12. in which danny visits the Library

•October 3, 2008 • 1 Comment

Danny strode several yards, then knelt on the sparse grass. She brushed away dirt and dry grass, uncovering a wooden trap door that seemed to be built into the ground itself. No matter how often Danny accessed the door, the earth and dried vegetation always quickly reclaimed it. With a tug and a ripping of roots, she pulled it open, revealing a narrow stairwell. Cool air breathed up from below. She stepped down and eased the trap door shut above her, shutting herself in complete darkness. Sometimes, the stairwell was lit by luminescent moss or with an ethereal glow that seemed to come from the air itself, but today she had to guide herself by touch only. She checked each step with her foot before putting weight on it, and her hands trailed the packed, earthen walls.

At last, she came to a landing, and walked forward with her hands extended until they came in contact with a door. This she pushed open.

Danny stepped into a well-lit chamber that could have been a small palace, with reflective tile flooring and a vaulted ceiling that soared high above. There was a few hundred square feet of sitting area that was littered with armchairs, plush rugs, and polished wooden tables. Then, there were the bookshelves. They were shelves that only a dragon could access with ease — each 50 feet tall and as wide as the side of a house. They stood like sentries in rows that extended back farther than the eye could see. Tall ladders scaled the shelves. Although she didn’t like to, Danny had climbed one on more than a dozen occasions.

The Library on Liara spread below most of the island, Danny reckoned. Its front end opened onto the cliff face, giving her the feeling that it was a humongous cave whose mouth looked out over the sea. When she stood at the edge looking down, she saw the salt waves breaking violently against the toothy rocks below. Cool sea spray blew upwards, acting as natural air conditioning, while daylight streamed in, lighting the sitting area. Danny could sit for hours here, reading.

The Library was the heart of Liara. It housed every book ever written, every story that had ever been told, every dream that had ever been dreamt. It was the repository for all of the knowledge and creativity in the universe.

And none of it was organized. There was no method to how books were shelved. In fact, the titles on a shelf could change from moment to moment, and certainly they were different from visit to visit. Danny had glanced away from books for a minute only to turn back and find them gone. Like dreams or thoughts, books came, stayed, moved, and disappeared.

Danny walked down an aisle, glancing at the rows of bookshelves. Since the books were not organized in any understandable way, she had learned to find them by instinct. She browsed until her gut told her to turn or to stop; often, she found that — even if she did not come across the title she wanted — she would discover the title that she needed, like that old Rolling Stones song.

For instance…here. Danny felt a tug, and walked down one of the rows, scanning the spines.

There. An entire case of books that bore the title Book of Names. Danny looked it up and down, and she sighed heavily. This could take a while.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey


11. in which danny seeks a fool’s guidance

•September 22, 2008 • 3 Comments

“Name,” said Danny, upon waking. She sat up from the floor. “Name name name name name. Power.”

She swiped the black tome Liara off of the desk and placed her palm against the title page of the book. Several moments later, she was striding over the crest of a little hill, looking out over the vast golden field that she had first appeared in with her grandfather all of that time ago.

She stopped and scanned the sky. It was an unnaturally clear and deep light blue, unmarred by clouds or black wings.

She walked down the lonely beach, toward the woods that took up one end of the island. Liara was eerily still and quiet today.

“Matthias?” she called as she reached the first trees. Not even a twig or a blade of grass trembled.

She walked along the treeline, gaze skimming the branches and sky. Soon, she was standing at the edge of the rocky shore on the opposite end of the island. Waves crashed at the bottom of the tall sea cliff.

A loud croak from behind startled her.

She whirled to find the large raven staring at her from the bare branch of a nearby tree.

“Jesus, Matt!” she cried, heart skipping a beat.

The raven croaked again.

As far as Danny could tell, Matthias the raven was the one unchanging element on Liara — and the only other sentient being. She remembered seeing him originally when her grandfather brought her to Liara for the first time, riding his shoulder. Whether Matt was a piece of her grandfather or a piece of Liara — or something else entirely — she didn’t know. He acted as a mentor and annoyance to Danny. Often, he was her only source of bookwalking guidance. She was grateful for the aide, but sometimes irritated by the form it took. Why couldn’t Matt be a pleasant cat or miniature dragon or something? Or, better yet, why hadn’t her grandfather hung around?

Danny scowled irritably, but pressed him with her question. “If I was looking for my name, where would I find it?”

He stared at her with his expressionless beady eyes, then let out a loud call. “In a donkey’s ass,” he rasped. “I’d be a fool if I didn’t know my name.”

Danny closed her eyes briefly. “All right. Where would I look for another’s name?”

“If I was a fool, I’d look in the Book of Names.”

Danny arched an eyebrow. “And if I wasn’t a fool?”

“I’d ask a fool,” was his prompt response.

