We worked on my mystery until the sun came up. We hadn’t worked everything out yet, but we were getting there.
‘Work with me Polly! How do we get this done?’
‘I really don’t know!’ How does anyone get something like that done? And besides we’re not even sure it works like that.’
‘It has to be. Every time you mess up a story, it rewrites itself. And remember how you got out of Sleeping Beauty. I’m not saying you can’t be harmed, I think you can be. But they don’t want you to be hurt.’
‘You think it’s a ‘they’. I always figured it was one person or one thing. But it could be multiple persons or things…’
‘Stay focused. We’re almost there. Let’s put everything together once more.’
‘Really, Dirk? Again? We’ve done this every hour now.’
He gave me an annoyed look and walked to the big piece of paper we had put on the wall. The timeline with all the books I had visited was on there and every other clue we could think off.
‘So here we have your first ‘meeting’ with the thing. Do you remember anything else? Just anything?’
‘No, I really don’t. I have told you everything I know. I was pulled out of the forest, back into my bedroom and no one talked to me or told me anything.’
‘Do your parents know anything?’
‘No. I also think they have nothing to do with this. I’ve never noticed anything. And as you might know, I’m very curious. I have looked everywhere for clues. There is nothing indicating they have the same ability or even know anything.’
‘Hmm, seems like a dead end. Let me think.’ Dirk started pacing the room again and returned to me and the piece of paper. ‘It doesn’t want you to get hurt. But I don’t think it cares about you either. Killing Cedric didn’t seem like a problem. Although you might say there was some hesitation. It took a while before he died. But still, you liked him a lot. If you care about someone you wouldn’t do such a thing. Unless… Cedric was dangerous or had to be out of the way for something more important. Maybe this was a way to hurt you less, because you would get hurt more if he stayed alive. So that would mean they did care… But there’s no proof for any of this…’ Dirk started mumbling after this line so I stopped paying attention. I looked at the paper myself and thought about all the things I had seen. My ability seemed like a gift. But the ‘governing thing’ over it, was that the same thing that had given me the ability or was that something else? I could have been born like this, but it probably wasn’t something genetic. I kept on thinking why I had this ability. What am I supposed to do with it?
‘Why did you come to me?’ Dirk suddenly asked. ‘I know I’m pretty good, but you could’ve gone for Sherlock Holmes or any other book detective. There probably are some alien detectives with super powers. Wouldn’t those have been helpful here?’
‘I dreamt about you. All I remember is meeting you and saying goodbye, the middle part disappeared. But I know we found some answers.’
‘Do you think you were led here by the thing?’
‘Could be. But why?’
‘I don’t know…’
I started thinking about my dream, trying to remember something else.
‘Dirk… I’m not quite sure if this is important, but I do remember Cedric not being there when I said goodbye…’
He looked at me and I could just see his brain working on all of this.
‘It might mean something. Write it down. Do you think the ‘governing thing’ is something out of books or something from your world?’
‘My world? Like a government conspiracy? You think I’m a mutant?’
‘Not a mutant. An experiment maybe.’
‘That sounds too Sci-fi for me.’
‘We have to keep our possibilities open. It could be all kinds of supernatural things. The government experimenting on people without their knowledge is not as strange as you might think. And as you know, aliens do exist, so that’s also a plausible way to go. It might even be aliens working together with the government.’
‘Is he talking like a crazy person again?’ Miss Pearce had arrived for a new day of work. She stood in the doorway looking at us with pity.
‘Why don’t you two take some rest? Sleep on it. Tiring yourself won’t do you any good.’ While she said all of this she kept looking at me. I knew she felt sorry for me, but I ignored all of her looks. Feeling sorry wasn’t going to help me.
‘Miss Pearce! You’ve done it again! Polly, you need to get some sleep. Let me get you hypnotized. We might be able to get you to tell us everything about your dream. Dreaming has led you here. There might be more clues that you’ve forgotten. It worked with Richard, why did I not think of this earlier?’
‘Because you’re insane. Leave the poor girl alone. She’s been through enough.’
This made me angry. I wasn’t just a poor girl. There was a mystery to be solved and nothing would stop me.
‘Let’s do this, Dirk!’
