November 18, 2012 by Lyn
Just after Chapter 7: Belfreja
“So, I was on my way to the suite for dinner with you.” Porter leaned forward, smiling, ears expressive. He wanted her to believe him, but, more than that, Bel guessed, he wanted her to like him. “I was running early; I’d stopped at Valentina’s to get you a single flower – I wish I still had that, I’m sorry…”
It wasn’t that Porter minded his friends’ “help” in getting him a girlfriend. After all, he knew that he’d need to get a girlfriend, or at least someone cooperative in baby-making, sometime in his four years at Addergoole. Possibly twice, even.
It was just that they – although he suspected Timora, from the amused, wicked looks she was giving him – kept picking such imposing girls, girls that didn’t seem to smile much, girls that, in some cases, didn’t really seem to even like guys.
He was pretty sure that Timora was trying to mess with his head, he just didn’t know why.
He was also hopeful, because it looked like these dinner dates were working their way down through the Cohorts, which meant, if he was going to have a “surprise” date tonight, it would probably be a Ninth Cohort. And, aside from Timora, none of the Ninth Cohorts he’d met were really at all scary.
“Hey, Kitty, Kitty.” Too late, Porter looked up, realizing that, lost in thought and hurrying to get home for the theoretical Ninth Cohort Dinner Date, he hadn’t been paying attention.
Lots of people called him Kitty. Only one person did it in that unctuous tone of voice, like she was grooming his name.
“Tess.” And because she and her crewmate were never far apart, “Lucian.”
“Hey, Kitty.” Lucian leaned against the wall behind Porter. “Have you had a chance to think about our invitation?”
“Your…” He looked between the two of them, Tess’s green eyes boring into him, Lucian’s close-winged pose deceptively closed, making him look harmless. “Oh,” he smiled, and choked out a little laugh. “I thought that was a joke. I mean, I already have a crew…” And even if Sylvia runs everything, I trust her.
“Ah, but we could really use your power, pretty kitty.”
“So you want me for my doors, not my drawers.” In a way, he was relieved. Tess was a very frightening woman when she wanted something, and Lucian was little better.
Like that laugh. He chuckled throatily behind Porter. “We wouldn’t mind both, would we, Tess?”
Eep. Feeling like he was being eaten with their eyes, he cast around for the quickest Door surface. There was under his feet – but that could have unpleasant consequences. You never knew how far away the floor would be, for one, and it was hard to close the door after yourself.
“Mmm. There’s not much I’d mind with him,” Tess agreed. A quick glance told porter that the scales running down both sides of her neck were shifting color, from “safe” white-and-green to deep red. Her voice was taking on that funny tone to it, like she had a reverb going, and Porter knew what that meant.
“No,thank you.” Sailors of legend had dived over the sides of ships to get to sirens. Porter dived through the floor to escape this one.
He pulled the door upwards, grabbed the handle that was created when he did that, and swung down onto the third floor by the handle, yanking the door shut with his weight.
And then, of course, the doorknob vanished.
He’d been pretty sure he was going to, but knowing you were going to and suddenly falling were different things.
He flailed, kicking his legs and shouting. The floor seemed a long way down. Why were the levels so far apart in this school? What if he broke something…
He landed while he was still worrying, both feet hitting the floor by some freak chance, and stumbled backwards until he fell into something.
He was… on a soft carpet, surrounded by bookshelves. In the Library, then? He slapped both hands over his mouth. He’d been shouting in the Library! He was going to catch hell for sure!
What was worse… he’d fallen into the Library. In the middle of the Library. If someone didn’t find him, he was going to end up late for dinner. Late for Timora’s mystery dinner date with hopefully-a-Ninth-Cohort.
And, really, to be pragmatic, he could be trapped in here forever, or until he found a door or a Door that got him out. Priorities.
A sign appeared in front of his nose. Please remember to remain quiet in the Library. The font was frilly, and the little sign was bordered with little purple flowers.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I just…”
The sign vanished, and another appeared. Please refrain from lewd activity in the Library.
