Friday, January 23, 2009

A Bookish Life (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Peej herself at her blog, Patterings. Click here to read and share more great fiction!


Author's Note: I had quite a bit of fun with this one, Alladi is a girl who's dreams keep her in what she calls a nightmare, but her real strength isn't even her own, its when she finally learns something that may have been the reason for all of the mystery around her gift in the first place, to learn to forgive.



And so I sat there and read. And because he was the man he was, he let me. I read until the Madam returned home. Her footsteps on the stairs was the kiss of death to my imagination.
The book was dutifully returned to the best-sellers shelf and I hurried to appear industrious by dusting along the shelves with my bright orange scrap of rag. She swept past me, wordless.

I knew better than to follow.

At least right away.

I waited, dusting until the rag was filthy and then I went to the washroom in the corner, behind the dictionary shelf, where I soaped, rinsed and scrubbed. Dirty water streamed out endlessly as I soaked and wrung it out, repeatedly.

Father…why do you let me stay here? Am I so horrible? So awful?

My convoluted prayer was absolutely senseless, even to my own heart, but I desperately needed some confirmation away from the horrors I endured.

I wish they were dead. I truly do, Father and….and I know that’s wrong. I know I can’t kill them…I don’t think I could. But I feel as if I am dying…a slave to them.

A shudder passed over me and I focused again on the brilliant square of orange.

When my arms could no longer take it, I rinsed it one last time and squeezed as much liquid as I could from the sopping cloth.

Then I hung it on the edge of the sink to dry and wiped my hands before stepping back out into
the shadowy room. Their bookstore was the reason I existed to torment them.

As it was, the afternoon rush had come and gone and there was nothing more to demand my time until the night came. Then I would be escorted up the stairs through the kitchen to assemble a meal and then to my room where I would be locked in until the next morning.

I didn’t blame them.

Much.

It wasn’t their fault. It was typical. If you do not know me, I would scare you. It has never failed.
I swept the floor with the greatest of care and then I mopped. The floor shone in its wooden brilliance when I was finally through. Skimping on my duties meant more time away from my precious books and I could not spare that. No. Not that.

He cleared his throat from the bottom of the stairs.

I put the mop inside the closet near the washroom and rinsed my hands in the sink. When I stepped out, he offered his arm and I took it. We glided up the stairs with solemn, graceful steps.
But when we passed my bedroom door, I realized why he’d let me read this afternoon. Our strange procession continued to Madam’s bedroom, where the door was locked and bolted once I stood within it.

The nausea started in my stomach and it to a little extra from me to tamp it down along with the meager contents of my stomach.

Father, please. I don’t want to do this again. I don’t. Please don’t let me do this…I’m too weak to resist and I…

“Alladi.” Madam gestured towards the bed. “If you would.”

I inched forward as slowly as I possibly could. I wouldn’t be able to resist this time, it had been so long, so very long since I had tasted the-

My thoughts screeched to a stop and my feet nearly ran the last few steps. I bounced onto the bed, grabbing at the stack of thick books piled high in the middle.

Oh books. Lovely, precious…darling, books!

I hesitated for the merest fraction of a section, throwing a glance at their greedy faces. “Go ahead.” Madam purred. “They’re all for you.”

My nose wrinkled and then I sneezed, but the scent tickling my senses was a most delicious one indeed.

I snatched the first dusty specimen from the top and cracked the book open down the middle. The stiff pages crackled as the covers parted and the beautiful words teased me from the pages.

Dark black letters on aged yellow pages. It was almost too good to be true. My hands trembled as my fingers grasped the edges and I lifted the book to my face. I took a deep breath. No sneeze this time.

And then I touched the book to my forehead.

Light exploded inside my head and I was forcefully thrown backward into the satin quilt bedspread. I heard their gasps, but they were very faint, fuzzy figures in my line of vision.
Images danced before my eyes and my lips parted with the sweet sigh of delight. The book’s adventures were replayed in my head, in full-color, brimming with the same intensity of their reality.

A delicious shiver escaped as I followed the hero in my mind’s eye, watching as he confronted the horrid villain in his lair. What a terrific story.

I lay on the bed a moment longer, even after the book’s memory faded and I stored the new knowledge in the back of my head for later inspection.

“Well?” Madam demanded, she was glaring at the now empty book, with blank, crisp white pages. “Was there any gold?”

Her words were the ugly reminder of the nightmare I lived daily, as a captive to them. I slowly sat up, my head spinning as I tried to recall the adventure I’d just lived through in fast-forward.

“N-no.” I said slowly, trying to sort through the ending. Oh the end was good. A giggle escaped. I clapped a hand over my mouth, lest she thought I was lying. “No gold.” I spoke through my fingers. “Just an ordinary village boy, he becomes a knight. Marries the girl in the village. She has no dowry. They’re not rich…but they’re happy. They have love.”

