Lights flickered with an electric buzz, illuminating two armchairs. Giant white pillars held up the sky, and rows of empty shelves ran between them. The marble floor made cold shivers run up my legs.

The sight was familiar, not just because it reminded me of the House of Wisdom and the room at the back of the library of Fenbay. I’d been here before, and that experience had not ended pleasantly. I walked over to the armchair on the right but didn’t sit down. Instead, I glanced at the figure sitting in the other armchair.

It looked like a floating blob of white noise but something was different this time. The blob wasn’t completely shapeless, it branched out in five directions, making what may have been four limbs and a head.

Garbled noises came out of the figure, making the marble floor ripple, the pillars shake, and the lights flicker. The noises ended. I stared at the figure, trying to discern a pattern in its surface. However, staring at it made my head hurt.

One of its protrusions pointed to the armchair I was standing beside. I accepted the offer and sat down. The protrusion on top of the figure moved up and down, as if it was nodding. However, the movement left afterimages in its wake, and I averted my eyes because the sight made me queasy.

Doing so made me notice the shelf in front of the armchairs. It was my shelf, with the Cannon standing on it. However, the Tempest hovered above the shelf, the way it did when I had used it during the chaos in Chart. It was frozen in place on the first page, which had nothing but the title of the book, and the author’s name on it.

In the corner of my eye, I saw the figure move its arm. The air rippled and white noise flooded my ears. I grit my teeth but my eyes stayed locked onto the Tempest. The first page lifted a little, fell back, and then flipped. Then the next page flipped. And the next. Then the next.

Pages fluttered until the back cover hit the final page. The Tempest was closed and it slowly sank until it nestled next to the Cannon on my shelf.

I gasped as a weight I didn’t know I had been shouldering, was lifted off me. The figure pointed at me and my vision dissolved into tiny particles buzzing around erratically. Some areas began to attract more particles and became denser. Those areas formed a vague outline that loosely resembled the figure in the armchair.

Then all the particles that weren’t a part of the outline rushed into the protrusion that seemed like the figure’s face. They continued to gather until they formed a roiling mass of particles so dense, they made a tiny black line on the figure’s face. The black line parted in two.

The figure spoke but as the words reached my ears, I was struck by an intense feeling of vertigo, and the particles that made up the figure dispersed. My vision stabilized for a moment, and I glimpsed the armchairs, the shelves, and the room before sinking backwards into the depths of the chair.


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