This is where I’d like to start posting my daughter’s work. Ellie is autistic, she has a lot of trouble navigating typical social situations and can be sensitive to various stimuli and obsessive when she starts to feel out of control. However, she is a voracious reader – she can read over 100 pages an hour. She’s also an incredible writer – she’s fluid and fluent, it’s hard to believe the words written below come from a 12 year old.
This is a sweet poem Ellie wrote this week about herself:
18 August 2016
Where I’m From
I am from the rough baskets of fidgets in my room,
From Doubleday Publishers books and sharp-smelling 365 chocolate,
I am from the shingled, blue-gray house.
I am the lovely, laden pear tree,
The terrifically twisting and wonderfully wizened apple tree.
I am from Daddy quietly reading aloud to us girls at night,
And untamable blond-brown hair,
From Papa D and Aunt Sue and Auntie Kristen.
I am from the short tempers and wry, clever senses of humor,
From “No more screaming” and “You grow up so fast!”
I am from a belief in the spirit.
I am from beautiful San Francisco,
And Ireland, the glowing green country of the ancients,
Delicious veggie burgers,
And sweet, tart organic fruits.
From the time I had my strange, dark eye operation,
And the time I made my first friend in Pacific Grove, who’s the kindest of them all.
I am from the tattered children’s fantasy books on my small blue bookshelf,
Gifts from people I will never forget.
Here is a piece she toiled hard to complete over a few weeks at the end of her 6th grade year… I’m posting it because she toiled on it about 3 weeks longer than it should have taken her, and she wrote about 4 times more than the assignment required, her teacher subsequently downgraded this to a B- (40/52) and complained about the way she wrote her dialogue, saying she wanted to see more narrative than dialogue.
This story is basically an amalgamation of all her favorite books, especially those of Michael Scott, the author of the “Secrets of Nicolas Flamel” books.
Below it’s pasted as she wrote it.
21 April 2016
I stare out the window, fascinated. San Francisco, I think. Middle of California. I always try to get a feeling of where I am going; I read somewhere that it can help you get “settled in”. Not for me, I guess. I’m Gillie, by the way. Gillie Zairah Nakamos-Smith. My family’s from all over. I have long, straight dark hair (much neater than Molly’s) and freckles that show up in summer on my slightly-pointy face. I don’t mind them, much. I don’t really care what people think, you know? I’m an average kid. Not popular, not a bully magnet. I do like to read more than most others, so some peers of mine call me “serious”. I disagree; I do have a sense of humor, I’m just not a total goofball. I think things through–well, usually.
But anyways… “Gillnyakosci!” Molly shouts (Now do you see why I’m called Gillie? I mean, come on). I groan, swing my legs out of the cramped taxi and hand the driver ten bucks, knowing my “mother” will forget. He smiles under his bushy mustache, and I grin back, jogging towards Molly. I take a deep breath of the salty, unclean sea air. Here I go, I think.
I push–not rudely–through the crowd at the mall, feeling like a detective on a hunt from one of my childhood suspense stories, hoping to glimpse wavy hair sprouting from underneath her big old pink hat. Scanning the crowds of tourists and hippies, I finally spot her. “Mama!”
I greet Molly, laughing slightly. Like, I knew there would be people, but this! She sniffs about horrid San Francisco crowds. Then she smiles and winks at me, and I think she gets the humor. “Do–” I begin, but then an enormous, overexcited man blocks her path and I can’t see Molly anymore.
Darn it! I think furiously, She should wear a cowbell! I smile wryly, but this is no time for levity. I anxiously look over the dozens of milling people, straining to find her big, beloved, bright-pink hat, but it’s no use. I curse under my breath and spin around, thinking she must have gone in a different direction. Maybe. I begin squeezing through the crowd again, looking carefully for Molly. I glance at signs, futilely; she isn’t anywhere nearby. All this health food stuff and California history would probably interest her, but she’s not here.
“Sir-” I say, grabbing the arm of a security officer, knowing he will be able to help me. He ignores me and continues talking loudly. I let go of him frustratedly and continue looking, almost frantically now, for my guardian. I head for the street, thinking she could be at a friend’s place already, but I get mixed up in all the confusion. I look around and spot a path through the hubbub. I turn on my heel…run breathlessly into a dark, cramped alley…and run straight into a boy!
