The Magic Book (flash fiction)

The Magic Book

With a flurry of pages, the book fell from his shriveled hands and dropped to the dirty floor. Gin followed the book with his eyes, worried for a moment it would fall in the puddle of vomit collected by the wrinkled old man dying on the chair. He knew he should feel sorry for the frail old gentleman meeting his maker right before his eyes but he wasn’t; he couldn’t. That was no frail old man dying an agonizing slow death on that chair. That was the diabolic man who had kept Gin imprisoned for 10 years.

Gin had woken up that morning with no plans, no direction. His life as a slave did not afford him any illusions or time to make plans of any kind. He got up before the sun was up and by the time the majestic star made its daily appearance in the skies, Gin would have already milked the cow, baked bread, and swept all the floors of the mansion where he lived with his master. The old man was prone to fickle moods and Gin did not want to risk being the one to lead him to one of his darkest ones. At times when his master blamed him for his dark moods, Gin almost always got beaten to a pulp and left in a corner of the kitchen to lick his own wounds. The boy had gotten smarter with the passage of the years and treaded very carefully around the old master.

That morning the master had woken up in a foul mood and Gin had done his best to appease him by serving him warm fresh bread with molten butter, delicious hot tea sweetened with the sweetest of honeys, and a bowl full of the freshest ripe fruit the master so liked. Yet, nothing had swayed the old man from his mean streak, his cruel demeanor. By lunchtime Gin had a broken tooth and a bleeding gash on his forehead. “Lunch better be to my liking, boy,” the decrepit old man yelled at him, “or you are in for a very bad afternoon.”

Now, hearing the gurgling sound of white foam collecting in his master’s throat, Gin smiled. He was still not sure where he had gathered the courage to do it but it was done indeed; the poison he had saved from a rat’s hunt a few months before had proven invaluable as the special spice in the cruel man’s supper. Watching the evil man die slowly and painfully, something on the floor caught the boy’s eye. There was a glow coming from the book his master had dropped.

Strange, Gin thought stepping over the vomit to retrieve the volume. It had fallen open and the boy noticed with a start that the words on the page were moving around the pictures inside. He stared fascinated, forgetting the dying man for a moment. “What kind of magic is this?” he asked out loud to no-one in particular. Looking at it closer, he saw the comic figures moving around within the confines of their cels. His head tilted to the side and if he was really quiet he could hear sounds coming from the pages of the book.

The boy looked up at his master, inches away from death and frowned. “What have you been hiding old fart?” he said. The old man made a sound that may have been an attempt at a reply but could just as easily been a random sound. “You could have treated me with kindness. You wouldn’t be burning inside right now.” The man’s eyes closed and his heart stopped beating. For him it was the end of an agonizing death but for Gin, the young man who had been spirited from his crib into slavery and abject poverty it was just the beginning of everything. This magic book could be the source of income he needed to start his life anew.

Examining the book even more closely he couldn’t see anything that would explain the moving figures or the sounds he could hear. At first glance it was just an ordinary book. He tried to poke it and that’s when it happened; his finger went through the pages. He felt a chill crawling from his finger into his hand and frightened, he pulled the hand back. “What is this?” he exclaimed, shaking like a leaf on an autumn tree.

The book was glowing brighter now as beckoning him and he couldn’t resist; he tried again. This time his hand went in farther, up to his elbow, the tingling chill invading him one cell at a time. Still scared, he pulled out once again.

What would happen if he stepped on the book? Did he dare try it? Was he brave enough or adventurous enough to attempt it? What exactly was holding him up? Hadn’t he dreamt of adventure and excitement his whole life? This was his chance.

He placed the book on the floor, opened and inviting. Gingerly he stepped forward until his bare toes were touching the pages. Gin took a deep breath and hopped on top of the book and fell…he fell down an empty space, cold and uninviting and he kept falling as if there was no end to the abyss. Eventually, he did reach the soft bottom with a great thump and a giant cloud of dust.

Gathering his wits, the boy jumped to his feet and realized he was in a room not much different than the one he had just come from. A squeak told him he was not alone. He turned around slowly, afraid of what he may find.

“So, you thought you had got rid of me?” said the cruel old man, sitting on a chair much like the one Gin had just seen him die on. How was this possible? “Don’t bother trying to understand it. The book you jumped in is a gateway to a world where I live forever and from which there is no escape. You, my nasty little boy, just condemned yourself to eternity with me. Now, go fetch me my lunch!”

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