‘How are you feeling?’ My vision was still blurry but I recognized Dirk hanging over me.
‘I feel floaty. Did you get anything?’
‘I did. It was very helpful and I think I know how to get there.’
‘You will see soon enough. Don’t get up. You need to wake up a bit. Hypnoses are fairly heavy on your body and spirit. If you don’t rest your mind will collapse. And that’s not a pretty sight.’
Still feeling woozy I got up.
‘I think I’ll be fine. Tell me what you found.’
‘Well, do you remember that we talked about how you’re important?’
‘Before or during the hypnoses?’
‘I’m talking about before, but we’ve also talked about it during.’
‘You said the thing either cared about me or at least didn’t want me to get hurt.’
‘Exactly. Have a cookie. And I have dubbed our ‘thing’ the Writingdesk Conundrum. It has a nice ring to it and it is quite appropriate if I may say so myself.’ Dirk had handed me a box of cookies and I took one out. It had a very peculiar taste, but it wasn’t bad.
‘So did I say something about that while I was under?’
‘You did. You were telling me about your dream in great detail. The mind has a funny way of remembering everything; we just don’t allow it into our thoughts all the time. But it’s all there. You’ve told me about how you think you’re important for some reason. Your dream showed you, you had a goal. You have a destiny and I need to do my part in it. I’m very sorry Polly, but you asked this of me.’
I started feeling more woozy than I already did.
‘Dirk, you bastard! You poisoned me! What the hell?’
I got up and tried to walk away, but all I could do was stumble and fall.
‘Be careful, Polly. And I didn’t poison you. I only tranquilized you. It will wear off.’
‘And why are you holding a knife?’ All I could see was a blurry picture of Dirk holding something sharp, walking towards me. I tried to get up, but my limbs were too sloppy.
‘Calm down.’ Dirk grabbed me and picked me up. He forced me on my feet and held a knife to my throat. ‘It won’t be long now…’
I felt wind rushing through my hair and Dirk’s grip getting tighter. I couldn’t make out what was going on around me.
‘I didn’t think it would actually work…’ Dirk let go of me and put me slowly on the ground. I felt warm sand under me and a blazing sun in the sky.
‘Where are we?’
‘Take this. It will make you feel better.’ Dirk handed me another cookie, but I was sceptic.
‘I’m not eating any of your baked goods anymore.’
‘Just trust me. You can hold the knife if you want.’ He handed me the knife and the cookie and took a look around. ‘Where are we? Does any of this look familiar to you?’
I had taken a bite of his cookie and felt better right away. I could stand on my own again and also took a look around.
‘It feels very familiar, but I wouldn’t know where we are. And why did you poison me!’
‘I needed to get you in danger. And if I didn’t tranquilize you, you might have won the fight. That was too big a risk. But let’s get back to why. You can get hurt in books and the Writingdesk conundrum obviously doesn’t want that. You told me you had dreamt about these events and that it had worked. It has taken us out of London and into this place. We’re supposed to meet the Writingdesk conundrum very soon.’
‘In the desert?’
‘I didn’t know anything about the desert. Neither did you. All you told me was that I needed to try to kill you and things would work out.’
‘And you just believed that?’
‘Some things you just believe.’
I gave him a look and walked towards a random side. Everything around me was sand; it didn’t seem to matter where I went. Dirk followed me without a word. After what felt like an hour we arrived at some palm trees and some rocks.
‘So, did I also tell you when we would find the thing?’
‘The Writingdesk Conundrum. And no, I wish you had. I’m pretty tired of all this sand.’
I sat down on one of the rocks and kicked some sand.
‘What the hell are we doing here? Why did it take us here? What does it even want? I’m so sick of this! Why are there all these questions and no answers? I’ve had it with this place, Dirk. We’re going back and I’m going home. I’ve had enough of books.’
‘Polly, I don’t think…’
‘No. I really have had enough. No more books, no more questions. I’ll stay away and be like any normal person out there.’
‘I’ll live an ordinary live without all the excitement from books and their stories. Normal is good enough for me.’
‘Polly! Look at the sky!’
I looked up and noticed the sky getting darker every second. A big chunk of clouds came our way fast and it was forming a whirlwind in the sky.
