A chemical compound is a basic substance in which two or more…Livy sighed. Science was the most boring subject in the world, especially chemistry, so why was she taking it again? Oh yea, graduation. She put her AP chemistry book down and stared out the large glass window, speckled with little raindrops. Life was going to get really complicated in a few months. Especially if she didn’t get into the perfect college her parents wanted her to go to. That’s where things got the most complicated. Mom wanted one school, Dad wanted another. Neither of them spoke to one another. They only badgered her. It was a mess.
She watched the raindrops slide slowly down the old library window. This was her favorite spot. The wide wooden desk, old with age and wisdom. The creaky wooden chair, worn by the years of studying, and the peaked glass window, where she could peer out and pretend she was anywhere else. Her latest mind travel took her back to her literary adventure from the night before. Sherlock and Watson were just about to discover who was behind the curse of the Hound of Baskervilles. She laughed to herself. Of course she knew the ending, she had read the story at least eight times. But it was still her favorite.
She was just about to let her mind wander off for a while when she heard a thud beside her. She jumped at least three feet in the air, knocking the chemistry book off the table.
She immediately felt her face flush red. She knew that voice. She had known that voice since her freshman year of high school.
“Oh, it’s alright, Matt,” she said as leaned over to pick up her chemistry book trying to hide her crimson cheeks. As she sat back up, she nonchalantly smoothed her dark curls into place. Taking a deep breath to calm her beating heart, she turned and her heart almost jumped out of her chest.
There he was. Matthew Rides. Tall, tan, and perfect. His long legs were encased in dark black jeans with one solo chain handing from the pocket. His strong, lean arms slightly bulged underneath his ‘long sleeve under a t-shirt’ skater combo. And to complete his perfection, his jet black locks were swept perfectly across his forehead, barely caressing those beautiful baby blue eyes that made her heart melt. After staring for too long, she realized he was waiting for her to say something.
“Oh, um, how are you?” She mentally kicked herself. They had known each other for almost four years now, why couldn’t she just be normal around him?
He smirked. She couldn’t breathe.
“I’m doing good,” he chuckled, “I, uh, found those books you wanted.” He motioned towards the stack now next to her. She laughed at the sudden realization as to what the thud was.
“Oh yea,” she laughed nervously, “I forgot I asked you to find those for me.”
“It’s no big, that’s my job as junior librarian!” He flashed her a big grin and a thumbs up, making her giggle.
“There’s that smile! I was wondering if you were okay. When I walked by earlier you were just staring out into space. Anything I can help with?” He put one long leg on the chair next to her and leaned in.
She felt her face go red at thought of him watching her when she was dreaming of her stories.
“It’s nothing,” she said with a smile. He raised one eyebrow and narrowed his eyes. He knew she was lying. He could always read her like a book. She cursed herself for being so easily read.
“Well, I know you’re lying to me,” he said leaning back, “but I’ll figure it out sooner or later.”
“It’s nothing really, Matt, don’t worry about me.” She waved her hand like she was swatting a bug.
“Livy, I always worry about you.” He took his leg off the chair and pulled it out, sitting on it backwards.
“You do?” She tried to calm the beating sensation in her chest. She was sure Matt could see the palpitations through her hot pink sweatshirt.
“Yea, you always seem like you’d rather be somewhere else than here.”
She turned her face back to the window. The drops were now streams, cascading quickly down the old glass. “Anywhere else is better than here,” she whispered.
“Livy, what’s wrong?” She felt him scoot closer to her. She took in a deep breath, but didn’t turn from the window.
Livy closed her eyes and sighed. She hated that screechy high pitched voice.
“Matthew, where are you?!” The voice came closer. So did the clacking of stiletto heels. Who wore stilettos to the library?
She didn’t need to turn around to know who wore them. Pretty, petite Peyton Winkle. Guys oogled over her small frame, complete with slender legs, thin waist, yet, somehow defying the laws of gravity with an impossibly large chest. Unfortunately, Si fell prey to her, as well.
