The Wisp, Chapter Two, Part Two, Fiction, Reading, Photography, and Digital Art
“I didn’t mean to scare you,” Amy said. She gave Bara a confused look.
Bara stood up and looked around, but there wasn’t anyone or anything to see. Except for her and Amy, the stacks were deserted. “Was anyone else down here?” Bara asked. “Maybe they passed you on the stairs?”
“No? I think it’s just us.”
“Wearing silver and white?”
Amy shrugged. “I didn’t see anyone.”
“Or someone who maybe looks just like me?”
Amy needed clarification.
“You mean besides you?”
“What a strange question. What’s going on?”
Bara sat back down.
“I had the oddest dream.”
“Did you dream about him again?”
Bara smiled guiltily. “Yeah ... but that wasn’t the strange part. Someone tapped me on the shoulder. A woman, I think. I remember smelling her perfume. It was very strong. Floral. You didn’t smell anything like that either?”
Amy shook her head.
“I only caught a glimpse before she disappeared into the stacks,” Bara continued on. “She was flowing—wispy, with silver hair. I couldn’t find her when I followed, but a book was moved. Then everything became a nightmare. I was attacked by someone who looked just like me, only she had this really big mouth. She tried to eat me.”
(Continue on listening if you prefer. Blog follows at the end ofthe post)
Amy laughed. “Freaky! But you want to talk terrifying? I once dreamed that I’d married Professor Chestermire and Patsy Pillanger was our daughter.”
“Okay.” Bara chuckled. “That’s worse.” She bent down and picked up the Hideous Strength from the floor where it had fallen and waved it in front of Amy. “It was next to this.”
Amy gave her a look that said so-what.
“Come on,” Bara said. “I’ll show you.” She got up and led Amy to the spot. She stopped short.
One book—no one had to tell her which—hung off the shelf. Amy came up from behind. She looked at Bara, who stared agog down the aisle, and then noted the one spine out-of-place.
“You must have moved it yourself,” Amy reasoned.
“No. No, I didn’t.”
Amy wasn’t convinced. She had no reason to be spooked. She hadn’t had the dream. She brushed past Bara, grabbed the Magician’s Nephew, and held it out.
“See, just a book.”
Thud. The volume that had rested next to it toppled face-down to the floor.
Amy looked down. “Just another book.”
“It’s something more,” Bara insisted. She picked it up and wiped away at dust.
There were five amber pieces on its leather-bound cover, golden-orange ovals about the size of a sand dollar. They encircled a central Celtic cross. Technically amber wasn’t a gem, rather petrified tree sap, but the sheen and cut of this amber were as fine as any diamond. Her fingers traced the circle but stopped before completing the full arc. It was beautiful, almost perfect, except for a missing sixth piece of amber. She held it out for Amy.
“Wow! Let me see.”
Bara obliged and passed it over. Amy traced the amber the same way Bara had done. She gave it one more look and handed it back. She picked up the Magician’s Nephew, returned it to the shelf, and headed back to the study carrel. With the found book clasped tightly to her chest, Bara followed. They arrived back at the carrel. Amy grabbed a coffee and croissant. She sat down and began to eat and drink. She noted Bara’s tight grip on the book.
“Well, open it up then.”
Bara ran her hand along the spine and the pages of the closed book and then cracked it open. The pages were yellowed with age. There was no writing on the first page, just a drawing of the front cover without the missing stone, a perfect circle of six.
“What’s it called?” Amy asked.
“It doesn’t have a title.” Bara turned another jaundiced page. She shivered a full body shiver and held up the book so Amy could see what was drawn on the second page—a five-pointed star within a circle.
Amy choked on a mouthful of coffee. “No way! Let’s put it back where we found it? This reminds me a little too much of the start of a horror movie.”
Bara gave her a blank look.
“The walls are bleeding and the house is screaming I know what you did last summer,” Amy mocked nervously.
Bara shook her head. “The circle and the star are a protection against evil.”
Amy wasn’t convinced. “It’s a bit much for me—dreams and black magic books. Leave it on a shelf and some other unlucky sap can find it.”
Bara ignored the suggestion and flipped another stiff page. She read out loud.
You have found this book and were destined to do so. The responsibility is now yours. You must slay and cage the evil. Beware. She will come in the guise of beauty and kindness.
