‘Could you leave me alone?’ I was back in my living room. After I said my final goodbye to Dirk I had planned to leave alone, but Poe had followed me home.
‘But aren’t you exited? We have the same power. Isn’t that awesome?’
‘No it’s not. I really want you to leave me alone.’
‘How come?’ Poe wandered by my bookcase and examined the backs. ‘Wow! We should go to Dracula. Fight the old man!’
‘Have you even read the book?’
‘No. Do I have to? I can go in if I want to.’
‘I know. So can I. But it might be useful to know where you’re going. Especially if you’re talking about a book involving vampires or other monsters.’
‘Hmm, I guess. What about Frankenstein!’
I sighed and sat down in the kitchen.
‘I really need to be alone. I can’t deal with you right now.’
‘But come on! We can have so much fun together. Think of all the adventures we can have! What about this book? Lolita? Let’s go there! Is it any good?
‘It is. You’ve never heard of it?’
He shook his head and kept on browsing through my books.
‘Well, if you’re this boring all the time I’m just going back to Dirk. You’ll know where to find me.’
‘I won’t be able to follow you. So please go.’
‘Why couldn’t you follow me?’
‘I can’t visit a book more than once.’
‘I was punished.’
‘The Writingdesk Conundrum.’
‘Who’s the Writingdesk Conundrum?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘So how do you know who did it?’
‘He told me.’
‘But you don’t know who he is…’
‘Leave me alone!’ I closed my eyes and went to the first place that came to mind. I ended up in a very warm moment in Australia, right after a bushfire.
‘Polly? Couldn’t you have waited?’ Poe had appeared next to me, a bit out of breath.
‘How did you follow me?’
‘I don’t know. A voice in my head tells me where you’ll be. And it has never been wrong. Although it has been late almost every time.’
‘A voice in your head? Some people would call you crazy if you said that.’
‘Yeah, but you wouldn’t.’
I just nodded and walked on. Martin Dean was washing his hands in a puddle. I could barely make him out in the distance so I started walking faster.
‘What are we doing here?’ Poe asked.
‘I’m meeting Martin Dean. You are not supposed to be here.’ I knew I had insulted him when he stopped talking and just walked a few paces behind me. It should have made me feel bad or at least guilty, but I wasn’t feeling anything.
We had arrived in the book A fraction of the whole by Steve Toltz, right around the moment that Martin thinks he has lost everything. I needed some hope and meeting another suffering person was the most uplifting thing I could think of.
‘Excuse me? Are you Martin Dean?’
‘What about him?’
I knew it was him, but I felt I had to ask. He looked older than he should. But death has a way of doing that to a person.
‘I wanted to talk to you.’
‘I’m a bit busy with washing my dead brother’s ashes from my hands.’
‘I know. I don’t mind.’
He gave me a weird look and dried his hands on his trousers.
‘Who are you? And why is he following you around?’
‘I’m Polly and that’s Poe. You can ignore him.’
‘Why does he have such a sad look?’
‘I think I hurt his feelings.’
‘And you don’t care about that?’
‘Not right now.’
‘Death does that to a person.’
I smiled when Martin said that but didn’t say anything about it. Martin looked back at his hometown. We could still see some smoke and small flames.
‘Did your family die as well? Or do you just want to talk about Terry? You’re not a reporter are you?’
‘No I’m not. And I’m also not here to talk about Terry. I…’
Martin looked at me hopeful. I knew he loved it when someone was interested in him and not his famous brother.
‘You came to talk to me?’
‘Yes. I need to know how you deal with losing people. I can’t seem to…’
‘… Deal with it? What’s there to deal with? They’re gone. Not a lot you can do about that.’
‘Not now, Poe.’
‘But you’ve just lost your whole family. There’s no one left that has any connection to you and you don’t even feel bad?’
‘Polly?’ Poe tried again.
‘What!’ I turned and gave him a very angry look.
‘I didn’t know you lost someone… But I-’
‘That’s ok, Poe. You were saying?’ I turned to Martin again which made Poe angry.
‘Could you just please listen to me!’ He screamed.
‘Uhm, sure Poe…’
Martin was startled and looked at me for answers. When I couldn’t give him any, he turned to Poe.
‘So you have something to tell us?’
‘Yes, well… I lost someone as well. And that was why I was so happy to meet you,’ He turned to me now. ‘But you didn’t even seem to care.’
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know. Who did you lose?’
‘My parents. They died about a year ago. Car crash. Who did you lose?’
‘My boyfriend. He died three days ago.’
We all stayed quiet for a long time. It was an awkward moment for all of us and Martin decided to break it.
‘I think you don’t need to talk to me about dealing with dead people. But to answer your question about my feelings, I do feel something. I feel free.’
‘Why do you feel free?’ Poe asked.
‘I have nothing keeping me here. I can finally get out of this godforsaken place and start over on my own.’
‘And you like that?’ I asked.
‘I’m going to find the one person I still care about and we’ll be happy. I like that, yes.’
I smiled at him, but it wasn’t a fully happy one. I knew what life he had ahead of him and it wasn’t going to be easy. I wished my life would be easier.
‘I think I’ll leave this town now. Need to start over!’ Martin said with a smile. ‘Nice to meet you two.’ And he walked away leaving me alone with Poe.
‘So you wanted to meet him? I saw the way you smiled. He’s not going to find her is he?’
I started walking the opposite direction of Martin.
‘He’ll find her eventually, but he’ll lose her again. But this will happen a long time from now. Martin has a lot of bad things in his future. One of them is building his own maze.’ I knew it wouldn’t make any sense now, but I had decided he should read the book so I couldn’t tell him too much.
‘Why didn’t you tell me you lost your boyfriend? I wouldn’t have been so annoying if I knew.’
‘You didn’t tell me you lost your parents either. And besides, we were only dating for a week or two. It’s complicated.’
‘How did he die? Was he murdered? Is that why you were in Dirk’s story?’
‘You do ask a lot of questions…’
Poe smiled at me and as we walked on in the desolate city I told him about Cedric and the Writingdesk Conundrum. He was shocked, especially when I told him how we were supposed to meet.
‘It’s a very odd story. What are you going to do about it?’
‘I think we have to do something about it.’
‘I need a change of scenery. Martin had a point. Starting over sounds good. Do we have somewhere to go?’
‘I own a house, just outside the city’
‘There are no houses just outside the city.’
Turned out, Poe lived in the biggest house I had ever seen. It was a big and lonely mansion right outside of the city borders. I never knew who lived there, they weren’t public figures and I didn’t follow the news as well as I should. Poe had inherited the house when his parents died and as he was old enough to live on his own he had kept it. We decided to stay at his house for a while, as there was enough space for the both of us. We were going to try to crack the conundrum together.