He-it? gasps a little, the way people do when their breath is knocked out. I gasp too, and scream a little. The figure scrambles away, frightened. I squint at it, looking all pathetic on the gritty ground, and in the dim light I realize that it is a boy! He seems to have overgrown hair and peculiar blue or green eyes. I can’t see much under his hood, but I can tell that he’s probably older and certainly leaner than sturdy me. Wait a minute…he has a hood. Not just a hood, but a, um, a garment I’ve seen in Harry Potter movies. This kid has a cloak, I realize. I back up warily as he climbs clumsily to his feet. Is this awkward boy some kind of outlaw? I mean, who dresses up and acts like this? Why am I still even here in this stinky alleyway? I bite my lip, and get ready to run. I’m not really thinking. He calls something in a rough voice. I speed up. He grabs me, halting me. Maybe because I’ve been running and worrying all morning. I turn around, amazed at the strength of this scrawny wisp of a boy.
“Stop it! I’m not gonna hurt ya!” he blurts. “S’okay, s’okay.” I manage to conjure up a haughty expression. “It’s okay.” he repeats.
“Who are YOU?” I say, faking condescension. He tries badly to hide a grin. It’s an amazing grin. I hate myself for noticing that.
“I” he declares, “am Marethyu!” I blink dumbfoundedly.
“Um, who?” Is this kid speaking English? “Destroyer of worlds? Brought down the Elders? ½ of the twins of Legend?” He nods, waiting expectantly. I blink some more and shake my head, perplexed.
“What?!” His face curls up, extremely dissatisfied. “The hook-handed man, you know? Wait-so you’ve never read the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, 2006-’12?” His tone of voice is faintly hopeful. I shake my head again, even more confused. I thought he was, like, drunk or homeless or something, but I think he’s sober. His diction is clear; in fact, his speech is better than most kids at my junior high school. Maybe the guy’s just a nerd, alright? Don’t let him see you weirded out, Gillie, hang tough. My mouth hangs open like a fish, but no words come out. I take a deep breath and chastise myself silently. I can’t make a dork of myself, not in front of this outwardly rude and sloppy but obviously sharp-witted boy. I try to speak calmly.
“Okay, who wrote them?” I ask.
“Writes them,” he corrects, attempting to hide his horror. I refrain from rolling my eyes. This guy is worse than the kid in that Lois Lowry book I read last year.
“Right. Yes. Who writes them?”
“Michael Scott, the Irish King of Fantasy! He has tons of other books, not just about mythol–”
“Slow down.” I tell him.
“Oh, yeah, alright.” He’s clearly annoyed. “So, Michael Scott. He’s got some horror, some more fantasy, and even some sci fi. In fact, I’ve got some books right here…” I ask him what his actual name is, suddenly curious. He’s digging through a colorful bag and doesn’t reply, so I repeat the question louder. “Hunh? Um, Ted.” I can tell his thoughts are somewhere else, so I say nothing. “HA!” Suddenly, out of his bag, he produces three huge, fat books and waves them at me. They are covered in ornate, curling designs, some of which I vaguely recognize from ancient history class. The spines are shimmery, with silvery-and-goldy lettering. At least, two are.
“Um-” I clear my throat and point to another one, even thicker with a dark-red cover and a fairytale image.
“Oh–oops–It’s, er, my sister’s.” he stammers, not wanting me to think he reads such “girlish” books. I reassure him, saying I read it and agree that it’s no good. He blushes and nods.
“So,” I say, “how about you show me those awesome fantasy stories of yours?” I say–not that sarcastically, but I’m tired and irritated and don’t really care for manners right now.
“What?” he says sharply. I repeat it, more sarcastically. “You know what? Fine. Fine. I’ll do it!” He’s even redder now. He snaps open the greenish, most shimmery one, and reads aloud angrily. I don’t catch it all, so mad am I. Something about ruling the world and the apocalypse and twins. Suddenly, I think I see something, and I snap out of it. He reads stuff about ancient magics. I spot something, being formed out of sparkly golden light: the silhouette of a tall man with a hook in place of his left hand. With terrifying clarity, I recall what he said, so casually, about the destroyer of worlds.
“STOP! TED, STOP!” I shout, but it’s too late. The hook-handed man is almost completely formed. It dawns on Ted, and he slams his book shut too late. The character is tall and strong, like he is extremely athletic. His hook is carved stone that glows faintly of magic. Evil, destructive magic. Ted’s eyes widen enough for me to realize he has contacts. He stumbles backwards, his face as white as paper.
“Ma-!” he gasps.
