Dav swung his arms up like a conductor and pointed at each man in turn and then pointed at the four corners of the dirt floored room. “We’ll each start in a corner and work our way outwards until we bump into the next guy. Let’s get this done and get the hell out of here, the Illusion is making my skin crawl.”
Tommy rubbed his hands together and dropped into a sprinter’s crouch, eyeing Jak sideways. “I bet I find it before you do.”
Jak laughed and nudged him off balance. “It’s not a race you moron. This is super serious business.” He glanced at Tommy, dropped into his own crouch. “Go!”
Dav and Damien shook their heads and headed to their corners at a more respectable pace. The shelving that lined the smallish area was carved directly into the buildings foundation stones, which made Damien nervous. If the shelves were a part of the overall Illusion of the bookstore, anything might trigger a Shift, which could make finding this Compendium a nearly impossible task.
“Tommy,” he called. “Do you see anything off about this room?”
Tommy stood up from rifling through a pile of scroll-like papers and looked around. He turned in a slow circle, closed and opened his eyes. “Nope, not so much. It’s about ten feet wider than it seems, but the only things I can see there are a toilet and a shitty shower that I wouldn’t use on my dirtiest day.” Jak scuffed his boots slowly through the dirt and stepped forward with his hand stretched out in front of him. “Here,” he said, his hand seemingly going through the back of a solid stone bookshelf. “Just a bathroom, about two feet in front of me.”
As soon as Jak broke the Illusion they could all see behind it. They peered over his shoulder for a moment, and reassured that all that was hidden had been revealed, headed back to their respective corners to resume their search.
Tommy sneezed as he pulled a large volume from a pile in front of him. “Do we have any idea what this Compendium is supposed to look like?” He rifled through a few pages of what appeared to be accounting ledgers, columns of expenditures for the running of an antique bookstore. To be on the safe side he flipped through all of the pages then held onto the binding and shook it out. Nothing. “Why the hell do these guys still use, what the hell is it, vellum? Parchment? Fucking purists.”
Damien laughed. “Can’t use scrap paper or napkin scrawls, can you? They’re too important for that. I’d rather know why they try to keep tabs on us, period.”
The more they disturbed the books and letters nestled on the shelves the denser the feel of magic in the room as it was displaced from stasis. Tommy scratched at his head when his hair started to feel like it was standing on end, Jak was unconsciously humming under his breath along with it, and Dav found his mind kept running off task to Jilly, who was most certainly waiting at home for him with a beer and a smile on those smart ass lips. Those full, bottom heavy lips, soft and parted…
“Uh, guys?” Dav cleared his throat. “I’m pretty sure it’s over here, come give me a hand.”
Damien straightened and stretched, arched his back like a cat with a distinctly un-feline grunt. “What? What did you find?”
“Nothing, but every time I start to reach for this stack here I start daydreaming about going home to Jilly, so someone took the time to put a distraction or a compulsion down.”
The four of them crowded in front of a shelf that held five huge books, almost the size of a car’s windshield. Glittery motes danced lazily in a circle around them, a lightly glowing nimbus that showed the arc of the magic surrounding them. “I find myself being distracted by thoughts of going home to Jilly myself,” Jak said, his head lolling on his shoulders theatrically. “Tell me what she does when you get home Dav, I wanna see if we’re having the same delusion. Shit!” Dav’s short fisted punch to the ribs cut him short.
Damien sighed. “Okay, seriously, that’s enough. I want to figure this out and get gone, you can fight for your woman’s questionable honor on the way home Dav.” He laughed at the affronted look his twin sent him. “Sorry, one last joke. Now we’re done.” He let his arms hang down, shook his dangling hands like a boxer prepping for the bell to start the next round. “What can you see Jak?”
Jak held his hands out, feathered them over the stack without touching any of the books, his scars rippling in a disconcerting way as his fingers flexed. The Illusion resisted, made the air around him waver and distort reality. “Huh,” he muttered. “It’s resisting, like it’s fighting back.” He forced his eyes to stay open, not to blink even when they started to water. His hands froze and opened until his fingers were bending backwards, held out like he was warming them over a fire. There was a pop, and the air stopped dancing around them. In front of them, instead of the stack of books, stood a podium with a single volume on it. He felt like a safecracker who – partly by luck – had sussed out the first digit in a lengthy, arduous combination.
“Bad ass!” Tommy clapped him on the shoulder. “They keep trying to tell me that you’re useless but then you do something like this.” He dashed an imaginary tear from his cheek. “I’m so proud.”
“Alright Dav, you’re up.” Damien gestured towards the podium and flipped it open to the first page. “We can’t take this with us; I don’t want them to have an inkling that we know where they are, let alone what they’re doing.”
“So you want me to remember this entire thing? That’s stretching it, D, this is by far the largest amount of information I’ve ever tried Retention on. I have no idea if it will work.” He shrugged, stepped forward. “Let’s see what I can do.”
Dav’s eyes widened as he took in just what had been compiled in this Compendium of theirs. Line after cramped line of neat handwriting, detailing Gifts that had come to light in the past fifteen years. There were notes and additions and asterisks, names and locations of the Gifted associated with each as they became known. That was just on the first page. It shook him more than he wanted the others to know. What in the hell was this for? The sheer amount of information that had been amassed was far larger than he had thought to find.
Damien stepped up beside him. “Don’t worry about it right now,” he said quietly. “We’ll worry about it when we get back and you start dumping it all out, okay? Don’t worry about it,” he repeated.
“Okey doke kid, if you say so.” Dav looked down at the first page, blinked slowly like a camera shutter clicking and nodded his head. Damien turned the page and Dav blinked at it, repeating the process quietly for a good fifteen minutes before they reached the final page. “You know that we’re in here, D? They know who we are.”
Damien held a shushing finger to his lips. “Let’s wait till we get home before we tell these lunatics that, yeah?” He looked over at Tommy and Jak, for once sitting quietly. “At least they don’t know where we are. Did you get all of it?”
Dav tapped a finger to his temple. “It’s all here. Now let’s get gone before those lunatics start asking questions.”
This is the third installment of my The Gifted series (the first 2 can be found in the Category section on my home page should anyone care to read them . Hopefully it reads well as a stand alone piece also since I am growing to really love these characters.
It is also my submission for this week’s Master Class. Last week I was honored to be the chosen ‘winner’ and chose Lev Grossman’s The Magicians as my prompt. I was to pick the 7th sentence on the 77th page to fit somewhere within the body of the story, but not as the beginning or ending sentence : He felt like a safecracker who – partly by luck – had sussed out the first digit in a lengthy, arduous combination. This is the last week that the creator of Master Class, Eric at www.sinistralscribblings.com, is handling the professorial duties. The baton has been passed to SAM at www.frommywriteside.wordpress.com and I am sure that she will do a fantastic job.
This week’s story is brought to you by The Dropkick Murphys, as there is something about my guys that makes me feel they would totally hang out and jump around at DKM show.