Danny's Story

4. in which danny receives a most unexpected birthday guest

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Chapter One

Danny could walk into books.

It was a gift she had received on her thirteenth birthday from her dead grandfather.

“Psssst! Danny boy,” she had heard a voice whisper. “Over here!”

She followed the voice away from the birthday party crowd to an empty corner near the clothes washer machine. A ghostly outline of a man stood there. He was tall, just like her grandfather, and he wore the same goofy grin, but his hair was as black as fresh asphalt and he didn’t stoop.

“Grandpa?” she said, and dropped her plate of cake.

“Hey, baby,” he said. And for a moment, the image flickered: he was grey, and creased, and delicate, like a creaking wooden frame stretched with aged leather. He smiled and he said, “I have something for you.”

It was a book. And when she took it from his outstretched hand, she found that it was solid and that she could take it from him. It was bound in black cloth, and the words on it were written in an alphabet that she could not read. They were pressed into the book with silver and blue foil. There was also a symbol — a cross with a loop. She had seen it before in Egyptian pictures.

“It’s a book,” she said.

He squatted down, now younger: maybe in his late thirties, his face shadowed with a ghost of stubble. “It’s not just any book,” he said. “Open it up.”

She did, and read the title out loud: “Liara.” Then, she added, “By…I can’t read that.”

He smiled. “Now,” he said. “Put your hand on that page, just like this.” He spread his fingers just so — into the V sign from Star Trek.

Her eyes widened, but she did as he said, because he was her grandfather, and because she had never argued with a ghost before. She had never spoken to one, for that matter.

“Now, say as I say.” He cleared his throat, and cracked a huge goofy grin, then cleared his throat again, and his face went somber. “Waka waka woo, waka waka waka wy.”

She hesitated, and then she repeated it.

And suddenly, she was no longer in hallway near the washer machine with spilled cake at her feet.

She blinked in the sudden sunlight and quickly scanned her surroundings. Her grandfather stood near her in the waist-high golden grass. He was more solid now, and she could see that he was wearing black: a shirt, and slacks, and a dressy jacket. But she wasn’t looking at his clothes. She was looking at his shoulder.

On it was the biggest raven she had ever seen.

“Oh,” she said. Then, without anything else to say, she added, “Oh.”

He smiled. “Welcome, dear little lady.” He spread his arm in an expansive gesture.

“Where are we?” she asked automatically, although she already knew.

“You know,” he said.

“I know,” she replied.

They were in the book.

They stood in the middle of a field of tall grass that rippled like the ocean in the breeze and shimmered golden. She stretched her arms out and spun slowly, her palms skimming the tops of the grass, tickled. The grass stretched far around them. On one horizon, she could make out a line of trees and the outline of mountains behind them. Opposite, there was a hill, and the remnants of buildings. The rest of the horizon was flat — filled with grass.

“Liara,” she said.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey

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