Episode 20 – Getting burned on 451 degrees Fahrenheit

Poe and I had decided not to visit stories for a while. What had happened in The Angel’s Game had been to disturbing for both of us. But not visiting stories meant we stayed in all day, which had its ups and downs. More people had gathered around our house, including more reporters.
‘I’m bored.’ I said.
‘Me too. Maybe we should…’ But Poe already shook his head. We were too afraid to go back. We didn’t even dare check on Sempere and the other people in his book to see if they were alright.
‘But if we can’t go to a book, what do we do?’ Poe asked. ‘Since I knew I was able to do this, I dropped everything. Normal life is hard…’ And with a sulky face he got up and walked out of the room. I stayed where I was, curled up in a chair, looking through the window at all the people outside.
‘Polly!’ I heard Poe scream.
Rushed I got up and followed him into the kitchen. For some weird reason he had turned on the radio and we were on it.

‘This mysterious young couple has been the interest of their hometown for a while now, but only recently have we discovered that it’s not just a small town frenzy. Chip Dipson, local journalist and old friend of this very news station has found the magic that keeps these two together. And I’m not talking figuratively… So stay tuned and learn all about the magic leaps of Poe and Polly!’

The radio cut to a weird jingle and all we could do was listen.
‘Do you think they know?’ I asked.
‘I think they do… That reporter that was here on the day we visited The Angel’s Game, that’s Chip Dipson?’
‘I guess. Who else could it be? What do we do know?’
‘I don’t know. We don’t even know for sure they know everything. Let’s wait and listen.’
‘But he said ‘Magic leaps’… I think they know. How did they get our names?’
‘Another mystery. It does explain why the crowd has been growing.’
A scratching noise interrupted our conversation and the lights started flickering.
‘Did you hear that?’ I asked.
Poe nodded and started moving towards the sound.
‘What are you doing! If you here a strange noise and lights flicker, you don’t go looking for it, you stay away from it. Don’t you watch horror movies?’
‘But we don’t deal with movies, Polly. We do books.’ And without another word, Poe was off exploring. Being afraid to stay behind I ran after him. I turned the corner just after Poe and found myself entering a weird vortex of light. I was slammed inside the walls of the vortex, catching glimpses of Poe as I spun round, until we finally dropped on some old railroad tracks next to a river. We could see the distant city, it had died a while ago. All barren and empty. It made me feel ill-at-ease.

Startled Poe and I turned around, only to face a man who smelled like fire and looked burnt. Having read the book not too long ago, I recognised him.
‘You’re Guy Montag.’
He gave a little nod and looked a bit sad.
‘I’m sorry I had to get you two like this, but there was no other way.’
‘You made that vortex?’ Poe asked? ‘How did you do that? Can we do that? Wait, Polly? Who is this guy? What book is this?’
‘You are in Fahrenheit 451. I brought you here, so you could save the books.’
‘Books need saving?’ Poe still looked confused and asked me for help.
‘Fahrenheit 451 is a book about bookburning. It tells about a time where fireman are not stopping fires, but making them. They burn books because these create conflict between people. It is supposed to be some kind of utopia. But of course it isn’t.’
‘As you can see, the city got destroyed. It was bombed because of ignorance. I was just in time to see what truly matters and got out. There were some others like me, people with saved the books in their head, but they have all moved on now. A new world, one that has learned from the dead one has risen. But a new danger is lurking as you may have noticed.’
‘The Writingdesk Conundrum.’ I answered.
‘Polly? What the hell is going on? How do you know all this? Did we have to study something?’
‘I’m sorry, Poe. I will explain.’ Montag said. ‘Follow me.’ And he started walking down the railroad tracks towards a small deserted farm. Once inside he gave us two old chairs to sit on and a cup of tea.
‘Will someone please explain what is going on here?’ Poe said a bit abrupt.
‘As I said, I brought you here to save the books. You have found out about the rupture in books. Sempere tried to warn you, but he was too late. He told you your presence in books disrupts it. But he didn’t tell you why. Polly, you have met the Writingdesk Conundrum, do you remember what he told you?’
‘He said he had some kind of plan. He said I was ready now.’
‘He was right. The moment you met Poe his plan started unfolding. You two have special powers, but they aren’t dangerous. But as soon as they come together, they disrupt the book, it becomes too much, and the pages will just rip from the book.’
‘So that’s why he brought us together? So he could ruin all the books?’
‘Bastard!’ I heard Poe swear.
‘No. He doesn’t hate books. The Writingdesk Conundrum was created from a lack of interest in books even. No one knows exactly how it happened, but as soon as books became less and less appealing to the modern man, a strange force came into existence. I found out it wants to force literature upon the world by making it bleed into reality?’
‘What would that mean?’ I asked, but Poe already answered.
‘He wants to mix reality with fiction? How would he ever do that? And why?’
‘So people can’t escape it anymore. It doesn’t matter if they like it or not.’
‘But that defeats the whole purpose of reading. If you can’t escape reality because it is already fiction, then what is left?’
‘Is it really a bad thing? I asked carefully. ‘Books are underrated. People lose interest in them more and more. At least like this, they won’t be forgotten.’
‘You don’t understand, Polly.’ Montag answered. ‘It’s not just fun stories, it will be all stories. And just like it’s dangerous for you to be in a horror story, it will be dangerous for a horror story to be in real life. The human mind has made up some scary and dangerous things; imagine all these things coming alive. Chaos will reign.’
‘I guess that doesn’t sound good.’ I added softly.
‘You are here to be warned. The end is near. A rip between both worlds is forming.’
‘And we caused it.’ Poe said.
‘Don’t worry about that. It was unstoppable. Curiosity is in your nature. That is why he picked you. He knew you couldn’t withstand the adventure. It’s not important who is to blame, the only thing that matters now is that we stop him.’
‘How do we do that?’ We both asked.
But before Montag could answer us, a low rumble came up again.
‘Is this what happens when you create a vortex?’ Poe asked carefully?
‘No it isn’t.’ Montag answered. He ran outside, facing the dead city.
‘I thought you said the bombings were over?’ I asked.
‘Those aren’t bombs. The story is falling apart. By bringing you here we have created the rip. We need to leave now.’ And without any more to do he created a vortex out of nowhere and took both our arms and pulled us through.
‘We need to find a safe place in the real world. He will find us in fiction.’ Montag screamed at us while we rushed through the vortex.
Poe and I knew only one safe place in real life, the only place we ever spend any time. So the vortex opened back up in the library, before an audience of hundreds of people and cameras, but at least we were safe from fiction.


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