This story is by Natashia Floyd and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Daniel sat in his usual spot on the nearly empty train. He pulled out his pen and a notepad. He made a list of errands that needed to be completed. A rumble shook the train momentarily. Daniel sat up straight listening, but nothing followed. He shrugged and realized he had dropped his pen. He crouched down to feel for it beneath the seat. As he reached for his pen he felt something slender slowly wrap around his finger. He jerked back in surprise. Having retrieved his pen, he questioned whether or not to figure out what that was. Surely a snake did not make its way on the train. Strange things can happen so I suppose it’s not completely out of the question. Feeling quite sure he would regret this decision he hesitantly slid his hand back under the seat. The cold slender piece yet again wrapped around him, his wrist this time. He pulled it carefully towards him. His hand now free from beneath the seat, he took in the cold slender leather strap that was affixed to him. It continued in length under the seat. Daniel look around him, still no one. He continued to pull gently finally revealing what appeared to be an ornate leather-bound journal.
He picked up the journal. His brow furrowed. Voices? Am I hearing voices? He put his ear close to the journal. In a faint plea, the words, ‘Help us’, were uttered. Daniel snatched his head back. What? He put his ear to the journal again. ‘Will you save us?’
At that very moment the door between cars slid open. The leather strap that was wrapped around his wrist released itself and recoiled around the journal. Daniel stared at it briefly before glancing up into the face of a frail but alert man. He was in all black and staring intently at Daniel. His hazel eyes then looked down at the journal in Daniel’s hands. For whatever reason Daniel felt quite protective over the unique journal. He carefully and quickly placed it in his shoulder bag.
An announcement over the intercom gave Daniel a bit of relief. His stop was next. He gathered himself and made his way to the door. As he disembarked the train Daniel watched to see if the strange man would also. He did not. Instead he stood at the window and stared directly at Daniel. A small cold chill ran up Daniel’s neck, something about that man made him uneasy. What the heck was that all about, Daniel wondered to himself. With the train out of sight, Daniel headed the campus entrance. Daniel was the assistant librarian at Willard Library. In the security of his office he retrieved the journal from his bag. Daniel had seen his fair share of engraved and ornate old books, but this one was very different. It was heavy and quite thick. The worn leather had burnt symbols all over it, some deeper than others. The symbols he had never seen before. Some appeared to be in a systematic pattern while others seemed quite haphazard. Daniel tried to open the journal. It wouldn’t budge. He even tried to separate the leather straps but they were very much affixed in place. He would have to try again later as it was time to open the doors. He locked the journal in his drawer for peace of mind.
As he headed to the door he heard faint shuffling behind him. He looked and waited for a moment but saw and heard nothing. He turned back to the door and unlocked it. Daniel had the eerie suspicion that someone or something was watching him.
Throughout his day, he kept seeing things. He chucked it up to possible lack of sleep. He picked up a stack of ancient civilization books to put back on the shelf. He glanced out the window just in time to see a strange looking cat climb an old tree. Its legs were scrawny and long. A bit too long for a typical cat, Daniel thought. The long black tail wrapped around a branch of the tree, the rest of its body now hidden. He waited for a moment, but the animal didn’t move. As Daniel turned to go down the next isle he caught a glimpse of soft fabric that appeared to glow. His curiosity peeked, he quickly made his way to follow in pursuit. As he rounded the corner the was stumped to see absolutely nothing.
The rest of his day flew by. The head librarian arrived and relieved him for the rest of the afternoon. Daniel packed his bag, journal included and headed out to run his errands. At the grocery store he could have sworn he saw that same glowing fabric. He decided it was probably best not to chase whatever it was down the canned food isle. After his errands were complete he headed back to the train.
The train ride went quickly as Daniel was lost in his thoughts. Once home, Daniel made some coffee and sat at the dining room table. He opened his laptop and pulled several ancient text books off his shelves. He spent hours searching for clues and found nothing pertaining to this journal. Daniel scanned through articles and found something at last. The article was about a man who had gone missing 50 years ago. Several days prior the man reported seeing a magical world. Below the article was a small symbol. It looked like a fancy 2 and Z intertwined. Daniel remembered seeing that symbol. He looked the journal over and finally found it. It was small and at the top of the spine. Huh, he thought, what could it mean? This man disappeared after claiming to see this symbol and magical world. There was nothing else in the article giving any indication as to what it meant or what happened to the man.
