‘Where are we?’
We had arrived on a black beach. The air was almost black, without a star in sight. We couldn’t see anything, except a small fire burning far ahead. The atmosphere was dark and weary.
‘Have we really been here before?’ He asked me.
‘Don’t you recognize it? It’s the beach of the Offshore Pirate.’
‘How? That beach was sunny and warm… I’m freezing right now!’
‘I think it has something to do with us. Let’s check out that fire.’
We walked a good hour over the cold, dark beach until we reached the fire. We found a man sitting there in rags on a big rock. A very familiar rock even…
‘Offshore Pirate! What happened to you?’ I ran over and sat on my knees in front of him. I looked at his face and I could barely recognize him. He looked tired and frozen. I pulled the blanket he had around him tighter, so he would be warmer. He stared at me, not knowing who I was.
‘Poe, what do we? Should we bring him home?’
‘I don’t think it will be any safer there.’
‘Polly? Is that really you?’ The Offshore Pirate tried to talk, but we only heard a whisper.
I turned to him and as soon as he recognized me I saw a splinter of his old self again. His eyes turned brighter and a small mischievous smile appeared on his face.
‘It took you long enough. I think half my body was frozen while I was waiting for you.’
‘I’m so sorry! I didn’t know you where waiting for me.’
‘And Poe, I see you found what you were looking for. You seem less scared this time around.’
Poe tried to smile at his comment but I saw that he felt sorry.
‘Now enough small talk. I wasn’t just sitting around, waiting for you two to show up. I have something to tell you.’ While he talked, he shook all over. It was obvious he was pulling all the strength he had left to get through these sentences.
‘You two were brought together by the Writingdesk Conundrum so you could create a riff between reality and fiction. Only together you were able to do this, the disruption of two real people in this fictional world was more than it could handle. But what he didn’t know is that in destroying the world, you two could also destroy him. The more you two travel together, the more he feeds on the real world. This does mean that he will become psychical, he’ll become a character of the real world and the fictional world himself.’
‘But wouldn’t that make him stronger? He can fight us for real now.’ Poe asked.
‘That is true. He has a psychical body, so he can hurt you. And the fact that he is a mixture of reality and fiction only strengthens his power. He is stronger than you are, but you can still beat him.’
‘How? And don’t tell me I’ll know when the time is ready!’
‘I won’t Polly, I am here to tell you how.’
‘Wait, what is that?’ Poe squinted his eyes together and pointed into the darkness. ‘Something is coming our way.’
I tried to see who it was, but all I could make out was a blur. Suddenly the figure moved faster than it did before and appeared only a couple of meters away from us.
‘Isn’t that… That super scary monster from The Magicians? That guy in the suit.’
‘Yes… But I don’t think that is really him.. I think that is the Writingdesk Conundrum…’ Even though the Beast in the suit was ridiculously scary, this guy had an even scarier presence around him.
‘But he looked like Hamlet before, how did he get this meatsuit?’
‘I’ll explain it to you, Poe.’ The Writingdesk conundrum had moved supersonically fast again and was now standing right in front of us.
‘As Mister Pirate just explained, the travels you two make fed me my power. I figured that with such great power as I posses right now, I should have a better outfit.’
‘That still doesn’t make any sense.’ Poe responded.
‘Well, let’s see if this makes sense.’ The face of the Writingdesk Conundrum grew to monstrous proportions, his mouth widening with sharp teeth. In one movement he ripped off the head of the Offshore Pirate and swallowed it whole.
Too shocked to move, we just stood there.
‘How’s that for sense?’ He asked with a smile after his face had shrunk back to normal.
‘I’ll kill you for that!’ Poe screamed.
‘You can’t kill me.’
‘Poe, he’s right. No one told us how to defeat him. And I sure as hell don’t instinctively know. Do you?’
‘Well then… Run!’ I pulled Poe’s arm and started running as fast as I could. I heard The Writingdesk Conundrum laughing behind us. He didn’t try to catch us, he didn’t have to.
With one movement of his finger, he stopped us in mid-sprint. Our bodies were frozen. We tried to move, tried to get out of his spell, but nothing seemed to work. The Writingdesk Conundrum slowly walked over and started examining our flesh.
‘You two seem pretty tasty to me.’
All of a sudden a cage of blinking glass appeared the Writingdesk Conundrum. His face was shocked when he found out he couldn’t move out of it. With uncontrollable anger he banged against the bars, shaking them violently. The spell must have loosened up from the shock, because Poe and I were able to move again. We ran until we found a small cave to hide in and tried to catch our breath.
‘Polly, what are we going to do?’
‘I don’t know.. did you see what he did? He’s way too strong for us!’
