A day didn’t pass without the thought of Johnny. Looking through the books, Hector tried to find the one his friend was in. Last time he had journeyed into a bit of science fiction. Flipping through the pages the librarian finds this passage:
The aliens begin to scatter. I check my watch, it’s still four hours till daybreak. Peering through the lazergun’s scope I zoom in on the area they’re fleeing. Putting the rifle down, I slap my cheek. What did I just see?
“Sky!” I shout, pushing my earpiece in deeper.
“What’s wrong, Frank?”
“The aliens are retreating.”
“That’s good,” he says slowly. I hear his fevered typing over the intercom. “Cameras show they’re heading back into the wormhole. Good job.”
“Wasn’t me, Sky. They just started running.” He doesn’t say anything. “And when I looked, when I looked, well…I saw something.”
Skyler mutes the intercom. He must have just covered the mike with his hand, because I can still make out a few words. It sounds like: “Another sighting, Sir.”
“What’s going on?” I demand, “What is that thing?”
The colonel’s voice cuts in, “It’s exactly what it looks like, Solider.”
What did it look like? Taking up my rifle I again scan the area. He, or it, was coming towards me. Covered in metal it resembled something like a knight with a glowing broadsword. I watch as it scans the area, turning its head from side to side.
Skylar’s voice interrupts my thoughts, “We don’t know what he is. It just came out of the wormhole two hours ago.”
The librarian smiles, replacing the cheap thriller. Surrounding the novel on all sides, books, completely fallen to the black malady, line the shelf. To Hector they appear as mere pages of rotting mold, a collection of dust. Setting his fingers on the spine of, The Invasion from Outer Space, he lets a little light flow from himself. The librarian watches the gift seeping between the covers. That should give them a few more years, he thinks to himself.
His eyes, skimming the rows of paperbacks, see nothing but rot. Where are you, Johnny? Hector’s heart skips a beat. Barely visible, a book held together by little more than a prayer, but still the spine clings to a few pages, a next to completely destroyed world remains.
Gently, he eases it from the shelf. Carrying the fragile pages to his desk, he sets the crinkled paper down. The cover is missing, so the genre is unknown. He clutches at his chin, holding back his tears. What a tragedy, he thinks. With a bit of light falling from his hands, he brings the faded text to life:
This is the tale of Amelia, and how I survived the end of the world. They say the gods look down from heaven, and from that throne justly bless and curse. I wonder now which I have suffered from their hand; Whether to count life, this lonely life, salvation or damnation.
My every morning to evening now, is but the same day. I prepare, they come, I survive. Before, when they took the cities, I hitched a ride with Zach. How could I tell you about Zach? In the fourth grade he took my new glasses and broke them. In the sixth he killed the class gerbil. At some point he was expelled.
Unfortunately, his mom lived in our building, so I still had the pleasure of his company. Zach was that kid nobody cared about jumping between divorced parents. Everybody knew he’d be karted off to jail when he was old enough. He would never amount to anything, that is, unless the dead started walking the earth.
So, even though he wasn’t the knight in shining armor I’d been dreaming of, he was the only familiar thing left in this hell, and what a devil he was.
Hector’s bony fingers, trembling from the effort, pour out their last drops of light onto the page. Sitting back in his chair he wipes his brow. The rising falling chest slows as the librarian falls asleep. “Johnny,” he mumbles, “If you’re in there get out.”
All the trees in this wood seem to be dying. The air is thick with ash, like that volcanic world he’d been to. Johnny extends his arms, examining himself. A mistake, his shoulder reminds him of his searing pain. Screaming, he collapses to the floor. His sight begins to blur. At least I’m not—what did they call me in that last world?—a robot, he thinks, drifting into unconsciousness.
Other installments in the Intraworld series.
Intraworld: A New World