“Hush!” says the character, his voice strong and commanding. “Do not speak my name! You, child, should know the con-” Abruptly, his eyes widen and he stumbles. I watch fearfully. What could possibly scare such a powerful being? “Snake!” he shrieks. I blink. Snake? Shaking, he points to something over my shoulder. I follow his finger and notice the image on Ted’s bag. I realize there’s a similar snake logo on my faded T-shirt.
“You’re scared of…snakes?” I mutter, and laugh to myself. He doesn’t seem so powerful anymore. I walk over gently. I might be intimidated and frightened, but I’m no jerk. Tentatively, I watch him, wondering if there’s anything I can do. Maybe just a comforting touch would make him feel better. I stretch out my hand to him, unconsciously recalling all the times Molly held me when I was scared, and vaguely remembering what I think was my own mother’s soothing touch.
“No,” he says forcefully, and suddenly my hand zooms away–without me deciding to move it. Okay, that was stupid. I’m pretty sure he can’t actually control someone else–even with the strongest powers that’s impossible, and I do know a little about the Nicholas Flamel books. Some of my 14 and 15-year old classmates have begun to geek out about them. I decide to puzzle over that later.
“Why can’t I touch you, Mr…umm…Why can’t I, sir?” I ask, still scared but mostly curious. He glances up at me, and I realize something that disturbs me. After a fright like that, I would be breathing very heavily and raggedly from the shock. But he isn’t breathing at all, I realize. His chest isn’t moving. I recall Ted and my classmates talking about immortality, but even great magicians need something to keep them going, as long as they are alive. As long as they are alive… A terrifying thought comes into my mind, but I shove it aside mentally and force myself to focus on the hook-handed man. He straightens himself, his hood falling off. When it does, I get a surprise:he is young, really young. He can’t be much more than three or four years older than Ted. Even with the hook, he could easily pass for a college student. Trust me, I’ve seen weirder getups. He has long light hair like Ted’s, shaggy like a surfer’s. The only strange thing about him is his eyes. They are one of the brightest blues I’ve ever seen, full of wisdom, unexpected humor, and some emotion I can’t place. He looks like he’s either gonna crack a joke or tell me the secrets of the universe. The hook-handed man pulls his hood back over his head. Somehow, I can’t see his face at all, except for his eyes. He seems to read my mind.
“You have not read our stories, girl.” he states. “N-no, I haven’t.” He nods. “I am not dead, nor am I some kind of super advanced robot.” Ted blushes fiercely and I cringe. I had actually been about to ask. “I am Death. Not some kind of demon or beast, though I have been called that by them. Nor a kind of sorcerer or wizard. Not a god, either. I am all things, and none. Better and worse than the humans.” He waits. I consider that, then say, “Look-uh-”
He smiles, eyes laughing. “You can call me by my name. That’s not a danger anymore, now that your friend has invoked me.”
“Oh, okay, good… Marethyu, who are them?” He and Ted reply simultaneously, his voice disgusted and Ted’s fearful:
“The Dark Elders.”
“Dark elders.” I repeat, dumbfounded. He doesn’t reply but just looks at me, his sky-blue gaze unnerving. I begin to squirm, my plain, almond-shaped, brown eyes meeting his uncomfortably. His stare never wavers, and suddenly images appear in my head: a woman with the head of a lioness, hissing with triumph, fangs wickedly sharp and dripping with silver blood. A beautiful girl transforming into a hideous, spitting, snake-haired beast, who roared flames. A long-ago incredibly handsome man who was twisted, mutated, with fuzzy, curling horns and reptilian skin and evil-looking hooves. The skies raining glowing water, the seas boiling red, a battlefield of screaming, slaughtering beings, some looking barely human. Unexpectedly, the hook-handed man speaks: “But there are many good Elders, as well,” and I fall into his gaze again. A young woman on the battlefield, green eyes flashing as she helps her comrades slay the beastlike beings. An armored, red-haired man looking affectionately down at a group of hairy apelike men as he demonstrates how to make tools. A brightly colored spider, throwing itself upon a group of cowering humans to protect them from an explosion. A selfless warrior leading an army to victory, a tall blond man carefully writing and occasionally looking up to smile kindly at a crowd of people watching in awe, a warmly glowing figure healing a groaning, writhing throng of the sick. We blink, me overwhelmed, him normally, and it stops.