‘How did they defeat him in The Magicians? Do you remember?’
‘Didn’t Alice do something?’
‘Yeah, she turned into this thing… a niffin?’
‘That’s right! But she died after that… And can one of us even do that?’
‘I’ve never noticed my latent magical powers. Have you?’
‘Not that I’m aware of… Let me think. There should be a way… Wait! Maybe Oscar and Arthur can summon her.’
‘It’s worth a shot. I guess we should… focus or something?’
‘That’s how they usually do that.’
Somewhat uncomfortable we took each other’s hands and closed ours eyes. I squeezed mine together to focus even harder on getting Alice into this story. We heard glass shattering and within a second the Writingdesk Conundrum was standing behind us.
‘You do know that you look ridiculous doing that?’
‘Ignore him, she’s almost here.’ Poe said to me.
I tried to ignore the impending danger and focus on Alice, but the Writingdesk Conundrum woudn’t stand for that. Almost clawlike, his hand found my chest and ripped it open. Blood was dripping out on the dark sand. I clutched my chest and fell down from the pain.
‘Poe look out!’ Another claw found his back and Poe fell, face first in the sand.
The Writingdesk Conundrum lifted his arm for another attack, when a big ball of fire came out of nowhere and blew him over, leaving him scorched and hurt on the ground.
‘What just happened?’ I asked no one in particular.
Poe had gotten up, carefully touching his back. ‘Oscar and Arthur, they must be creating the spells from the Magicians.
He was right. Spells started firing at the Writingdesk Conundrum out of nowhere. More enormous fireballs came at him, flashes of light pierced his body and creatures made of sand and glass attacked him. As soon as The Writingdesk Conundrum had a visible enemy to attack, he proved himself to be stronger. Beastlike, he attacked everything on his path, ripping it apart with his inhumanly jaws or great claws. The other spells seemed to hurt him, but nothing really stopped him. The writers seemed out of ammo and the Writingdesk Conundrum started moving towards us again.
‘You brought back-up. Too bad they weren’t good enough.’ He was moving towards us, threatening.
‘Polly… do something…’
‘I wouldn’t know what! Arthur, Oscar, we need some help here!’ Nothing happened, no one came to rescue us.
The Writingdesk Conundrum was changing form again. He grew larger and larger, until his head touched the ceiling of the cave. His face widened into a row of sharp and scary teeth . Afraid he was going to eat us alive I crawled back, dragging Poe with me.
‘What are you going to do now?’ The Writingdesk Conundrum said in a low, beastlike voice.
‘Just kill that damn piece of fiction!’ I screamed at the sky, hoping Oscar and Arthur would do something.
Right above us, a body appeared, naked, blue and on fire. I could barely make out his features, but Poe suddenly recognized his face.
‘That’s Oscar! Oscar turned himself into a niffin.’
He was right. Oscar Wilde hung above us in the air, like an angel on fire, a spirit of raw, uncontrolled magical energy. The face of the Writingdesk Conundrum contorted in fear. He knew the odds had shifted. He hovered over him, embracing him in fire. We heard a scream coming from the Writingdesk Conundrum until nothing was left but a big ball of black heat. Oscar gave out one last cry and the blackness disappeared, leaving us with the Writingdesk Conundrum on the floor, covered in ashes.
‘He didn’t kill him…’ I said.
‘What do we do now? Do you think he’s harmed?’
‘Don’t I look harmed?’ He tried to get up, stumbled and tried again. Slowly he rose up, covered in blackness. ‘God, I feel awful.’
I noticed some blood coming out of his ear, never a good sign.
‘You’re human!’ I screamed out. ‘He’s human now! Oscar killed the fiction side of him, I think.’
‘What? How did that work?’
‘I’m human?! Why would you do that to me?’
‘We didn’t.. You wanted to destroy the world!’ I couldn’t help screaming at him.
‘So, should we kill him now?’ Poe asked me.
‘I don’t want to kill someone. Do you?’
‘No.. But we can’t leave him here.’
‘No one’s killing me!’ The Writingdesk Conundrum started running at us, fists waving. One hit down on my head and another arm found Poe’s throat. He gasped for breath, while I tried to stay upright. From the corner of my eye I saw The Writingdesk Conundrum reach for a big rock. Without thinking I kicked him in the stomach and he fell over. His head hit the ground with a loud thud and he lost consciousness. Poe stumbled over and we looked over the body on the ground, not knowing what to do. The Writingdesk Conundrum moved his hand and groaned.
‘I can’t do it.’ I said. ‘I can’t just kill him.’
‘Maybe we don’t have to. We can leave him here, where he can do no harm.’
