At the stroke of midnight, the book opened with an unapologetic pang. Pages furiously fluttering, it stretched its spine and spread itself across the dusty sideboard.
Then it moaned, quietly at first then louder, in a mounting crescendo until it settled on a double-page spread displaying the most treacherous spell in the book.
Muttering quietly to itself, it waited impatiently to be noticed but the house remained quiet. Another urgent fluttering of pages ensued. It sounded like a swarm of bats. Still no response. Waldo, the wizard who wanders, had wandered out of the place five days ago, and was yet to return, but his apprentice was there.
Fast asleep, the boy of no more than fourteen years old dreamed self-indulgently in the next room. The book sensed him, knew him by his shallow breathing. No wizard had ever breathed like that; fast and careless. A waster of air, yet, with a keen eye for opportunity.
Losing all patience, the book closed and opened again. This time louder and faster than before. The sideboard rocked slightly with each pang; knocking a neighboring shelf in the process. Empty glass jars and bottles rang like bells. Too quiet still to wake the apprentice. Too quiet indeed.
The book flew into an urgent frenzy; opening, closing, opening, closing. Ringing the jars and bottles continuously; moaning and fluttering, and groaning, and muttering. Until the first jar broke, then a bottle, then another couple of jars.
Then the apprentice was awake. The book noticed the quickening heartbeat; relished it. It spread open on the treacherous spell again. Laying in wait like a spider in its web, the book lay innocently flat as the apprentice approached.
Confused the boy surveyed the damage. His glance went around the room but he could not find the culprit. The book made no sound. This one is slower than the others. A quiet snigger let the apprentice’s blood run cold.
“Who’s there?” he cried in a high-pitched voice. Acutely aware of his lack of magical defenses, the boy grabbed a half-burned log out of the cold fireplace. The snigger recurred. Louder this time. “Who’s there?” shouted the boy while raising the log above his head.
“Don’t be afraid. It’s only me,” the book finally revealed itself. The apprentice stared in confusion. “Come closer,” the book squeaked. “Try a spell.”
The log dropped heavily onto the dirty floor. “The master said not to touch anything.”
“The master also said to dust…oh, what’s the harm in a little spell? I won’t tell.”
The apprentice swallowed hard. “M-maybe a dust spell?” the boy probed.
“Yes! A dust spell! Oh, you are so very clever,” cried the book.
A shy smile spread across the boy’s face. The first one since becoming Waldo’s apprentice. The book fluttered its pages again – so fast the boy couldn’t make out a single symbol on any of them.
Eventually, it landed on the same double-page spell where it had started. “That’s the one! The very best dust spell I have to offer!”
“And you won’t tell the master?”
“I won’t say a word!”
The apprentice hovered his hands over the double-page spread; palms down. Imitating his master, he slowly read the curly symbols as he had been taught to do in the year he had served the wandering wizard.
Nothing happened. There was no flashing light, no sizzling sound, no whirling wind.
“I don’t think it worked,” sulked the boy. His eyes filled with salty tears as he ran his finger through the thick dust that still covered the sideboard around the book.
“Oh, I think it worked alright,” sniggered the book as it watched the apprentice dry up and shrivel, like so many before him, until only a pile of dust remained next to the sideboard.
Apprentices really are the worst of all, mused the book as it flapped closed.
When Waldo returned three weeks later to find his apprentice gone, the book did not say a word.
A note for creators:
This flash fiction work is subject to the following license: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, to ‘Josie Cole (@josiecolewrites)’, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses your use.
See ya next time 😉
If you have enjoyed this flash fiction piece, I would love to hear about it in the comments below. If you adapt this for your own creative project, feel free to post a link to your project or website.