“What was THAT?” I ask, dazed from the flashing images in my mind. He opens his mouth, but I keep talking. “And in the-the visions, there was… a girl! Who is she? Your-your girlfriend, your–”
“Sister,” he says quietly. “My sister, Sophie.” He seems to concentrate, and images flash into my mind again: A girl, blue-eyed and blonde, shorter but just as strong looking. The girl laughing, reading, hugging her brother, talking on a cell phone, kicking and punching in a karate uniform. The girl, Sophie, wielding a whip against the snake woman, reciting an incantation, chatting with the green-eyed warrior, leaning over an old man, pained in her attempt to heal him. Sophie dancing as a little girl, glowing silver and destroying a horde of monsters, dying her curls pink. Sophie in futuristic armor, fighting a pair of lizard-like beings magically with a young and whole Marethyu by her side. Sophie staring into a mirror and muttering spells, grinning broadly when her brother appears. I look away.
“She sounds wonderful. Why’d you leave her?” A hurt expression flashes across his face.
“You don’t need to know. It would be too much for you.” I am forgotten, and he fades into the shadows after nodding politely to Ted. Ted walks up to me, his face still white but his cheeks red and his eyes sparkling. This guy’s a chameleon.
“Wow! That was, that was–wow!”
“Yup,” I reply. “Though I am pretty sure his name isn’t Wow.” He rolls his eyes.
“Well, I guess you’re gonna go look for your mom now, huh?” I think this over, then say no. Encountering Marethyu made me braver. I realize that meeting a book character makes losing my mother look like nothing. Ted grins, a real grin from a friend this time. “Then may I treat you to some grub?”
“Cafe” would be a positively polite name for this dim, damp, run-down coffeehouse, I think as I brush a spiderweb out of my face disgustedly. The stools and chairs are in danger of collapsing, and some of the people look like they just escaped from jail. Ted and I talk after we order some food, reviewing what just happened. He eats like a starving man, used to hanging out here. I talk seriously while he stuffs himself and waves casually at the glowering customers and thin, tattooed bartender.
“Ted!” I snap.
“Whussit?” he mumbles, “Whaswrong?” He sees my expression and swallows. I push away my hardly-nibbled, suspiciously greenish sandwich.
“Ted, we met a character. Do you understand that? Good grief, that man came out of a book!” His expression turns somber.
“Yeah, I’ve always been like that. Whenever I’m reading aloud or really emotional, it just… happens. Like, kaboom! Characters galore! The first time, I was four or so. It was a bunny rabbit, and I just thought it was my pet, so I didn’t tell about it. It’s happened a few times to me. In third grade, during read aloud time, I almost made a wizard show up, but nobody believed me. The last time was sixth grade. I was reading Lord of the Rings for a report, and… some bad stuff happened. I knew I wasn’t hallucinating.” He shrugs. “Well, I’m in ninth grade now. Imagine what folks would say! But it hasn’t happened again. I dunno why.” I nod thoughtfully. Today is so weird, I have no trouble believing that. I understand that books can come alive, when you’re really engrossed in a story.
“I’ve never loved to read. I mean, I read–actually pretty well–and I enjoy it, but not like you! My life’s always been okay. Books were just… there. I didn’t, well, need them.” Ted’s face falls. Clearly I’ve said something wrong.
“I don’t need them… look, you know about my childhood.” I’ll explain about his childhood. Y’know how I grew up with Molly? Well, Ted’s was similar, but worse. He didn’t tell me much, but it sounds bad. From what I can gather, he has birth parents, but they aren’t close. He’s been clumsy for as long as he can remember and usually read enormous books while other boys played basketball and kick-the-can. Growing up, he was a perfectly nice kid, a fair student, and only a little stranger than anybody else, but his parents didn’t appreciate his quirkiness and appetite for books. His mom was a good woman but stiff and no-nonsense, so she had no clue exactly what to do with her goofy, fumbling son. His dad was kind and gentle and recognized his personality, but didn’t encourage his reading, and I’m pretty sure he was in a foster home at one point. Kids at school teased him for his strange costumes, his odd fascinations, and more recently his wild, uneven hair. He associates himself with Tobias, the hawkboy from Animorphs–half in, half out of regular life. He laughed fakely when he said that. Trying to cheer him up, I ask if he’s got any childhood memories he is fond of. He brightens, happily surprised, and pulls yet another stack of books from his seemingly bottomless patchwork bag. They are medium-sized, colorful paperbacks with images of an awkward, freckle-faced kid on the back of a huge, smirking dragon. I stifle a laugh because that is exactly how I imagined a young Ted looking. I ask him about them, and he replies that they are the How to Train Your Dragon books, his favorites from second to fifth grade–and he still likes them. I inquire if they are based on the movie, which I used to adore. I remember that they were really silly and had a boy named Hiccup. He replies enthusiastically, saying how funny the books are, and how actually the movies were based on them, not the other way around, and how Astrid is Camicazi and everything else… Ted offers me one to read. How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale. I flip it over and skim the summary on the back. He eagerly describes the HILARIOUS plot and the (mostly) HEROIC characters. “Wait, wait!” I say, grinning. “Yes?” He waits patiently, accustomed to my interruptions now.