‘You think that will work? Will the world be safe?’
‘He is human, there’s not a lot of harm he can do now.’
I thought about this, looked at his face and answered with doubt.
‘Let’s do it. Arthur can we get a little help?’ I asked.
Out of nowhere, a big and heavy door appeared in front of the cave entrance.
‘Thank you. Do you think this door will be enough?’
‘We’ll check on him once in a while.’ Poe smiled and closed the door behind us, leaving the Writingdesk Conundrum forever behind.
Back in the real world we found our army of detectives in shambles. Some of them were badly hurt. Dirk was being wrapped up in bandages by Thursday and Watson was lying on a sofa, softly moaning and clutching his shoulder. Guy welcomed us with a big smile.
‘I see you killed the Writingdesk Conundrum. The rift in the sky and the ground closed up. Our worlds can continue on separately now.’
‘I guess we did.’ I answered. ‘Where did everyone go? Where is Oscar?’
‘He is no longer here. As soon as he entered the book as that creature, he died as Oscar. But don’t worry, his books are still there.’
A weird silence ensued. Even though he wasn’t really dead in fiction and he was already dead in real life, it still felt kind of sad. We still felt like we lost him.
‘I’m afraid your work isn’t done yet though.’ Guy said, interrupting the awkward silence. ‘We still need to restore all the fictional creatures to their own books. If we do it together, it won’t take as long.’
‘But I’m so tired and we’re hurt!’ Poe pointed at the big wounds both of us had. Because of the adrenaline we didn’t feel that much, but the pain was starting to come back. ‘Do we have to do it now?’ Poe shoed Watson’s legs away from the sofa and sat down next to him. Watson gave him a fowl look while he repositioned himself painfully.
‘There are still evil things around, we can’t just sit around doing nothing. Let’s take care of those wounds and then we’ll have to get moving again.’ Guy walked towards the kitchen to get some supplies.
I rolled my eyes at Poe and he got up. Reluctantly we walked outside onto the lawn. The world before us was not as dark as before, but still not back to normal. There was blood everywhere, bodies were still lying on the floor.
‘I thought the hero never had to clean up after himself?’ Poe sulked will staring at a confused Mad Hatter.
‘That’s only like that in stories. The real world kind of sucks.’
Slowly we brought every single fictional being back to their own books. It took us hours before we finally succeeded summoning the creatures to us, instead of us having to look for them. After that it got a little easier. Transporting them was mostly practicing. Weeks went by while we tried to make everything back to normal. The world was slowly rebuilding itself alongside us. Luckily the media seemed to have forgotten about us. Humanity was only interested in getting back to normal as fast as possible. The final trips we made were to the detective novels. We brought them all back and said goodbye. Dirk was last, off course and I hugged him before Poe took him home. I looked at the mansion and how much work it would take us to fix everything. The thought of it made my head spin.
‘Polly?’ Poe was back already. He looked somewhat sad. ‘We need to talk.’
‘What happened? Is it Dirk? Is it the Writingdesk Conundrum?’
‘No, not really at least. I have decided to stay in the fictional world. I don’t really have a purpose here and I think someone should keep an eye on the Writingdesk Conundrum.’
‘You’re staying there as in for good? Never coming back?’
‘Well… I’m not saying never… But I have nothing here except you. I need to find a life, something I want to be. You can come with me?’
‘I don’t think that is such a good idea. You’ve seen what happened when we travel together. Besides, I need to find a life here, in the real world.’
We looked at each other, trying to smile and keep up appearances. It felt incredibly sad.
‘You can keep the house.’ He said. ‘I won’t be needing it anyways and it’s paid for.’
‘Ok. I think I’ll do that. Where will you go?’
‘I think I’ll look up Alice in Wonderland, she was eyeing me when we where there.’
We laughed a bit and then the room got silent again.
‘Well, I’ll miss you.’ Poe said and he put his arms around me.
‘I’ll miss you to.’ I hugged him tightly and tried not to cry.
‘Come visit me sometime. I think we can have a crazy adventure or two without the world exploding. You’ll know how to find me.’
‘How?! I can’t just think of you and know where you are.’
‘Goodbye Polly.’ Poe smiled and vanished from my world.
I sat down on the floor, with my back against a wall of books. There was no need to hold back the tears any longer, so they silently rolled over my cheeks. I took a deep breath and picked up some books. I got up and walked over to the book closet to put them back in alphabetical order. While organizing and reciting the alphabet in my head, an unknown book caught my eye. It must have been Poe’s. I opened it and read the first sentence. The other books in the room where left on the ground, they would be organized later on. I walked over to the big chair and settled. I sat down and read.