By Kielle (kiellesubreality.com)
Disclaimer: All recognizable belongs to Michael Ende.
Written for the Day After Tomorrow Fanfic Challenge -- in short, cross any genre over with the movie "Day After Tomorrow," before actually seeing said flick. I did not sign up for the original ficathon, but it's been circling my brain ever since I heard of it, and an idea finally pounced.
PS: I have loved this movie passionately ever since the day it came out. I was twelve years old. It altered my personal dreamscape forever. And yet I have never written fanfic for it until now.
He jiggled the cold doorknob, as if it would make any difference. He pressed his palms against the cold glass and tried to peer in, but the darkness was inpenetrable. It didn't matter. The place was abandoned.
He wondered how long. It'd been years since he'd been here, after all. It could have been sold many times over -- a discount furniture store, a Salvation Army depot, a family-operated deli, a Starbucks -- before finally closing up for good. Or it could have been here right up until yesterday, selling musty books and dusty dreams right up until the end. He wondered, if that was true, how the old man had known.
Oddly, it didn't occur to him that the "old man" would have been an ancient man by now, that if the store had still been in business it should have (by all logic) now been managed by someone else. No, Mr. Koreander wasn't the kind of old man who grew older and died. He was the kind of old man (Merlin, Gandalf, Dumbledore) who had already been Ancient (with a capital A) for so long that a measly two decades made no difference at all.
Twenty years. It'd been exactly twenty years. And he'd forgotten. How could he have forgotten? Well, not forgotten, not entirely. Some things you can't ever forget, even if you no longer consciously recall the details. Some things dig into your soul and take root, becoming part of you as much as your sense of touch or your own arm.
For a while he'd been able to set it aside, to concentrate on living in this world. He'd graduated from high school, gone to college, gotten married. And then, for no reason he could fathom, the seeds had sprouted -- explosively, like wild jungle-flowers from multi-colored sands at nightfall. (What a strange metaphor, he thought distantly as he slid down to the glass to wrap his arms around his knees.) The need to write, to create, to tell stories had consumed him. Utterly. Obsession. One thing had led to another, and now his wife was no longer his wife -- oh, they called it a trial separation, but that was just words.
Words... He tilted his head back against the glass, shivering as an icy breeze plucked at his coat. People, cars, noise...it didn't matter. Words mattered. Words preserved in stone, in metal, on paper -- they mattered. He was here in the city, after all, to speak to a publisher. Finally, his stories had sold. Finally...
And now he was here. Why? Because words mattered. Because in amidst the chaos and the fear he alone had seen this before...and he knew what needed to be done.
Unthinking, unerring, he'd pushed through the fleeing crowds to reach this place. He'd never thought for a moment that the bookstore would be gone. Twenty years shouldn't matter. Time never truly passed in a book. You could always open it again to the beginning, and it would start all over again.
Except it wasn't here.
At a loss, he rested his forehead against his folded arms and considered his options. There was no point in trying to return to the parking garage to get his car -- it would take too long, and the roads were jammed anyway. He still felt oddly calm about all this, as if it was just a dream. He knew it wasn't. He definitely knew the difference. And yet...
He realized now, with a wry smile, that he hadn't honestly expected to escape this way. Maybe if he were still a child, yes, he might have thought that. Children thought magic existed just for them, that magic would do whatever they wanted when they needed it most. But he was a grown man now, and what truly mattered was the knowledge his baby daughter was safe far, far inland with his ex-wife's parents. All he'd wanted to do was to hold the Book in his hands one last time. Maybe he'd hoped to carry it to safety. But it was obvious now that it was already safe.
This time he wasn't needed.
Calmly, ever so calmly, Bastian Balthazar Bux lifted his head from his arms to gaze up at the darkening sky...at the terrible lowering black clouds streaked with a bilious green. Wind whipped through his hair and the pavement was vibrating now, a slow rising tremor that would never end until the world was gone.
He'd seen this before.
And this time, there would be no luck dragon.