I turned back to face Alice who was waiting, probably expecting me to sign on the dotted line. “Well, thanks for all of that exposition but I don’t think I’m a good fit here. In fact, I should get back to my place. I need to finish with these plays and I still have plenty of homework that you all interrupted,” I said. I was about done with the lunatic asylum. The whole concept of magic was astonishing but I knew if I let that idea take hold, I would never escape.
“Your answer is ‘no’? May I ask why?” Alice asked. She was completely thrown off.
“What you have here is potentially more powerful than nuclear arms. Power like that needs to be hidden away so it is never abused. It is too tempting to use once you know about it. If what you’re telling me about this Oncoming Storm is right, it has already fallen into the wrong hands,” I said. It was the only logical answer in my mind and the fact that it was not obvious to Alice further proved that point.
“Could you at least stay a bit so things can blow over on your campus? I can’t be sure of your safety right now. In fact, we cannot guarantee your safety for the rest of your life,” Alice said with a frown. She suddenly looked more tired. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
“Nobody could guarantee my safety before this happened either,” I responded.
“But the Editors and the Oncoming Storm will both be after you,” Alice said. “They won’t believe you said no. Nobody has ever said no before.”
“So I’ve heard. I’ll take my chances.”
“Don’t walk out of here out of stubbornness,” Alice said. She had her hands on her hips now, indignant at my behavior. I admit it was rude but these people were insane.
“I’m walking out of here because I don’t think I can handle magic. I don’t think the world can handle it either.”
“You don’t want to think about it?” Alice asked.
“No,” I said bluntly. “Show me the way out now.”
“Booker will show you the way out then,” Alice said.
Booker seemed to appear out of thin air. “Aww, really? Please stay, won’t you?”
I nearly jumped out of my shoes and I clutched my chest. “How did you do that?” I yelled at her. I felt a little bad about yelling despite the whole kidnapping and dangerous situation.
“Magic,” Booker said with that big grin. “Most of our spells come from our favorite pieces of literature. Alice and I like the Wonderland books a lot so we get a lot of our spells from there. Just now I harnessed the power of the legendary Cheshire Cat.”
“His power of plot convenience?” I asked. I smiled at my own bad joke. Nobody else did.
“Very funny. Everybody’s a critic.” Booker said.
“I kind of am a professional critic. So how does this harnessing work?” I asked. I could not help my curiosity.
“You just think of the right piece of fiction and you take on one of their aspects or powers. Sometimes focusing the power into an object or totem can help,” Alice said.
“Like this one,” Booker said. She was holding up the little rabbit she had been holding outside of the library. “Obviously, it is based on the White Rabbit and it stores the magic needed to make an instant entrance to Wonderland. Interesting, right?”
“And frightening. Now, could you stop harnessing the power of the Mad Hatter and get me out of here?” I asked.
“This is very serious to us. We have studied for quite a while to discover new aspects to magic,” Alice said. She was getting angry and it helped dispell the air of authority she had had when I first entered. She was a normal human being after all.
“Don’t go, we can teach you all of this and you can help us be good,” Booker said.
“Let him go. We do not force anyone to stay here and we are not going to start today. Try to send him back to a safe area,” Alice said.
“So, definitely not back to the library,” Booker said.
“That would be a no. Good luck, William. If you ever reconsider, we will be able to contact you again. If you are still alive, of course,” Alice said.
“That’s intimidating,” I said and walked away back down the hallway.
Pretty soon Booker had caught up, sighing several times dramatically. “I guess there’s not need for this anymore.” She waved her hand over her face and her hair turned dirty blonde and her eyes became a soft brown.
“Wait, that wasn’t real? Why?” I asked. This just got weirder and weirder.
“It’s a little cliche but I use it on recruitment runs. In a lot of bad fiction, the heroine had red hair and green eyes. Plus, I really like putting on my ‘game face’. It helps me find my confidence,” She said.
“You didn’t have to lie to me, Booker,” I said.
“Aww thanks, William.”
“Putting me in danger and kidnapping me worked just fine,” I said with a smile.
“You’re horrible,” she said but she was still smiling. “Just go through that door and William?”
“Be careful.” She said.
I nodded and opened the door in front of us and walked through. I could instantly feel a difference in the atmosphere. I was behind a building on campus and, in the distance, I could see smoke drifting up from what was probably the line of cars in front of the library. Suddenly, I heard a loud click from right next to my head. It was a gun.
“Freeze. Don’t move a muscle.” A voice said.