When Libby opened the front door of her home, she found a book staring up at her.
Libby took a step back, covering her mouth. She felt oddly embarrassed. She’d spent most of the evening engulfed in a project, her hands stuffed into an oily, makeshift engine block, and her clothes were slathered in splotches of greasy black. It was not an unusual look for her, and even if it was, she wouldn’t normally give a shit what other people thought. Nevertheless, when she saw the little face on the front of the green book staring up at her, a smile forming between the scratches and splotches, she felt incredibly awkward about her appearance.
Because it records everything, she thought, eye twitching. It knows it all. So I’ll look like this forever. Kinda. Something like that. Oh, shit, does that make any sense?
Libby stepped aside, and the diary tottered into the house on its tiny rat legs, pausing only a moment to give Libby an affectionate nudge. Frost and mud encrusted the bottom of the diary, and it was clutching a leaf-covered twig in its tail. It promptly dropped the twig by the front door and walked towards the living room.
“Uh…. hi,” Libby said, kicking the twig out of the house and slowly closing the door. “Ummmm… hey… where are you…? And where did you…? HEY, FYNN, YOU IN HERE?”
Fynn didn’t reply. She suspected he was off in the valley somewhere again, either training his magic with his spider familiar or just enjoying the night air. He seemed to like the cold more than the heat. Libby wondered if it was a Non thing.
Libby followed the diary into the living room, careful to remain staunchly behind it. The book paused at the threshold of the room, looking around until it spotted Traveller on the sofa. It ran to his side, touched his hand, and then glared at Libby until she set the book on his chest.
Traveller was not doing well. In the last day his fever seemed to have expanded, engulfing his body in sweat and sending him into periodic shivering fits. Libby refused to touch the man, so Fynn would occasionally come in to change the wet towel on his head and splash water onto Traveller’s chest. Nothing seemed to cool him so well as opening a window, however, and the whole house froze at night as a result. Nevertheless, he didn’t seem to be getting any better, and Libby wondered if she might have a corpse in her home within a few days.
A corpse… and no answers. Libby watched the diary as it carefully inspected Traveller’s reddened face. And now I need even more. Maybe…
Libby settled onto the ground, snapping her fingers to get the diary’s attention. It turned to her, looking curious, and it cracked itself open to a blank page. There weren’t many left, Libby realized, and she wondered if the book would burst should they try to fit in any more pages. The nature of the little creature was yet another mystery she decided she would never fully solve, and was probably something better left unknown.
“How’d you get here?” Libby folded her hands on her lap, lacing her fingers together. “Did, uh, did… Dragomir… write our new… address, or something… into you…?”
The annoyed expression that appeared on the page said it all, and writing magically appeared in the space beneath the face. “Drags no tell me nuthin’. I come, find Drags. Always have must find Drags. Stupid Drags, don’t you agree, Libbers?”
Libby’s chest tightened. “Stupid Drags. Yeah. But Dragomir’s not here. I thought he was… with you. Looking for Eve.”
The diary paused a moment, eyebrows wriggling comically as it worked on the problem. “No. Drags here. Was there; now here. Walked together, but Drags, he be all ‘Hey, I walk faster, and too lazy to carry, so see ya’. And I follow, ‘cause Drags is no good without I, Diary. Right? Drags stupid, don’t get that.”
“He left you behind?” Libby frowned. “That… doesn’t sound like him.”
“He do the changes.” The diary undulated oddly, shaking its pages, and Libby suspected it was trying to shrug. “Poo-bur-tee. That it what called? I thinks, is yes. Must be, because I, Diary, have said. Right? Right. Or close. Anyway. Rough struggle, almost done.”
The diary snapped shut, and to Libby’s surprise it shoved its tail up Traveller’s nose. She scooted away, revolted but amused, and Traveller snorted loudly at the intrusion. Nevertheless the diary kept its tail in place, seeming to root around in his nostril and search for something. It appeared to find it, because its face lit up, and its tail went completely stiff. Libby could not have concocted a stranger scenario if she’d dreamed it up.
The diary remained that way for several long minutes, its expression vacillating from joy to irritation to almost childish outrage. Then , appearing satisfied, it removed its tail, hopped off of Traveller’s chest, and wandered out of the room. Libby wanted to know what the hell it was up to, but something else had caught her eye first, something that froze her in place.
Traveller’s face, though still slicked with sweat, had cleared. The red in his cheeks faded to his usual sun-soaked ruddiness, and his chest, previously rising and falling fitfully, had fallen into a steady, comfortable rhythm again. A large, dopey smile decorated his sleeping face, belonging as much to the idiot Libby detested as to the man she’d married. That smile whispered things to itself, holding a conversation Libby couldn’t see.
“Left… a bit… enough…” Traveller muttered, his voice dreamy and husky.
“Oh… so… if I… I won’t… be…?” Traveller said.
“You will… but… I’m… we’ll… both of us,” Traveller replied.
“Can… have… with…?” Traveller asked, his grin turning mischievous.
“Up to her… stupid… just… do it…” Traveller responded.
“Okay… but… gotta… promise…” Traveller said, with finality.
Libby got to her feet and stepped back, feeling the power of the moment, despite almost nothing outwardly happening. The man’s eyes fluttered open as she watched, and he unleashed a long, belching yawn as he slid to a sitting position. His head twitched one way, then the other, and then, to Libby’s complete shock, parts of his hair began to shift colours, changing from dirty brown at the roots to a lighter, muddy blonde. Blinking and stretching, he grinned at Libby, and one of his front teeth fell out and plopped onto his lap.
“Oh, shit,” the man said, peering at the tooth. He picked it up and admired it. “I thought I would get to keep those this time. Well, maybe the other one’ll stay in.”
“Are…” Libby swallowed, heart fluttering, stomach roiling. “Are you…?”
The man shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. Can’t tell yet. We’ll find out.”
Libby didn’t say anything else. She couldn’t. Her mind was too wrapped up in possibilities. So when the diary wandered back into the room, a dripping ink quill in its tail, she just stepped aside and let it pass. The man swept up the book, and with a cheerful grin he began to write.