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Once Upon A Book

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Catherine, the youngest daughter of a rich town-owner, has to find the author of a dangerous book of fables in order to save her town's people. Will she be able to find them in time and save the town or will she, too, fall victim to the book?

Fantasy / Drama
V. Ananya
Age Rating:

Chapter 01 | The Day the Darkness and the Light Became One

Catherine May Heywood turned sixteen years old on the 31st December, a day that was known in her town of Fairy Heights to be the day when the Darkness and the Light collided.

She was left all alone, just like she always had been for most of her life. Despite having four older sisters and rich parents with lots of servants, she still could not get any of them to pay her attention for more than five minutes. However, there was one section of the large manor – it was the only one in the entire town – that was converted into a library; it was said that in the olden days, it was more of a book store. Now, people came in to borrow books rather than buy them, and paid a minimal price for it, set by the librarian, who happened to be Catherine’s third sister, Lena.

Lena was more engaging with her youngest sister than the others were, although she, too, sometimes was too caught up in her work to free up her time for Catherine. So, when this happened on her most important birthday, Lena gave her a gift after lunch that afternoon.

“A cricket?” asked the youngest sister, her face blank. “What do I do with it?”

Lena shook a finger at her in negative. “It’s not just a cricket. It’s of the family of the special ones that speak – a descendent of the great and wise crickets.”

This planted the seed of interest in Catherine’s mind and a wide smile burst forth her lips. “Oh wow, that’s wonderful! Where did you get them, Lena?! – aren’t they supposed to be hiding out in the deepest areas of the forest?”

The elder sister only grinned and winked at her, before attending to the customers who just entered the library. Catherine had no choice, but to accept the gift and go back to her room. Her parents would’ve been there, but they received an urgent call from the mayor, saying that she was calling an emergency meeting and off they rushed, as soon as they could after lunch.

What had they been doing before lunch? – you may ask. Well, they had been planning their day for after lunch.

Now, it was almost four in the evening and Catherine lay on her bed, her back pressed to the soft mattress, her head hanging to its side, staring directly out the window. She could see the semi-dark sky and hear the silence of the town. 31st December was the day that everybody stayed outside their homes for as little time as possible. It was a public holiday in the town of Fairy Heights and so, workers stayed at home on this day; readers, however, spent most of their time in the town’s only library. She couldn’t even hear the birds chirping or the animals calling to one-another—such was the effect of the day that the Darkness and the Light collided and became one.

“You’re a special girl, you know.”

Catherine started violently and would’ve fallen off the bed, had she not had a strong instinct that saved her at once: her arms threw themselves out to hold the mattress hard and, when she was conscious and calming down, to heave her body aright.

She turned to her bedside table, where she had placed the cricket. It was the one who spoke to her.

“What did you say?” she asked it. “Also, what’s your name?”

“Ah, what excellent questions!” declared the cricket. It raised its chest proudly before bowing low. “My name is Jeremy Cricket and I’m a descendent of Jiminy Cricket, the Great and Wisest. And I’m here to be your constant companion and friend, as your sister has said I should be.”

Catherine blinked, bored. “I know that already. My sister told me, didn’t she?”

“Yes. And what I said to you earlier was, precisely, ‘You’re a special girl, you know’.”

She narrowed her eyes at this and crawled slowly towards the cricket. “Oh? And what do you mean by that?”

The insect shrugged. “What do I know? I only glimpse the future when I’m allowed to.”

She snorted. “Convenient.”

“It is, isn’t it? We still have to work and live just as we would. Now, what’s the problem? Wait – isn’t it your sixteenth birthday to-day?”

Catherine wanted to be suspicious some more, but her energy gave out like a fuse and she slumped back with a sigh. “Yes, well, that’s true.”

“And you have not got anybody but me to spend it with?”

She rolled her eyes in slight irritation. “I would’ve if my parents didn’t decide to waste the whole morning planning what to do now!”

“I see. Well, what of your other sisters? I know Lena is working in the library and she usually has a lot of customers on days like this – but, you have three other sisters, don’t you? Where are they?”

Catherine shrugged. “Angelika just got married and she’s on her honeymoon with her new husband. Sarah-Beth is renovating an old house for an old couple. Cordelia has kids to take care of, besides her work. Also, she doesn’t step out of her house on my birthday.”

“Which falls on the day the Darkness and the Light collide. Makes sense. It’s not exactly the best day to be outside – the exposure could be harmful to humans, like you, magicians or not.”

“Well, I’m not a mere magician. I’m a witch – I could conjure up a spell to create a ball of protection around myself. And if you’re wondering whether I’m capable –”

“That I most certainly am not. The exposure is so harmful that the most powerful sorcerer couldn’t protect himself against it.”

That shut Catherine up and she pouted. “All right then. What do you propose we do the rest of my birthday?” She pronounced the word with distaste.

The little cricket – though, really, it was several years older than the girl in reality – put an appendage under its head in thought.

“Why don’t we do some exploring?” he said after a bit. He looked around the room. “This house seems huge.”

Catherine frowned now, as something occurred to her: “How do you know so much about me?”

Jeremy didn’t seem to hear as he hopped off the table and all the way towards the door. Indeed, that’s like walking a thousand miles for a human, so it was a great feat for him!

“Follow me! I think I know just where to start our treasure-hunt!”

The young girl narrowed her eyes. “You’re not serious, are you? And anyway, what about my question? Are you answering it or not?”

It was precisely at this time that she realised the cricket was no longer in her room – or indeed, within her sight. She rushed towards the door to peek out.

“Where did you go?!”

“I’m right here!”

The rather deep voice in her ear freaked her out and she jumped a mile in the air, before she realised it was only Jeremy. The little guy was sitting on her left shoulder, quite quiet and innocent.

She blinked at him, before she could find her voice again:

“What the hell!?” she cried. “Where did you run off to?! And what did you want to show me?”

“Isn’t there a part of this house that’s been locked off since you were little?” asked Jeremy.

Catherine’s eyes narrowed to suspicious slits. “How do you know that?”

“Yes or no?”

She rolled her eyes. “Guess I’m going to have to let you have your way for a while. Yes, there is. But, I don’t have the key.”

He hopped once on her shoulder – she didn’t even feel his weight all that much, she realised – and a wide grin spread on his tiny green face.

“Who cares about keys when I, Jeremy the Great, am here!” He winked.

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