As we approach the island, the first thing I notice from this new vantage point is the state of the cabin at its center – I’m pretty sure it’s held upright through sheer force of will. It looks as if the slightest breeze would blow it away. Even the windows are broken, the images reflected on them showing us a shattered version of the sky behind us.
The glass is thick, and it isn’t until we’re at the door that I realize the windows aren’t normal – they’re mirrors. I find that this doesn’t surprise me at all, and I wonder if I’m getting used to the strangeness.
“I don’t know what we’re going to find on the other side of this door.” For the second time, he hesitates. Death’s grip on my hand tightens. I squeeze back.
“Hopefully your book. I don’t know how much more inter-dimensional travel I can take.” I try to make light of the situation, unnerved by his fear and reluctance.
He doesn’t react – I didn’t expect him to, anyway – and opens the door.
The room we step into is practically bare. Wood creaks beneath our feet, doing nothing to inspire confidence in the house’s structural integrity. Once we’re over the threshold, the door swings shut behind us with a faint click.
From this side, the windows are still broken and now reflect the contents of the room instead. A single table sits in the center. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was a normal table, rickety like the house. But there’s a book sitting on a small stand, encased in glass. It pulsates with the same energy I’d mistaken as coming from the house. Now I know it’s the book itself emanating that power, that pull.
“Is that it?” It doesn’t look like anything special. The book is thick, with a slightly tattered black leather cover. There’s no title, nothing to indicate what it is or does.
“Yes.” He replies with a reverent whisper. We step closer, until Arius can place his hand on the glass. When his skin meets the case, he flinches with a hiss, as if burned. “A last defense, it would seem.”
Without thinking, I reach out and touch it. The glass feels like thin ice.
“It doesn’t hurt. Should I move it?” I look to him, fully aware that I shouldn’t do anything more reckless without checking first.
He releases my hand, and for a moment I feel completely untethered – like I could float away if I wanted to. Disappear.
“Focus.” Death’s voice brings me back.
“What’s wrong with me?” Even as I ask the question, I reach for the glass, lift the delicate case and place it aside before reaching for the book.
Arius immediately grabs my hand again, pulling me back. I feel better almost immediately. But there’s that nagging at the back of my mind again.
Now it has a voice.
Leave him. Take the book. Come to me.
Around us, the room begins to shake. I’ve never experienced an earthquake, but I imagine this is what it must be like. The floor between us opens, the house cracks in two. I strain to keep hold of Arius’ hand, but something pulls us apart.
On the other side of the chasm, Death stands alone. The book is still on the table behind me. With each passing moment, the gap grows.
“Whatever you do – don’t touch it! Don’t touch the book!” But his voice sounds far away.
Don’t listen to him. He’s brought you all this way for the book, after all. Take it. Take it and run.
So this one might turn out to be shorter than the rest of the stories I’ve written through prompts. I feel the end of it drawing close, so that’s exciting!
Be sure to check out the rest of the responses at the prompt.
As always, think happy thoughts!