He had tried to warn her. But now it was too late. She didn’t know what it could do, what Mr. Linden would do. Julius couldn’t believe that Mr. Linden was checking the book out. He watched helplessly as she settled into her bed sheets, preparing to start to read. But if she did that, the consequences would be disastrous. He had tried everything he could, every trick he had learned over the century, until there was only one thing left to do.
Meaghan, please! Don’t open that book!
Her head flew up, and her beautiful eyes searched the room.
“Ow!”She hissed. “Who are you? Where are you? How did you get in my head?”
He could feel her panic. Meaghan, my name is Julius. He said, lessening his voice. You’re not going crazy, but... I’m trapped in that book. Her eyes seemed to settle on the spot where he was standing next to her nightstand. How do you know where I am? He asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Is that really where you are?”
Yes, Julius replied.
“How?”She asked. “How are you trapped in the book?”
I don’t know, he admitted. But it was Mr. Linden who trapped me, in the year 1814. He could see the doubt on her face. It’s true! He protested, though she still didn’t believe him. Why should she? He was just a voice in her head. He sighed. If I prove it to you will you believe me?
She looked around. “Turn off that lamp. It’s not connected to the breaker, so it couldn’t be an electrical power surge.”
Okay. Julius didn't even have to concentrate. Searching for the energy that the lamp gave off, he quickly found it and sucked it in, like he was holding his breath. The light didn’t even waver before it flicked off. Meaghan’s eyes widened.
“Cool…” she whispered.
Do you believe me now?
I believe you. She said to him in her mind.So how do we get you out?
I don’t know, Julius said.
You have been stranded in that book for a century, she said, And you still don't know how to get out?
No. Julius said. How would I? I don’t have any physical means of doing it.
That’s true. Meaghan admitted. What happened to you?
Do you really want to know?
In reply, he transmitted her a memory, his last of the world.
The cold. That is what I remember. Father had been drinking again, Mother being gone was the cause. She left us, and he blames me.
That entire day was crystal clear.
I went to meet Lydia at the market square. It was snowing, and I was only wearing my trousers and a jacket, Father using the rest of my things as fuel for the fire. My friends, which I thought I had so many of, had deserted me, not wanting to be associated with the town drunk. All of them left, all accept Lydia.
Meaghan stayed quiet, soaking it in, seeing what he went through. His boots crunching through the frozen mud, slim fingers intertwined through his. And she felt the pain of that day.
Lydia came with me, to the library. She knew everything about me. She had known my mother and my father, before Mother left. When I met her at our spot by the fountain in the market square, she took one look at my bruised covered face before taking my hand and leading me to our sanctuary of books, away from the averted gazes of the markets people. Little did they know that was the last time they would ever see her.
The last time he would ever see her.
We went exploring, since there was no one else there. Mr. Linden didn’t care. Sometimes I thought he enjoyed our company. Lydia took me down the rows of books, playing, chasing. In the romance aisle, she kissed me for the first and last time. But we eventually got lost, wandering around the vast expanse of the library. It was larger than we had ever imagined, and it soon got dark. The candles began to go out, as if a wind deliberately extinguished them. Lost and afraid, we eventually stumbled upon what seemed to be Mr. Linden’s personal quarters. The dank room was filthy, grime and soot everywhere, the entire place smelling of rot and decay. But the number of relics that adorned the room stole our breath. A girl’s doll. A wedding ring. Ancient artifacts, gold and jewels, a cluster of antique instaments, a dusty baby grand crowning them all. Pictures and statues lined the top shelf that ran around the room. There were so many other things, and we each went to look a different way.
Julius remembered her hand leaving his, and the sudden feeling of loss and grief that overwhelmed him.
The last sound I heard from her was a muffled cry. When I had turned around, Mr. Linden was there, his mouth to her neck. I stared in horror as she dropped to the floor, two teeth marks in her neck, a small streak of blood coming up across Mr. Linden’s cheek. That’s when I knew.
Mr. Linden was a vampire.
He was a vampire.
And he had just killed my last reason for existing.
Meaghan inhaled sharply, but he couldn’t stop now. He moved, and he was right next to her, her emotion making him slightly visible and solid. Gently, he brushed her arm, their connection growing stronger.
Mr. Linden stood there, breathing heavily, his eyes calm and dark on me. I saw her blood rejuvenating him, adding a color to his features. Then he turned away, facing the piano, and on it, a book. It was leather bound, with an intricate vine pattern spreading over the cover, drops of red laced between the leaves serving as a lock. When he ran his hand over it, the vines retracted, opening to the first page, where I could see names and dates, going back hundreds upon thousands of years, all inked in red. Mr. Linden picked up a quill next to the book, and bent his knees, dipping it in the liquid that slightly dribbled out from Lydia’s neck, writing her name into the book. I wanted to cry. I spun around and ran, unable to stand the sight, but I glanced back only once. That was a mistake.
