”
“What the — what happened?” Rosemary gasped, wincing and rubbing her temples.
“I don’t know,” said Peter. He picked up the book by one corner as though it were something toxic. “You just stared into the pages, and you ... froze. You just stood there. I couldn’t reach you.”
“How long?” asked Rosemary.
“Long enough!” Peter thought a moment. “A minute. You didn’t even blink.”
Rosemary screwed her eyes tighter. No wonder they hurt.
Peter opened the book.
“Peter, be careful!”
“No, it’s okay, I was just reading it. Maybe it doesn’t affect me.” He flipped to the first blank page. The text was still scrolling down. He frowned.
“It’s listing what I’ve said — what I’m saying right now,” he said. He flipped back a few pages. “And here we are talking to Puck in the snow.” He grimaced. “Here I am screaming. It’s all written from your point of view.” He snapped the book closed just as Rosemary was creeping up to peer over his shoulder. “When you looked at the pages as they were being written, you started a loop.”
“Theo has been reading the world from your eyes,
Rosemary,” said Puck through the window. “Look at your brother now.”
Rosemary looked up and then darted forward. “Theo?” She shook her brother by the shoulder. He stared blankly ahead. “Theo!”
“Give him the book,” said Puck. “It is his only link to us.”
Rosemary pressed the book into Theo’s hands. She felt his fingers tighten against the covers. His eyes lowered, and he began to read.
Rosemary held his hands a moment before letting go. “I’m responsible for this?”
“No,” said Peter, frowning at Theo. “How could you be?”
Puck shook his head. “You are not the fault, but you are the cause. Because they could not get at you, they stole away your kin.”
“What are you talking about?” Peter rounded on the window. “What do you mean, steal Theo? He’s right here!”
“No, wait, I see.” Rosemary swallowed. “Theo reads more than me. Dad always says he can get lost in a book.”
“And now he has,” said Puck.
Rosemary turned to the window. “What do I have to do to get Theo back?”
“It won’t be easy, Rosemary,” said Puck. “You will face dangers only your imagination could dream of.”
an imagination,” said Rosemary.
“Of course you do. What else would be attacking you?”
Rosemary stared at Puck, her mouth agape. Then she looked at Theo and drew herself up. “What do I have to do to get Theo back?”
“Come with me to the Land of Fiction,” said Puck. “I shall be your guide and Peter your defender, if he be brave enough.”
Peter started to say something, but Rosemary cut him off. “First things first, how do we get to this Land of Fiction?”
“We need a book. That is why we must go to the library.”
“Why the library?” said Rosemary. “We’ve got books.”
“You do? Even better. Come down and let me in.” Puck grabbed the sill and let go of the roof. He twirled in mid-air before disappearing from view. Looking out the window, they saw him on his feet in the snow.
Peter and Rosemary crept downstairs. They jumped when the front door rattled.
Rosemary opened it and found Puck staring at the knocker. It was a carved woodpecker mounted on a pivot; pulling the tail rattled the beak against the wood.
Puck found this fascinating, and Rosemary had to swat his hand away before he pulled the tail again. “You’ll wake my parents!”
“Quite.” He pulled away from the knocker reluctantly and strode into the living room.
Shamus started at the sight of him. He gave a little growl, but edged forward and sniffed at the hem of Puck’s tunic. Then he looked up, let out a quick bark, as he had done when approving of Peter, and stepped away.
Rosemary stared at her dog.
Puck looked at the bookshelves and nodded. “A good collection, Rosemary. Appropriate for one so wise.”
“Actually, they’re my father’s.”
“Be that as it may, they are precisely what I need.” He pulled a book from the shelves.
Rosemary peered at the cover. “We get to the Land of Fiction through
Jane’s World Book of Airplanes
“Any book will do,” said Puck. “As long as you can find the secret passage.”
“Secret passage?” asked Peter. “What secret passage?”
“Such passages are in all books,” said Puck. “You need only to read between the lines.” Then, opening the book in the middle, he closed his eyes and began to chant:
A portal opened in the corner of the room,
And filled up with papery light
It gathered until it formed a tunnel
Which stretched onward into infinity.
Then he snapped the book shut and threw it into the corner. The book flopped open on its spine, with its pages fanning out like a fountain. The arches beneath the pages began to glow, and as the glow got brighter, the book grew larger, until the fountain of pages towered over them.
A wind plucked at Peter and Rosemary’s clothes, gathering strength until Rosemary was shocked that her parents were sleeping through it. She pushed the hair from her eyes as Puck stepped to the tunnel entrance.
“It will close once you are through, Rosemary,” he said. “Pray, do not delay.”
He took a step and vanished down the tunnel.
“Right.” Peter stepped forward. “Here goes nothing.”
Rosemary grabbed his arm. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going with you.”
