The atmosphere in the Heaven’s Head bus station was tense, and neither Davy nor Steve knew why. Barely anyone moving through the station was speaking and everyone in Davy’s field of vision was repeatedly looking behind them as if they were afraid some threatening entity was going to suddenly pop out behind them from a secluded corner.
The hushed atmosphere didn’t bother Steve in the slightest. “Who’s ready to find another artifact!?” he shouted to Davy as they walked away from the bus. He raised his left hand slightly above his head. “Me! Me!” he quietly exclaimed in a high-pitched voice. “Let’s go get it!”
The pervading silence around him was beginning to make Davy uncomfortable. What was everyone so afraid of?
Steve continued his train of thought unimpeded. “So where do we go now? Any tinglings on what we do next?”
“I don’t know,” Davy answered. “Barnaby and Jean just said I would know what to do when I got here.” He found a nearby bench and sat down. “I guess, maybe we just wait here until we get a sign or something.”
Steve was not happy to hear this. “Come on,” he said. “Are we really just going to stand around and wait for stuff to happen to us again? That’s all we’ve done so far.”
Davy shrugged. “I guess that’s just what happens when your quest has already been delineated in a prophecy.”
“But that’s so boring,” Steve replied melodramatically. “Everything has been literally handed to us so far. How are we supposed to overcome adversity and subsequently grow as people if we don’t take an active role in all this?”
Steve thought silently to himself. Eventually, he seemed to reach a decision. “You know what, I’m going to be a more active player. I’m going to head out there and find the artifact on my own terms, instead of on someone else’s timetable.” He looked at Davy. “You coming with me?” he asked.
Davy looked around. The paranoia of the other people in the station was becoming increasingly disconcerting. And honestly, Steve had a point. He still only had a vague idea of what Lady Gut Possum’s prophecy truly entailed. How exactly was the prophecy supposed to play out? And if this prophecy was the real deal, wouldn’t anything that Davy did technically fulfill it? Watching a panicked woman rush in front of him with a look of quiet terror on her face helped Davy make up his mind. If he was going to fulfill an ancient prophecy, he might as well fulfill it in a place less off-putting than this.
Davy stood up again. “Okay, Steve,” he began. “Let’s do this. We can find the next step ourselves, instead of waiting for it to come to us.”
Davy and Steve were ready to go, but something came into the station. It was a sizable group of burly men, all wearing identical sky blue tee shirts over identical long-sleeved white shirts. They were also all wearing a different funny-looking hat. Another larger man walked in the station behind them. He was larger and older than the other men, but still wore the same sky blue tee shirt getup. The difference being that his shirt had a picture of an open book on the front. He was also wearing a round metal helmet, reminiscent of the kind Hermes from Greek mythology was often depicted as wearing. The man raised his gun into the air, ready to address the people in the bus station.
“Okay people, you know how this works,” he began. “You people go about your uncivilized lives, obsessing over your ‘pop culture’ and your ‘keg parties’ and other frivolous pursuits. Oh what would George Bernard Shaw say? Or Sun Tzu? Or the great Bard himself? You think Hamlet would have avenged his father and attained self-actualization if he was more concerned with, what you call, uptown funking? No, I think not! So now it’s time to collect a tax, if you will. A tax for your collective boorishness and refusal to engage in the culture of your forefathers. My men will go around the station with bags. If you value your meaningless lives, you will place all your valuables into the bag as it comes to you. And believe me, my men will know if you hold out on them. And I hope that as you part with your belongings, that you remember this day. The day that I, the Librarian, freed your ignoble minds from the drudgery of mediocrity!”
From the other end of the station, Davy watched the men begin to disperse into the crowd with their bags open. He tried to think of a plan to get out of this, bad had a hard time concentrating with Steve chuckling under his breath next to him.
“What is your problem?” Davy whispered.
Steve tried to stifle his laughter. “What is this guy? Is he for real?” he said. “The Librarian? Why are we dealing with some third-rate, no-name supervillain?”
“Yeah, okay, he’s a third-rate supervillain” Davy replied. “But he’s also got guns. Lots of them.”
Steve did not seem concerned. “Sure, but I’ve got–oh let’s see–one Ember Sack of Unrelenting Sorrow. I point it at Book Boy, he gets too sad to fight, we take all the guns away, and then save the day.”
