Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Reader 6


The library was completely dark now.  Ray, Frank, the butler Hodgkins and Marion all stood over the prone body of Brad Martin, Marion's aged husband.  Ray heard a small pop and there was light: a white globe about five inches in diameter, floating about six inches above Marion's hand.  The men recoiled and held out arms to shield their eyes from the sudden glare.  Once their eyes had adjusted, they could see about ten feet in any direction from the globe.

"Seeker," Marion said and held out the hand the globe was floating over.  "If you don't mind."

Frank put out his hand and when she took hers away the globe bobbed slightly in the air but stayed.  He and Ray watched Marion kneel down to Brad.  She spoke a whisper into his ear, then put her left hand on his chest, her right on his forehead. 

"What's she doing?"  Ray tried to be quiet but his voice seemed to blast across the silence.  He caught an angry glare from Frank, then, embarrassed, he saw Hodgkins looking around the room.  Ray wanted to ask what the butler saw, but closed his mouth instead.

Marion's eyes were closed, her lips moving, her fingers massaging Brad where they touched him.  His chest moved up and down, rhythmically, his legs twitched like a cat dreaming of chasing a bird.  She bowed her head over him, moved her left hand to his belly, her right to his ear and began to rock back and forth slowly. 

Ray looked around at the darkness, opening his eyes as wide as he could in an attempt to pierce the gloom surrounding them.  "Stop it," Frank said.  "You don't want to know what's out there, trust me."

"We have to get moving," Hodgkins said.  "We're running out of time here."  He looked down at Marion, bent over Brad, chanting audibly though still barely a whisper.  "Mrs. Martin --- Doctor, we have to get going."

She continued to chant, but shook her head 'no'.  Hodgkins leaned in to Frank.  "Seeker, we're out of time."

“I know,” Frank said in a hush.  "I'm not going to rush her, though, so we just have to wait.  First lesson I learned in this job is not rush the use of magic.  Whatever she's doing is important and we don't matter right now."

The butler showed some slight irritation but wiped it away as he drew his palm from forehead to chin, resuming his normal calm demeanor.  Ray, however, could see the fear growing behind Hodgkins' eyes. 

Marion's hands glowed blue, adding a surreal element to the light coming from the globe floating over Frank's hand.  Ray turned to look out into the darkness again and thought he saw a shadow move across his field of vision.  He leant forward to see a little better, then stood up straight.  The sound of creaking wood far off to his left made him look that direction.

"What's that?"

The slow creak turned into a bang, then another and soon one after another.

"The stacks," Hodgkins said.  "Someone's pushing the stacks down."

There was a creak of wood off in the other direction, followed by the rhythmic banging of enormous bookshelves crashing into one another like dominoes and getting closer.  Frank scanned the darkness.  "We're being surrounded, too," he said.

Marion chanted faster, a little more loudly, her head nodding up and down as she rocked back and forth over the body of her husband.

Ray saw more shadows moving in the murk.  Every direction he looked he saw something moving.  "What are they?"  He turned around completely.  "They're everywhere," he said.

"Doctor," Frank said.  "Time's up."

Marion opened her eyes and looked up at him.  "Yes," she said.  He hands lost their glow.  "I'll take the light if you and Raymond will carry Brad for a bit until he gets his strength back."  She stood up and held out her hand.

Frank handed over the light globe and the two men bent down over Brad.  "Look," Ray said.  He pointed.  "Look."

Brad was much younger, about the same age as Marion now, the wrinkles and lines on his face smoothed out, the liver spots on his hands faded, gone.  There was no pain apparent in his features, his clothes were noticeably tighter, his chest broader.  "If you don't mind," Marion said.  "You can admire the spell later on."

There was a howl, keening, menacing.  "Too close," Frank said.   "They're too close.  We're not going to make it."  He and Ray pulled Brad gently to a sitting position, then slung his arms over their shoulders and brought him to his feet.

"Urgh," Brad said, his weight full on the other two.  He threw up.  All three crouched down and Brad vomited again.  "God," he said, weak as a kitten.

Marion's arms were swaying over her head, her hands glowing again, this time with a green light that left no traces in the air.  A small light green disc appeared over her head and expanded until it became a dome that enveloped the entire party in a ten foot radius.  "Don't touch the sides," she said, a little out of breath.  "We're safe in here."

