0030 – Gareth: Captivity, Part 10

Gareth put the finishing touches on the pathetically bound cover sheet of O FIN’ST’R OUV’R N PUK’HI. His tired eyes were bloodshot from concentration. Although the sun was shining brightly just outside the study window, he had elected to work in the searing light of the desk lamp.

Finally, he was finished. He thoroughly rinsed the quill and securely replaced the cork cap in the little vial of crimson ink.

With his flimsy homemade book finally complete, he opened the other book: the thick volume bound in dark green leather that served as his familiar.

The words on the front page read: “LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE FINISHED.”

Gareth closed the book before responding. “I am. What do you think of it?”

“HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW? I CAN’T READ IT, CAN I? ALL I’VE HAD TO LOOK AT FOR THE LAST HOUR WAS YOUR HOMELY, CONCENTRATING FACE.”

“But you knew what I wrote in you, before I….” Gareth fumbled over his words. “Turned you… into you.”

“THAT’S BECAUSE IN A SENSE, YOUR SILLY STORY ABOUT THE BOY LOOKING FOR HIS SISTER IS STILL INSIDE OF ME. THAT BOOK YOU JUST WROTE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. IT IS ABOUT SOMEONE OPENING A WINDOW WITH A SPOKEN COMMAND, YES?”

“Yes.” Gareth said. “I had to put some filler in there to get it over a thousand words, but it shouldn’t matter, right?”

“THAT’S PROBABLY THE CASE, YES.”

“So what do I do?” Gareth asked. “Making you wasn’t exactly a textbook piece of Sermomancy, by my guess. After all, I was working the magic on the book that supplied it.”

“YOU’RE CORRECT, BUT THE BROAD PRINCIPLE IS THE SAME, AS YOU KNOW. YOU NEED ONLY SPEAK THE NAME AT SOMETHING, NOW, TO RECEIVE THE EFFECT.”

“And that’s it? There’s nothing I need to do to… finalise the book? To make it ‘proper’ in some way?”

“NO. UNFORTUNATELY, THAT FLOPPY LITTLE BUNDLE OF PAGES IS YOUR BOOK. YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO CARRY THAT AROUND IF YOU WANT TO OPEN ANY WINDOWS.”

“Oh.” Gareth said, flatly.

“THIS IS WHY MOST PEOPLE BIND THEM. BUT I APPRECIATE YOU DON’T REALLY HAVE THE RESOURCES FOR THAT RIGHT NOW. JUST TRY NOT TO LET IT GET RAINED ON OR ANYTHING.”

Gareth nodded. “Then it’s time to leave?”

“NOW’S AS GOOD A TIME AS ANY.” The book told him. “DO YOU HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED?”

Gareth thought about this. He recalled seeing a backpack in one of the wardrobes during his search for the rod that had opened the attic. After finding it again, he took it with him on a room by room scavenging tour of the cottage.

Half an hour later, he returned to the study, his pack stuffed with food, spare robes, medical supplies, and – most wisely of all – toilet paper.

“I think I do, now.” He said with a smile. It was, to his recollection, the first time he had ever spoken without opening the book first. To do so would have ruined the effect of his weak one-liner.

“ALRIGHT. THEN ALL THAT’S LEFT IS FOR US TO LEAVE. YOU SHOULD PROBABLY TAKE THE INK, PAPERS, AND QUILL THOUGH.”

Somehow, Gareth had legitimately overlooked this. “Good idea.” He conceded, carefully packing the Sermomantic supplies wherever they would fit in the stuffed pack.

“THEN IT LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE READY. LET’S GO.”

Gareth stowed the fragile papers that comprised his new creation into the narrow front pocket of the backpack, zipping it up tightly. He took his familiar book, with its headache-inducing symbol, under his arm. This one, he would be opening a lot.

The living room window was the largest, looking out onto the same narrow patch of lawn that could be seen from the study.

Gareth pressed his hand against it.

O FIN’ST’R OUV’R N PUK’HI!” He spoke, loudly.

The window swung wide open, nearly knocking him back in the process.

He laughed with glee as he felt the breeze on his face for the first time in weeks.

“I DID IT!” He cried aloud. “I’M FREE!”

Gareth hoisted the heavy bag onto his back and climbed through the window. He fell face first onto the lawn, quite deliberately, feeling the warm blades of grass tickling at his face, the softness of the soil under him.

Tears stained his cheeks. He kissed the earth. This was joy. Thank the gods.

Almost immediately upon looking up from the lawn, however, he noticed something very strange. Something that caused him to run around the side of the house, almost kicking down the little gate down in his hurry to reach the street – and more open ground, with a better view.

The treeline had prevented him from seeing it clearly from within the cottage, but now that he was outside, the reality of it was all consuming.

The world curved up, and not down, at the horizon.

It was like being stood on the inside of a giant sphere. Gareth was used to far-off objects being out of sight due to the curvature of the Earth, but here, they only faded from view when the haze of the atmosphere grew thick and soupy from sheer distance.

The verticality of it all made him feel nauseous. Many miles away, he could see forests and rivers and lakes climbing the gentle incline of the world, seemingly defying gravity like a perverse glue-fastened diorama.

It was then that he looked at the sun. It was directly above him – not in the lazy, approximate way of noon in summer – but exactly above him. It hung in the air, fixed and stationary. And it was…. Waning? Or waxing? He couldn’t tell. But strangely, the sun was not a sphere.

Finally, his eyes burning from sunlight, his exhausted body and mind overwhelmed, Gareth thought to open the book.

This time, once again, he asked a question first.

“Where are we!?” He interrogated it.

“WE’RE ON THE INSIDE.”

“On the inside of what?” He demanded to know.

“THE INSIDE FACE OF THE EARTH.”

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