“Alvin the Treacherous?” I ask. “Yeah, why?” he answers, puzzled slightly. “Well, I mean–Alvin the Treacherous? Alvin’s a chipmunk in the movies, for goodness’ sake! Jeez, Ted!” I laugh. Considering Ted’s short temper, this maybe isn’t the greatest idea, but I keep laughing. Looking back, I still can’t come up with a reason; I’m rarely a humorous person. Abruptly, his face begins to turn red, his jaw clenches, and he snaps open a book again, the one I looked at. My overwhelming laughter dies down, leaving me gulping and scared. He had said that Alvin was a master of disguise and hates gawky teenage boys especially–but he wouldn’t conjure such a bad guy. Desperately I try to calm him down, doing everything I can–soothing reassurances, offers to chat about books, even a sort of awkward pat/rub. It’s pointless. I watch helplessly as Ted reads angrily, miserable that I can’t tame the boy’s anger.
That poor kid, I think, Probably gonna get a dragon to scare me–Nanodragon, or whatever. No biggie. I say to myself–because it’s true. Or is it? Never mind. Once again, I force myself to watch. An outline of a figure is beginning to appear…only it is not golden and shimmering as Marethyu was, but curly and black as midnight. It is a man, so maybe Stoick? Ghastly Grimbeard? No, smaller and too awkward. I get an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. Is it the Hairy, Scary Librarian? It can’t be… a giant? No way. Regular height. I dismiss the thought. It is forming, very slowly, and seemingly with great difficulty, but way more menacing than the hook-handed man. I hear a loud noise and turn away apprehensively, then I take a deep, refreshing breath. No, I tell myself, Face it. You can handle this, Gillie Zairah NS. I stare at the struggling man and, puzzled, notice that he has a hook. Why would Marethyu come back?
There is another noise, like exhausted gasping, and he bursts into clear and sharp visibility. Shocked and frightened, I register that this is no harmless Hooligan; it’s Alvin the Treacherous himself, king of the cannibalistic Outcasts, feared throughout Scandinavia. He glances around, undaunted despite the cars, beeping phones, and tall buildings. We grab each other and duck behind the counter, shaking ourselves out of our stupors–me because I’m resourceful and know about criminals, Ted because he’s a bibliophile and knows about fictional villains. Unfortunately, Alvin’s senses are sharp from a lifetime of attacks at sea, and almost immediately he spots us. He smirks and says something short but confident in a German-sounding language.
When we don’t reply, he holds his non-magical but scary-looking hook cruelly towards Ted and quickly hisses a statement that ends sounding like “Feffer icky skyag hiccup!” Maybe a threat or an insult? Oh, no… he must think Ted is Hiccup! That’s bad news, because from what he told me, Hiccup was Alvin’s sworn nemesis, they mutually loathed each other, and were equally clever and extremely talented sword fighters. I wish we did have Hiccup on our side; he had outwitted grown men twice as strong as he, five or six times over! But we don’t, I remind myself. Just us. I stare at him, hoping I look unworried and not realizing that I look terrified, and attempt to repeat what he said.
He laughs meanly, and says “You fools! I speak your tongue! I do not know where in the worlds I am, but I know that you, boy, are my ENEMY, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, and I promise I will make you dead. And it will very much hurt!” Ted opens his mouth. I cover it, thinking fast.
“Well, I am-uh-Gillie the Strong, and I know the future! Eric, er, the Madman and his Berserker friends are coming, Alvin, and rest assured they will kill BOTH of you.” He laughs awfully again. “You mean Norbert the Nutjob? That crazy inventor could not make his way out of a big tunic; also, he’s died. By Hiccup, but it could have been one of my people. But–” I don’t need to hear his boasting. Ted grips my arm with his bitten-nailed fingers and drags me away. Alvin, predictably, chases us, screaming threats in broken English. Almost everybody notices us. Homeless people mumble about the government conspirators getting their hands on us. Regular people stare big-eyed, and some attempt to call the police, but we are running too fast. “Ted!” I yell, spotting a sign that says CHURCH. Sanctuary. His eyes follow mine and he nods. We go inside and duck behind a table with a Bible. Surprisingly, Alvin doesn’t follow us. I look at Ted in confusion.