How amazing would it be if this was the key to unlocking some forgotten world? He traced his fingers over the small symbol. His coffee was wearing off and he decided to lay down for a cat nap. Daniel awoke to a painful burning sensation on his left arm near the shoulder. He pulled his shirt off to find the culprit. He couldn’t believe what he was looking at. It was as if an invisible force was tattooing a symbol on him right then and there. It was very like the one from the article and journal with a slight difference. In the center of this symbol was a small circle. The pain dissipated. As he ran his fingers over the symbol he could swear he was hearing distant cries or voices. Daniel glanced up into his mirror. He froze.
She was here, in his room. Daniel didn’t know who he was looking at but she was wearing the ‘glowing’ like fabric he had seen multiple times throughout the day. He turned slowly. He half expected her to be gone when he turned around, but she remained. The soft sheer fabric was bellowing around her and yet there was no breeze inside the house.
“Who are you and where did you come from?” Daniel questioned with complete dryness in his mouth.
“My name is Ellenielle. I am a protector sent to retrieve that journal. However, “gently touching his arm, “it appears that it has already chosen its protector.”
“I’m just a librarian. I don’t know anything about protecting anything. I am no one special. I just happened upon it on the train.” Daniel stammered for a moment, “how does a journal pick a protector? Isn’t it just a book?”
Ellenielle gave him a knowing look, “Surely you have realized that this is not ordinary book. This journal believes you to be someone special, otherwise it would not have chosen you. You said you found the journal and instead of throwing it out or leaving it behind you chose to keep it safe. Why?”
“Well I was drawn to it I guess. I know it seems crazy but I swear I heard it crying.” Daniel shook his head regretting that comment.
“It was. Our last protector passed this morning. The journal will then make an appearance to whom they feel a strong connection with. Apparently, that was you.” She continued as Daniel stood in silence. “Will you take on this quest, this challenge, to protect this journal from those who wish to steal and destroy its knowledge?”
Daniel looked at her. “Who would want to steal it? It’s not like they could even open it, this sucker is sealed shut. What kind of knowledge is in here anyways?”
Ellenielle smiled and touched his hand that was laying on top of the journal. “Within these pages is all knowledge or how to obtain it. This journal will give you passage to the Realm of Knowledge. There you will find everything and anything you could possibly want to know. It is not of this world but much of the knowledge this world has relies on this realm.” She paused for a moment to let all that information sink in.
“There are many evils in this world and others that yearn for this journal. Some of those agents of darkness are here watching you, hoping to take the journal from you.” She squeezed his arm as she glanced to his door. “Someone’s here”. Daniel dared not make a sound. His eyes followed her as she silently crept to the door like a shadow. She disappeared into the dark hall. Daniel quickly and quietly grabbed his bag and placed the journal within it. Distant muffled sounds and banging brought his attention back to the door. Ellenielle swiftly moved to him, a small cut on her cheek, grabbed his hand and pulled him out the window. Daniel didn’t resist. For some unknown reason, he trusted her to lead him away from danger.
They ran through the woods and over a creek before taking a moment to catch their breath. “Where are we going?” Daniel askes breathless.
“We needed to put some distance between us before I could explain. I want to take you to the Realm of Knowledge, but the choice must be yours. It can be dangerous and difficult but you would be saving not only the knowledge of this world but countless others. You will see things you can only have dreamt about.”
“Will someone train me, because I clearly am not combat ready. I am all about knowledge. I love to learn, to teach and to preserve.” Daniel looked a little flustered.
Ellenielle gave his hand a squeeze. “I will train you and be with you every step of the way through this journey, you have only need to say you will accept. Once you have accepted, the journal will allow you to open it.”
Daniel took out the precious journal, ran his fingers across its ornate cover and then looked into Ellenielle’s brilliant blue eyes. “I accept.” At that moment, the thin leather straps that held the journal shut uncoiled. Daniel carefully opened the journal. It was in a language he did not know. As he looked harder the words transformed themselves into his language. With an astonished look, he smiled at Ellenielle.
“Are you ready?”
Ellenielle spoke a few words of a different tongue and a mirror like portal formed in front of them. Squeezing each other’s hands tightly they walked through and the portal closed. Daniel was on an adventure to protect knowledge and life itself. What a journey this journal and Daniel are about to embark on.