“There you are, Matthew! I couldn’t find you in all these books!” By now, Livy had turned around and saw the disgusted look on Peyton’s face. Livy rolled her eyes and turned to check the books Matt had found for her. She ran her finger along their spines. Each book held an adventure. Each page a step into a new world, an escape from reality.
“Did I find all of them?” She snapped her head to see Si watching her adore the literary pieces. He pulled out a piece of crumpled lined paper and handed it to her. There, in her purple scrawled chicken scratch, she saw the list she had given him earlier that morning. She looked closer to see more handwriting next to her own, written in red.
The first was the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. She had written in parentheses preferably all three in one. She didn’t want to have to carry all three books around at once. Next to it, Matt had written: I like big books and I cannot lie! She smiled and read on. The second written was Pride and Prejudice. Next to it written: this is that book that all girls like, right? The one with the hunky rich guy? The third, Harry Potter. This one had almost an entire paragraph written next to it: That’s it? Like which one? All seven? Just six? Maybe two? Which two? One and two? Two and Five? Seven and Three? Honestly, woman, you need to be more specific here. Livy looked back over the stack. Matt had picked the fourth book. She looked over at him with a raised eyebrow.
He shrugged. “I know you’ve read all of them already, so I picked your favorite.”
She smiled and turned back to the list. Number four was The Hunger Games. This one just had a red heart next to it with the name Peeta. She covered her mouth to stifle a laugh. Si knew how much she had adored Peeta when she read the series the first time. She would talk about him every day when she went to study at the library.
The last one had been scribbled out by herself. She had finally decided to buy that book and didn’t need to check it out from the library anymore. Next to it was a sad red frowny face, one tear coming from its right eye.
“You did great,” she said with a smile bigger than necessary. “Thanks so much.”
He smiled and was about to say something when the tapping of an expensive shoe on the cold, tile floor interrupted.
“Yes, now that you’re done with your little book nerd, can we go? Daddy’s waiting with the car.” Peyton popped her gum and continued to scroll through her phone.
Livy cringed. That’s all anyone saw her as. A little bookworm, curled up in a different world, shying away from society. She used to not care. Reading was her escape from the reality she was in. Reality wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It was just, there. A constant repetition of daily events churning day after day. Nothing new ever happened. Nothing exciting. Never a quest, a volunteer for tribute, or a handsome stranger in the woods. Well, she had met a handsome stranger, but he saw her like everyone else. She knew he did. It didn’t help that Peyton constantly brought it to his attention either. If she wasn’t in a public place, she might have thrown one of her books at Peyton’s pretty face. Not her favorite, of course, but definitely her AP Chemistry book, for sure.
Instead, she did what she always did. “It’s good to see you, too, Peyton.” She began to pick up her books and slid as many as she could into her messenger bag, along with her chemistry book and notebook. But as she began to walk past them, she felt a surge of rebellion rising in her veins. She stood face to face with Peyton. Her violet eyes analyzing Peyton’s green ones. “You know,” she began, hoping her sentence would conclude properly, “You should be careful, wearing shoes like that.” She reached to the book cart next to her, finding the thickest one possible.
“And why is that?” Peyton sneered.
Livy held the book and looked at it. The Encyclopedia Britannica vol. 18 lined the spine in bright gold letters. She put the book in both of her hands.
“Because, you might get hurt.” Livy threw the book on the ground, crushing Peyton’s perfectly pink petite toes in her stiletto heels.
“AHH!” Peyton screamed, causing an uproar of shushing.
“See ya, Matt!” She saluted to him with two fingers and ran towards the door.
“Livy!” She heard him yell. But it wasn’t the angry yell that she was expecting. More of a “wait take me with you” kind of yell. She almost turned around, but thought better of it and ran out into the pouring rain, protecting her books with her pink sweat shirt.
She didn’t stop running until she reached the front door of her house. She jutted her hand into her messenger bag, searching frantically for her keys. After a few moments, she found the old key and thrust it into the hole. With a loud creak, the door swung open. It was dark, but that wasn’t anything new. Mom was never home at this hour. She reached around the corner and flicked the light switch up.
