A thud on the doormat interrupted Alys and Sparky’s perusal of the Witches’ Weekly crossword. Intrigued by the unexpected arrival, they hurried over to find a large paper-wrapped parcel perched on the doormat. It opened obligingly and two beautiful books tumbled out.
Alys ran an admiring hand over the flower-embossed cover of the first book. She scrutinized the spine: Unbelievable Potions from Unusual Ingredients. An excited plume of purple steam rose from Sparky’s snout as he read the title of the other: Fabulous Beasts of the North: an Illustrated Guide.
A slip of crisp white paper rose from the wrapper. ‘Greetings to you from the Biggest Bookstore, we know you like books, so here are some more.’ The little slip of paper bowed. ‘Presented to you with our compliments. Enjoy!’ It tittered as it disappeared in a tiny puff of powdery smoke.
Alys and Sparky grinned at each other and dived into their books. The room fell silent for some time.
Alys was first to break the silence. ‘Sparky, come and look at this! A rose-scented potion with a drawing of a rose that’s so lifelike I can almost smell the perfume.’
The diminutive dragon started to crawl across the page he’d been studying. It was a beautifully drawn map of a magical destination far away in the north. He stepped off the stone-coloured land and… sploosh! His front paw sank into the inky blue sea. Sparky reared up and retreated in a shower of surprised sparks that hissed and fizzed as they landed in the water.
‘What are you doing, Sparky?’ Alys pushed the potion book aside and watched as the he placed an experimental paw on the patch of sea in the centre of the map.
A miniature whale-like creature emerged from the inky depths. Sea-spray spouted from its blowhole, splashing across Alys’s sleeve. Sparky leapt backwards as the head of an angry sea serpent appeared from centre of the page. It writhed and glared about, its pointed tongue twitching unnervingly.
Alys edged away from the table as a second fountain of sea water surged forth from the tiny whale. The sea serpent flapped its tail causing a small tidal wave to break over the page, drenching the table top. Sparky hovered high over the map as Alys rescued the potions book, dropping it almost immediately with a sharp cry of pain. A thin thorn-covered rose tendril was growing from the cover and a bunch of blooms had sprung from its spine.
The book landed on the floor with a thump. Alys and Sparky stared wide-eyed as more rose stems sprouted, twining around the table’s legs and creeping over the carpet. The soggy table sneezed as sea water ran down its legs and the retired cauldron cowered in her corner.
Alys dashed across the room and snatched her wand from the kitchen table. ‘Hurry!’ yelled Sparky, seeing a small horse-headed creature rising from the map’s inky water. The creature tossed its mane and planted its hooves on the shore, flapping its fish-tail furiously behind it.
‘Arresto!’ commanded Alys, pointing her wand at the sprouting briers. The branches hesitated. She turned to the map and pointed at the sea. ‘Sicco!’ The waves calmed. Alys breathed a sigh of relief.
There was a moment of calm, then the sea serpent stuck out its tongue and the roses resumed their march, crawling over the cowering cauldron. The cloying scent of roses overpowered the room.
The air started to shimmer. Something was about to materialize. Sparky hovered by Alys’s head, worried white steam rising from his nostrils.
A tweed-suited man with floppy brown hair appeared. Sparky recognised him straight away. It was the man from the bookstore in the Magical Mall of All. The tweedy man held up his hands.
‘Ester, Narwall, stop this at once!’ He clapped his hands. ‘STOP IT NOW!’
As he spoke, the rambling roses vanished and the sea creatures sank down into the map, sucking up the water behind them. The books slammed shut. Silence reigned.
‘Sorry about that.’ The book seller scooped up the books, clamping them in his hands. ‘Immersive-Experience Books, they must have escaped in the confusion during that business with Shylock the Spiv,’ he said, glancing at Sparky.
‘Immersive-Experience books?’ Alys looked askance, still stroking the retired cauldron who hadn’t quite recovered her composure. The table stifled a sneeze.
‘There’s an Interactive-Imagination spell inside them. Fortunately they left a paper trail, so I could track them down.’ He held out a remnant of wrapper. ‘They’re not really for home use, but you can come and study them at the shop. They must be useful to you or they wouldn’t have posted themselves here.
The book-seller prepared to leave. ‘Anyway, all’s well that ends well.’
Alys and Spark exchanged glances, nodding vigorously.
Written in response to a prompt from Susan T. Braithwaite
Genre Scribes Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #47
The challenge this week was title. Image credit: pinclipart.com
Fear not, they will return!