Alvin is from medieval times, he mouths, Religious rules. I nod and glance around. I could mention that he doesn’t exactly seem like a law-abiding citizen, or even sane, but an argument would draw attention from anybody in here. It’s your standard church, very white-marble-y, very solemn-people-meet-here kind of feel. It looks like it was once stunning but is now about to fall apart. Wait… there is somebody in here. An unexpectedly straight-backed, extremely elderly man with the same look. He squints distrustfully at us. As far as I know, that is everyone’s reaction to us today. Typically, adults either ignore me or refer to me as a “lovely responsible child, not like most of those wicked teenagers,” I look down at myself and realize that my already well-worn shirt is crumpled beyond belief, my capris are dirty, and my hair is messy, hanging in my scarily intense face. Well, I’ve had a sucky day, and I’m not nearly as bad as Ted. We sheepishly apologize.
He forgives us, stiffly, and we tell him there’s a rather nasty man following us. We ask where it’s safe, and he replies the basement. He opens up a sort of trapdoor and we run simultaneously down the steps into a dimly lit room. When I look around and realize it’s a children’s library, an idea dawns on me and I gasp. Excitedly, I explain it to Ted, occasionally jinxing him because we had the same revelation. In agreement, we search the shelves, looking desperately for a kid hero who could possibly help us defeat Alvin. Finally, with Ted’s help, I find a few. Here’s our list:
-Piper McCloud from Forester’s The Girl Who Could Fly
-The Baudelaire children from Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events
-The Grimm kids and Puck from Buckley’s Sisters Grimm series
-Pippa, Max, Sam, and Thomas from Oliver’s Curiosity House
-Max’s mutant children, the Allgood family, and the Alparian warriors from Patterson’s first few Max Ride, Witch & Wizard, and Daniel X books
Theo and Will from Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos; we didn’t look at the author
Some kids from Meloy’s Wildwood and his sister’s Apothecary books…
And some more, all fantasy and sci-fi, all with adequately happy endings.
“Okay, that’s it,” I say, “Let’s get cracking, Ted. I’ll see if I can do it, too. I’m imaginative enough.” We eagerly open the books and begin reading. It doesn’t work. At all. About twenty-five minutes later, I shut my book and flop to the floor, even more exhausted than I was to begin with. Ted chastises me halfheartedly. I can tell he’s exhausted too. “Get reading, Gillie, we’ve got heroes to magic up,” he says, but his book, like mine, stays closed. We take deep breaths and vow to give it one more chance each, and start reading.
I glance up from my book. Like Ted and the Inkheart family, I am trying to let the words just flow off my tongue, but it’s difficult. And then suddenly, it happens. We are reading different books at the same time, and we start to sound… enchanting. Perfect. I’m reading Wildwood, he’s reading The Apprentices, and two figures, one tween-girl-shaped, one teenaged-boy-shaped, start to appear.
I cheer, “Keep reading!” This is great. Wait–something’s wrong. Mine is shifting, twisting, even more in agony than last time. Ted’s starts to twitch, too, and they’re getting taller. This is a problem. We had meant to get Prue and a few orphans, along with Benjamin and Janie, but there are only two characters appearing. It gets loud, louder than when Alvin appeared. I cover my ears and dive to the floor. I know what’s happened, for the second time today. I don’t want to see it. Without looking, I can tell Ted’s face-down too. I look up out of one eye when the strange sounds are gone. The dusty library is now permeated with silence. I see two people. One is a tall, pretty woman with long red plaits, who is wearing a Native American looking dress. Her I vaguely recognize; Alexandra, the mad witch from Wildwood. Her son died young, so she tried to destroy the forest. The other is a weathered old man with curly white hair and hazel eyes, who is dressed formally like someone from World War Two era. That would be Mr Danby from the Apothecary books, the English traitor and inventor of a new hydrogen bomb.
“Who have we here?” he says in his slow accent. “You, China Girl, are clearly not Jane Scott, and you’re not Benjamin, are you?” We shake our heads, me bewildered, Ted defiant. He looks around. “Is that idiotic alchemist hiding out here? I knew he wasn’t dead! I’ll get you one day, Marcus Burrows, you coward!” I stare at him wide-eyed, noticing that he has a big old gun on him. He called me “China Girl”, which is very rude and just a quarter of me, and he has a gun. He’s clearly from the 1950’s and completely insane. She, on the other hand, is muttering quietly in a singsong language and looking perplexed when nothing happens.
