Beyond the page, and into another world?
Is this life the only one we lead, or is there another that we can also live in when we go beyond the pages of the book, and into the world of our imagination.
Not an imagined one, but a real one borne out of our imagination …
Chapter 1: Marys’ Little Secret
Ordinary Mary: plain Mary. Just Mary. No-one noticed her; no-one asked after her; no-one was interested in her. She just plodded on from day to day. Was Mary bothered? No. Why not? Mary had a secret – and one even she didn’t understand then.
It was the book.
The first time, she was taken by surprise. She opened the book and there she was, in the middle of the forest. It was dark and quiet, with just the occasional snap of a twig as an animal crossed the pine needles carpeting the forest floor. She looked around slowly, and then spun around to take in the whole scene. The Douglas pines towered above her, making her giddy from craning to see their tops. She gasped in amazement, exhilarated, excited, afraid, and the next moment she found herself catapulted back into her chair with a hard jolt. The impact made her shudder and feel sick, like she’d just staggered off a fairground ride.
She drew a deep breath and looked around. Same old threadbare armchair, same dark red velvet curtains, same old leaf pattern carpet. The very familiarity was a comfort but also a strange disappointment. Mary shook her head, trying to clear it, then, rubbed her hands over her face before taking them away to see if the vista had changed again. No, it was the same. She was totally confused. She looked at the book in her lap, which had now fallen shut. It was old and rusty brown, made of tooled leather, with thick gilt edge pages. She’d bought it from the second-hand bookshop today. Nothing remarkable, it had just somehow found her hand on the shelf, and although she’d been looking for some cheap popular fiction to while away the autumn evenings, she’d found herself taking it to the till, paying for it, transporting it home carefully and sitting down with it without even unpacking her shopping or taking off her coat. She re-opened it, trying to find the same chapter. She remembered it – unimaginatively called merely Chapter 5 ‘The Forest’. She flicked through the pages until she reached the end of chapter 4, without reading any of the words.
Here we go, Chapter 5… But Chapter 5 wasn’t entitled ‘The Forest’. It read ‘If on an autumn day…’She flicked through more pages and more chapters, forward and back, still finding no chapter entitled ‘The Forest’. The nearest she came to it was ‘The Little Pine Tree’, but then on trying to revisit it, even that was nowhere to be found.
‘This is ridiculous!’ exclaimed Mary to herself. ‘I know that’s what it was called.’
She slammed the book down on the side table. She was irritated. She’d not wanted to buy the book in the first place. Whatever had got into her? She stood wearily and took off her coat, carefully putting it on its hanger in the wardrobe so it wouldn’t lose its shape. Then she pulled off her sensible, winter boots, and put them in their place on the bottom shelf. It hadn’t really been cold enough for them today as the sun had made a late appearance by midday, making everyone sweat and strip off their layers. Mary couldn’t strip any off. She had nothing else to wear so she’d spent the day sweltering in her boots and now her feet were quite puffy. The cool around her ankles as they were suddenly almost bare was wonderful.
She padded out to the kitchen in her stockinged feet – almost unheard of for Mary. ‘Now’t on yer feet? Catch yer death,’ her old mum would have said, but Mum wasn’t here to tell her what to do now. A little frisson of rebellion shivered through her. Instead of padding back to put on her slippers, she remained on the icy kitchen floor, clenching and unclenching her toes, feeling, as if for the first time, the delicious cold hard floor under them, and the almost wanton sensation of having virtually nothing on. Momentarily she stayed like, revelling in this curious new experience until the chiming of the grandmother clock made her jump. She started and looked down. ‘Whatever am I doing!’ she exclaimed under her breath.
The rest of the evening followed Mary’s routines. Normally she would read for a while before turning out the light. Habit prevailed. She reached for the book nearest to her on the bedside table and encountered the tooled leather book again. She stopped in surprise. She hadn’t remembered bringing it into her bedroom. The last thing she remembered was leaving it on the side table in the lounge after trying to find ‘The Forest’ chapter. She was about to take hold of it and flip it open to see where the pages fell open now, but something in her said ‘No, put it down. Not tonight; that’s for tomorrow…’ Her arm hovered. The battle between instinct and routine raged within, then for the second time today, routine lost and instead Mary flicked off the light, turned on her side and fell asleep almost immediately…
More to follow next week …
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