‘I think we should get out of here…’ Dirk said.
‘I think you’re right. But we have nowhere to go.’ The dark clouds were all around us. They were getting darker and scarier. We were surrounded and running had no use. All we could do was stand there, waiting to be devoured by the clouds.
‘I’m so sorry, Dirk. I didn’t want to get you killed. You still need to appear in your second book.’
‘Do I have two books? How interesting! But Polly, I’m not even sure if I can die here… All the stories rewrite themselves.’
‘Well… that means I’m the only one in danger. Nice.’
I looked at the sky and focused on this one part that was even blacker than the rest. It looked like a black hole if they really had been black. I noticed the black part getting bigger and swallowing all the grey areas around it until it became one huge black ball in the sky. A huge black ball that could talk, that is.
I looked at Dirk very surprised and he returned the look. I didn’t know what to do and when it called out for a second time Dirk said to me:
‘Talk to it! It might be the Writingdesk conundrum.’
‘Hello? Are you the thing? The Writingdesk conundrum?’
‘Names are not important. But I am the one that brought you here.’
‘So you’re doing all of this? I can visit books because of you?’
‘You always ask too many questions. That’s why I brought you here. That’s why Cedric died with you.’
‘You killed him! Why did you kill him?’
‘I did not do such a thing. The normal order was restored, as it should be.’
‘Go to hell with your normal order. I want him back.’
‘You are in no position to want anything. I make the rules now.’
‘I still got here. You need me. So do as I tell you. Bring him back.’
‘You’re such a naïve little girl. You’re not as important as you think. You’re here because I wanted you to be here. You and your friend have no idea what is going on. Your last couple of months have been exactly how I wanted them. Everything you did was because I wanted you to do it. Do you still feel so important, little Polly?’
‘How? Why? What the hell am I doing here now?’
‘Waiting for what?’
‘You’ll find out soon enough. Right now you have time for one question. And remember that this will not happen again. You are just here because I needed you to wait.
I wanted to get angry and scream at the thing, but Dirk grabbed my shoulder.
‘Think Polly, this is your one chance to get some answers.’
‘The clock’s ticking Polly.’
‘Why did you make me go through all this? Why did you make me meet all those people? Why did Cedric die, why did you get me here? What’s the point of all this if I’m not important? Is it just for your own amusement?’
‘I said one question Polly. But I’ll let it slide. I do enjoy being the puppeteer, but that’s not the main reason you are here. You are here now, after everything you’ve been through, although I don’t think you suffered that much, because you weren’t ready before. You had to learn. You had to live first.’
‘Ready for what?’
‘No more questions, Polly. It is time. You have work to do. Goodbye’
Before we knew what happened to us, we were back in Dirks office. I let out a deep sigh and fell into a chair.
‘Wasn’t that exciting! The Writingdesk Conundrum spoke to us. What do you think it meant when it said you weren’t ready? Let’s go to the board!’ Dirk was already halfway when I stopped him.
‘I think I know enough for now. I have had enough answers for a while. We should quit.’
‘But we’re so close.’
Eventually Dirk gave in. Our mystery was unsolved, for now.
It had happened as in my dream. Dirk and I were saying goodbye in his office.
‘Dirk, I promise I’ll be back in your second book as soon as I open up my case again. There’s no one who can solve mysteries as good as you can.’
‘I’m very glad to hear that. I’ll promise I keep working on your case. Too bad I don’t know how to reach you.’
‘We’ll make it work. Thank you. For everything.’ I gave him a hug and put on my hat.
‘Goodbye Polly. We shall meet again.’
‘There you are!’
Both of us turned around and looked at a boy my age standing in the doorway.
‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere, but now I’ve finally found you!’ He just looked at us with a big smile.
‘Do you know this boy?’ Dirk asked me.
‘I’ve never seen him before in my life.’
‘Whoa! You’re Dirk, the holistic detective. Do you know the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything?’
‘I would have to start an investigation, but I think I’ll manage to find you that answer.’
‘It’s 42.’ I responded. ‘And it’s the wrong book. Who are you?’
‘My name is Poe. I’m from the real world.’