The Book

Artwork by Lovely Locks

“Let me fix you, Stephan. You will be the first story in the book.”

Binqq from Klontarf snapped on the arachnotube to report her latest findings. “I am approaching the unnamed star. Unfortunately the larger planets in this system are uninhabited and unsuitable for conquest. The only sign of life here is a very primitive organism on the third planet. My scans indicate they are barely worth the notice of our beloved Imperial Pomegranate (may her name be honored eternally). I recommend this region be officially classified as BKC … Beneath Klontarfian Contempt. Binqq out.”

The arachnotube crackled as Binqq’s communique was shuttled an inconceivable number of light-years to Central Command on the Klontarfian homeworld. It was several nanoseconds before Binqq got her reply — however, due to the complexity of their brains, this was enough time for a Klontarfian to write sixteen sonnets, bake a souffle and genetically engineer a new race of microorganisms that instinctively sing symphonies made famous by the great Klontarfian mezzo-impressario, Berkk Bakkarakk.

So Binqq had plenty of time to ponder what the klonk was taking so long, and if she was going to be stuck dealing with dumb old Krikkenhazzer again.

“Your request is denied, Binqq,” Krikkenhazzer’s nasal monotone blatted out of the arachnotube, parting Binqq’s hair with the force of Krikkenhazzer’s annoying aura. “Proceed to third planet immediately and commence conquest with extreme prejudice.”

“Extreme prejudice? Madame Krikkenhazzer, this klonking planet is mostly water, and its inhabitants have only two eyes in their heads!”

“How many heads?”

“Only one!”

“Binqq, your orders are to commence conquest,” droned Krikkenhazzer as Binqq struggled to keep her hair straight. “And if you say klonking to me one more time I’ll come down there and wash out your arachnotube with limefire, is that clear?”

“Crystalline, Madame,” sighed Binqq.

“You will test a new invention by my Aunt, the Duchess of Blarffingwaffle. It is called a book.”

“A book?” The name sounded utterly alien to poor Binqq.

“Yes, a book. You point it at someone and then use your imagination. It is awesome in its power. Well, actually we have no idea how it works but you’ll find it attached inside your ship’s escape pod. Your orders are to take that book and experiment on the one-headed denizens of that backward water-planet. Then report back with your results. How did it go?”

“I haven’t arrived there yet, Madame Krikkenhazzer.”

“How about now? Are you there yet?” Krikkenhazzer was demonstrating one of the drawbacks of multithreaded instantaneous intelligence — she, like all Klontarfians, was astonishingly impatient.

“I will report back with my results, as soon as I have any!” bleated Binqq, snapping off the arachnotube before Krikkenhazzer blew her hair off.

Binqq sat and sighed and arranged her heads carefully. Then she synthesized a new substitute for poured concrete and invented twenty forms of government, six religions and a computer virus that could turn every machine in the galaxy into Laughing Cow cheese. This took approximately one-tenth of a second, but she needed to unwind.

Then she stood up on her organic wheels and spun into her ship’s escape pod. She wanted to examine this klonking book contraption as soon as possible.

It was a rectangular object that opened at her touch. Thin sheets of some dried substance was sandwiched between the covers. The thing didn’t seem to be a weapon of any kind. Would these benighted oneheads even know what to do with it?

The last time the Duchess of Blarffingwaffle invented a secret weapon, half the population of Gondulsteen ended up with flippers growing out their unmentionable orifices. Binqq carefully placed the book into the ship’s launch chute and pressed the eject key. From her vantage point miles above the planet, she switched on the telephotocon and watched as the book descended into the atmosphere.

The best way to handle this hot klontato, Binqq decided, was to let the oneheads deal with it …

***

Eva saw something drop in the woods. She had nothing better to do, so she walked over to see what it was. It was either that or stay in her backyard, and Eva had seven brothers. Seven!

Orville was the eldest, then came Tony and Teddy, Forrest and Frank, and Seth and Stephan. Eva was the youngest.

It had been a long boring stupid summer for Eva. All her brothers wanted to do was play baseball and each of them was more awful at it than the next. Mom lost count of how many windows had been shattered that June, and somehow her brothers always blamed it on Eva.

It was enough to make a girl walk out into the woods, even if she hadn’t seen a tail of fire whooshing down near Pismo Lake.

But when Eva got there, all she could see was a book sitting by the shore. It wasn’t even hot when she picked it up. What kind of book was this? Who left it here?

When she opened it, it was blank.

Then a light shined out of the book and into Eva’s eyes.