Mr. Linden’s head snapped to me as I tore out of the room, and his eyes met mine before I sprinted away with all I had, but it was pointless. His laugh reverberated down the hall behind me, haunting my every step. The rational part of my brain knew that it was futile to try and run from this thing, that I should save my strength to try to fight him, but instinct was too strong.
Somehow, through the tears and terror, I found myself at the doors to the library, which I recognized now as a prison. My pace shuddered to a halt when I saw Mr. Linden standing between me and my exit. I tried to spin on my heels for the window, but my brain had finally shut down in shock and defeat. I wasn’t going to get out of here. Even if I could, no one would beileve my story. I would be blamed for her death. I bowed my head, wanting to cry, wanting to beat something. I felt Mr. Linden’s stone grip, and when I looked up again, I was back in the room. I tried not to look at Lydia, or the world, or at Mr. Linden who gripped my hand, splaying out my fingers. After three sharp stings on the tips of my fingers, they were then pressed to the cover of the book, in the exact places of the red droplets in the vines. The vines turned red, and it felt like I was being ripped from my body. Or that my body was being ripped from the world.
When the memory ended, it was in whitness and pain- physically and emotionally.
When Julius opened his eyes again into the here and now, he swore. Meaghan was curled up in a ball, rocking back and forth, her dark hair concealing her face. He had been wrong to share the fullness of that with her.
“See,” he said darkly. “You didn’t want to know.”
Meaghan’s head snapped up, and she stared at him in surprise.
“You just talked. I can see you!"
“I guess so.” He flexed his fingers, surprised at how strong the seemed. Meaghan had put her head back in her knees, and he could tell she was on the verge of tears.
“We have to stop him.”
Now it was his turn to stare at her, put she wasn’t done.
“He can’t get away with that… I- I had no idea that that was how he did it. All the pain involved in it, I can’t do this anymore, I won’t, I won’t do this for him.” She was rocking back and forth, repeating things over and over again. She suddenly looked up, her blue eyes full of tears. “Why are you still here?”
“You are obviously in the middle of some personal crisis. I’m not leaving.”
“You should. If you knew what he sent me here to do…even I want to kill me, now.”
“How about this,” He said. “Instead of you being so cryptic, you just tell me what is going on.”
She hesitated. “Mr. Linden... he sent me here to bring you back.”
Julius walked to the window and jumped.
His thoughts raced as he flew from house to house, bounding over roofs and riding the night wind. Even after so long of wanting to be able to do this in a body, he couldn’t enjoy it.
She had been sent to kill him.
Though he knew she wasn’t directly, she might as well have. And to think that he let her see that memory repulsed him. He should have sensed it. The evil feel in the air… he thought it had been coming from the book. He was so absorbed in the excitment of no longer being alone that he didn’t feel it working into him, making him whole. He didn’t know why he thought her energy alone could bring him back. Hadn’t he tried that before tonight? The books telekenisis had failed time and time again. Why should it work now? He was a fool. A lonely, hurting fool. And he had paid for it. Revenge coursed through his veins, controlling his body, but possibilities spun in his head. Possibilities of a life, of being. He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t hear her footsteps until she was almost upon him. He cursed when he heard her thoughts enter his head.
Julius, please…I'm not going to…let me help…I'll explain…
She was getting closer. He leapt to the top of an apartment complex, and turned around. She was about ten yards behind him and gaining. When she saw that he was watching her, she called out to him.
“Don't you see? Didn’t you feel how much I don’t want to take you to him? I want him gone, too!”
“Even if your intentions are clear, he might be able to control you.” His tone was ice hard, though he didn’t move as she covered the distance over the rooftops.
“He won’t be able to control me like he tried with you.”
Julius flinched. “How did you know?” In his first days after Lydia's death, Mr. Linden had tried to bring him back to the library. The control impulses were very faint, but they were there.
“He told me everything he knew about you.”
“So you already had the memory.”
“Everything but that.”
“Why would you ever do his will?” Julius asked, still wary.