“Love?” Madame sneered. She thrust the empty book at me. “Well, go ahead…fix it!”

I swallowed, gritting my teeth as I lightly feathered my fingers across the blank pages. A sliver of life-like energy flowed out from me and a smattering of rainbow colors stained the pages before they mixed together to show a moving picture within.

Madame laughed. “Good girl.” She thrust the book at her husband. “How much do you think this would sell for?”

He took the book, checking the outside condition, then gazed at the movie unfolding within.
“Shut the book, Glen!” She snapped, slamming it shut before dropping it back in his arms. “Will it sell?”

He looked at her disdainfully. “Of course it would! Any book she touches sells!” He turned and stormed out of the room, muttering to himself.

But of course my work was not done. I absorbed the entire stack, one by one, thrilling with the tales within and growing weaker with every book I brought to life at Madam’s insistence.

“Not a single shred of gold?!” She shrieked, slapping me about the ears, face and head…wherever her hands could reach.

I leaned away from her fat hands, burrowing into the quilt as she rained her anger down on me. “No gold.” I whispered, knowing what she’d wanted.

When she’d finished her temper tantrum, I was permitted to leave the room. As I rose to leave, I spied the skinny book buried beneath the stacks that I’d overlooked earlier.

A quick glance showed Madam had no noticed. I grabbed the book, hugging it to my chest. She would not question me unless she looked closely.

I ran from the room before she could follow me. The story was wonderful, about a princess of the thieves and with hideouts littered with gold and treasures. I slammed the book shut in the privacy of my room. I was reading this one. I didn’t dare let it into my mind, then I would have to purge it back out to hide the truth that I had read it-er-absorbed it.

And then Madam would be furious and Sir would be angry and I would be in very, deep trouble. They only wanted the money that I could give them…and when it failed, only then was my lavish existence turned to drudgery.

“I could be a very horrid person too.” I told the book, thinking of the thief princess. “But unlike you, I don’t think I shall ever know. I never stand up for myself. Never.” I took the book and kissed the cover, placing it beneath my pillow.

With my mark upon it, they would not be able to sell the book and I would be able to call it whenever I pleased.

Their footsteps shuffled outside my bedroom door and I quivered with fear. Madam had surely double-checked her list of books by now and learned that one was missing. She would no doubt check the book’s description and then employ Sir to come and fetch me.

My arms grew limp. I did not want to do this much longer. My love of books was seeming to be a love for something I should not have.

The door burst open and it was Sir, babbling endlessly about something I could not understand, until Madam joined him in the ranting and raving.

Strangely, I could not understand them and it did not bother me as much as I’d thought it would. They didn’t touch me. I noticed that at once, when I stood to walk past them. They automatically scurried back as if I carried a plague of some sort. “Can’t understand you.” I murmured, dancing out of the room.

And so I went back downstairs and called the book beneath my pillow. I did not look at them. I could not. They followed me down the stairs and waited. I knew they would try to stop me if I even thought of escaping, but I could not leave. There were too many books here. And I was bound to each of them, for I had never read them all. My only release came from the ones I had read.

So I escaped the only way I knew. I went to my stool in the corner and sat. The book came when I called, materializing in my hands, the pure energy of creativity. Their eyes watched me, piercing as I opened the book and touched it to my forehead.

I felt the ground as I fell flat against the cold, stiffness. I heard their gasp as they rushed to me. Their fingers skittered over me, but I was numb. I could no longer feel them.

I heard Madam’s exclamation as they saw the picture of the gold and jewels within the thief princess’s lair and when they entered the book, by touching the pages, I felt the breath suck straight out of me.

Their frenzied shrieks as they pawed about in the riches could have made me sick to my stomach, if I was enough of myself to truly listen.

A tear trickled from my eye, into my ear. And I raised one hand and shut the book, sealing them inside…forever.

Oh Father, please…forgive me…I couldna take it anymore…

I felt his voice echo in my heart.

Forgive them.

Another tear sprouted out.

No! Never! Didn't you see? Don't you know what they've done to me? I feel like a monster! A freak! Father, please…I beg of you, don’t make me-

I would never make you do anything, child. But forgiveness starts in your heart. You must let go.

His loving warmth enveloped me. His goodness, his kindness…too much. He loved me even when I thought I could hate Him for the life I‘d been given.

But a new strength welled up within me and my eyes closed of their own accord and I did not fight it.

This time, I wanted to surrender.

Copyright 2009. Sara Harricharan

4 comments:

Hoomi said...

Interesting concept and some nice twists. I definitely did not guess where this was going. Quite enjoyable.

The Surrendered Scribe said...

The detail in this is so gripping. I love her name, and the message!

Lynn Squire said...

Very good. Very imaginative.

Leon Basin said...

Hey, how are you? This is a great blog. Thank you for sharing.