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Books Of Wonder
Author's note: Wrote it for my friend.
Shadman wandered the shelves of the bookshop, the smell of pages long unturned filled his nostrils and he relaxed, the tension releasing from his skinny shoulders. He always preferred books to people, as books didn’t talk back; so this was an ideal place for him to be working. The owner, Mr. Swafford, was a decent enough man who gave Shadman, his favorite customer the opportunity to work for him. Way past the thinning stage, the stout man would watch him like a hawk from behind his thick rimmed glasses; that ever diligent Mr. Swafford. Shadman ran his fingers along the spines, dust collecting on his fingers and occasionally rising to join the dust in the air that dancing amongst the light. Shadman smiled as he watched and walked; his heart relaxing.
At the end of the corridor he came to an alcove where all the really old, really rare books were kept. He wasn’t allowed in there, but as if anyone could stop a nineteen year old teen who was incredibly curious. Shadman was the kind of person who when placed in front of a big red button, would naturally want to know what it does. So when placed in a room full of books, he would naturally pick them up and leaf through the pages, regardless of rarity. He flicked the switch and a dim light cast its lazy gaze over the ancient tomes, the colors a duller shade of their former selves. Shadman touched each spine individually as if he’d had something special with each of them.
An epic journey, a wonderful romance, a terrible tragedy. But not all these books were fact and fiction; there was one that stood on a stone pedestal, bound not in leather, but another material all together with a silver clasp. It was a rich green; richer than forests of old, more luminous than any emerald and that made it all the more tempting to want to open it.
“Just one look, what’s the harm in just a little look?” Shadman breathing hitched, licking his lips in anticipation, hand heading toward the clasp, hand shaking with excitement; he opened the book.
A bright light flashed from the book, blinding Shadman temporarily.
Something coiled around his leg. Shadman froze, eyes still closed.
“Open your eyes, give me my prize” called a siren like voice that surrounded Shadman. It chanted it, almost like a mantra.
“Open your eyes, give me my prize”
“Come with me” said a separate voice, a female voice; a small, strong hand grabbing his. “Keep your eyes closed at all times.”
The thing coiling around his leg receded and Shadman was dragged away, his eyes closed as instructed. They dashed through the bookstore, Shadman’s heart pounding.
They stepped out into the sun, the dull roar of society filling Shadman’s ears.
“Alright, you can open your eyes now” said the voice.
Shadman tentatively opened his eyes to find he was standing in front of a woman and a well dressed one at that. White suit with black pinstripes, black tie and; looking down at her feet she was wearing…doc martens. She pushed a red-purple side fringe out of her face and removed a pair of mirror coated glasses from her face.
“Who are you then? What was that? What was thing around my leg?” Shadman’s questions spilled out like a torrent of water.
“Whoa there, ease up cowboy,” she held up her hand, talking fast, so fast that Shadman had a little trouble keeping up with her. “I’ll tell you all about it in a moment. Just come with me. Right now, we have to go before it spreads.”
“Before what spreads?”
“And who are you?”
“I’m the Healer.”
Shadman ran with The Healer to a nearby alleyway where a blue box saying Police on the top. Shadman stopped in his tracks, taking the foreign object in. She stopped outside the box door and waited for him.
“You coming?” she asked, opening the door and going inside. Shadman followed her into the box and was momentarily stunned.
It was huge on the inside. Shadman jaw dropped and the Healer grinned, flashing white teeth.
“I know, I know, it’s bigger on the inside. I’ll give you a moment to take it in and then we’ll talk.”
After a moment of Shadman’s time, he bounded up onto the catwalk and took a look around. As he did, the Healer spoke.
“This is known as a TARDIS; that’s Time and Dimension in Space. It’ll take you to anywhere in the universe, any WHEN in the universe.”
“Wait, do you mean this is a time machine?” asked Shadman, hands touching all the buttons, knobs and levers. Though he wasn’t playing with anything; he knew that he shouldn’t touch anything after what happened with the book.
