04 January 2010

Curse of the Other World, part eleven


Sarah's wardrobe was built into the wall of her bedroom, opposite to her bed. In the bottom, Peter found a large cardboard box filled to the brim with books of various sizes. He struggled to pull it out of the wardrobe but, with some straining and grunting, managed to get it out onto the bedroom floor before the bottom fell apart under the weight of its contents.
Inside were dogeared paperbacks, some containing receipts that told him Sarah must have bought them when she was fourteen or fifteen. He put them carefully to one side, creating a pile of pulp fiction he doubted would ever get read again. Sarah certainly seemed in no position to give them any more attention, that was for certain.
Underneath the paperbacks were some equally worn out textbooks from Sarah's undergraduate days. He took these out and read the titles. The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles, The Role of Belief in Mental Development, and other similar titles. He flicked through the books, opening them at random pages and scanning their contents quickly; understanding little. Psychology was not his area of expertise, but what he understood of the texts seemed interesting, if a little heavy.
The book he needed was at the bottom of the box, alongside a leather-bound book with no title on its cover and a copy of Sarah's doctoral thesis; also bound in leather. He took out the thesis and opened it, flicking through the pages. It was a large document, almost two hundred pages long including index and bibliography, and rather heavy. Scanning a few pages at speed, he found himself able to follow most of the argument but he could not agree with the content.
Sarah was arguing that belief in gods was a part of the inherent human need for the supernatural to be real; which she claimed was rooted in an evolutionary need to create myths in order to fill in our gaps in understanding of the world around us.
He put the book aside with a derisive snort. There was no need in him to believe in anything he could not experience with his own five senses. Belief in invisible superheroes that cavemen thought had created the world was not necessary to his evolution.
The untitled book interested him more than the old, red hardback he had come looking for. Judging by its cover, it was clearly expensive and well used. He opened it carefully, admiring its gold-edged pages, and was surprised to find it filled with hand-drawn images and text in Sarah's own handwriting; all tiny, rounded letters with circles over the 'i's.
He read some of the writing with a growing feeling that he was violating her privacy. The book was a grimoire of sorts; a tome discussing Sarah's experiences with magick – a spelling she used throughout the book – and also her views on magickal theory. Nearer the back were numerous spells. The whole book must have taken months, if not years, of painstaking work to complete.
He flicked to the last entry. May 2001. Not long before Sarah had been blinded. She would have been very ill throughout the time she was writing the book, yet continued to write it by hand. It must have meant a lot to her, he decided.
Yet he knew now that she did not believe any of it. A committed atheist, she had spent the last seven years striving to understand why people needed to believe in things that were untrue; and debunking myths and legends wherever she could. In fact, most of her income since leaving academia had come from uncovering the truth behind local folklore and writing articles on it for specialist magazines.
How could someone have such a drastic change of heart? Of course, he already knew the answer. They had all changed since the summer of 2001. They may want to block out the memories of what they had done, but there was no denying that it had changed them all.
He put the spellbook back in the box, wiped his sweating palms on the legs of his jeans and took the red book into the lounge.
'I've got the book you...oh,' his voice trailed off. Sarah was asleep, her head resting on her arms, folded on the desk in front of her.
He put the book down carefully on the coffee table, trying his best to be quiet. It had been a long day and he knew how much she needed sleep these days, so waking her was not an option.
Carefully, he lifted her in his arms and carried her through to the bedroom. She was lighter than she looked, wrapped in her huge cardigan. He wondered how she had managed to loose so much weight; she had always been thin to start with and the steroids she would undoubtedly be taking as part of her treatment should have meant she put on weight, but apparently she was not.
He laid her on the bed gently, pulled the covers over her and went to bed down on the sofa. However important she had thought it was, the research could wait until morning.

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