“Can you keep a box of books for me,” Jeremiah had asked. That was three weeks ago. Before he and his bike had flown a thousand feet to a fiery death. Now the box sat unopened in front of me.
I couldn’t convince his family to take them. After everything I’d done for him, his mother seemed to feel some kind of guilt. The books appeared to be her payment.
“They’re only books,” I told myself as I continued to stare at the carton. But knowing Jeremiah, they had to be more.
Dust and mold wafted through the air when I finally pulled back the flaps. Waving a hand in front of my face to dissipate the smell, I removed the top volume and brushed a film of mildew from the surface.
Beastiary, the single word almost glowed red. I’d heard of these—books containing references to creatures, most likely mythological. Calling the Dead, the next title proclaimed. A shiver crawled down my spine. Of course Jeremiah didn’t possess normal reading material.
Next, I unearthed a pristine set of red leather-bound books in a foreign language that didn’t look at all familiar. I set them and Beastiary aside. They might fetch something with a bibliophile.
A few rather mundane appearing books followed, and I heaved a sigh of relief. Not so bad then.
But one more book remained inside the box. The Book of Breathings. The cover appeared innocuous enough. I flipped it open. Cramped handwriting lined page after page. Symbols danced along the page, almost appearing alive. I touched them in wonder, and sparks flew from my fingertips, electrifying all the hair on my body. Rubbing my arms didn’t discharge the static dancing along the surface of my skin.
Oh god, I knew Jeremiah wasn’t normal, I thought.
I couldn’t keep these, couldn’t sell them either, which meant I had to find a way to dispose of them. I contemplated phoning Jeremiah’s mother, but didn’t want to burden her with books that might prove dangerous. So I needed to burn them. Too bad my small apartment didn’t contain a fireplace.
Not willing to touch the books with my bare fingers, I found a rumpled pair of rubber gloves scrunched in a corner underneath my kitchen sink. Just to be completely safe, I slid into a pair of heavy gloves, vestiges of a winter spent as a ski-bunny.
Even that protection didn’t prove enough. Lightening arced along my skin with each volume tossed into the box, the worst when I picked up The Book of Breathings again. My breath released explosively as I wrestled the flap closed. Hauling them outside and into the trunk of my car, the box felt heavier with each step I took.
I found a deserted beach near Sooke. My fingers trembled as I light one match after another trying to start a fire. The box tormented me, almost seeming to reproach me for what I was about to do.
Let it, I thought. I don’t have a choice.
Wisps of smoke finally curled into the air and fingers of flame crackled into life. I fed small sticks into the burgeoning blaze, trying to hurry it.
Feeding the first small red book into the flames, they leapt into the air, shooting upward like a beacon. Wincing, I added another, watching pages curl in the heat.
“Burning books?” A young man towered over me. Black hair curled around his ears, almost touching his shoulders. A pair of flowered surfer shorts rode low on his hips, emphasized by the gleaming expanse of bare chest.
I tried to hide the remaining few books behind me, but the lettering on The Book of Breathing glowed in the reflected flames. Hoping he wouldn’t notice, I reached for it, intending to slip it inside my coat. Snatching it out of my grasp, he examined it, a small smile playing along his full, sensuous mouth.
“Journals,” I said. “You know. I broke up with this guy and I don’t want them laying around for just anyone to read. It’s kind of cathartic.” I waved at the tendrils of smoke.
“Weird name for a journal,” he said as he sat on the driftwood beside me, leafing through the book. “And what’s up with that lettering.”
“Look, it isn’t really any of your business.” I tried to pull the book away from him, but he dodged me.
“But you’re wrong. It is my business. You called me from the dead.” Reaching over, he rested his hand on my face, turned and blew on the fire. The flames extinguished as if they’d never existed. “And you cannot send me back nearly that easily.”