“Clash of the Books,” Part II

(For part I of Sabrina Flynn’s award-winning “Clash of the Books,” scroll down to yesterday’s post, or wait until Tuesday for the entire story.)

 

II

 

“Run, you fools!”

A lash of flame descended with a sizzling snap.  The detectives and librarian ran, taking cover in the Natural Sciences aisle.  Black smoke gathered, writhing upwards.  The building’s extensive sprinkler system surged to the defense.  A deluge of cold rain charged the Balrog.

“By God,” Holmes drawled.  “What was in my drink?”

“I shouldn’t have fallen asleep watching Star Trek with Lee,” Kate said.

“This is not a dream, Inspector Martinelli,” Merrily trembled, “and you are not tripping, Mr. Holmes.”

“I should think not.  I’m standing as we speak.”

“Wait,” Kate eyed the tall, immaculately dressed older man.  “Mr Holmes?  Are you another one of those Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts?”

“I am Sherlock Holmes, Madame.”

A rumbling interrupted the great debate.  The marble floor erupted, throwing earth and crawling vine into the hordes of fiction.  A massive beanstalk took root, grasping upwards with throbbing intensity.  Sprouts attacked the sprinkler system, threading their disastrous way through piping and electrical circuits.  The rain spluttered to a premature drip.  Flame surged anew, licking hungrily at soggy bindings.

“My library is in ruins!” Merrily shrieked.

“Madame, when one’s nervous system is subjected to hallucinatory compounds, it is best to remain calm.  The worst of the effects will wear off with time,” Holmes reasoned, and then narrowed his eyes at a line of goblins scrambling overhead.  One paused, brandishing a maw of fangs.  Holmes regarded it coolly, dismissed it from his mind, and pulled his pipe and tobacco pouch from his pocket.  When the creature persisted, Kate pointed her gun, and fired, dropping goblin to the floor at their feet.  The rest scattered like flies.

“I will not calm myself, Mr. Holmes,” Merrily growled.  “That light-alien has destroyed my library, and the Red Death is killing my favorite characters.”  As the words left her lips, the Red Death swept through the raging tide of battle, touching foes at random.  His hand fell upon a gentlewoman and her dark-haired defender, sending them writhing to the floor.  “He’s just murdered Mr Darcy and Miss Bennet!”  Merrily nearly fainted.

A slice of flame sizzled overhead, halving the shelves an inch above Holmes’ greying hair.  The three were buried in a mound of smoldering paper and blackened bindings.

“If this is a dream,” Kate coughed, “then it’s a painful one.”

Holmes pushed the books aside, ripped a burning page from Twilight, then used it as tinder to light his pipe, before throwing the book at a troublesome faerie.  Book smacked into faerie, sending both spiraling to the ground.  Holmes, Martinelli, and the librarian moved to a safer aisle, past religious studies, through horror, and onto mystery.

“I’m not so sure this is a dream anymore,” Kate said.

“It is lunacy,” Holmes deduced.

“Look,” Merrily interjected, “humor me for a moment and let us pretend this is an intellectual exercise.  How do you propose to stop this?”

“They are your books, Madame,” murmured Holmes around the stem of his pipe.  “I suggest you restore order.”

“Some help would be appreciated.”

A brute of scale and claw slammed into the end of the shelves.  Metal gave, books flew, pages opened, and fiction grew.

“What precisely do you expect us to do?”

Merrily never had the chance to answer, nor did she have an idea, for a tall, blond-haired woman darted past, skidded, and reversed course, diving into their aisle.  A massive claw swiped the space she had vacated.  A mouth of rot appeared in its stead, bellowing frustration, and hammering at the shelving.  Kate fired her gun, bullets bounced off the brute’s armor, ricocheting off stone and zipping dangerously close to their heads.

“Russell!”

“Holmes,” the blue-eyed new arrival gasped, “what on earth did you slip into my drink?”

“I did nothing of the sort.  You’re supposed to be in Los Angeles.”

“Have you gone mad?  We were celebrating the New Year in Sussex.”

“Run!” Merrily screamed.  The armored brute tore the shelving off its foundations, and the four darted, scrambling up the spiraling metal stair.

“Who’s she?” asked Kate.

“My wife.”

“This is the wife you mentioned in your manuscript?”  Kate eyed the younger woman appreciatively.

“Mary Russell.”

“Kate Martinelli.”

The two women shook hands.  The Librarian prayed, and the Great Detective smoked his pipe in thought.

“You’re on fire, Holmes.”

“Since this is a dream, it does not bear consideration.”  Two seconds later, Holmes cursed in pain, and batted at the flames on his coat.  “Perhaps not,” he conceded with a grimace.

“What was that light-creature near your desk?”

“I think it was an alien,” Merrily replied.

“Of no nationality I recognize.”

“No, not that kind.  An alien of the Martian variety.  It called me a jailer.  And I’m certainly not a jailer, I’m a librarian.”

The armored brute roared, rolling a blood shot eye at the four.  The other orb bled from where a familiar knife had pricked its eye.  Its roar seized their hearts.  The four moved rapidly down the aisles along the second floor, catching glimpses of a blackened husk battling a sword wielding wizard.

“I seem to have attracted the attention of a beast resembling Grendel,” Mary Russell confided as they raced down the stacks.

“Perhaps you should not have thrown your knife at its eye, Russell.”

“I gave fair warning, Holmes.”

They stopped, breathless, huddling in Art History.

“These are characters from the stack of fiction books that were sitting on my desk.”

“We are not fictional,” Holmes and Russell snapped as one.

“Fiction or non-fiction, your admirer is tearing the floor apart.”

“Since this is a dream, presumably mine, I refuse to be intimidated by a myth,” Mary Russell declared, planting her boots firmly on the grate.   “I’ll distract Grendel, Holmes, while you and these ladies figure out how to stop this madness.”  She drove her elbow into a fire emergency station, yanking the shiny red axe from its resting place.  “There is only one way to deal with a Grendel.”  As quickly as she had appeared, the lanky blond darted towards the railing, disappearing over its side with axe in hand.

“Your wife is certainly something.”

“Assuming this is her dream, I’m inclined to agree,” Holmes remarked drily.

 

 

(Tomorrow: Part Three, in which Merrily chews her fingernails and Chaos reigns.)

Comments

  1. TheMadLibrarian says:

    Most of the librarians of my acquaintance would be a bit more — proactive. Setting my library on fire, indeed!

  2. A Fan of Deduction says:

    This is a great story! I love how Russell and Holmes insist its a drug or dream, and the variety of it all

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