“Come on, it’ll be fun!” I whispered as we crept to the abandoned castle at the top of the hill. You and I had just escaped from a ball, our formal clothing once sparkling like diamonds to the edges sprinkled in dirt. I lifted my dress so my ankles were showing, bunching the sides as I stepped over the tree roots in the forest, branches casting shadows across my face.
“But what if we get caught?” You asked, midway up. My head fell back, laughter escaping my lips. “Everyone is either too drunk on dancing or literally drunk to notice us missing.” I claimed. I lifted myself up on a boulder, before peering down and holding out my hand.
You took it reluctantly, shaking your head. “Just one story and then back?” you pleaded as we continued our way. I stopped and turned around, my heels digging into the dirt. “Just one? That’s like saying only one blueberry scone.” I raised an eyebrow and you gave in. “Agh, you got me. I do love my scones.” I smiled and continued on my way. “And I love my litterature.”
We were at the top of the hill when it started raining. I laughed and said we better hurry. We ran up the hill and little more to find a gravel path. The crunching sounds of gravel followed me as I slightly jogged to the gates. From my neck I produce a chain with a key on it; the key to front gates, and front doors.
We slipped inside the abandoned castle and shut the doors behind us, which gave off a thudding. The castle was certainly abandoned, a thick coating of dust covered the floor. I twirled, my dress fanning out, kicking up dust. I let out a laugh as I grabbed your hands and we began twirling together.
“Come on, it’ll be fun!” I said once again, tilting my head at your worried or confused face. “It’s this way,” still holding your cold hand, I led us up the spiral staircase in the middle of the room. “It has books behind books behind books, with an fireplace and couches and rugs, and pillows and blankets and, and⎯”
“How do you know about this, this, hidden library?” You asked, cutting me off when we got to the top. I just smiled and gave a wink as I let go, and rushed down the long, dark, dusty corridor, past the paintings with eyes that seemed to follow you as you trailed behind me.
You could smell the freshness of rain from the windows that were cracked and broken, the smell of dust that has collected for years. At the end of the corridor, there was a bookcase, just like the other fifty bookcases in the hall. I scanned for the right book, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I had to squat slowly to pull the book ever so carefully forward so the bookcase can tilt inward.
What lay in front of us was a dark corridor, with a little indent on one side of the wall for the book case to slide into, and on the other side was a small, three-foot wide, six-feet tall indent, which had a shelf for table with a stool. I plopped on the stool, my dress filling the rather small room. On the shelf for a table was a candelabra made of⎯was that real gold?
You watch in awe as I take the flint and steel on the shelf. I took a deep breath, and held it, as I struck the steel on the flint, hovering the candlewix. After a few tries, a flame glowed on the candle. I let out a labored breath and used the candlestick to light up the candelabra. Blowing out the candlestick, I stood up carefully.
“Now come on!” I say as I grab a lever that was hidden in the shadows, but revealed in the glow of fire when near, on the wall where I had just lit up the candelabra. The book case moved on its own, back to its original place.
I headed down the hall, lighting candles on the wall as I do, illuminating the hall. The room opened into the average size of a bedroom ten by ten feet long, and ten feet tall. After lighting up the candles and lighting up the massive fireplace on one side—Where does the smoke go?—you spun around, in awe.
Bookcases filled in every inch of two walls, with a king size canopy bed outstretching to the middle of the room that lined one wall. A chest stood at the end, and you opened it. Inside was—you guessed it—books. In the middle of the room was two couches facing inward to each other, facing the fireplace. Books stacked next to them.
“This is⎯I can’t even⎯Wow.” you sat down, and looked around again, letting out a laugh. I smiled and shrugged. “I told you it would be fun.” I pulled books off of the shelf. “Now get to reading.” I say, placing a stack of books in your lap. I plopped myself on the bed, using the pillows to lean on. You smiled and kicked off your shoes and laid next to me, picking up a book titled Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.
Now wasn’t that just lovely? A tale of two friends reading books together in a secret library in the 1800s or so, with ball gowns and candles, and castles. Oh I envy them. In fact I’m listening to music to read in secret libraries as I’m writing this.
I want to buy a big, poofy, ball gown dress now. I want to do it so bad it’s a pain in my stomach. But back to the main part of this article;
I know that you saw the hill, saw the forest, saw the castle at the top, smelled the rain, heard the laughing, felt the mud, tasted the raindrops that beaded down your face, heard the creaking and groaning of rusted metal. I know that you saw me opening the doors to the castle, felt my own hand taking yours and leading you up the staircase. I know you heard the heavy footsteps echoing through the halls. I know that you heard the trial and error of lighting up the candles, the smell of the flames.
I know of this because I experienced it too. I could feel the tightness of a corset (because back then, to quote SIX, “No one likes an wasit over nice inches!”) I could hear your gasp in awe as you started at the secret room. I could feel the softness of the pillows, how cold your hand was, see the orange glow on your face, feel the cover of books.
This, my good friend and fellow reader, is the magic of books. Once you grab a book, turn the cover open, you have been transferred to another world, the key in your hand. You can leave anytime, but why when you enter a world full of wonders?
You entered the world of knights and vikings and dragons and princesses and queens. Or maybe you entered the world of sorcery and magic and gods and goddesses and elves and dwarfs and fairies and nymphs. Maybe you entered a world where the villain strikes down the hero.
Maybe you became a character in the book, or became someone in the shadows, watching as Nancy Drew solves the case or Percy Jackson saves the day, once again. Maybe you became one of the Hawthorne brothers, solving riddles upon riddles, puzzles inside puzzles.
Whatever the case, you stepped into another world; You escaped reality. Even with those books made for children, such as Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, you dove into a world full of talking animals. It’s truly a wonder what books can do.
I think everyone should pick up a good book, and escape reality, just for a little while. That’s all.
Until next time⎯fellow readers⎯for when we meet again, we will not be in this world, but one full of dragons and magic; hopeless love and tragedy. I bid thee farewell.
-Kaylin R. Frost