The bright light revealed the shabby chic décor her mom loved. Livy smiled. She remembered when her mom and her went thrifting and decorated their entire home with amazing deals. Some were bought as is, some needed some serious help, but in the end, it had been a lot of fun. Livy’s smile faded, remembering that things weren’t like that anymore.
She sighed and kicked the front door shut. Kicking off her soaked sneakers and socks, she sauntered up the stairs, clutching her books to her chest.
Once she reached the top of the stairs, she took a right turn into her room. With another flick, the room brightened. She smiled with a sigh. Her room was her sanctuary. The one place where she could really be herself. She placed the stack of books on top of the table next to her reading chair. They would have to wait a little longer until she finished her adventure with Sherlock.
Livy pulled off her pink sweatshirt and jeans and put on her fleecy blue sweat pants and her “this is what a reader looks like” t-shirt. She shook her dark curls out like a dog then laughed as the strands whipped around her face.
Grabbing a hair tie, she hoisted her hair into a messy bun on top of her head. She shivered from the wet cold droplets still lining her arms. She ran and jumped under her fluffy white blanket, grabbing her The Complete Series of Sherlock Holmes on her way.
As she opened the crisp new pages, the world Sir Arthur Canon Doyle created flooded her mind, clearing her of all her worries.
“I knew it!” Livy laughed to herself as she read that Stapleton was indeed the culprit. Just like he had been all the other times. “You and me, Sherlock, we would make a great team!” She stared into the printed pages of one of her favorite stories. She related to literary characters so much more than people in real life. Sometimes she wished she could be the one having the adventure instead of the one reading about it. She sighed and closed the book. At least she got to enjoy the adventures in some form.
It was late, and Mom still wasn’t home. She was hardly home anymore, ever since Dad left. Not willing to recount the past, Livy plopped the book on the floor and fell asleep.
It seemed she had only been asleep for a few moments when a bright light startled her awake. She quickly sat up, rubbing her eyes and loose strands of hair away from her face. Where was it coming from? She looked around and saw that the light was coming from the floor. She crouched up in her blanket, her heart beginning to beat faster as she slowly slid towards the edge of the bed. Using her fluffy blanket as protection, she peered over the edge. Her eyes widened at the sight. Her book was glowing! Not only was it glowing, but shaking like a nervous child before public speaking.
Livy sat up on her bed and slapped herself across the face. She had to be dreaming. She looked over the edge again. The book was shaking harder. She pinched her arm.
“Ow!” She cried. At the sound of her voice, the book flung open, spewing streams of red, blue, purple, and green into the air. Livy gasped and scrambled back. What was happening?
The swirls of color began to run together, creating a figure in the dark. Livy held her blanket close to her chest.
Once the glow subsided, there was nothing but darkness. Livy took in a deep breath in her nose and out of her mouth. This was probably some crazy dream, induced by too much studying. She took a deep breath in again.
“I say, dear girl, are you alright?”
Livy screamed and threw the first thing her hand landed on. Of course it was a book. She waited to hear the thud against the stranger in her room, but it never came. Shaking, she reached towards the light on the edge of her beg and clicked it on. She screamed again.
“Are you going to keep doing that?” The thick British voice asked annoyed.
Livy squeezed her eyes shut. This could not be happening! Things like this didn’t happen! Not in the real world anyway! Literary characters don’t come to life! She opened her eyes again.
“Ah, hello, yes I’m still here, before you ask.”
“Y-you’re…” she began, stuttering over her words.
“Yes, I am he,” the tall, thin, British man in a long overcoat clutching the book she had thrown said, glancing at her in a nonchalant way, “Sherlock Holmes. And you are Olivia, now going by Livy, Taylor, approximately eighteen years old, five foot three inches. Your natural hair color is actually a lighter brown than that, more of a maple, not this chestnut color you have now.”
