Remembered Kisses: Chapter 2: Dreams and Nightmares
(The first chapter is available here)
He found his way to the rare books section, fingers tracing over the familiar textures of the spines. Much of his early spell learning had been from tomes like these, once he understood the rhythms and codes of the classic and Renaissance authors. Those authors who had written before wonder had entirely fled from the world, before science taught humanity that what could not be observed wasn’t real, and before mankind forgot that there were many ways to see things. Many of those authors had coded manuals into their works. From Galileo’s Stregheria, all three cantos, to the Metamorphoses. He smiled. These books had once been his best friends.
His search was purely tactile. One of the protectives he had weaved in the shop was a simple glamour in the rare books section. There were some tomes, primarily spellwork manuals, that simply could not be seen — they could be found only by a hand that knew where they were, or by Methuselah’s active will. After a moment of searching, Sam’s fingers found the book he sought. It had a newer spine, still mostly uncreased, with no words embossed on it. He pulled it out and carried it back to the counter. He opened it and flipped through the pages, scanning the illuminations. He stopped on a page near the middle, and studied the sigil he had inscribed there. It was circle of arcane symbols, intricately and painstakingly illustrated with gold and woad ink. Gold harvested from an alchemist’s lab, woad from the deepest woods in Caledonia. The symbol felt warm to his touch, and it reacted to his tracing finger. It turned suddenly brighter. Expectant.
She rolled her eyes. “Figures. Come in here for a book every week, he doesn’t even recognize me. Whatever. No big. I’m Kennedy Greenborough.” She put a book on the desk: Ghost Stories, Volume II. “The first one was pretty good. Really really boring for a book called Ghost stories, but helpful.”
“Helpful?” Sam asked, glancing at the book, then back up at her. “That… it’s not the usual thing that people turn to. Archibald’s a tough read.”
She stared at him. “Double figures. Come in here for a book on ghosts every week, and it’s not till I’m wearing a skirt short enough to stop traffic that he notices what I’m reading. Men.” She sighed. “Anyway. Yeah. Helpful. Do you actually know anything, Gandalf, or you do you just sell the books?”
Sam gave her a small shrug. “I know a bit,” he said, carefully. “Why?”
She pushed one of the braids behind her ear, watching him through big honey-brown eyes. “Because,” she said. “I’m hearing things. And I think they’re the dead.”
“Bloody wanking hell. Did I stutter?” She asked. “Yes, the dead.” A matronly woman, round and kindly, looked up, then quickly looked back down at her browsing in the cook book aisle. The girl touched her tongue to the silver ball below her lip, then looked back at Sam. “I’m pretty sure, at least,” she amended.
Sam ran a hand through his hair. “What… what makes you think you’re hearing ghosts?”
“Well I don’t know, mister,” she said, putting a hand on her hip and popping it to the side. “Gee willikers, there are voices coming from nowhere, going on and on about frozen nights and ice-cold hands and flashing knives in the dark. And those gosh-darn voices only come out at night, and only in my attic! And wouldn't you know, the way the bead curtain ripples as the spirits pass through aligns perfectly with Archibald's observations…” She shrugged. “Well, mister, I don’t know. I guess I’m just taking the piss, or playing a hunch. Maybe I should go get the bloody mystery van, because it’s probably an old man with a phonograph just trying to scare me.”
She shook her head sadly. “No, little lamb. I’m not the one you called. But I am here with a message.”
“Sort of the opposite of what I told him, sweet duckling, but there you go. I’ll mind you. You know enough?”
Sam smiled a little, his eyes twinkling as he handed her her cup of coffee. “Something like that,” he murmured. “It’s my role, isn’t it?”
She sipped from the chipped mug, and then met his eyes. “Your death.”
The woman just looked at him. Saying nothing. Sam sighed.
“It is as sure as Pluto guards his own. As sure as dark gives way to light. As sure as love loves most what’s lost.”
The afternoon was not as grey as the morning. The sun was starting to peek out from the clouds above, its radiance warming the late autumn afternoon, yet even its glow had little success fighting the fog's creeping gloom. Sam sat at one of the picnic tables in the quad between the New Tamsbridge Community College’s four main buildings, waiting for his five o’clock class. There were a few outlying sections of campus, but this quad was the center of activity. There was a fountain, and some statuary, and carefully tended shrubs as well, all remnants from when this had been the manor grounds of the old British Governor. Sam took a sip of his coffee and looked down at the stack of papers before him. Papers I should have had graded last week. Or the week before. Good lord, I’m behind. He took out his red pen and started to read.
“Oh, inner monologue fails again?” The man turned back to Sam and offered him his hand. “Sorry. It’s nothing. A will o’ the wisp. My name’s Saul, Sam. Nice to meet you.”
“What is it?”
Chills ran up and down Sam's arms. "Her?"
You know the one. The one you were thinking about before I sat here. The one with the hair like sunset and the eyes like diamonds.”
There was a sinking feeling in the pit of Sam’s stomach. He had been afraid of something like this. Everything of value has a cost, but to give to give her up? Could I do that? This information is important. Too important for half-measures, but… Sofia. “That was my very first kiss,” he said, at last, slowly. “Years ago.”
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