She shook her head. “Theo’s already in there because of me. If anything happened to you ...” her voice trailed off. “You’re staying right here.”
“You can’t make me.”
“Oh yes I can!”
Still holding Peter’s arm, Rosemary used it to try to swing him aside. He struggled. Suddenly they were grappling with each other, each trying to hold the other down and get away so they’d be the first through the portal.
Peter perked up. “Look! It’s Theo! He’s better!”
Rosemary looked. Peter grabbed her shoulder and shoved her to the floor. He scrambled up and ran, but Rosemary tackled him from behind.
“So does the portal,” gasped Peter.
They were sliding forward on the hardwood floor, the wind blowing them towards the opening, faster and faster. Peter and Rosemary yelled.
The portal closed behind them.
There were shouts from the upper floors as Mr. and Mrs. Watson scrambled out of bed. Theo stumbled downstairs, pawing at the walls like a blind man. He fell into the living room, then picked himself up. Opening the book he glanced around and saw Rosemary’s and Peter’s unconscious bodies, sprawled together by the corner of the room beside a thick book open on its spine. He was too late.
Shamus sniffed and prodded Rosemary with his snout. She didn’t move. He began to howl.
Theo sighed. “Rosemary. Oh, Rosemary, why?” He stood over them, book open, like a priest over a grave.
Rosemary’s mother scrambled into the living room. She stopped in the doorway and took in the scene with one glance. “Theo! What did you do?”
Theo closed the book and dropped it on the floor.
Mrs. Watson rounded on her husband, who was steps behind. “Get Trisha out of the house, now. Take her out the back way. Don’t let her see this.”
Mr. Watson nodded and strode upstairs.
Mrs. Watson stepped into the room, her hair rumpled, her bathrobe askew, looking from her son to her daughter to that McAllister kid. She waved a hand in front of Theo’s face and then lowered him into a chair. She took Shamus by the collar and hushed him.
At her feet, Theo’s book flipped open with a bang. Mrs. Watson jumped. Then she saw the text streaming down on the page.
Behind her, Mr. Watson bundled Trisha out the back door.
THE SEA OF INK
“Revenge, of course. Why else?”
— Marjorie Campbell
osemary fell or floated, she could not tell which. Her arms flailed, her hair waved into her eyes, but she felt no wind. When she could see enough to look, she could glimpse only white. She had no sense of up or down.
Then she landed on her back on a surface like a soft mattress. It drove the wind from her lungs and sent up a spray of dust-like fog around her. She lay in a daze and felt the little specks fall back on her.
Slowly, the memories came back: folding girls, Theo, Puck, flying through the paper portal with Peter, then free fall. Now she was here. But where was Peter?
She brushed sand from her cheeks and sat up.
She sat in the middle of a small crater shaped like her outline. The sky was as white as a void, the sand was the colour of snow, and the horizon between them was a thin grey line. The air was still and the temperature
felt like it didn’t exist. There were no birds. No sound, except for her breath.
She stood up unsteadily, adjusted her glasses, and looked around. She found Peter behind her, spreadeagled and face down in the sand. Rosemary knelt by him and shook his shoulder. “Hey, you okay?”
Peter pushed himself onto his hands and knees and spat sand from his mouth. “I think so.”
She helped him to his feet. He rubbed his forehead. “Thanks.”
“You’re sure you’re all right?”
He took a deep breath. “Yeah.”
“Good.” She slugged him.
He fell over in a spray of dust, then scrambled to his feet. “Hey! Why did you hit me?”
!” She rubbed her shoulder.
He blinked at her, then snorted, breaking out into a grin. “Sorry.”
Her mouth quirked, but she eyed him sourly. “I told you not to follow me.”
He raised his hands. “What did you want me to do? Stand around while you went in alone?”
“I wasn’t alone,” she snapped. “Puck said —”
“Where is Puck?”
They looked around. They were in the bottom of a bowl of sand so white that, without the sight of each other, they’d have half believed that they’d gone blind.
Their footprints inked the ground like typewriter keys on paper.
“Puck!” Rosemary shouted. Her voice didn’t echo.
“Hi ho!” Puck called, his head popping up above the top of a white dune. “Awake, are we?”
“Where are we?” shouted Peter.
“Come up and see.” And his head disappeared. They heard a rustling.
Rosemary and Peter glanced at each other and shrugged. They scrambled up the sand dune, stuttering to a stop at the top, blinded by their first sight of black.
Before them stretched a white, sandy beach, ending abruptly at a black sea that slapped at the shore in slow, oily waves. Puck was standing at a grove of gnarled black trees, shaking a branch laden with round white fruit the size of basketballs.
Rosemary and Peter glanced at each other and shrugged again. They trudged to the grove, arriving just as Puck pulled one of the fruits free. “Something to play with while we wait,” he said.