“Right,” she deadpanned. She turned and began to walk off. Behind her, Matt croaked reproachingly. She glanced back at him. “Thanks,” she added.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey

10. in which danny dreams of princess mononoke

•September 15, 2008 • 1 Comment

Jett nodded, shifted in his seat, and asked, “What else are you going to try?”

Danny shook her head. “I don’t know. I’m almost tempted to give up. I’m having nightmares about it now.”

“Have you tried not killing it?” asked Jett.

She gave him a look. “Should I ask it kindly to leave?”

He didn’t say anything, only shrugged.

Later, they watched Princess Mononoke. Jett had been half-teasing when he mentioned it, but Danny was already reaching for the DVD before he could say “kidding.”

Danny lied curled on the floor, drifting in and out of consciousness. She hadn’t realized how tense she had been, and just how relaxed she was now that she was home. The carpet was scratchy but soft under her cheek, and it smelled of sweat, smoke, and sweetness. Her dreams faded into and out of the movie. The great forest of the west became the enchanted forest that was consuming the city of glass and steel in its rage. Danny wound through the green labyrinth with a humongous rifle, searching for the forest’s spirit. She was dogged along the way by Princess Mononoke astride a giant white wolf pup, and found herself increasingly lost, deeper and deeper amongst the wood.

A while later, she roused to darkness and silence. A blanket was draped across her. She clutched it closer to her throat and looked up. Jett sat at the computer, staring at the screen.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” he said, turning to face her.

“Whatcha up to?”

“Working on this story, but I’m stuck. I can’t think of a name for the main character.”

“Then just call him ‘Blank’ until you do, and keep writing it.”

“I can’t do that!” he said, grinning.

“You’re so weird,” she said. She closed her eyes, curled into a tighter ball, and teased, “You should name her Tzeme.”

“Hmph,” grunted Jett, and ruffled her hair.

Not too long later, she drifted out again.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey

9. in which danny reveals her problem

•September 12, 2008 • 1 Comment

Chapter Two

But she did talk about it when they got back to the apartment.

Danny lied down on her stomach on the living room carpet while Jett sat at the computer and told her about his day.

“It was a little slow,” he said. “We had a test review in chemistry. Then, in lab, the students were looking at tissue slides all night. I pretty much sat around, writing notes. I’ve got the fifth chapter pretty much mapped out.”

“Cool,” mumbled Danny, her face smashed against her arms. She couldn’t remember what story he was working on now. Something that took place in Saliy’a, most likely. Jett used experiences from Danny’s second life as inspiration for his novels. Fair enough, she supposed — after all, he’d created the world that she now lived, went to school, and made love to Drev’o in.

There was a pause. Jett nudged her with his toe. “So,” he pressed. “What’s up? I’m not going to read the book until you tell me.”

Danny shrugged, made a face, and rolled onto her back. She met his gaze upside down and said, “It’s a city. A cyberpunk city in a world without magic, and it’s being taken over by a very powerful enchanted forest.”

Jett nodded.

Danny did not just have the gift to walk into books. She had a responsibility. Sometimes, elements of one bookworld seeped into another. An Iceman walked the streets of a Western dime novel. A magical storm blew through a modern crime-ridden city. Alien spaceships landed in Victorian England.

Danny called these misplaced elements “anomalies.” Usually, the local flora, fauna, and residents dispatched the anomaly, or else it withered on its own, unable to survive in a hostile new environment. But sometimes, it proved a threat to the natives. That’s when Danny showed up to set things right. It was her job to remove or destroy the anomaly so that the world returned to normal.

Danny’s grandfather hadn’t just passed on an amusing pastime. He’d passed on a mantel of power and responsibility. He’d passed on full-time, life-consuming job.

Now, she was faced with a pressing problem that she was unable to solve.

“The city tried killing it,” Danny continued. “Lasers, fire, and subwaves all make it angrier, and it assimilated the nanites and robots they sent against it. It’s larger than ever, and it’s taking over entire sections of the city. Hundreds of people died before they could evacuate.” She set her mouth in a firm line against her memories — real, and from the dream. She remembered choking smoke, squeezing vines, and skulls.

Jett frowned. “What have you tried?”

“An electromagnetic storm. A wildfire. A tree blight. A drought.” She shook her head. “Nothing kills it — only makes it stronger.”

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey

8. in which danny is driven away

•September 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Jett’s car smelled of spice — clove, patchouli, musk. From the rearview mirror hung a pentacle and a muslin bag of wormwood for protection. Particles of sand and lint were crammed into the fabric of the seats. It was a well-loved car.

As they drove off, Danny sighed and rested her head back against the headrest, relishing a feeling she hadn’t experienced for a long time.

As if reading her mind, Jett asked, “How long?” He always asked when he saw her.

She thought for a moment, then mumbled, “Mm, a few months.”

