The page list
What is it about stories that draw us into them? Words are strung together to form sentences which are further strung together to form paragraphs. By themselves, words do not have that much power. It is when you combine them in a variety of ways do you unlock true literary power.
From a rather young age, Jeff had been an avid reader. His parents had bought him some picture books in preschool and quickly graduated to the picture-less books in first grade. The stories that unfolded between the pages captivated the young mind. It was an escape from the horrors of his own reality. Jeff’s father had lost his life to a mugger, and his mother was too busy with her law office to be able to raise her son as a single mother. He had no siblings and no cousins to keep him company. Unfortunately, Jeff was also rather athletically challenged and a bit socially inept. There were no humans that he could refer to as friends. His only companions were the books that he read with a passion.
As any young bookworm with no friends might be aware, bullies will like to prey on these unfortunate souls just for the sake of conquering an easy target. This was especially true for Dan. Dan was a relatively typical schoolyard bully. He had terrible marks on school and wasn’t quite at “jock level” of athleticism, but he knew how to throw a punch, which Jeff knew all too well. Luckily, Jeff was able to stave off the punching by doing Dan’s homework. With great homework scores and mediocre test scores, Dan was able to maintain straight C’s, just enough to pass into subsequent grades.
This dance continued all through high school until one day in their junior year, Jeff managed to lose Dan’s assignment. When Dan found out, he threatened Jeff that he was going to get the beating of his life. With his well-being in danger, Jeff fled as fast as his legs could take them. Over the years, he had learned that if he can’t take down bullies, he can at least outrun them. Running through alleyways and climbing Mr. Jones fence seemed to be enough to get away, but he wanted to hide just in case. Across the street, he noticed his safe haven, the library.
Bolting across the street and around the traffic, he made it to the tall oaken doors and he pulled the door open. The smell of vanilla that is associated with older books lingered here. He was home. All he would have to do is hide in the stacks and perhaps he could find a new book.
“Hello, dear. May I help you find something?”
Jeff jumped at the sudden sound and turned, expecting to find another tormentor. The voice came from a somewhat mousey looking woman, probably in her late 20’s. She must be a new librarian. Her long black skirt brushed against her heeled boots. Her white blouse with black vest adorned with brass buttons gave her a Victorianesque appearance. She was rather pretty.
“Umm. Hi-I, my name’s Jeff. I’m kindof hiding from somebody.”
The woman frowned, “Oh dear. That’s no good. Why don’t you come with me to the upper stacks? You’ll be a bit safer there. By the way, my name is Susan.” Jeff’s eyes quickly lit up at the phrase “upper stacks.” They were a set of books on the upper floors that the public weren’t privy to. He had heard stories about how they were historical documents that couldn’t be risked to be touched. They walked in silence up the narrow metal staircase to the upper level. His eyes opened in wonder at all the books up here. He could spy several glass cases that appeared to hold old manuscripts, and the walls were lined with books upon books. His reverie was only broken when Susan spoke up, “I’m always one to enjoy a good story, and I believe you have one to tell. Who are you hiding from?”
At great length Jeff spoke of his tormentor, Dan. The more he spoke about Dan, the more came out about his past. Soon enough, he was going on a long tangent about his life and pacing while he spoke. He didn’t realize that Susan had been writing down notes in her notebook. With a smile, she laid down her pen and said, “Ok, Jeff. That’s enough. If you’re going to tell a story right, you’ll need to learn a better method. You’re jumping between thoughts rapidly and someone with a less quick ear wouldn’t be able to catch it all.” She handed Jeff the journal.
His mouth dropped when he saw that everything he had said was written down in beautiful penmanship. However, it wasn’t the way he had said it. In this form, it was a beautifully written story as though his life was just something designed in the head of another author. He looked up at her in awe. “How in the world did you do this?”
With a smirk, she replied, “It really isn’t all that great of a feat. All you need to do is read constantly and have a pinch of fairy dust.
Jeff raised his brows incredulously, “Fairy dust. Really? Ok, Tinkerbell.”
“Actually, fairy dust isn’t all that difficult to find. You just need to find the right book.” Susan wandered into the stacks, leaving a very confused Jeff behind. In a surprisingly short amount of time, she returned with a dusty tome. As she sat back down in front of Jeff, she breathed lightly onto the book, causing the dust to lift off the book and into his face. He quickly tried to get the dust out of his eyes until he suddenly smelled salt water. He looked up quickly and his vision was swimming slightly. It felt like he was on a boat and he could smell the salty sea air.
“Wha… What did you do?” His vision slowly came back to him, yet the smell lingered.
Susan smiled and replied, “I didn’t do anything but introduce you to fairy dust. The dust that gathers on old books tends to take on some of the characteristics of the book. For example, this is an 1851 copy of Moby Dick that’s been sitting up here for quite some time.” Jeff’s eyes opened wide and he reached out to touch it. She quickly jerked it back, “Sorry, dear. This is an historical literary artifact. I can’t let you read through it. Besides, you’ve probably already read it before.” With a twinkle in her eye, she walked off with it.
Well that was weird. How could he possibly be able to smell the ocean and feel the rocking of a boat just from the dust of an old book? It didn’t make any sense. Was there some form of hallucinogen in the dust? He had always been a good kid and avoided drugs, but he highly doubted a hallucination as vivid as that disappear as though it were a dream.
As his thoughts came back to the present, he noticed the smell was gone and the librarian was sitting in front of him. “You haven’t run away in terror. I’m rather surprised.”
“I’m not really that scared, more… curious, I guess.”
“Well, I’ve always loved to try to quench young people’s curiosity. I studied to be a teacher when I wore a younger woman’s shoes. I loved the idea of showing students the world’s mysteries through a different set of lenses. Unfortunately, my form of teaching went against societal norms and I was never given a job. Eventually, I trained to become a library aide. At least this way, I could still help children.”
Jeff looked at her oddly. Why was she telling him this? All he wanted to do was get away from a bully. Now, what was his name? Darren? David?
“Now, you seem to need a bit of help. How would you like to see the world through a different lens? Perhaps enter a different world altogether.” Her voice was somewhat hypnotic and he felt a compulsion to follow her. She quietly led him to a floor length mirror and took a book off a shelf near it. Blowing a bit of dust from the pages, the mirror began to glow slightly, and she led her new prodigy through.