“I did say any WHEN didn’t I? You humans don’t really spend much time paying attention to what goes on around you do you? Yes this is a time machine. We’ll be safe from the Dracominons in here,” said the Healer, who plunked her bottom on the seat on the other side of the glass pillar in the middle of all the buttons and knobs.
“Dragons!? Did you say dragons are here?”
“No no, Dracominons. That thing that was wrapped around your leg earlier was in fact a giant snake,” the Healer babbled emphatically, indicating how big it was with her arms. “They’re from the planet Draco Serpens naturally and the older they get, the more anthropomorphic they become”
“Anthropo-what?” Shadman was bedazzled not only by her fast speech, but her spectacular vernacular.
“More human-like. You remember the Greek tale of Medusa and Perseus? Medusa was a Draco Serpensian who existed all those years ago. But what many people don’t know was that petrifaction doesn’t in fact kill the Draco Serpenss, it just makes them dormant; sleeping like a volcano”
“But didn’t Perseus behead Medusa after she was petrified?”
“Ahh, so you know the myth. I’m glad you’re not as silly as you look”
Shadman pulled a face at that.
“In any case,” the Healer continued, “Perseus in fact removed her eyes rather than beheaded her and placed them in a bronze lantern that looked similar to Medusa’s head, thus the legend took its course. What he did with her body however, was in fact trap her in a book given to him by Hermes, the Greek God of Messengers”
“Don’t tell me that book is the same one I opened earlier?” Shadman asked. He had to know. If he knew it was his fault, then he had to be the one to fix it.
“From the looks of it, I’d say it was your fault.”
“Then I’ve got to fix it right? I mean, if Medusa is being freed by my opening of the book, then I need to nip it in the bud” yelled Shadman, exasperated.
“Calm down, no one is going to get hurt…….yet. You see, Perseus took her eyes, so she needs to find her way out of the book. From the looks of it, she needs to absorb the eyesight of roughly fifty people in order to escape” said the Healer calmly.
“So how is she going to do that while still in the book?”
“Those giant snakes I was telling you about will be doing the work for her. They are her children, raised on her very head.”
“Wait, so Medusa’s head of snakes are her children? Like spiders carry their children on their backs?”
“An excellent analogy Shaggy.”
“Of course it is. By the time we leave the TARDIS, the Draco Serpensian children are going to be petrifying people to show their mother the way out. You’ll need a pair of these” said the Healer, tossing Shadman a pair of reflective sunglasses.
“So much for having a shield and sword right?”
“Well, this way we can still talk to her without either of us getting petrified. Chances are that she will have escaped the book by now” said the Healer. Shadman checked his watch. It was 5:45pm; he’d left the shop at around 4:30pm. That meant that the Draco Serpensian children had escaped the shop and probably petrified the fifty people they needed to summon their mother.
“Right, well, we’d better go before the world you know is turned to stone. Don’t you love this? Adventure, excitement, danger,” the Healer took a deep breath and sighed. “I haven’t felt more alive than I have now”
“Are you insane?” asked Shadman bluntly.
“Not at all; unless thrill seeking is a byproduct of being insane. If that’s the case, then yes, I am in fact insane. But now is NOT the time for technicalities; we need to go save humanity and such” replied the Healer lazily as she walked casually toward the door.
“Are you always so casual with your saving of people and such?” asked Shadman.
“Not the time for questions Redbrick” called the Healer from out the front.
“It’s Shadman” roared Shadman as he dashed toward the door after the Healer.
The Healer and Shadman wandered deserted streets, looking for people and yet, all they saw was statues of humans posed in cowering positions or begging for mercy, stony mouths and eyes wide with terror. Down the road from where the alleyway that the TARDIS sat in, a broken statue laid, its hand impaled on what looked like a snake, yet its scales were iridescent purple and its underbelly bone white. Its tongue was quadruple forked and flickering faintly. It looked up at the Healer and Shadman as they walked toward it. The Healer took what looked like a pen from inside her suit and held a button over the snake, a bright yellow light scanned the snake and the pen made an unusual whining, humming sound as it went.
“Hmm, as I suspected. The Draco Serpensian child smelt something close by that’s similar to its natural food source, hence its distraction and resulting in impalement on its body”
“What do they like to eat Healer?” asked Shadman.