Livy gasped and covered her head with her blanket.
“You have two piercings in each ear, but fear to get a third, thinking people will associate you with women of a negative connotation. Need I go on?”
“No, no, no,” Livy said, shaking her head back and forth. She stood, blanket still wrapped around her in a shield of protection. Cautiously, she reached out and poked the British man. He flicked her hand off in one swipe. Livy jerked back as if she had touched fire.
“Of course I’m real,” he sneered. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Livy knew her face held utter confusion. She walked back over to her bed where she had put The Complete Series of Sherlock Holmes. She stared down at the book. Was it magic? But magic only existed inside a book, didn’t it? She stuck out her toe, and lightly kicked the cover. The book didn’t move.
“It’s not going to move,” Sherlock said.
Livy reached down and picked up the book. It didn’t feel any different. She spun around and faced Sherlock.
“You came from in here,” she said pointing to the book and then gasped. “Oh no! Maybe I shouldn’t have told you! Will something happen to you if you know that you’re a fictional character?!” Livy watched Sherlock watch her with a blank stare.
“Olivia, I know that book is my home. I am not so dense as other characters, as you well know.”
Livy breathed a sigh of relief, but then came back to reality. “Wait, so why are you here? I mean, how did you get here?”
Sherlock turned three hundred and sixty degrees, inspecting every aspect of her room. She now wished she had cleaned it earlier. When he had finished inspecting her room he let spoke, “Interesting.”
Livy spun quickly in a circle, trying to see what he had seen. “What’s interesting?”
Sherlock looked at her a long time before he spoke. “LogosZoe,” he whispered.
“What?” Livy asked.
“LogosZoe, my girl!” Sherlock jumped in the air causing Livy to take a few steps back. “I should’ve known! Ever since Watson had gone missing… oh Sherlock you dunce!” Sherlock dug his fist into his forehead.
Livy stared at him blankly. “I don’t understand.”
Sherlock turned to her and sighed. “Olivia, LogosZoe! Come girl, think! You’re not as thick skulled as other females! I’ll give you a hint, it’s in Greek!”
Livy took in a deep breath and closed her eyes. She had taken Greek in the fall and could remember some of the language, but it was only an introductory course. She searched through the files of her mind. Suddenly the meaning flooded the front of her mind. Logos was the Greek word meaning word. Zoe was the Greek word meaning life. She opened her eyes.
A smile crept across the British man’s face. “Good girl! I knew you’d get it eventually!”
“But what does that mean?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
Livy raised an eyebrow at him.
Sherlock sighed. “It is dreadful to have to explain every little detail.” He took in a deep breath. “LogosZoe means “Word Life”. You spoke my name; therefore, giving me life.”
Livy pursed her lips. She didn’t remember saying Sherlock’s name. Then she gasped. She did say his name!
Sherlock gave her an approving nod. “Yes, Olivia, you did and I happen to agree with you that we would make a splendid team. Only if you intend to use your brain, so I don’t have to think for the both of us.” Sherlock walked over to the stack of books on her table. He began to rifle through them, not reacting to any of them.
“So, what does this mean?” Livy still wasn’t sure what was going on.
Sherlock stacked the books back on her table. “Olivia, you have an ancient gift, one that has long been erased from this realm. You have the power to bring life to any character of your choosing. You are a WordSpeaker.”
Livy sat on the edge of her bed, still clutching her book. She had read about moments like this. Always criticizing the main character for not acting more lively. But now she understood why. She immediately felt the burden of an unknown mission collapsing on her head.
“You said Watson had gone missing?”
“Very good, you are finally putting things together. Yes, my comrade, John Watson, amongst other literary characters have begun to disappear from their stories.”
“What’s happening to them?”
Sherlock shook his head. “There is an ancient legend, one I do not enjoy discussing.” After a few moments he turned to her. “Long ago, the concepts of Logos and Fantasia came to an agreement. Each concept would rule a different realm, only allowing subtle glimpses into one another.” Sherlock gave her a quick glance to make sure she was following. She quickly nodded. Satisfied, he continued, “As you can imagine, Logos chose your world, while Fantasia chose ours. You see our world through your books, we see yours through ours.”
