According to The Dictionary of Diseases that Atlantia made me memorize as a child, a “psychotic break” occurs when a person experiences an episode of acute primary psychosis – generally for the first time. I had been known to cry into my oatmeal on occasion for no apparent reason, and the sight of classical Greek texts filled me with a strong longing to go “home”, but never in my life had I cackled. I had laughed, giggled, chortled, snorted, sputtered, and cawed. But cackling? Cackling was new. I feared that I had finally lost the mind that my mother had accused me of losing so long ago. I was dead, standing in my basement workshop with glowing, ancient letters crawling up my insubstantial arm, and hearing a book talk to me inside of my head. Between the world and myself, one of us had gone stark, bonking mad. It couldn’t possibly get any worse.
Except that it did.
Because I made the mistake of looking down at the now blank pages that my fingers were trapped in. So I wasn’t just hearing a book speak inside of my head; there was a book inside of my head. And diffused inside of my spirit. I felt sick, and strangely euphoric, but mostly sick. If I had contents in my stomach to void, I would have been hunched over in a corner, puking neatly into in a suitable container, preferably a disposable one.
“So,” I said to the room, “what happens?”
“You must seek,” the book answered, its voice echoing inside of my skull.
“Mm. Seek, what, would you happen to know? My Gods, I’m talking to a book,” I muttered grimly.
“You must seek.”
“Is that all you know how to say?”
Pressure spiraled up from the core of my being and solidified. My fingers were wrenched from the book, and I was flung against the wall. Shockingly, it hurt. I gritted my teeth to keep the unholy screech of pain inside of my throat where it belonged. I had a feeling that that little display of power was the book’s way of calling me a smartass. I was also alarmed that I was able to be thrown against a wall. What was that pressure?
I sat up and squinted in concentration, realization dawning slowly. I almost slapped myself in the face for forgetting. After Sami had burned my body, whether accidental or not…
“I inhaled my ashes!” I cackled again, dimly aware that I sounded like a cartoon villain. I tilted my head to the side and tested my hypothesis out loud. “So, if I can learn to gather and solidify my ashes at will, I can touch and be touched and appear, for all intents and purposes, solid and alive?”
I kissed my teeth and tsked. “Annoying book,” I grumbled.
Despite the predicament I found myself in, I laughed. This book and I would get along just fine. In the meantime, I still had to find out what Sami had been doing with this book, and what to do about Kenzie when the kid showed up after school. I wasn’t the best person to be someone’s guardian. After all, it’s not like I had the best example growing up. Atlantia was more Master and less Mother to me. Because of her position, she spent only enough time with me to ensure that I grew and learned on an acceptable schedule. Instead of hand-drawn Mother’s Day cards, I gifted her with treatises on practical applications of spellcraft in modern day societies. Rather than Harvest Day treats, I received a new set of age appropriate workbooks on subjects like Herbs To Die For and Scrying With Crystals, and Build Your Own Familiar kits. Because I was the Head Mistress’s’ daughter, my instructors piled on the work, assuming that I would follow in Atlantia’s bootsteps and become the next Blue Queen.
I ran away as soon as I was legally able to do so, disappointing Atlantia and earning the ire of The Circle.
With a sigh, I noted the sound of creaking footsteps over my head. Had that much time passed already? In any case, Sami was awake, and it was time to get some answers from her.
“Are you ready, Book?”
“Always,” came the whispered, echoed reply in my head.
I felt dangerous and righteously indignant. I stood, metaphorically dusted myself, and stomped to the entrance. I rehearsed my speech, ignoring the helpful suggestion Book was giving. Satisfied, I lifted my foot to ascend the stairs–
–only to trip, fall halfway through them, and slam my chin painfully on a wooden edge.
Tears, real tears, welled up in my eyes, and I howled. Why did these things always happen to me?