“Rosa kordesii, or the red rose. That’s their favorite kind of flower, but they eat many kinds of flowers. Tulips, daisies, hyacinths, even a lot of flowers that don’t exist on Earth”
“Wait, they have flowers on other planets?”
“Of course they do! Why would they not have flowers on other planets? Forget what I said earlier about being smarter than I gave you credit for”
“You never said that though Healer” huffed Shadman grumpily.
The Healer pondered a moment, her finger poised on her chin, staring at the ceiling. “You’re right, I didn’t. Forget I said anything. We have to go draw these Dracominonsout now, before all these people are turned into garden statues” The Healer dashed toward the nearby flower shop, Shadman stayed behind to further inspect the dead Draco Serpensian.
A moment later, the Healer returned with bouquets of roses in her hand, smiling a big smile.
“So what do we do once we draw them all the Dracominonsonce they’re all in one place?” asked Shadman.
“We capture them using this,” the Healer held up the light up the pen that she’d used to scan the Draco Serpensian, “A sonic Screwdriver; known around the world for picking locks, lighting fires and various other things. Now you need to head back to the shop, grab the book and bring that to the TARDIS and don’t forget to keep those glasses on your face. If she has escaped, then dash back to the TARDIS”
“What are you going to do?”
The Healer smiled her beautiful smile. “I’m going hunting.”
Shadman ran as fast as his legs could carry him, the silver reflective sunglasses bouncing on his face as he ran, his heart pounding as he ran to the bookstore.
As he turned the corner, he skidded to a halt as he found himself in front of a Draco Serpensian, which looked like a fat, iridescent purple python. It coiled around his leg, then his torso and Shadman could feel his chest tighten, yet he was frozen in horror. He couldn’t escape the coils of the Draco Serpensian. He closed his eyes and waited for the end.
He heard a hissing sound and felt the grip of the coils loosen. Shadman stayed still, knowing that by staying still and not making any sudden movements, it wouldn’t try to attack him. He opened his eyes and watched as the Draco Serpensian slithered in the direction of the TARDIS.
“They must all be headed for the roses,” whispered Shadman to himself, “I need to get my hands on that book and bring it to the Healer.”
Then he ran for all he was worth the rest of the way.
The Healer was in the TARDIS, stuffing a flower’s worth of petals into the engine of the amazing time travelling machine and setting it to blow, sending the smell of roses in the direction of the city and the Dracominons. The Healer then tossed the rest of the roses outside in a pile.
“There’s not enough flowers here, I’ll have to get some more” and the Healer ran up the stairs and into the labyrinth of corridors within the TARDIS to where she kept her collection of flowers. There was the Lira, the singing flower, which sounded like a wind chime when you watered it, the Rainbow Lilly, which changed color depending on the harshness of the light and the Phoenix flower, in its obsidian glass case, which exploded every year and regenerated as if nothing had happened. The Healer loved her collection. She grabbed the supply of red roses, then ran back to the TARDIS door and threw them on the pile with the other ones from the florists.
She waited, staring at the alleyway entrance, awaiting the Draco Serpensian youngsters.
Shadman entered the shop, his nerves completely rattled, but fuelled by his fear, he ran down the corridors of the bookshop, the smell of books and flitting dust long forgotten. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d done something so thrilling.
But now was not the time to be excited. He had a task to focus on.
He reached the section of the bookshop where the really old, really special books were kept but was stopped in his tracks when he spotted a figure in a dark cloak.
Though the figure had its back turned, Shadman could hear her voice. Deep and husky, sexy even.
Shadman froze in his tracks.
“Has the cat got your tongue little one? I said hello, can’t you say anything back? That’s not very nice young man”
Shadman regained his composure, “The cat doesn’t have my tongue, but I know that the Healer has your children.” He said coolly. The figure hissed and turned around, the book under her arm.
“I am Andromeda, sister to Medusa” said the figure, turning and removing her hood. She was bald, with purple scales that stopped at the bridge of her nose. From the nose, down to her neck and possibly further down, though Shadman couldn’t see there, was bone white. “Your opening of the book brought me here so I could free her”
“I see, well, her children will need their mother”
“True, however, if I had you, then the Healer would lose her leverage now wouldn’t she?” Andromeda chuckled.
