In crossing the front lobby of the humongous library, Richard Tyler stomped his feet almost furiously. His steps echoed through the vast building, and his soles squeaked loudly. It was raining outside, so it didn't make for the prettiest day. And it certainly didn't help that Richard was staggering under the weight of the homework he carried at his side in his book bag.
Stumbling past the front desk, where the librarian, Mr. Dewey, greeted him with an enthusiastic grin, Richard reached into his bag and pulled out a large silver object, passing it to his other hand to balance out the heavy load. It dangled from a long silver chain, swinging like a pendulum while he stomped across the floor.
Most of the people he walked past- two or three at the most- looked up at Richard while his shoes made mice-like sounds on the wooden floor. He didn't pay any attention, instead only collapsing into a chair when he plopped his bag down from his aching shoulder.
Heaving a deep sigh, Richard lifted up the silver object in his hand, and flipped open a lid. What he saw before him was the marble face of a compass, but when he turned that over, it was now a clock. The intricate black hands didn't tick. They just stared back at Richard from their marble surface like a three-dimensional painting.
"Geez," Richard sighed. "I would take a day in the day world over five hours of homework any day." He grumbled softly, leaning back into the red plush upholstery. "Aye! Pi Day used to be so much fun." He then reached into his bag and took out a worn-out yellow pocket folder that had worksheets falling out of it. They slipped into his lap, and long word problems glared back at Richard.
Richard grumbled once more. It was March 14th, so his teacher had made a ridiculous claim to making Pi Day a day of working out math problems, instead of pigging out on pie and cookies and cake like all the other classes did. While complicated problems continuously came up on the overhead screen, Richard could hear the other classes giggling and screeching while they scrambled for the first slice of yummy pie.
It wasn't that Richard didn't like math- he just didn't enjoy taking too much at once, and not being able to have fun with it like the other classes. It was Pi Day after all- it would have been nice to have a slice of pie, and take it easy with a little class party.
So, Richard let his head fall into the back of his chair, and shut his eyes for a moment. A day full of nothing but math had been hard, and now, his teacher had "treated" his class to three worksheets of challenging math problems. Those sheets alone could take over three hours, over everything else he had to do.
Oh, boy, could he go for some pie now.
Or, maybe something else too…
Richard glanced around him, at the polished wooden tables, and the high shelves full of books. The fiction section was just beyond them. And what with the number of people here at the library now, his range of choice would be almost infinite.
Finally, Richard stuffed the folder back into his bag, and, tucking it into the corner behind his chair, picked up the silver compass. Quickly, he made his way towards the main lobby again, choosing a shelf to scour once he was there again. He didn't care much which part of the fiction section he ended up at, so long as he could find a book that the compass could easily work its magic on. And that was anything.
Turning a corner, he found the first shelves. At a leisurely pace, he began to scan the rows of books, running his finger along the spines, and readjusting his glasses every few minutes to better find the small titles.
But it wasn't too long before he turned to go into another aisle. He much anticipated looking at the next title, already pulling up his glasses to examine the books. But his eyes fell on something else.
At the other end of the shelf, a girl with thick, shimmery hair the color of roses, was reaching up to take a book from the shelf. She lifted the book so that her long, slightly-pointed nose stuck into the pages, and then she took her face back out, grinning curiously.
"Hey, Chloe!" Richard called before he could think to stop himself.
Chloe snapped her head up to look at Richard, and she closed her book with her thumb between the pages. "Oh, hi, Richard," she said demurely. "Good to see you."
"You too," Richard added timidly.
Chloe held her book to her chest, smiling. "So, can I help you find something?" she asked, gesturing to the shelf beside her.
"I don't know," Richard answered with a shrug. "I'm just looking for a good book. I've had a long day."
"I know how you feel," Chloe said. "Pi Day! Ugh. I mean, I do love pie. But I can't stand those really hard challenge problems they give you in school." She turned around in a quick twirl, and grinned further. "It's good to be home, in the library."
"You can say that again," Richard sighed. Chloe giggled.
"Anyway," Chloe began, "about that book. I think, if you want a good escape from things that don't make sense, why not take a little adventure into Wonderland?"
Richard did a double take. "You're not making any sense," he answered.
Chloe shook her head, making an amused sound through her teeth. "Alice in Wonderland is a different kind of nonsense. It's not like you're working with numbers right and left. It's about riddles and strange creatures. For me, at least, it makes me laugh, rather than twist my brain up."
"I don't know," Richard said, shrugging helplessly.
"Come on, trust me," Chloe said. "And, besides, it's March. It means March Madness. I think it works out rather well."
"Maybe too well," Richard murmured.
"Oh, now don't be a pessimist. Follow me!"
Chloe turned the corner of the shelf, and paused at each one to observe the author markers on the sides. Finally, her lips turned upright, and she walked into that shelf, coming out seconds later with an old leather-bound copy of Alice in Wonderland.
"Here," she said. "Try it out."
"Well…okay," Richard said, taking the book from Chloe. "Thanks. I guess I'll be going now."
Once he had turned around, Richard smirked at her choice of story. He wasn't sure this would work out, but he still held the compass high in his other hand, while he turned into another aisle.
He opened up to the first page, and laid the book flat on the floor. Flipping open the compass, he placed it in top of the binding.
The pages stuck to the compass, and the words on the paper shimmered. The silver exterior was shining an icy blue, as little sparkles of fairy dust danced about. Jagged white lines spread around the floor by the book, like spider-webs, while the arrow on the compass face ticked like a clock hand, halting at the "N", that pointed north.
Richard prepared to jump into the book, spreading his legs apart to go.
"Richard, wait up!" Chloe called abruptly. "I forgot to mention something…"
Before Richard could move, the compass's magnetic pull already snagged him, pulling him in. And above the gentle hiss of the magic, he heard footsteps clopping into the aisle.
Richard whipped his head behind him, and saw Chloe struggling against the force of the compass's magic. But it was too late to give her a hand in escaping. They both stood inches from being pulled into the book.
In fact, the world was already going dark, the icy glow from the compass disappearing, and Chloe's startled voice fading away.