OK, so they’re both crazy, I think. She has a hide bag over her shoulder with some even creepier stones, leaves, and slices of bark peeking out, all covered in scrawled symbols. However, their weirdness is irrelevant right now. I glance over at Ted. I don’t like the look of him. His face is grayish and his eyes narrowed in focus. His hood has fallen off, and I can see that his caramel-colored hair is soaked with sweat. While the villains are looking away, he tiptoes over to me. I ask him what’s wrong, feeling weird, almost sisterly concern at his condition. He replies that somehow, he can actually hear the characters’ thoughts.
“WHAT?” I yell-whisper, horrified.
“It’s true.” he replies quietly. “H-how?” I ask, shaking. Has he gone as mad as Alexandra and Mr. Danby? “It’s true. I’m really not crazy, Gillie, you’ve got to believe me!”
“O-okay, Ted, b-b-but how you do it?”
He grows silently, then answers: “It isn’t telepathy, if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s more like…like that Gabe kid’s veering in Son, or an empathy link, and I have to focus like you wouldn’t believe. Yes, quite like an empathy link. You know what I’m talking about? Percy Jackson? Yeah? Great. Well, it’s pretty much that. I guess since I, er, summoned them, we have a sort of connection. I don’t hear their thoughts like speech, I just get the gist of what they’re currently feeling. Does that make sense?” I inquire what they’re feeling now. He abruptly stops talking and gets that strained look again. I wait for what feels like an hour but is probably under five minutes. Suddenly, he blinks and shakes his head, even grayer than before. He’s so faint now that I practically have to hold him up.
“Are you alright?” I say, barely remembering to speak quietly. “Yes…” comes his reply, “Faint… dizzy… wait a sec…” He weakly sips from a bottle of water in his bag and soon looks stronger, his eyes clear. “Wow,” I whisper, putting the bottle back, “That really wiped you out, didn’t it?”
“Yeah,” he says, “I feel better now, but that’s really draining, what I do. It’s–fine, okay, don’t give me that look, Gillie! Alexandra–she’s confused, disoriented. She knows about books and stuff, but she’s never been to, well, the Outside, she calls it. She wishes her son was here. She isn’t freaked out or anything, but she wonders whether any of these are spellbooks. I think she’s insane. And, Gillie, she’s–uh–starting to think you’re that kid Prue who stopped her. Sorry. Okay, Danby–this guy’s trouble. He may have lied about his inventions, but he’s real smart. He knows this isn’t nineteen fifty-four. He knows he’s in the future. Luckily, Danby doesn’t think we’re enemies, but he’s logical, and I think he’s hiding a weapon; um, besides the gun. Plus, he holds a grudge.”
“Janie. Benjamin. And she’s Chinese–Jin Lo–never mind, Ted, don’t–why do you look like that?” He nods at Alexandra, then at our pile of books, looking terrified. I try to soothe him, but I’m terrified too. We’ve both read Wildwood, so I can see why. She is reading quietly while messing with her runestones. Danby understands her idea immediately and picks up a book. What happens next is a blur of sound and motion. The James Patterson villains are released first, with dark swirls and terrifying noises. I haven’t read them, but I look up and see horrifying creatures: a cute teenage boy who becomes a snarling, mutilated wolfman, doctor-looking people with bloody knives and big grins, a tall, wild-eyed man with a long wand, six creatures with ray guns: one like a corpse, one completely on fire, one like a fish, two indistinct clouds, one a grasshopper the size of a house. I don’t stick around for a closer look. I remember running breathlessly, people crying out, someone screaming, someone else helping me carry a limp with exhaustion Ted, everybody getting out of my way. Later, Ted told me that the wolfboy thought I was his hated sister, the sorcerer dude was chasing us for fun , and the creatures with guns were under the impression he was an “Alpar Nokian alien hunter” hunting them. All I remember is screams, fear, a stitch in my side.
