The room is small and dark. Cobwebs cluster in the corners, a sign of disuse that contrasts with the circle flickering scarlet candles. Thunder sounds outside and, though there are no windows, one can feel the slice of lightning that cuts through the night, to be followed by yet another rolling growl from the heavens.
A low doorway is hug with a curtain that stirs, only to be pushed aside by a short woman. A hooded cloak shields her face and lends an air of mystery and menace. She pauses to tuck an unruly strand of hair back into the hood, and takes a quick stock of the room. It is just as she remembers it.
She shuffles across the room to an alcove that holds a dusty book. As she has done before, she blows away the dust and flips through the pages, seeking the words that will bring back the dead. The atmosphere thickens and outside the storm intensifies. The wind screams as though the demons of hell have come back to the world.
As the sound dies, the woman begins to mutter, first softly and then gaining volume:
“Velnya. Velnya. I did a short story on her once. How did that go? She was quiet and polite, I remember that…Good grief. Why do I get myself into this?”
The woman waves her hand and murmurs fantastic sounding words. A shimmery form materializes, slowly becoming a young woman with dark hair and large violet eyes. She wear a dress styled after the 1860s, her hair in long curls and a cross tied around her neck by a slender ribbon.
Hand to her throat, she looks around quickly. “What? Where-where am I? Who are you?”
The woman snaps the books closed and returns it to the alcove. “I’m your author. I know we’ve only met once, but you might put more effort into this.”
“My author?” The young woman blinks and then – “I-I remember you. You – you killed me!”
“I didn’t actually kill you, exactly. Those villagers did, remember? I just wrote about it. Anyway, readers find you interesting enough that they want to ask you some questions, so I’ve resurrected you so they can. If you want to take a moment to gather yourself? Not too long, though. We’re already a day late.”
“I don’t understand. Why would they find me interesting?”
“Because you were Jorick’s last wife, before Katelina. Not that he and Katelina are married yet, but you know.”
The young woman’s eyes go even wider. “Katelina? Who is she? What do you mean they are not married yet? Will they be?”
“Hey, hey. No interviewing me. Look, since you haven’t been paying attention I’ll bring you up to speed real quick. You died. Jorick moped. Then he met Katelina. They’re an item, and the stars of the novel series-”
“An item? I don’t understand. You mean a couple? But why? If you wanted to pen a novel series why not use myself and Jorick?”
“Ah, your love story was too weak. Besides, I didn’t come up with you until book two, so I couldn’t have done a series about someone who wasn’t even in the first book, could I? Here, if you need the details read these.”
The author shoves a stack of books at the young woman, who staggers under the weight. “Are these all about Jorick and…and what did you call her?”
“Kate-lean-uh. Some people call her Cat-a-lean-uh. I don’t care how anyone wants to say it, so long as they’re reading. Ha ha!” The author turns serious. “I suppose you don’t need all of those. Just flip through the first one.” She takes seven of the books back. “You can probably skim a lot. It’s pretty straight forward.”
Velnya flips pages and suddenly gasps and snaps the book closed. “This-this scene! Did Jorick consent to your sharing his intimate moments?”
“He doesn’t get a choice. None of you do. You’re my characters. Gwahahahahaha! If I let you all do what you wanted, it would be a very boring series. Now, I have an errand to run, and the you’re on, so familiarize yourself with the basics.”
The author starts for the door, but stops when Velnya calls to her and asks, “I don’t see myself mentioned here.”
“I told you, you’re mentioned in the second book, and maybe it’s just as well you don’t read any of that. In fact…” she hurries back and snatches up the other books. “I’ll just take these with me. I’ll be back. And no visitors while I’m gone!”
With the warning, the author hurries out the door, leaving Velnya bent over a paperback novel, a frown on her delicate features.