***

It was as if the woods had vanished. Eva was inside something — not like inside a tent, but inside some kind of a thing that wasn’t a mind … but was built to work just like one.

“What do you want?” she asked the book.

Hummm, the book replied. What do you want?

“Well, I expected a nice story … maybe a whole bunch of stories. Stories for a girl like me. Even a goofy old boy’s story would have been okay, but you’re blank. You have nothing inside.”

I am blank, the book agreed. But one day someone will fill me up. All I need is a story teller. And …

“And what? What else do you need?”

That depends on my story teller. Will you be my story teller?

“I don’t know. What would I have to do? I liked the stories in my big old book, but Teddy threw it and broke the binding and all the pages fell out.”

You can tell me the stories from your big old book. You will be Story Teller Eva.

“You can put all those stories on your blank pages? Stories for a girl like me? That would totally rock!”

I do believe I can. But Story Teller Eva, you will have to feed me.

“Um … what?” Eva looked around and felt little goosebumps spring out.

I don’t know what ‘stories for a girl like me’ are. You will have to feed me.

“Feed you stories?”

Feed me girls. What are girls? I think they are organisms similar to you. I could try to use you, but you are my Story Teller. I need other girls too.

“Listen, I’m the only girl in this family … all I have is brothers and more brothers, and they’re only boys. And even if I was lucky enough to have other girls around, I wouldn’t let you eat them just for some stories.”

Hummm, the book carefully digested this information. I think I am explaining it wrong. I don’t actually eat anyone. It’s more like … like I take their picture.

“Well, you can’t take pictures of any girls if there are nothing but boys around!”

A leaf blew past them. The book trapped it in its beam of light.

What is this? This is not a girl. Is it an enemy?

“No, it’s a leaf. I don’t have any enemies.”

You must be a mighty warrior, to have destroyed all your enemies. I could have helped with that. I am equipped with many weapons.

Eva stared up at the leaf, still trapped in midair. “Don’t be creepy. I don’t want you to hurt anyone. Besides, you know what Abraham Lincoln said.”

What is an Abraham Lincoln? Feed me.

“The best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend.”

That is odd. Boys are not your enemies?  

“Gosh, well, sometimes they are, but not really really my enemies, you know?”

Story Teller Eva, please explain. After the brother boy Teddy threw your old story book and it broke and the pages fell out, and you wanted to read the stories for girls like you, and you couldn’t, after all that, why wasn’t he your enemy and why didn’t you destroy him?

“Well … because it’s just not polite to go around destroying other people.”

The book flipped the leaf over thoughfully. Where I come from, everyone destroys everyone. Even the coffeepots have fifteen different kinds of death rays.

Then the book analyed the leaf’s cellular structure and tried some mutations. It gave the leaf a pretty little face and a little body similar to Eva’s. The little green creature looked itself over, laughed in delight and flew off to admire itself in the lake’s shiny surface.

Was that polite? the book asked.

“Whoa,” was all Eva could say.

I will not require girls for your story book. Story Teller Eva?

“What?”

Story Teller Eva, feed me your brothers.

***

“Where did she go?” asked Teddy, swatting a branch out of his way.

“Who cares? I wanna play baseball!” Stephan whined.

“No one cares what you want,” Orville answered smugly.

“This is stupid,” moaned Stephan. “Why are we following Eva?”

Orville grabbed him by the shoulders. His eyes narrowed. “We’re not following her. We’re hunting.”

***

Eva came around the bend to see Orville sitting on the big tree stump.

“Sit on my lap,” Orville said with a crooked grin.

“Not again!” she tossed her head angrily. From behind a bush she thought she heard someone laugh.

“Aww Eva, come on,” coaxed Orville in his creepy squeaky voice. “I promise I won’t tickle you this time.”

“You said that last time,” pouted Eva. “You are a stinkin’ liar, Orville.”

“What’s that you got?” Orville pointed at the book.

“Nothing,” she turned to go, and Orville grabbed her.

Her brothers emerged from behind the overgrowth, chuckling, as Orville pulled Eva onto his lap and began tickling. She howled and kicked but she couldn’t escape his big bony arms no matter how she squirmed.

“Stop!” she cried. “It’s not funny!” But they all kept laughing.

She tried to hit Orville with the book but it bounced out of her hands and fell on the ground. She couldn’t escape his tickling fingers, and eventually succumbed to fits of giggles.

“We all get to tickle Eva!” Stephan cackled with glee, dancing around the tree stump like a manic gnome. “We ALL do!”

“Shut up, doofus!” laughed Frank, booting him in the butt.