The light cast by the dome illuminated the creatures from the darkness as they approached.  "Teeth," was all Ray said as he and Frank got Brad to his feet.

"We have to walk through them," Marion said.  "They can't get through and the globe will travel with us.  Hodgkins, if you'll lead the way?"

"Of course," he said.  The butler took a tentative step then turned back to Marion.  "You said globe, yes?"

She nodded.  "We're being tracked from all sides," she said.  "We're protected."

"Excellent," Hodgkins said.  "Then we can get out a little faster."  He smiled a little, turned and began walking, slow, steady.

Marion was in the center, moving her hands subtly and the three men followed her.  There were all manner of dark things that tested the globe, slavering, roaring, then attacking the green light.  Ray walked with his eyes closed, Frank studied the creatures, recognizing a few.  "Bellnaps, nerash and durlets," he said.  "Lower demons."  One of the smaller ones leaped at the globe aiming at Frank's head.  He flinched even as the thing screamed in pain and fell back to be set upon by its cohorts.

"Still dangerous," Marion said.  "Though they shouldn't be here.  The castle is neutral territory."  The shelves lay one atop another, books spilled everywhere as they walked the central aisle.  Ray kept his eyes closed. Brad stirred a little, groaned.

"A sign that Brahmen's made a deal?"

"Or just doesn't care," Marion said.  They kept walking.

"We need to turn at the end of the aisle," Hodgkins said over his shoulder.  "Then we'll go up."  He waited for Marion to acknowledge the plan.

She looked worried.  "You're sure?"

"As can be," Hodgkins said.  "Given the situation."

Another of the creatures, this one the size of a saint bernard, leapt high and came down on the top of the dome.  At the same time, there was a rumble from underneath them and the floor where they'd been just a moment before collapsed.  Marion grunted and hunched her shoulders.  The creature on top slid back, hit the floor, rolled and fell through the gaping hole.

"Go," she said, teeth gritted.  "Get us out of here."  Her arms moved through the cardinal points of the compass and little shocks of green light left her palms to embed themselves in the globe. 

Hodgkins walked them to the end of the aisle.  "Left turn," he said and the party carefully turned so that none of them touched the insides of the globe that protected them. Teeth, limbs, claws, paws and hooves came in waves at the globe in a chaotic assault.  Ray closed his eyes as tight as he could and held on to Brad using him as much for support as the other way round.

Something from below attacked the globe, causing it to jump in the air and everyone fell to the floor, as did the demons outside the globe.   The light around them flickered until Marion, from her knees, recast the spell that protected them.  Frank saw that it took tremendous effort as he helped Brad up.

"It's not much farther," Hodgkins said.  "Can you hold out?"

"Yes," Marion said, annoyed.  "Just get us there."

"I can walk by myself now," Brad said.  He was unsteady, but looking much stronger than he had ten minutes before. "I'm okay."  He reached out to Marion.

"Don't," she said.  "You'll break the spell.  After.  Afterwards, okay?"

Ray opened his eyes to get up.  "Oh, god," he said.  "These are the things I see in my nightmares."

Frank looked around.  The demons were falling back.  "Hurry," he said.  "Something's going to happen."

Everyone on their own feet, they walked as fast as they could behind Hodgkins.  The globe pushed ahead of them and cleared too-slow or lingering demons backward out of their way.  The howls of rage, meant to intimidate, were louder.

"Here," Hodgkins said.  "We're here."  He pointed up.

Marion nodded.  "This is going to be weird," she said then turned to Ray, Brad and Frank.  "Brace yourselves."  She whirled her arms and hands around in complex, repeating patterns.

The globe began to rise and before their feet would have touched the green light at the bottom, something slipped under their feet and they lifted off the floor, too. 

"Whoa," Ray said.

"Yeah," Brad said.  They leaned into each other as the globe floated five, ten, thirty feet over the library's floor.  Demons filled the space where they'd been moments before then exploded upward in a shower of splinters and concrete and stone.  Ray saw a huge claw stabbing through the murk toward the bottom of the globe.


Thanks for reading!  Come back next Wednesday Click here for the conclusion of Reader and of The Long Range in total. Tell your friends won't you?

©2010 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States 

You can buy the whole story, and any story from this website for 49¢ by clicking on the button below and I’ll send you a DRM-free PDF via email.

No comments: