"Go for it! Go for it!"
The ball flew through the cloudless sky, circling around with startling speed, approaching the spring grass like a torpedo.
Not having any time to adjust his glasses, Richard Tyler jolted his glove further onto his hand, and darted across the grass. He stretched his legs in giant strides, just as his gym teacher had taught him. He loved the feeling while he ran, catching up to the baseball that soared above his head.
Now, it was hovering just inches from his open hand. Richard stretched his arm, but he couldn't catch the ball. It missed his fingers, so he had to dive. Balancing the ball on the tips of his fingers, Richard felt the moist spring grass soak into his shirt, but he stood back up, triumphant, while the ball rolled comfortably in his palm.
"I got it, Travis!" he called.
"Cool, Richard!" his friend screamed back.
"You actually dive for the balls now!" another boy called. "Gym class will be interesting now!"
By the time Richard got to his feet, Travis raced over to him and patted his back, sharply but playfully. "Geez, what planet did you come from, Richie?" he asked. "Last month you absolutely wouldn't come out on the playground, and now you're diving for your life in ball games with us."
"Actually, I always sat by the trees," Richard answered meekly.
"Whatever," Travis said. "What counts now, Rich, is that you're actually normal after all. And we like that."
"Wanna' play another catch round, Tyler?" a boy called to Richard and Travis.
"Sorry, guys," Richard said. "I gotta go return some books to the library." He started towards his schoolbag, lying on the grass next to his friends' against the school building.
"You're a nerd, Rich," Travis muttered. "But you know, it doesn't matter. We keep playing those games, and we're going to kick some butt during gym class, I tell you what! So, game after school tomorrow?"
"Okay, Travis," Richard answered, slinging his bag across his shoulder. "See you later."
Travis waved before he ran back to join the other boys in their ball game. As Richard walked around the school to the bike racks, he heard his friends crying out and laughing, while the ball whooshed once more through the air. Richard wished he could stay and play, but it had taken him forever to read those books in his bag.
And Mr. Dewey probably wouldn't allow him another renewal on them. The old librarian was far too strict that way.
Still, Richard liked his after-school trips to the library. The library in question was a strange and ancient-looking building, hidden away between the trees at the back of the city park. It was unlike anything Richard had ever seen before, and was always disappointed on days that he wasn't able to go there.
Since about a month ago, Richard had came from playing ball with his new friends, straight to the library, where he sat and did his homework, or just wandered through the aisles looking for something to read. There was something magical- indescribable, for lack of a better word- about that place, and he made sure to spend as much time there as he could. And with a librarian like Mr. Dewey running the library, it was truly as otherworldly a place as one could get.
Richard strapped on his helmet, and kicked back the bike's kickstand, before he started pedaling down the warm sidewalk. He pushed harder after he was comfortable in his seat, turning from his school in the direction of the park.
As he rode, he didn't take much time to notice the activity going on around him. Toddlers rode their tricycles, parents were watering their plants, and cars blasting heavy-bass music drove down the street, but Richard didn't see any of it. His excitement to get to the library drove him on like a marathon runner.
After riding down the long neighborhood street, and a winding bike path, he came to the wrought-iron gates to the park where, not too far off, partially hidden in the lush trees, were the tall marble columns of the library doorway. Richard shoved his bike towards the building, where he quickly fastened his bike to a thick tree trunk, and started up the stairs past the two stone lions guarding the doorway. They both glared right ahead, while the tree branches cast their shadows on them, making their thick stone manes seem to waver just slightly.
He pulled the doors open, and strode inside, feeling the rush of warm air while the doors drifted closed behind him.
Richard's footsteps clomped hard on the library floor, while he started for the front desk.
At the edge of the tall oak desk, Richard stood on his tiptoes to look over the counter. He was surprised to find it empty; Mr. Dewey should be right here.
"Hello?" Richard called out. "Mr. Dewey, you here?"
Answer, came there none.
Then, from the aisle behind him, there came a creaking sound, mixed with low squeaking, and footsteps clicking on the floor. Gradually, the noises got louder, and louder, until Richard could feel the presence of someone standing just inches behind him.
He turned, to find the sparkly, gleeful face of Mr. Dewey.
"Richard Tyler," he whispered, grinning at the boy. "What sort of adventure do you want to have today?"
"Homework, first, Mr. Dewey," Richard said, starting towards the aisle that would lead to the sitting area where he could find a table.
"Ah, yes, that's right," Mr. Dewey said, pushing the book cart further towards the front desk, where he stopped and leaned against it wearily.
"You okay?" Richard asked him.
"Oh, yes," Mr. Dewey answered in a wispy voice. "Although, every day gets longer and longer. It's not that often during the day, you know, that people come through here."