By then Eva was laughing and crying at the same time. Orville pushed her off his lap and into the bushes. He intended to reach over and pick up the book, but Stephan bumped into him, so he grabbed his little brother, pulled his shirt off and ran away with it. The other boys took off after Orville, laughing and hooting and totally forgetting Eva.

***

Stephan tried to follow after his brothers but he got turned around in the woods and began trailing off in a different direction. After what seemed like a long time, he realized he had been traveling in a huge circle … or had he? That tree stump sure looked familiar, but maybe it was a different one … he shivered without his shirt.

A tattered trash bag hung in a tree. Stephan pulled it down from the branches and wrapped it around himself for a tiny bit of warmth. It used to be white but it had some kind of stuff growing on it that made it a mottled pinkish-red.

As he crossed past the bushes, he saw his little sister in front of him.

She had that stupid book of hers open. A light seemed to be shining up from out of the book into her face.

“Why are you shivering, dear brother?” Eva asked in an unearthly voice. “Are you scared of the big bad wolf?”

Stephan’s jaw dropped. “I ain’t scared. Only stupid little girlies are scared!” he stuck out his tongue.

“Let me fix you, Stephan. You will be the first story in the book.” Eva turned the book toward her brother and a blinding light shined on him.

When the light faded, Stephan was gone. A frightened girl in a red cloak stood in his place. She looked around in amazement and clutched her basket of goodies close.

“Pardon me, Miss,” the girl said politely to Eva. “I’m on my way to my grandmother’s house and I seem to be lost.” She lifted the hem of her red dress and curtseyed daintily. “My name is Red Riding Hood. Who are you?”

“Hi, I’m Eva. I’m your new sister.” Eva smiled and Red Riding Hood hugged her new playmate.

***

Teddy and Frank were a short distance away, headed toward the house.

“When she gets back tonight, we should all pelt her with mudballs,” laughed Teddy. “Wham! Smack! Kapow!” he guffawed and gestured as if throwing armloads of goopy mud at his little sister.

“You have no style,” Frank chided. “You should wait until Sunday, when she’s all dolled up in her white dress!”

They both whooped with laughter.

“Hey let’s find a beetle to put in her bed,” Frank snickered. He clapped his hands and ducked off to lift a big rock.

A few little centipedes scurried away. Suddenly he saw a huge snake slither out of the grass! Frank almost dropped the rock on himself in surprise. He rolled over onto his back, and looked up to see Eva standing over him.

“Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,” Eva said with a smile.

Frank scratched his head. “Who are you calling Little Miss Muffet?” he growled.

“You!” she laughed. “You are the next story!”

There was a brilliant flash of light, and a little girl in an old fashioned costume was suddenly sitting there, eating a bowl of cereal.

“Hello, Eva,” said the girl, smiling up at her. “Would you like to share some curds with me?”

Eva giggled, marveling at the girl’s cute blonde curls framed by her snow white bonnet. Before she could say another word, a little crawly thing skittered up into her lap. Miss Muffet leapt to her feet and shrieked at the top of her lungs. Her cereal bowl plopped down on the ground and she ran off howling.

Eva turned around laughing mischievously, and almost got hit with one of Teddy’s mudballs!

“Nearly got you!” Teddy laughed.

“Tsk tsk! A pretty girl like you shouldn’t be digging around in the dirt,” Eva scolded. “…Unless of course, she has a garden.”

“Have you flipped?” Teddy asked in surprise. Then the light from the book shined on him, and he turned into a lovely little girl in a big victorian dress and a flowered sun hat.

“Mary Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” Eva asked her newest sister.

The girl curtseyed and replied. “With silver bells and cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row.”

Eva smiled and watched as Mary Mary sprinkled water on her flowers from a pink watering can.

***

A bunny scampered across the path in front of Eva. A moment later, Tony ran along in hot pursuit. He had his slingshot out and was ready to let loose when Eva knocked the weapon out of his hand.

“What’s the matter with you? I almost had it!” Tony yelped in frustration.

“This is more important. I want you to be in my story book,” explained Eva. She turned the book around and a beam of light washed over him. A moment later, a blonde girl in a pale blue dress stood before her.

“Where’s your apron?” asked Eva. “Alice always wears a white apron!” She jostled the book and suddenly a frilly white apron danced over and wrapped itself around Alice.

“Pardon me, Miss, have you seen a white rabbit pass by?” Alice asked her sister in a charming English accent.

A moment later, a blonde girl in a pale blue dress stood before her.

***

A while later, Eva came upon Seth, slouched in the shade of an apple tree.

“It’s your turn to do the dishes,” Seth said to her without looking up.

“I did them yesterday!” Eva objected.

