He had warned her about the book.
Now it was too late. She could not turn back.
The story was going to grow in her mind, snaking adventurous tendrils from the pages, up her arms, and through her eyes, into her mind. It would poison her mind, as all books do. Inhabiting her brain, it would influence her dreams, taking her to far off places very few can imagine.
As Ady slept, she dreamed she fell through the sky, her long black hair streaming up, past her face.
Falling, falling, falling.
Into the water she went, sinking past beautiful colors, some were blurs, while others were sharper than any objects she would encounter in the waking world.
Suddenly, Ady halted, suspended in the water.
She was afraid to breath, believing that if she did, she'd choke on water. Her throat began to ache, then burn as she fought to hold her breath. Then she coughed, sucking in water. She could breath!
Cool water shifted against her tongue as she gulped in air.
Her green eyes looked around as she caught her breath. She noticed a dark shape moving towards her from below.
She squinted, trying to focus upon the dark shape that was getting larger and larger as it got closer.
When she was finally able to see the object clearly, she fought to move, the glittering white teeth causeing terror to well up inside her, but Ady was completely paralyzed as the massive shark swam up and gulped her down in one bite.
She was engulfed in darkness.
The darkness cleared from her vision and she blinked a few times in the harsh light.
She stood in a clearing, in the middle of a forest.
There was a snarl and she turned to look. She was met with a wall of gray and white fur and viciously sharp looking teeth.
Ady screamed, spun, and ran.
"Wolves?" she shrieked.
She flew through the forest as fast as her legs would go.
She got a head start, but, as all dreams have done from the beginning of time, she slowed. The growling of the wolves got closer and she pumped her legs harder, but to no avail. Then she crashed into a wall of foliage and slid to a stop.
She was in a brand new place.
This new place consisted of rock walls, boulders, and trees and bushes that were hardy enough to survive, gripping obstinately to the crags.
She turned slowly, hearing the distant roar of
something. Ady could not place it.
Then, seeing movement out of the corner of her eyes, she spun around.
A large brown shape crouched on one of the boulders.
The breath caught in her throat as the mountain lion crept lithely down the rock, its brown eyes never leaving her body. It reached the ground and crouched, waiting for her to move.
She took a step back and its ears twitched. She began to walk backwards frantically, but the lion crept towards her patiently. Then, she spun, running as fast as she could.
She heard the crunch of gravel under the creatures' immense paws as it sprang after her.
"Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!" she gasped between breaths, "What kind of place is this?"
Then, she turned a corner and the ground disappeared from under her feet as her momentum propelled her over the edge, and she was falling again.
The roar and its source became apparent as she saw a sheet of glittering white shoot over the ledge across from her. A waterfall churning water that
flowed beneath her! She was safe!
She sighed with relief before she hit the water.
* * *
Ady took a gulp of air.
She was not wet, she was not in a river, and she was not being chased.
She was sprawled on a carpet, in her pajamas, clutching Mr. Linden's book.
Then Mr. Linden himself came into view. His bright blue eyes, which were framed by crow's feet, glittered humorously as he helped her up.
He chuckled, scratching his head which was covered in salt and pepper hair.
"Dear Ady," he said. "I warned you, didn't I?"
All she could do was nod as he pulled the green, leather bound book out of her arms. He put it on the bookshelf, between a red and yellow book.
Then, going a few shelves up, he pulled a thick, sky blue book out.
He placed it gently in her hands.
"Here," he said, quietly. "Why don't you try this one?"