Richard suppressed a chuckle. Perhaps that was because Mr. Dewey tried to guess a little too much at what people needed, when he met them. That was a peculiar talent of his, and Richard could remember very well how Mr. Dewey had guessed his need- he hadn't.
"Gee, that's too bad," Richard said instead.
"But something tells me I have a regular," Mr. Dewey said, proudly. "I have never seen someone come by here so often as you do."
"Maybe," Richard answered, readjusting his bag strap. "I…I've had more adventure in here than most kids in my class." He had to cover a half-smile-half-grimace, when he remembered what sorts of things he had encountered within the library before.
"No need to finish, I know what from," Mr. Dewey interjected. "In any case, never mind me. These books need to get back onto the shelf."
"Sure," Richard said, taking a side-step away from the front desk.
In the meantime, Mr. Dewey had absentmindedly reached into the pocket of his sweater vest, and removed a large, circular object the size of a padlock. While Richard stepped in the direction he wanted to go, Mr. Dewey gazed a little forlornly at the object, turning it over and over in his hands. The strange artifact sparkled bright silver and white in the light from the chandeliers above.
Maybe it wasn't having no company in the library that made the old librarian so weary, but this old piece of metalwork. It was heavy in his pocket all the time, and, truth be told, he honestly didn't use it too often. It was much, much older than he was, and now that he thought about it, its unique value might make it better in the hands of a child.
A child with a growing imagination, perhaps.
"Richard?" Mr. Dewey called after him.
Just as he was about to enter the archway into the sitting area, Richard turned. "Yeah?" he asked loudly.
"I have something I think you might like to have," Mr. Dewey replied, waving the silver object above his head.
Richard blinked a couple of times at the old librarian, but he walked back to him anyway.
When Richard had come back, Mr. Dewey held the heavy silver object down to him in open palms, as though it were a sacred treasure.
"Hmm. It kind of looks like the old pocket watches I saw in my history book," Richard noted, pushing his glasses up for a better look, and feeling the silver chain that dangled from one end of the object.
Mr. Dewey chuckled. "Maybe so, my boy. But this is far from being an ordinary pocket watch." He extended his hands farther down so that the object fell into Richard's hands. "Go on. Open it up," he encouraged gently.
Richard did as he was told, pushing his fingernails into the crevice running all the way around the heavy object. He pried it open, and a silver lid opened up, like a compact. On the other half of the object, an ornate silver arrow trembled in its place, pointing towards a curvy "N" at the top.
"It's a compass," Richard murmured.
"Correct," Mr. Dewey proudly said. "And a very special compass at that, made exactly from the same model of the compass inlaid on the rotunda floor."
Richard grinned in awe, turning the compass over and under in his hands. The face of the compass had curly sparkly letters marking the directions, while the surface of the face was made of heavy marble. That was particularly interesting to Richard, who stroked his fingers across the smooth marble with fascination.
"This is neat," Richard murmured. "But, where exactly did you get this? It looks almost like an antique."
"Perhaps the next time you open a book, you'll find out," Mr. Dewey said. "But I can't waste your own time talking about it, when you can be starting your own adventure now."
Richard frowned at the compass. Once more he looked it over, feeling the smooth, shiny surface, and watching the way the chandeliers threw their light on the marble in abstract forms. So, Mr. Dewey wanted him to keep around a compass, while he read? Richard looked in each direction the compass pointed in; the only purpose he could think of for it was to keep him from losing his way within the labyrinths of shelves.
But, perhaps he ought to just hang onto it. He couldn't even consider handing it back to Mr. Dewey right this minute; it would be too easy for him to be sentimental about it.
"Well, thanks, Mr. Dewey," Richard said instead, closing the compass, and clenching it in his hand.
"You're most welcome," Mr. Dewey said, bowing his head and walking behind the front desk. "Well, you know what to do. Adventure awaits you."
Richard nodded before he quickly strode back towards the sitting area. When he was far away enough, he lifted the compass to eye level, and shook his head. He felt maybe he would never be able to understand how Mr. Dewey's mind ran. A silver compass like this couldn't possibly be meant for him. It looked too ancient, too expensive, for Mr. Dewey to simply give away.
By this time Richard had arrived at the sitting area, but when he sat down, he didn't take out any of his schoolbooks. After plopping down in a chair, he held the compass by its chain in front of his face, where it swung back and forth like a pendulum.
He shook his head again. Maybe he ought to just put the thing away and get started; he dawdled anymore, and he would have to stop early and head home.
Shrugging helplessly, Richard stuck the compass in his bag pocket, and removed the first textbook he grabbed from inside, plucking a pencil from the notebook spiral.
But what he didn't notice, was that the compass sparked with a jab of blue lightning when it touched the library books still in his bag.