There was a moment of silence as Jett nodded. He often teased her that his younger sister was now older than he was. And it was true. Although she was 19 in Earth chronology, Danny’s accumulated experience added up to about 24 years. She wondered if it bothered him — or, rather, how much it bothered him. Jett was rather sensitive, especially about Danny. He’d already admitted to missing her — even though he saw her practically every day in his timeline. “You feel distant,” he said once. “Every time I see you, it’s like we’re seeing each other for the first time in weeks or months.”

She had smiled wryly, because for her, that was precisely the case.

“How’s Drev’o?” asked Jett now.

“He’s good,” said Danny. “He finished his season project on gryphons. I left him sleeping in bed.” She smiled flatly.

From the corner of her vision, she could sense him glancing at her. “And how are you?” asked archly.

“Mmm…” she hedged, shrugging. Feelings of apprehension made her belly tense up.

“What’s up?” he pressed.

“Eh,” said Danny, not wanting to talk about it just yet.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey

7. in which danny is followed by a car at midnight

•August 30, 2008 • 1 Comment

There wasn’t much else for Danny to do before work in three hours, and she wasn’t sure what to do with the time. She felt edgy and restless and out of place. After putting her clothes away and pacing in the living room, she settled for a long shower and an hour lying curled in front of the TV. Then, she walked to work half an hour early and sat in the cafe, eating broccoli soup and watching other people read.

Of all the places, and of all days, they stuck her behind the customer service counter. She could barely conceal her irritation with each customer, and was distracted all day by thoughts of vines, and people screaming, and broken window panes.

“Are you all right?” asked a coworker, about halfway through the shift.

Danny swiped a pile of books a woman had just left on the counter – books that she would have to reshelve. She looked up through her tousled bangs and said, “Not really.” Then, in a civil tone, added, “Thanks,” and forced a dry smile.

Actually, Danny preferred shelving books. It was mindless but took attention, allowed her an excuse to pace, and there was less people interaction. Her hackles raised every time she neared the children’s section, but she made it through her shift without any prehensile vine incidents.

After helping to shoo customers out the door and clean up the mess they’d made, Danny clocked and began to head home. It was nearly midnight. The night air was thick with humidity, the parking lot well-lit with streetlights. A car idled nearby. As Danny passed, her head downturned and her hands stuffed in her pockets, the car’s headlights came on, and it slowly backed out. It began to follow her at a snail’s pace.

Danny bristled. She turned, swelling with rage, as a hundred possibilities flashed through her mind.

That is when she recognized Jett’s blue Corolla, and Jett’s pale face looking at at her through the opened passenger side window.

“Jesus, Jett!” she hissed, heart pounding.

“Did you forget?” he asked, expression lit with amusement.

“Bastard,” she said, getting in and slamming the door.

“Love you, too,” he grinned.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey

6. in which danny folds clean clothes

•August 21, 2008 • 2 Comments

As Danny folded a warm towel, she thought of that birthday, and of her latest quandery, and of everything her grandfather had gotten her into.

“Sly old bastard,” she muttered to herself, dipping into the dryer for the last of her shirts.

When Danny had stepped back into South FL it was 11:16 on a school day. Danny hadn’t attended school on Earth in several years, although she did in fact have work in several hours.

The overwhelming normalcy of the apartment was both a shock and a comfort. She had spent several minutes simply lying on her back in bed, images of Drev’o and their darkened room in Saliy’a haunting her, and plagued by the remnants of her dream. The central A/C purred through the vents. She closed her eyes and ran her hands over the soft comforter. Though only several minutes had passed on Earth since she had left, to her it had been several months.

In a way, bookwalking reminded Danny of old fairy tales, ones in which young men and women wandered into otherworlds, only to return to the mortal realm to find that years had passed — or that, although they had wandered the fae realm for years, they had been missing only for moments. Danny generally spent weeks and months away from Earth. She returned when she needed to ground herself, or she missed Jett, or she felt homesick for modern day amenities and the mindless grind of South Florida life.

On a digital recorder beside her bed, she had left a message for herself: that it was 11:10, that Jett was at class and would be back that evening, that the laundry was in the dryer, and that she had work at 3.

Now, she gathered the warm laundry in her arms and carried it to the living room sofa, where she began to fold it.

From across the room, soft, ethereal music poured from her brother Jett’s computer. The screen was off and Jett was absent. The two of them shared a small apartment in the city they had grown up in. It was cozy, with a large corner sofa, floppy bean bag chairs, and soft carpet. They each had one computer, and shared a postage stamp TV in the living room, where they mainly watched movies with their friend B. Neither of them believed in cable. There was a small patio off of the living room. During the day, they left the curtains open so that sunlight streamed in through the sliding glass doors.

The smell of coffee and sausage lingered in the air, so she knew that one of them had been in the kitchen not too long ago. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten here. She paused and centered her thoughts on her stomach. She didn’t feel particularly hungry.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey