Saturday, September 11, 2010

Two months for two pages.

When Hiroki came to, he felt as if months had past. His mouth felt like a whole army of tooth gnomes had been in there pasting up Andre the Giant posters, got tired of that, and then decided to carpet the place in thick, deep, green 70s shag. You know, the kind of carpet you'd expect to find in the back of a van if it had a viking warrior riding a horse/motorcycle hybrid jumping over a tank full of vicious narwhals with laser beam eyes painted on the side. Which is, coincidentally, exactly what the young man had been dreaming about. And he was pissed that he was awake, laying in his dusty cold room filled with weaponry and poison instead of riding his horseocycle.

"mmmmm" he mumbled into the floor.

"What was that?" asked the grimoire. "I didn't quite catch that."

Hiroki cleared his throat. "I said no."

"No?" shot back the book. "No what?"

"No," said Hiroki calmly, sitting up, "no, I won't do this. I won't be bound like some animal put out for show. All my life, I've been told what to do, who to be, who my father was, how to be him. Well, I'm sick of it. I'm sick and tired of being tied up, and I won't do it any more." As he said this, he rose unsteadily to his feet, using the staff to prop himself up.

"What do you propose to do?" questioned the book, full of snark.

"He'll do what he has to do," came a low voice from the corner of the room.

Hiroki turned around to see Odin standing behind him. He looked older, much older than he had a week ago. His face had lost all the friendliness that Hiroki had seen when they first met. But, too, it didn't hold any of the anger he had expected to find there. Just, what, peace? Resignation? Whatever it was, it was solid as a marble statue sunk in amber and frozen in time.

Hiroki bowed formally to him, knowing that the god could sweep off his head at any moment. "Sir," he stated, "I am sorry for the damage I have caused to you and your family. I know there is no way to make amends."

To his surprise, Odin waved him off. "Bah," the old god almost shouted, "they were all gonna die anyway, eventually. Actually, I should be thanking you. Now I don't have to go through all that who-killed-who rigmarole again. Tell ya the truth, I'm pretty darn sick of living that cycle and I'm pretty excited to see what this one has to offer."

"Don't listen to him," whispered the book, "he's up to no good."

"You know what I love best about stories, boy?" Odin asked conversationally.

"No, sir," Hiroki responded, wrinkling up his brow.

"What I love best," continued the god, wandering around the room slowly, "is that each time you tell a story, you can tell it different. Sure, the gist of the thing still needs to be there, but you can change the little details. After all, a story belongs to the teller, and the teller can do whatever he wants."

"Don't trust him!" shouted the book.

Hiroki stood looking back and forth between the god and the book.

"Problem is," continued Odin, as if nothing had happened, "people think that once something is written down, it's gotta be the same way forever. But that's small thinkin."

He turned towards the table on which the grimoire lay.

"Don't let him get too close!" yelled the book. If it could have sweated, it would have. But Hiroki stood and did nothing.

The All Father went on, laying a hand on the book. "That's just the short view. In reality, books may last a little longer, but in the end, they ain't any more permanent than a story, or even a character in a story. I mean to say, a book's gonna break down eventually. They get passed around from hand to hand, sometimes a page or two falls out. In the case of a smart book, maybe it makes sure a couple pages fall out."

He picked up the book and opened it up, seemingly at random. "Oh, what's this?" he asked, false surprise in his voice. He laid the book open on the table and turned it towards Hiroki, who didn't move.

"He lies!!!" shouted the book.

"It's ok, boy," said Odin reassuringly, "come have a look." He waved the young ninja over.

And so Hiroki came, and looked at the book. He didn't know what he was looking for at first, so he read over the pages. Then he saw it. He looked up at Odin, an expression of concern on his face. "It jumps from 1488 to 1493," he said.

"That's right," Odin nodded. "Seems to me, two pages musta fell outta that book somewhere along the way, and gotten lost to history. Course, if a man knows where to look and who to talk to, maybe he could find those couple of pages and maybe, if one were to see those two pages, there could be a way out."

"And do you know where to look and who to talk to?" asked Hiroki.

"I didn't trade my eye for nothin, boy," said Odin gruffly, reaching into his vest. "You see, I just happened to be carrying these with me for the past couple months or so," he pulled two pieces of yellowed paper from his pocket. "And it also just happens that these pages are marked, let's see..." he pretended to read them. "Oh, lookie there, pages 1489, 1490, 1491 and 1492. Isn't that amazing?"

"Run!" Yelled the book to Hiroki. "Get away from this man! He will destroy us all."

"Not quite," Odin said. "I think maybe, if a boy was smart and had the right tools, he could maybe read these couple of pages and then decide for himself what he wanted to do. And it also seems to me that anyone that wasn't willing to let him make up his own mind was maybe manipulating him into things. What do you say, boy?"

"SAY NO!!!" Yelled the book, almost deafeningly. "SAY NOOOOOOO!!!!!!"

But he didn't. Hiroki nodded, ever so slightly. Odin smiled a small, sad smile, and put the two pages back into the book. There was a moment of blinding light, and a sound like a frog being stepped on in reverse, and then the pages lay in the book as if they'd always been there.

Strangely, the book was silent as Hiroki leaned over and read the two missing pages. Whether the two pages or fear had silenced the book, Hiroki couldn't say, but he didn't much care. When he'd read the two pages he simply nodded a bit.

Then he looked up at Odin. "You're sure about this?"

"Sure," responded Odin. "Seems like maybe couldn't be worse than the alternative."

Hiroki thought for a moment, sucking on his lip a bit. As he did, Odin grabbed the book and sat down in a chair to read it. He made hmmm and awww and aha noises as he thumbed through it. He barely felt it when Hiroki's staff punched through his chest and buried itself in the book.

Odin's head dropped back to regard Hiroki one last time. "Freedom," he whispered.

The firestorm that followed will live forever shrouded in legend and mystery. Some say that ghosts tortured the residents of Clan Platypus headquarters for months. Others say that they were surrounded by fire that never burned and never consumed. Others say that they were plagued with laser-eyed narwhals that were kind and offered to clear the dishes after every meal. Regardless of what happened, at the end of it all, Hiroki stood in his room, his hair gone completely white, holding the staff still in his hand.

His weapon now thrummed with a steady power. It was hard to say how it was felt. It was something like a warmth and something like a pressure, but not at all like either. He breathed deeply but steadily.

"Holy cow! Hiroki?" Yelled his companions from his door. "Is that you?"

"Yes," he said to the wall, "it is me." He turned to face them and they all gasped. The storm, in addition to turning his hair all to white, also took one of his eyes.

"Are you....are you all right?" One of his friends asked.

"Better than all right," he stated, plucking an eye patch off the end of his staff. "I'm free."