Be not a fool. There is no goodness in her heart. The demon is a trickster. Let her not trick you. The gift of the ages she offers is a living coffin. Put her in hers before she puts you in yours. May you meet with more success than I,
“Nelson Sedgewick? Doesn’t he have a portrait upstairs?”
Bara nodded. “He donated a lot of money to the library. This must be his diary or something.”
“What does he mean Clâvigen?”
“Clâvigen? I think it’s French. He says we need to slay and cage the evil. Maybe that has something to do with it.”
“Slay, hey? I don’t know about you, Buffy, but I don’t want to be a slayer or whatever a Clâvigen is … or isn’t.”
“It doesn’t sound like we have a choice.”
“Come on!” Amy scoffed. “This guy was just a nutcase.”
“Then I’m nuts too. Something weird is going on. Seriously. My dream led me to this.”
Amy took a moment to think
“Maybe … when did this Sedgewick die?”
Professor Chestermire had talked about the library’s history, another example of Bara getting him off topic.
“About sixteen years ago,” she told Amy.
“Do you really think this book has been lying on the shelf for that long, just waiting for you to dream your dream?”
“How should I know? All I know is he says I was destined to find it. Or we were?”
Amy still looked unconvinced. Bara tried harder.
“Someone or something led me to it.”
Amy opened her eyes very wide. “Maybe it was Sedgewick’s ghost?”
“Ghosts?” Bara echoed.
“I don’t know. Dream visions, so why not ghosts?”
“Maybe it was a ghost, but not Sedgewick. It was a woman. She was all wispy. A wisp … like a will-o-wisp.”
“Do you have a better name?"
“No,” Amy replied. “But there’s also your nightmare double to consider.”
“Yeah,” Bara agreed. Dreams say something about your inner-psyche. What does being eaten by your own face mean?”
“You wear too much candied lip-gloss?” Amy offered.
She laughed. Bara didn’t. After a beat, Amy sighed.
“Sometimes dreams are just dreams. You shouldn’t always read into them.”
Amy was making light, but she didn’t have a good feeling about any of it. The dream was freaky. She had to admit. But the diary? As much as Bara was drawn to it, she was repulsed. Get rid of it, her instincts told her. An idea came to her head. “It belongs to the library, right?”
Bara closed the cover and turned it over. “There are no call numbers.”
“Maybe it’s part of the rare books collection? They don’t put call numbers on those.”
“It’s rare for sure. We should take it back to the dorm.”
“We should turn it in to the library, “ Amy insisted. “We did find it on the shelf. Then we’ll be done with this nonsense. Don’t you think?”
Bara looked down and thought, no, I don’t think. She wanted to keep the diary even if it were part of the rare book collection but didn’t get a chance to respond.
“Let’s go!” Amy grabbed her bag and headed for the stairs.
Bara went to argue, but Amy had already disappeared into the floor above. Reluctantly, Bara put her own bag over her shoulder, grabbed the Hideous Strength, and followed.
Certain flowers are more beautiful as they age. He is big fan of maturing roses and for me ... bring on the hydrangea. No flower in my opinion has a longer age of beauty. I actually prefer the way they look in Autumn and early winter, as they fade a slowly desiccate. The colors become more varied and muted, unpredictable.
Weathered hydrangea could be described as antique, much like the pages of the diary that Bara finds in Windfall Library. But it's relative, right?
Bara is spellbound by the tome; she is drawn to its endurance and mystery. For her the volume holds history beyond the narrative found within, an experienced not to be missed.
Amy on the other hand is repulsed. In the diary's decay she reads the macabre; its mystery is dangerously eerie and not a deletable riddle to be solved. She senses it is a threat to her psyche and view of the world and is put on the defensive. Best to pass it onto other more experienced gloved hands, throw off the ageing dark, and head for the light.
But what kind of fodder is that for a horror and fantasy story.
Still, for the unusual to be believable, a nod to the expected and mundane must be there for grounding and contrast. Amy, in addition to being a great comrade-in-quest, is there for the rational and cautions folks. In her conversations with Bara, she asks the right questions to develop the narrative and get the reader into the right frame of mind to accept the unreal and terrifying.
Words and Images are my own.
The Wisp and its sequel, the Tall Man, are available in paperback or digital through amazon and your local libraries and bookstores. Click on any title below to get your copy or further explore and support my writing.