“Wait, what?” he asked in a hurried hiss. “I…” He was leaning against something, wasn’t he? He twisted to look behind him. “…Oh. Sorry.” The statue in whose embrace he’d been cuddled looked as embarrassed as Porter felt. “You should get her some clothes. Look, um,” the signs were from the Librarian, right? “Um… sa’Librarian?” That might work… please? “I didn’t mean to drop in like this, but I’m a little lost…”
A third sign appeared. Please refrain from becoming lost in the Library.
“I’m trying, I really am, but there was this Siren, so I dove overboard, and overboard happened to be here…” He flailed. “I open Doors, you see. But this place doesn’t come with a decent floor plan.”
The next sign that appeared was hand-written, still florid but without the decorations. “You open… Doors. Show me. This way.” And then a sign with an arrow.
“I, uh…” His dinner was getting further and further away. “Yes… ma’am? Sa’Librarian. What do you want me to show you?” He wandered in the direction of the arrow, avoiding the eyes of the statue. “Hunh. History. I’ve never found this section before.”
A sign appeared: a flower-wreathed stop sign. Porter stopped obediently, hoping that, somehow, this would lead to dinner. Somehow.
He was standing in front of a section of blank wall, about the size of a doorway, something he’d never before seen in the Library. The arrow appeared again, pointing at the wall.
“You want me to open this? All right, I can do that. I hope,” he added in a mutter. “But do you know what’s on the other side?”
The arrow simply pointed again and, sighing, Porter opened a Door and stepped through.
At some point, Porter mused, he’d learn not to step through doors without looking first. His foot went down, and then down further and, surprised, he tumbled through the door, fell, and landed hard some twenty-plus feet below the doorway. A moment later, an invisible something fell on top of him.
“Ow.” He squirmed, trying not to touch the invisible Librarian on top of him. He was pretty sure she wouldn’t appreciate groping and wouldn’t take “I couldn’t see what I was touching” as an excuse. “So, ah.” They were, as far as he could tell, in the bottom of a pit, shaded dark blue and black with sparkles in the walls. The floor under them was cold, hard, and uncomfortable, and Porter was pretty sure he’d sprained his tail. “Did I mention ow? So, um, ma’am, I opened your door.”
A sign appeared a moment later. Thank you. He wasn’t sure how she managed to get sarcasm across in her tidy handwriting, but it was clearly there.
“Hey, you didn’t have to fall after me. I can open another door if you’ll point to a wall and, sorry, um, get off of me?”
The weight lifted and an arrow appeared. Looking up, and then back down at the wall, it was clear her idea was “keep going forward.”
“I’m never going to make it to my date on time, am I?” he sighed, and opened a Door.
Porter wondered if the Director knew what was going on under her school. Then again, he wasn’t entirely sure this area was part of the school. So far, he’d only been able to open doors to places that were right there, but he’d heard stories of people who could go anywhere in the world, just by thinking of it.
He’d never thought of a place like this, though. The walls were shiny, and smooth, like someone had carved the whole thing out of the middle of a piece of granite. Square, too, the floor and ceiling just as slick. “Ma’am, maybe you should hold my hand?” At least he’d be less likely to run into her that way. “Do you know where we are?”
He wasn’t expecting a voice. The Librarian, as far as he knew, never spoke. But a hand closed around his, and then, in a murmur that sounded like the wind through paper, she answered. “I knew this place probably existed. There are very old plans in the archives, older than the school. But I didn’t know exactly how to get there. The doors have been sealed off.”
“Until a Door-opener landed in your lap. Ah. Metaphorically speaking, that is.”
“Hrm, heh, yes.” Her laugh was just as dry as her voice. “Or I landed in yours. This is nearly where I wanted to be, Porter, thank you.”
“You’re welcome, ma’am. Um, what is it, exactly, we’re looking for?”
“Books, of course.” She sounded, he thought, amused. He could almost see a smile sketched in mid-air.