“I have no memory of anything before The Carcer. All I knew was the black abyss were I was trapped, the complete darkness. I was the first one he ever captured, though he told me ‘saved’. And that’s what I believed. Eventually swirls of white joined me the darkness, each a person’s soul and mind. Mr. Linden often brought me out, but never for longer than a day.” Meaghan paused, taking a shaky breath, fighting the tears that had cascaded down her face earlier. “Everything changed about sixty years ago. When you came, and then got away. Your droplet was bright red, and it only stayed for a few seconds before it began to fade. Mr. Linden didn’t bring me out for a long time after that. When he did, three years ago, he was spitting mad, but I could feel his nervousness and terror. Terror of you. He’s afraid of you, Julius, and the powerful connection you have to The Carcer. He knows that the mistake he made gave you The Carcers powers, which you inhanced with your energy, and he knows what you could do if you had a body. He could destroy you, the one person who ever threatened his exsitnece, or you could destroy him. That’s where I came in. I was to get you back in your body, and then unleash The Carcer’s weapons.”
"What does 'Carcer' even mean?"
She blinked. "You don't know?"
He shook his head.
She sighed. "In Latin, carcer means 'cage.'"
"Seems appropiate." He got back on topic. "The Carcer doesn't have weapons."
“Yes it does.” Meaghan said. “The vines on the cover. If opened correctly, they will destroy whomever they are set upon, killing them and reversing all of their evil works.”
Julius straightened, his eyes slightly glowing with anticipation. If it reversed everything… “That’s what we need.” He said. “You know how?”
“Yes.” She said. “But I can't do it. You have to remember what this person did, and I have no idea what damage Mr. Linden has caused. You do.”
Julius nodded. “I’ll do it.”
Meaghan smiled. “Then let’s get started.”
He stood. “No. We do it now.” He grabbed her hand, and they were back in the study of Mr. Linden.
“You fool!” Meaghan whispered. “We wern't ready!” She was panicking, and her loud rapid breathing irritated him.
“Obviously not, seeing as how you left The Carcer back in my room.”
Julius pointed. “You didn’t have the real one.”
There, sitting on the piano, was The Carcer. Julius didn’t know how he had missed aura The Carcer carried with it. It felt like death and hopelessness. “Mr. Linden wouldn’t-“ He choked. There, lying on the floor as if she had only just fallen, was Lydia. Her perfect body was perfectly preserved, her hair still moist from her blood. Meaghan saw what he was staring at, and she inhaled sharply. Julius gulped, trying to find words, but instead his eyes filled with tears, and he felt his fists clench.
“Let’s finish this,” he growled.
“I find that you are correct,” said a voice behind them. Meaghan’s breath caught in her throat. Julius twirled, and faced the man. The vampire.
“Linden,” He said through gritted teeth. Mr. Linden smile, showing off his incisors.
“Julius. We meet again.” His voice was confident, but his eyes couldn't stay in one place, purposely not meeting Julius’s hard stone glare. Meaghan laid a hand on his arm.
Don’t give him what he wants. Don’t attack him.
He just threw her arm off and charged. Mr. Linden vanished a split second before Julius could reach him, reappearing over Lydia’s lifeless body. When he saw him there, his entire being filled with rage and sorrow, filing him up, and then spilling over. Afterward, Meghan would tell him that he was levitating in the air, shining a brilliant white, his rage fixed on Mr. Linden. But all he felt now was the rightness of what he was doing. He just had to think, and The Carcer was in his hands. With a sweep of his palm, he sent Mr. Linden into a corner, his prizes from his victims pinning him to the wall. Julius brought The Carcer up to his face, breathing deeply, inhaling all of the confined spirits’ pains and angers towards the thing that now coward in the corner, drawing strength and resolve from their being. Slowly, he ran a hand over the cover of Carcer, and unlocked the vines. They tumbled to the floor in a silent mound, creeping to Mr. Linden, coiling around him, suffocating him. Mr. Linden’s eyes had lost all of their weakness, replaced by a fiery rage, but this Julius didn’t see. He released all of the emotion from the spirits and himself, all of his grief, his sorrow, into the vines, chasing it into Mr. Linden. A piercing scream rent the air, though Julius didn’t know if it came from Mr. Linden or himself. He kept pushing and pushing, until there was nothing left of Mr. Linden, and nothing left of his pain. Meaghan touched his arm.
“We need to leave,” she said. “Quickly.” He nodded. The entire facility was coming down on them, burning away. The Carcer had lost its glow, and Julius thought he saw wisps of white flowing out of it into Lydia. He scampered over to her, cradling her body to his chest, smiling as it steadily grew warmer.
“Lydia?” he breathed, barely daring to hope
She stirred, as if waking up from a dream. “Julius?” Lydia blinked her eyes at him, and he gasped. They were different, changing color, never the same. It was if each wisp had gone into her. “Oh my goodness, Julius!” she clung to his neck, her hands in his hair, sobbing with relief. “There are so many voices in my head. Who is in my head?”
“We’ll figure it out,” he looked up at Meaghan. “Together.”
He carried Lydia, her arms wrapped around him, out of the burning library, braving the sky full of stars ahead.