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Written By: deuspawn
July 18, 2015
NOTE: The title of this story is taken from Chris Van Allsburg's book, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. If you are unfamiliar with the book, it has beautiful drawings and a single caption to launch writers into their stories. In teaching my students to write short stories, I used this book as a launching point and my students wrote some amazing stories. Please click on this link to see the picture for the following story: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kel_smith/56518715. Chris Van Allsburg's caption for it is "He had warned her about the book. Now it was too late".
He had warned her about the book, but now it was too late. She stole it from Mr. Linden's library yesterday afternoon and smuggled it home in the deep recesses of her purse. Her stomach turned in judgment for what she'd done. She didn't care though. She was both curious and anxious to see what mysteries this book held. Mr. Linden had talked about it for so many years that she'd imagined fingering its pages for months now. What would she learn and who might she become? The anticipation was almost more than she could bear. The front door of her house slammed shut with the urgency of her task. She bolted upstairs to her room and locked her door. She tore into her purse to retrieve the book redolent with a smell like autumn wet leaves. With hands shaking, she opened it and read the first line written in a dark red ink: "I warned you not to read this book..." She screamed and her hand instinctively covered her mouth. She didn't know if anyone else was home, but she didn't want to risk her contraband being discovered. How had Mr. Linden known? Did he plan for her to take the book? Were his kind eyes and gentle demeanor a mere veneer to disguise some sinister motive? Was the book REALLY dangerous? Like all children, she assumed that adults made rules to deprive them from having fun. She looked down at the worn leather cover of the book and the yellowed page edges, and tried to decide if she should read further. The months of anticipation, however, got the better of her and she read the next lines: "You are in the greatest danger when you fall asleep. These pages are ALIVE and this book is filled with the tears of a thousand trees that were cut down to create my enormous library." Vanessa looked quizzically at the previous line. What did it mean? How can trees cry? She spent the remainder of the evening engrossed in the pages of this fantastic book. It told of Mr. Linden's transformation from tree to human being. He became the Arbor Paladin and was tasked with finding those most worthy of their spite and revenge. Vanessa was a perfect candidate: she love to read. She ENJOYED caressing the skins of so many trees. She deserved this. Try as she might, Vanessa couldn't resist the siren-song of sleep. When her eyes finally fell, a single small leaf sprouted from the spine of the book. One leaf became two. Two became a branch and the branches slowly climbed from the center of the book and wrapped themselves gently around Vanessa. In a matter of an hour, she was completely engulfed by them. She awoke when one of the leaves tickled her cheek. She started to scream, but another branch constricted around the back of her head and mouth. The branches became tighter and tighter; Vanessa began to feel pain and self-pity. She knew now that the book was going to kill her. She should never have fallen asleep with it in her arms. It was too late. Her last thought was to repent of her crimes: taking the book and reading so many others. The book claimed another victim and went on the hunt for a new one.