Chapter 1: A stupid children's story
"We're not really going in there, are we?" my voice breaks a little and the worry is evident, but I should be ok, May hasn't noticed.
"Yeah! It's closing down and my mum wants some books for her birthday. Come Ali, I'll only take five minutes I swear!" She looks at me, and smiles, knowing I can't not say no to her when it's about her family, they're always kind to me.
I sigh and take a deep breath and force a smile, thinking I could get something in that shop to, my mind pushing back all my memories of previous.
"Come on then." I can barely keep up with her quick skip towards the doors and as soon as my fingers touch that familiar, yet alien wood, it's like ten years of avoiding it we're really something I shouldn't have done.
Even as the wind comes in with us, those familiar scents fill my nostrils. The smell of old books mixed with new books, the cinnamon polish used to clean the shelves, the mints that were kept for the buyers on the table, the tobacco from the pipe Mr. Coriander used to smoke. And just as the last one fills my senses, the devil himself spoke.
"Hello Alice." Mr. Coriander said in that familiar warm voice that made me want to leap at him and hug him like I used to. Luckily I'd grown out of that phase and simply gave him a smile.
"Hello Mr. Coriander." I said, not really sounding to warm to the old guy. I missed him terribly, but I don't want to go back to the way I was. I can't.
"Just looking around or trying to find something in particular?" He smiles and I see his moustache twitch a little, letting me know he knows that I know what he really is talking about.
"I'm just here for a friend, I'm not staying to long." I try to sound unemotional as possible and not feed his curiosity. He frowns a little, almost as if he was expecting another me to answer his questions.
"Ok. Look around all you want. Tell me if you need anything." And just like that, he turned from us and carried on stalking different books upon each other. I turn back to see May scanning her eyes over some books, paying no attention to what thy are, but actually judging the look of them by their cover. I glance at my watch and sigh, not out of relief though.
"Well, I don't have to be home for another two hours. Looks like your stuck with me." I look at May, who looks at me with her friendly warm eyes.
"Good thing you have free time." May smiled, trying not to draw attention to the fact that I always had free time. Ever since my parents died, I was living with my grandma, but she was always visiting friends so her three-week vacation meant I had plenty of time on my hands. I smiled back and explored my old territory. I saw the old fantasy section that was my home away from home. I ran my fingers along the spines of my old friends in the ghost and horror stories section. I even played with the adult section I could never reach as a child but what I was always curious about. I pulled a cover out halfway but decided against pulling it out and reading it, not really interested in 'sex scandals of the 15th century.' I made it to the front of the store and ran my hand along dusty covers, finding allsorts of old and torn up books. I smiled at Gulliver's travels and made an insignia in dust on Blackbird in silver. My hand wandered onto a book I couldn't read because of the dust, but the feeling is sent up my arm made me freeze where I was. It didn't matter me trying to deny I'd found it or even walk away, it'd still claim me. I swept the dust of cautiously and sure enough, not only was the title still as clear as day, but so to where the snakes on the front cover which made the symbol of the childlike empress. I'd found the Never-ending story again. Or better yet, it had found me. I must have been staring at the cover pretty long and letting my emotions show because Mr. Coriander had now positioned himself in front of me and was giving me an all knowing look.
"Ah, I see you still have your old taste's Alice." The old man glanced to where I was staring and back at my face, which seemed to have drained of colour.
"What is it Ali?" May glanced up quickly before roaming her eyes back along the books below her.
"It's only a story. A silly children's story." I said, void of all emotion.
"Then I suppose young miss, you wouldn't be interested in the fact that these books are free?" The man's eyes glistened with some hidden knowledge. I saw May turn to us and the lollipop pulled from her mouth.
"Free? Really? You mean we can take these books?" She sounded surprised and eager, no doubt, still clutching onto the Romance novels she held to her waist.
"Yes. There so old and no-one wants to buy them because they look all torn up and filthy. You can take as many as you can carry." And with a confident and mischievous smile, he turned away and headed into his back room to fetch some more books. I glanced at May who was hurriedly scooping her selection of books up in her arms, but my attention was drawn back to the book on the table, which seemed to glow as if it anticipated an explosion at any moment, excitement at me picking it up again. I let my fingers drift over the symbol of the AURYN on the cover and felt a spark of what I blamed as an electric shock. May looked at me, arms full of books for herself and others, her lollipop hanging out of her mouth and furrowed her brow in concern.
"Hey Ali, you ok? You not going to pick up that book?" She said, a tinge of hope and anticipation in her voice as if she would snatch up the book if I didn't; and for some reason, that thought made my heart hurt, so I grabbed the book and held it too my chest, desperately trying to hide the swarm of emotions flood over me as I id so. May merely looked sad for a moment, before shrugging and continuing her search for more stories, turning her back on me, which in turn allowed me to glanced down and let the emotions take over my face. I stared at the book in awe as if what I had just done went against my better judgement, which it had. I resisted the urge to open the book just yet, in fear that I wouldn't know what would happen if I did and the knowledge that I shouldn't open it until I got home, excited butterflies that I hadn't felt in years swimming inside my stomach.
'Ali.' A voice called out and at first I thought it was Becky, but when I looked she still had her back to me.
'Help.' Another voice caught my attention and I turned around fully to investigate the store; it was empty void of May and I.
'You have to return. Save us.' I thought I was going mad, but blamed Mr. Coriander, because he had disappeared round a corner and liked to play tricks like that.
'Ali, please, save us.' This time the voice was so quiet I almost didn't hear it, but it sounded so familiar it tugged at my heart and memories. That's when I realised the voices where coming from inside the book I held. I stared down at it and it was only Becky's voice that could have broken me out of my trance.
"Her Ali! You ok?" I looked up and saw May before me, her face full of worry but not so much she put own her lollipop. I knew what had to be done, but I was scared to do it; I just needed to be alone.
"Actually, I'm feeling a little light-headed, tell your parents I won't be able to sleep round, sorry." I darted out of the shop, barely hearing May's call for protest, raving home and passed the people giving me strange looks, mostly because I still clutched the book to me; as a shield and the only item I had that my life depended on. When I ran up the stairs to my room, the voices became louder and more desperate, all the more difficult to ignore to brush off. When I opened the door I placed the book on my desk and distanced myself from it, eyes glued to the now glowing front cover.
'Ali, you're the only one who can save us.'
I threw myself on my bed, not bothering to change out of my jeans and dress, and buried my head deep into my pillow, trying to muffle the voices I could here.
I turned over and stared at the ceiling, the voices became unbearable and I felt hot tears threatening to spill.
"Please! Save us!" The last voice chimed, to recognisable to ignore.
"ALRIGHT! I'LL DO IT! I'M COMING! I SWEAR I'LL HELP YOU!" My voice shrieked as I jumped out of bed and threw myself across the room. The voices I heard calling from the book, begging for help I could no longer ignore: the voices of my friends, whether or not they were figments of my imagination. I didn't even bother to sit down; my hands grabbed the book and opened it at the beginning, feeling the cover of the object of the AURYN burn against my skin, as if trying to attach it to me. A blinding light filled my senses and I didn't scream as I felt my boy go numb. Everything was so bright and welcoming that when it became dark I wondered what could have gone wrong, when I stumbled upon the fact my eyes were tightly shut. I felt warm grass beneath my feet and warm sunshine on my face and covered my eyes with my hands, before opening them slowly. It was a habit I had since I was a child; drawing out the unexpected, but when I uncovered my eyes, the sight that greeted me was definitely one I expected.