1. in which danny dives into a book
In her dream, Danny stood behind the customer service counter of Barge and Nelson, trying to explain to a customer that her book would not “turn on,” because books were not meant to be turned on.
“But there’s supposed to be a button right here,” insisted the woman, pressing a finger against the hardcover’s spine. “Just last week I bought a book from the same publisher with Ghandi as the narrator. This one must be defected. I want my money back.”
Danny felt her entire body pulse with anger. “Ma’am, there’s nothing wrong with the book, but if you go up to the cash register I’ll call the –“
At that moment, a tremendous crash sounded from behind them, toward the children’s section. Screams rent the air.
Without excusing herself, Danny tore off toward the noise. People were already running helter skelter away from the area. Danny dashed past the science fiction section and skidded to a stop. Half of the popular fiction shelves had been toppled over like dominoes, and the divider that split the children’s section from the rest of the store lied in ruins. For a moment, Danny gawked. Rising from the chaos of splintered wood and spilled books were humongous writhing snakes. No — vines.
Like the tentacles of some ancient, roused sea god, the vines wrapped and curled around bookshelves. As she watched, the vines constricted around a help desk until it exploded in a spray of wood chips. The computer monitor that had been sitting on the desk flew like a missile in Danny’s direction. She threw herself toward the ground, arms folding over her head instinctively.
By the time she had sprung back onto her feet, the tentacle vines had eaten half of the science fiction shelves, and she could see that the children’s section was being similarly destroyed.
“Shit!” she swore, and — as everyone else ran screaming — she leaped straight into the heart of the chaos.
Danny vaulted over runners and ducked past creepers. She jumped, tumbled, staggered, leaped. Her feet caught on vines and precarious piles of books. In moments, she was in the thick of the vines, ducking angry shoots and windmilling her arms as the very ground writhed beneath her feet.
She grabbed a slab of wood that had once been the side of a book case and pushed it out of her way, splinters scoring her palms. She began to dig through the pile of books, tossing them every which way.
Finally, she uncovered a patch of blue carpet. And lying on that patch of blue carpet, at the bottom of the pile, was a single oversized book.
The book lied on its back, pages open. It was from these pages that the vines rose up, as if reaching through some dimensional window.
A vine as thick as her leg snaked quickly toward Danny. It began to curl around her like a whip. She had no time to think, only react.
Like a diver, she threw herself headfirst into the book —
— and tumbled into a crumbling cityscape.