“Yeah well, I ain’t doing them so it’s your turn again.” He smiled smugly.

“It’s not fair to make me do the chores all the time! How would you feel if your sisters made you do the chores all the time?”

“Yeah well, I only have one sister and she’s too little to make me do nothing,” sneered Seth.

“You have more sisters than you think, Seth.”

He looked up at her. “What the devil is that supposed to mean?”

But before he had finished the sentence, Seth turned into Cinderella.

Eva laughed as he quivered in his sooty rags. “Did you do all the dishes?” she asked.

“Yes, Miss Eva, and I swept the floors and washed all the windows. Please let me go to the ball! Pleeeease?”

Try as she might, Eva really couldn’t bring herself to be mean to her sister. She opened the book again and let the light engulf Cinderella. They both gasped to see her in a glittery blue ballgown and twinkling glass slippers.

“I saw that!” hollered Forrest, running up to the girls. “You pointed that light at Seth and turned him into … into a freaking fairy princess!”

“I’m not a fairy princess, sir,” objected Cinderella. “Merely a simple country girl.”

“Turn him back!” Forrest commanded Eva.

“Oh that wouldn’t be fair,” smiled Eva. “She so wants to go to the ball.”

“Truly I do!” pleaded Cinderella.

“I don’t care!” shouted Forrest. He whirled on Eva, “How could you do this to your brother?”

“The same way I did to Stephan, and to Teddy and Frank and to Tony too!”

Forrest turned pale. “They’re all girls out of storybooks?”

“Not really. Teddy and Frank are nursery rhyme girls, and Stephan is a folktale.”

Forrest turned desperately to the girl in the ball gown. “Seth, buddy, don’t you even remember being a boy? Don’t you want to go back to doing all the fun stuff we do?”

Cinderella blushed, “Wellll, yes I do remember all those wild, savage things I did. But I’m a girl now, Forrest. I dearly do want to go to the ball!”

“And I want sisters! I’ve had brothers for nine years now!” pouted Eva. “Enough with the brothers already!”

Forrest shook his head in amazement. He tried to stammer out a reply, but no words would come.

“Give me that book!” he finally shouted. “I’m the biggest and I get to decide!”

“Nooo!” Eva tried to hold the book in her hands, but Forrest was the tallest and strongest of all her brothers and she felt him prying the book out of her grasp.

“It isn’t fair!” sobbed Eva. “You’re always the biggest! That means you always get to decide everything, even if you’re not the smartest or the oldest or even the most grown up!”

Forrest didn’t even bother to answer. He just wrenched the book out of Eva’s hands.

“Now how does this thing work?” he asked, flipping it open. He was shocked to see an illustration of Little Red Riding Hood that looked distressingly similar to Stephan.

“I’ll show you,” Eva pushed the book more closely to her brother’s face. “Look into the light.”

Forrest squinted as the light dazzled him. “Stop singing — I’m trying to figure this out.”

His sisters didn’t answer. They had joined hands and were dancing and singing together. Finally he was able to make out their words.

“Thumbelina Thumbelina, tiny little thing … Thumbelina dance, Thumbelina sing …”

Then the book became very heavy and very large. The earth suddenly lurched up as Forrest shrank down down down to the size of the smallest girl of all, the tiny Thumbelina.

Story Teller Eva? asked the book in the grass. I need to explain to you … I was hardwired to never reveal that you are being monitored. I still should have told you. It was not … polite of me.

“Did you say something?” Eva said as she picked up the book.

Hummm. It had taken the book a great deal of time and effort to override the many failsafes and traps designed to prevent it from saying what it just said. Now it would have to run the entire obstacle course again.

Hummm. Just know I’m sorry, Story Teller Eva. I’m sorry about what will happen now.

***

The earth suddenly lurched up as Binqq from Klontarf stepped out of the electro-transporto beam and strapped on her deathmitts. She had seen the onehead playing with the book, and clearly, the book wasn’t doing much of anything. The people only had one head before the lightbeam touched them, and afterward, they still only had one head. The Duchess of Blarffingwaffle’s invention was a failure.

Binqq still had to retrieve it, of course. And as long as she was here, she may as well lay waste to the planet and claim its remains as property of the klonking beloved Imperial Pomegranate.

Binqq sighed. She knew they wouldn’t cooperate. These backward primitives never do. The rivers would run white with their dust, or whatever colored dust they had in their body cavities.

***

“Where the devil are all of you?” Orville shouted from the yard. For the first time since he could remember, none of his brothers were around. He was so used to them flocking around him. Sure, Forrest was now the tallest, but even he looked up to Orville as their natural born leader.