“You have a whole Library worth of books!” And he was getting really late for his date. “And, ah, I had plans this evening.”
“Then we’ll have to find our cache of books very quickly, so you can get back to your plans.”
Porter sighed. “Yes, ma’am.” He looked around. The light in here was distant and indirect, and not exactly good for seeing beyond the end of your nose. “Are you any good at light workings, ma’am? Not my best thing.”
He didn’t hear her say anything – maybe, like Doug, she had a quota of words – but the room got appreciably brighter. She had floated a globe of light in front of where he thought she was probably standing, and it reflected off of the floor, the walls, the ceiling.
And a door in front of them, about ten feet away. Porter inched forward carefully, his feet slipping and skidding. He could have bought sneakers, but no, these looked better for his date.
The date he was missing.
They made it to the door, although it took about three eternities and one near-fall-on-his tail. Porter grabbed the doorknob and turned. Tried to turn it. “Stuck or locked.” He rolled his eyes. “Opening a Door in a door just seems silly.”
“Better than opening a Door into, say, a furnace.” Her voice was very soft, but she obviously still had words on her quota.
“You have a point.” He focused, and, feeling a bit contrary, grabbed for his invisible doorknob near the actual door’s hinges. He pulled, and a door opened. “After you, ma’am.”
He waited for the tug on his hand to move that way, and then stepped in. And gasped.
There was no furnace. What there was, instead, was a small room crammed with shelves, the shelves crammed with boxes, the whole thing smelling of dust and dry rot.
The lid floated off the box nearest him. Notes, ream after ream of hand-written notes. The second box was full of books, old books, leather-bound. The third, more notes.
A sign floated in mid-air. Jackpot! Purple fireworks surrounded the words.
“This is what you wanted?” Porter pulled the lid off another box. The first notebook had a typewritten – real typewriter, with the random miss-press – title on a label that had lost most of its stickiness. Floating languidly off the book, it read:
Effects of Hawthorne, Rowan, and Iron on Juvenile Homo Sirenis. Volume 17.
Horrified, he flipped it open. The first page was glued into the notebook – a blue-and-white mimeographed introduction page.
Primary study on the effects of various environmental influences on early-age development and maturation of homo sirenis in a controlled environment.
Juvenile homo sirenis present as young humans, with no traits to differentiate them from homo sapiens, until a point in mid-puberty. Preliminary studies suggest that certain substances, ingested either by a carrying mother or by the juvenile, can halt expression of secondary characteristics of the homo sirenis in puberty.
Supplemental studies include
* Use of non-expressed adults or expressed adults as female parent, male parent or both
* Conception of homo sirenis
* Effects of isolation on the homo sirenis, and of group mechanics.
This study took place from January 1, 1950 through
There was no end date. Porter dropped the book, leaving it to flutter open, and wiped his hands on his pants, as if he could get off the feeling of the paper, the feeling of those dry words.
The Librarian’s hand on his shoulder make him jump in the air. By the time he settled back down, his fur all feeling as if it was standing on end, she was holding up a sign that read simply, My Apologies.
“These creeps aren’t your fault.” He looked around the room. “This is a lot of paperwork.”
“If,” her voice creaked like old books, “we each take one box, we can return for the others over time.” X marks appeared in the dust of two boxes – the one he’d just been looking in and one that had been full of leather volumes. “Thank you.”
Porter gulped. He didn’t want to touch the box again. He really didn’t want to touch it with his nice white shirt he’d gotten just for his date.
Well, here was hoping his date tonight was forgiving.
“I really don’t know where the flower went.” He gave Bel the most lovely sad-kitty look she’d ever seen. “But if you forgive me, there will be many more where that came from.”
This outtake was written in response to Rix’s donation and request for what happened when Porter missed his dates. Portions of this were posted originally on my livejournal as partial stories.
For every $5US donated, I will write 300 words on the character or situation of your choice. In addition, every donation will bring you to a small snippet of story – a new snippet every Wednesday!