Live furrowed her eyebrows. “You can see my world?”
“That’s where the problem lies. The two concepts lived peacefully in their separate realms, peering into the other when needed, but never crossing the threshold. But then, only moments in your world, but centuries in ours, we were cut off from your world. We thought that was bad enough, not knowing where our faithful readers were or what happened to them, but now important literary characters have begun to disappear!”
Livy looked at Sherlock, not knowing if she had ever imagined him looking flustered. Now she had a great image of how it looked.
“What do you mean ‘disappear’?”
“Vanish, evaporate, leave no trace, cease to exist!”
“But I was just reading about you and Watson, he couldn’t possibly—” She flipped through the pages, landing on one in which Sherlock and Watson first meet Mary Morstan in The Sign of Four. But as she scanned the text, she saw Watson’s name quickly fade from the sentences, leaving blank spaces in its place. “Impossible,” she breathed.
“Quite the opposite actually,” Sherlock said pulling out a cigarette from his pocket. “Do you have a lighter?”
Livy took the cigarette and threw it in the trash. “What’s my part in all this?”
“As a WordSpeaker,” Sherlock began, rifling through the trash to retrieve his cigarette, “you have the power to bring any literary character to life, including some of the best warriors our world, and yours have ever known. With them, you can raise up a powerful army to defeat ThanatosFantasia.”
Livy felt a rock drop in the pit of her stomach. She didn’t need to file through her mind to realize what that meant. “Death to Imagination.”
“Quite good, Olivia. It’s not much of a creative name is it? But I don’t judge. I must say, you’re much improved in comprehending in the past ten minutes. Keep this up and in thirty years, give or take, you’ll be close to my intellect.”
“Anyway,” Sherlock flipped the cigarette between his fingers, “ThanatosFantasia is a concept that was created in your realm. It thrives on reason and logic and despises all forms of creativity and magic. Over the past decades, ThanatosFantasia has grown stronger in your realm. Your people are not as willing to dive into a good novel as they used to be.”
Livy thought back to Peyton scrolling the screen on her phone as she waited. She wasn’t the only one. It seemed like everyone who went to the library seemed to be consumed in their laptops and phones, not noticing the adventures that wait for them on the shelves.
“Where is ThanatosFantasia?”
“I’m not sure,” Sherlock said, now shaking. “Olivia please, I must have this cigarette or I will do something rash.”
“Oh right!” She said. She had completely forgotten about Sherlock’s drug problem. She raced downstairs, grabbed a box of matches and ran back up. She found Sherlock sitting on her bedroom floor, holding his knees to his chest. She handed the box to him. He snatched them out of her hand so fast, she didn’t even realize they were gone until she saw her empty palm. Sherlock lit the cigarette and took a deep breath in.
“Ahhhh,” he said as he filled her room with smoke. She coughed and waved her hand, hoping her mom wouldn’t notice the stench when she got home.
“Wait, wait, wait, your drug addiction is supposed to be cocaine, not nicotine.”
Sherlock took a deep breath in and breathed out smoke like a lazy dragon. “Not here, it’s not.”
“What do you mean?” He looked at her like she was a complete idiot. She knew it was a look she was going to have to get used to.
“In your realm, I am as you imagined me.”
Livy’s eyes widened. She now noticed that he wore jeans, with a black button down tucked into them, hair dark, shaggy, and curled, and a long black trench coat reaching to his mid-calf. She plopped down next to him.
“Will I change in your world?”
Sherlock looked at her through his peripheral vision as he sucked in once more. Blowing the smoke out like a steam engine, he turned to her. “Anything is possible in my world.”
The two sat in silence while Sherlock finished his cigarette. After he had smoked it to a nub, he stood in one motion, straightened his coat, fluffed his hair and peered down at her. “It’s time to begin. Shall we go to the library?”