Eventually, we arrive at the public library. I stand at the top of the steps, struggling to support Ted. Now there is a whole crowd below us, and into my mind pops their names: There is The One Who Is The One and his awful apprentice, the murdering, thieving alien criminals of The List, Ari the wolfboy and his mad scientist bosses from the DG, the evil Professor Rattigan, Von Braggenschnott the German magician, the Magic Mirror and his fairy-tale gang, dastardly villains Count Olaf and Sir, the madwoman Dr. Hellion, Alvin again, and even more: wicked cosmologists Reeper and Zuzubin, fanatic monk Brother Dimitrios, the Hawaiian sheriff Kana’ina, Curtain the memory thief, Queen Artemisia, the ghostly wizard Fourcroy, even Dee, Virginia, and some Elders, all of them with various magical and practical weapons. I look around despairingly. I don’t know what to do. They begin to advance up the steps, smiling evilly. “I don’t know what to do!” I cry, “Show me what to do.” Molly’s gone. Ted’s exhausted. Books are coming alive. What’s life worth right now? And suddenly, I hear a warm, loving voice in my head: You can be whatever you want one day, little Gillie. I know you’ll make me proud. Deep inside me, I know it is my mother’s voice; and I know what I must be, what I have to be, for Molly and Ted and even Marethyu: a hero. I lie Ted down and plunge into the crowd of villains.
It is pandemonium. I shove through them, getting beaten up. A thunderstorm begins, courtesy of undead Artemisia, so I’m soaked and scared. I sneak up on the sheriff and take his gun. Rattigan comes up to me and I hit him on the head with it a few times, then reluctantly shoot, reminding myself they are just characters. He’s down. I lose track of how many I fight, but when I finally look up, battered, cut, and pumped up on adrenaline, I realize that I have taken out maybe half of the thirty or so villains and that I am still holding Ari’s knife and Kana’ina’s gun. A few wizards advance on me. I run in the opposite direction and look up to see a stone dragon swooping about. I grin. Looks like Fourcroy’s creation is being disobedient. “C’mon down, Beak-Face!” I whistle. He flies down, and I take a running leap onto his back. I gasp. The ride is bumpy and fast. The young zmey seems to understand, and his turbulent flight instantly smooths out.
Then, I gasp again–for there in the crowd is Marethyu, the one-handed man. He seems to see me and smiles up at me. “Excellent job taking care of the lesser villains!” he calls up, “I knew you were worthy of my aid. Now you must finish them off, but you are not without help–look over there!” I look, and glimpse the blonde girl from the visions. Sophie sees me, and waves with one hand while dueling with Virginia with the other. I laugh aloud. So he did come back! With renewed energy, I fire into the crowd. The One flies up and starts to cast a spell, but I knock him out of the air with my knife and do the same to Dimitrios when he tries, accidentally-on-purpose giving him a cut. I swoop down for Sophie to sling Ted onto the dragon’s back. He wakes up and blinks, wanting to know where he is. “Riding a good old zmey here–a dragon!” He grins, unsurprised, and instantly falls asleep again. I speak softly to Beak-Face, saying we must go down there and join the fight, and asking him to carry Ted until he wakes up. The zmey nods agreeably and flies down, setting me gently on the library steps. I thank him and he heads into the library.
As I am battling a mad scientist, the two boys, human and dragon, come out of the library, calling to me in English and stone-ish. I kick the mad scientist as hard as I can and hurry to my friends. Beak-Face clutches a pile of books in his claw. I thank him and hug Ted tightly, thrilled to see that he’s strong and steady again. He smiles wearily and hugs me back. Then, he quickly explains his idea, which he had the zmey tell to Marethyu. I agree enthusiastically. His idea combines both their powers; Marethyu and Sophie will cast spells from the Book of Abraham, which he wears around his neck all the time, destroying and distracting the villains. Brave Beak-Face will protect them. Afterwards, Ted will do like in the Goosebumps movie and get any stragglers back into the books, preferably into sections where they die. I offer to help, but he reminds me I’ve already helped and don’t have powers, so I go in the library and watch from a window. Before I know it, the plan is in action. I see shrieking, cursing Elders and people being blown up and turned into bugs, cheering me up. Once most characters are gone, Ted gets their books and does his thing. Once they get close, they disappear. It happens first to Dr. Reeper, who screams for a spaceship to save him. Eventually they are all gone. I go outside and see, of all people, Molly! We burst into tears and hug each other, talking breathlessly. It’s a big group hug with all my new, beloved friends, and a woman I think I can finally call Mom. When we rekease each other, I see a smiling woman with a dark blond ponytail and glasses, who introduces herself as Anne Nesbet! She asks about our book adventures, and we tell her happily.
The next day, we meet Michael Scott himself at Ted’s coffee shop hangout. When we talk about meeting the twins, he starts scribbling and exclaims happily in his musical accent that we can call him Mike. We all laugh. Looking around at us all, happy and safe in San Francisco, i know that I’ve finally found good friends, true family, and a home.