Shadman, for his part, ran away as fast as he could.
He looked back and through the bookshelves ran the Draco Serpensian Andromeda, her strong scaly legs powering behind him, but that only forced him to run faster.
“You cannot escape me little man” called Andromeda, her wispy, husky voice following him like a trail of smoke.
But that didn’t stop Shadman from running; all the way back to the TARDIS; Right in front of the tangle of snakes in a ball, stopping Andromeda in her tracks.
“It is time for you to die little man” the voice of Andromeda tongued at Shadman’s ears.
“Excuse me,” called a voice, “That’s my socially awkward human. If you want one of your own, you’ll have to revive the other humans and pick one of them.”
Shadman turned to find the Healer standing in the doorway, spinning her sonic screwdriver in between her fingers expertly. That crazy Healer, with her white suit with black pinstripes and her Doc Martens and her purple-red hair in its wavy fringe; a wolfish grin plastered on her face. Shadman grinned despite himself.
“You have no leverage Healer. I have the human and I have my sister,” Andromeda held up the book, “I will free her and we shall take this planet, together.”
“Sorry, skinhead, but that’s not going to happen” was all that the Healer said, before pointing the sonic screwdriver not at Andromeda, but at the book she was holding!
Hissing with surprise, Andromeda dropped the book, the pages burning quickly; Shadman heard screaming as the pages turned and burned rapidly.
Andromeda howled with grief at the sound of her sister’s suffering.
The Healer’s face fell at the sound before her. Shadman noticed and ran over to her.
“Why do you look so sad?”
“Because I’ve slain a caged beast that didn’t deserve it”
“But Medusa took the lives of others, just for fun”
“I don’t think so. Medusa was blind”
Shadman stepped back in shock.
“She stole the sight of those people so she could see”
“Sapping sight, she can do that?!” Shadman asked, both strangely amazed and horrified all at once.
“That’s not really the word for it, but it’ll do,” replied the Healer; to Andromeda, she said “I can spare your sister, but only if you spare the lives and vision of the people her children stole.”
Andromeda hissed and looked at the screaming book, knowing that her mission was to save her sister first.
“Fine, now save her”
“Wow, an Alien who can be reasoned with, that’s a new one” observed the Healer.
“Get on with it already, before I change my mind” growled Andromeda.
The Healer pointed the sonic screwdriver at the book and pressed the button. The yellow glow appeared and the flame died down.
“Thank you; the lives of your humans as well as their sight have been returned as promised. Farewell Healer and little man; I hope we never see each other again.” Andromeda said haughtily, before gathering the tangled ball of Draco Serpensian children and the book and disappearing in a ball of light.
After a while, Shadman turned to the Healer and asked “How did you gather them into a ball?”
“Oh that’s simple really, the TARDIS has its own shielding system; I just used it to contain the Draco Serpensian children; they moved around trying to escape and they ended up that way. It’s like those old rabbit traps; the more you struggle, the tighter the noose will get until you can no longer move”
“So, what will you do now?” asked Shadman, marveling at this remarkable woman.
“I’ll probably do what I’ve always done,” replied the Healer, taking off the silver sunglasses and pushing her side fringe back from her face, “I’ll probably travel space and time. Change a few things here and there; watch some of the major highlights in human history”
“But won’t that be boring?”
“Not at all! It’ll be brilliant, like living in your own story” thought the Healer aloud, “I, uh, don’t suppose you’d want to come with me would you? I could use the partner to collaborate with.”
Shadman pondered for a moment. All his life he thought the world he lived in was boring. He wanted to be a part of something bigger than himself and then, write about it. Maybe this was his chance. “Sounds good to me!” he replied with a grin.
“So, where to then? Past or future?” asked the Healer, taking his hand and dragging him to the TARDIS centre console.
“Future of course; I want to see what happens next”
“Then you’d better prepare yourself young man,” said the Healer with her wonderfully wolfish grin, “It’s going to be a real eye opener.”