Reader Beware

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          Rika slid to a halt inside her classroom just after the last echo of the bell faded away. She repressed a wince and ducked her head, causing her brown ponytail to flop forward over her head. “Sorry I’m late, Mr. Lawson. I was-”

            He cut her off with a head shake. “In the library, reading. I know. Please, just take your seat.”

            Keeping her eyes on the floor, she made her way to the only empty desk, while inside she cheered at having escaped another lecture about being late. Mr. Lawson was one of the worst for punctuality. And he didn’t leave her alone, even with her good marks. Even now, she could feel his narrowed brown gaze on her as she slid into her seat, pulling her books out of her bag.

            Only when she heard the sound of chalk on the blackboard did she flash a grin at the girl sitting beside her. “What’d I miss?”

            Her best friend Myra looked up from where she was copying down the practice problems Mr. Lawson was writing, her glasses catching the fluorescent light overhead and shining briefly. “Not much,” she whispered. “He just said that since we have the test Monday, he’s going to spend today reviewing what’s going to be on it.”

          Rika nodded. “That explains why he let me off so easy. So, need help with anything?”

            Myra shook her head. “I want to try them by myself first. If I need help though…”

            She chuckled. “You know I’m always happy to help.”

            While Myra chewed her pen lid as she looked down at the problem, Rika flipped idly through her textbook, rereading a few of the sections they’d already covered. Not that she’d forgotten what the book said. She couldn’t remember a time when she’d forgotten something after reading it. The thought of reading had her mind drifting back to the book she’d just finished. While she quite liked the idea of talking horses, the idea of being that devoted to another person…well, she found it kind of weird. It didn’t help that she couldn’t imagine anyone interesting enough to tear her away from her books.

            A touch on her shoulder pulled her out of her thoughts. Rika turned to look at her friend. Seeing how wrinkled Myra’s forehead was, she smiled. “What don’t you understand?”

            For the next thirty minutes, Rika helped Myra work through the problems, doing her best to teach her friend the material. By the end of class, Myra had finished the problems, more or less by herself and was actually smiling, a rarity after math class.

When the bell rang, Rika waved goodbye to Myra, watching her friend hurry towards her Spanish class. Grinning, Rika hurried herself, again blessing the fact that she had a spare last period. With everyone else in class, she generally had the library to herself. That was even better now that she was on the hunt for a new one.

Satchel style backpack hanging off one shoulder, Rika slipped in and out of the stacks, brushing her fingertips along the books. Many of them she recognized, old friends that had drawn her into their worlds within a few pages, but she was in the mood for something different, something new.

She finally stopped in the tiny sci-fi/fantasy section, her gaze wandering over the books there. She’d read them all, but hope always brought her back here. Hope that there would be something…

Rika paused, frowning. Stuck between two black-spined books was one of bright gold. She tugged it out, wondering how such a flashy book had managed to escape her notice before now. Then she shrugged, guessing the librarian had finally got some new books in.

This one was a shiny gold colour, the elaborate script on the cover done in solid black. The title proclaimed “A Book for Heroes”, underneath which was a crossed sword and wand. Rika grinned. Already this book sounded like her kind of book. She flipped the book over to read the blurb on the back. She frowned again, when all she saw was a poem.

Reader beware

Here, a new world

See how you fare

Far, far away

From all you know

Think carefully

Before you go

To find your fate

If you were to open me

You’ll be there in one, two, three

            Rika snorted silently. Not only was the poem bad, but it told her nothing about the book. Rolling her eyes, she turned back to the front, looking for the author. That was no better than the back. Where the author’s name should be was only the word You.

            It was only because the book was so obviously fantasy that had Rika opening it. She was willing to give any fantasy book a shot, which to her, meant the first chapter. But when she opened to the first page, she found it blank. She flipped to the next one, but it was the same story. She turned page after page, finally opening to the back, but found not a single word. Just blank pages.

            She shook her head. She’d read choose-your-own adventures before, but this was the first time she’d seen a write-your-own adventure. There was no help for it. It was back to poking around the shelves. Rika snapped the book closed and looked up at the shelf.

            Except the shelf wasn’t there.

            In fact, the whole library wasn’t there. Rika found herself looking at a line of trees. When she turned around, all she could see were trees. And underbrush. Eyes wide, Rika realized the truth. She was in a forest.

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