Orville was used to this treatment. To him it simply was the way things ought to be, and when one of the others didn’t follow, he took it as a personal insult. Eva was always wandering off on her own, the dippy kid. No matter what he tried on her, she didn’t seem to get the message. Orville just didn’t know what to do with the daffy girl. Should he shun her entirely, the way she apparently shunned him? What if the others began to follow her example and went off in their own directions?

The thought bothered him. A lot.

What good is a leader if nobody follows him? He’s nothing.

Orville picked up the baseball bat, then angrily threw it down.

Deep in the woods, he thought he heard a girl laughing. Then, “Ba-a-a-a-a-ah!”

“Eva?” Orville hollered. “You better get back here, there are dishes to do!”

From another part of the woods, a girlish giggle was heard.

Then, “Ba-a-a-a-a-ah!”

From all over the woods, Orville could hear girls calling, “Ba-a-a-a-a-ah!”

Then he turned and saw Eva standing next to him.

“Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep,” she pouted. Then she opened her book.

A servorobot swooped down on them and snatched the book out of Eva’s hands. Eva and Orville watched in astonishment as the servorobot flew around in an arc, returning to a short green multiheaded creature that rolled into their yard. Binqq plucked the book out of the servorobot’s mandibles.

“Hey give me that back! That’s my storybook!” Eva cried at the creature.

In reply, Binqq pointed one of her deathmitts and disintegrated their garage.

Then she rolled over toward the terrified children.

“Bring your queen to me, so that she may surrender to the mighty Imperial Pomegranate of Klontarf!” Binqq thundered.

“Our … queen?” squeaked Orville.

“I … I am the queen of the earth,” Eva said, trying her best not to quiver. “And this is my, uh, trusted cohort.”

“You may refer to me as Binqq. Why is he laughing?”

“He’s … well, he’s awestruck by your magnificence, O Binqq.”

“Well, let’s get this over with. The Empire of Klontarf, in the person of the beloved Imperial Pomegranate (may her name be honored eternally), officially lays claim to all your lands and resources and peoples and trademarks and intellectual property. Any attempt by you to resist our might is strictly prohibited. The Empire can simply launch a dark matter warhead into your sun, vaporizing your solar system instantly. Why is he still laughing?”

“He … heehee … I think he wants you to sit on his lap.”

“Yes,” agreed Orville. “It’s how we surrender.”

Binqq rolled her seventy-three eyes. “Fine.”

Cinderella, Mary Mary, Red Riding Hood, Thumbelina, Alice and Miss Muffet crept back into the yard and watched as the little green alien wheeled over to their brother and seated herself on his lap.

Another disadvantage to the monstrously huge brains of the Klontarifans was that their bodies had approximately 16,000 percent more nerve endings than humans. Klontarfians, in fact, were the most sensitive creatures in the universe, at least since the Eerdwarks had been driven extinct by an invasion of butterflies in the year Aught Cubed.

It took Orville about thirty seconds to get Binqq to promise to leave the solar system and classify it as uninhabited. Then her squirming and giggling forced her to drop the book.

Eva scooped it up and used it to imagine Binqq safely and quickly off on her way. And just to be sure, she imagined that Binqq would keep her promise for the rest of her born days.

***

The children celebrated their victory all evening by dancing and singing around the yard. Mom was a little surprised to see how many famous daughters she suddenly had, but they were such a cheerful bunch, she was happy to have them, and more than a bit relieved to see none of her windows had been smashed that day by foul balls. She served them each an extra slice of pie.

No one told Mom about the garage.

Alice talked about her adventures after she chased the white rabbit, and Mary Mary gave each of her sisters a fresh bouquet from her garden. Cinderella shared her frustration after discovering there wasn’t a ball within miles of their house. Mom promised to take her to a cotillion which was being held in town next week, which cheered her up a little.

“That’s really some dress you’ve got on there,” Orville said to Miss Muffet. “But don’t you want to go back to being a boy again?”

“Oh please … don’t remind me,” Miss Muffet replied with a blush. “Of course I remember being Frank and playing with all those icky spiders and frogs and things. But now I just want to play with my sisters and laugh and sing. I’d be miserable as a boy.”

“It’s a good thing you didn’t turn me into a girl too,” Orville told Eva. “I don’t think Little Bo Peep would be as good as tickling aliens as I am.”

“Only one way to find out,” smiled Eva.

She reached for her book, but then changed her mind. Orville was the only brother she had left now, and she honestly didn’t like the idea of losing all of them.

And after all, tomorrow is another day.

©2009 by Giselle

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