“Even accounting for the magic sack, your plan still sounds way too optimistic,” Davy whispered back.
“Come on, we’ll be fine,” Steve said confidently.
Davy looked up and saw that the Librarian had noticed them whispering to each other. He began walking over to them.
“What do we have here?” the Librarian began as he approached Davy and Steve. “A couple of petulant twenty-somethings refusing to take this seriously? No doubt talking about their iPod Nanos or liking things ironically,” he said with a sneer.
“Actually, we’re talking about stopping you,” Steve replied confidently, pulling the Ember Sack of Unrelenting Sorrow from his pocket.
The Librarian seemed to recognize the sack as it came out of Steve’s pocket. He turned to two of his goons. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn! The Unabridged Biography of Abraham Lincoln! Come here!” he ordered. Two lackeys–one wearing a ragged straw hat and the other adorned with a stovepipe hat and Lincoln-style beard–wordlessly walked up behind the Librarian.
The librarian gestured towards the sack. “It looks like this is the kid the Mother is looking for,” he said. “The Steward or something. Such a noble title for such a foul miscreant. I’m sure she’ll pay a pretty penny for him.” He gave Steve a stern look. “You are coming with me,” he stated authoritatively.
Steve grinned emphatically. “I’d like to see you try and make me!” He opened the sack and pointed it at the Librarian. “Now that you’re too depressed to even stand up!”
A dark cloud of smoke began to emit from the sack and completely engulfed the Librarian. After a few seconds, the smoke dissipated, and to the surprise of Davy and Steve, he seemed unaffected.
The Librarian laughed. “Boy, I spent twenty years in academia. I lost the ability to feel anything a long time ago.” He snapped his fingers and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn wrapped his massive arms around Steve. The Librarian grabbed the sack out of Steve’s hand. “Now, I repeat,” he said smugly. You are coming with me.
The Unabridged Biography of Abraham Lincoln gestured towards Davy. “What about the other kid?” he asked.
The Librarian thought to himself. “Yes, I was told the Steward would be traveling with a useless friend,” he said.
“Useless…?” Steve muttered under his breath.
The Librarian ignored him. “You know what? Go ahead and shoot him,” he finally said. “No skin off my back.”
The Unabridged Biography of Abraham Lincoln pointed his gun at Davy. Davy began to wonder if there was a dumber way to die than at the hands of a bargain bin Lincoln impersonator. Before he could dwell on that thought too long, all the lights in the bus station shut off.
Davy struggled to adjust his vision to the dark. He could make out the faint outline of his would-be presidential killer, who was also looking around in confusion. A scream erupted from the other end of the station. Followed by another. And another. Soon, the station was filled with the sounds of panic, frantic footsteps running in every direction. One voice in the darkness exclaimed, “It’s back!”
Davy’s eyes returned to the Unabridged Biography of Abraham Lincoln, who seemed visibly torn between maintaining his post and joining the fray fleeing the building. His dilemma was resolved when Davy saw an appendage–a tendril?– drop down from the ceiling, grab the lackey by the ankles and hoist him back up to the ceiling as quickly as it appeared. Davy, now alone in the darkness, could hear the muffled cries of fear above him. This was getting more intense than what he had been expecting when a villain calling himself the Librarian came into the station. After a moment, the Lincoln henchman suddenly dropped back down to the floor, sprawled on the ground. He was soaking wet, and his fake beard was gone. Davy watched him try to get back to his feet, but was distracted when a shadowy hooded figure swooped in seemingly out of nowhere behind the henchman.
Davy looked at the figure straight on. The figure stood still; it actually felt like the figure was looking back at him. Davy couldn’t ascertain any of the figures features in the darkness. As the henchman struggled to stand up again, the figure appeared to tilt its head back. And that’s when Davy saw the teeth. Rows and rows of dagger-shaped teeth. Davy stood still and stared at the gaping maw in fascination. After a moment, the figure raised its arms into the air, and from them a multitude of tendrils shot out and ensnared the Unabridged Biography of Abraham Lincoln. In one fluid motion, the figure shot back up to the ceiling, taking the screaming henchman with it.
Davy slowly walked towards where the figure stood, looking up at the ceiling. He had reached the conclusion that whatever had shut off the lights, whatever was terrorizing the people in the station, it was not here to hurt him. His train of thought was cut off when he heard the Librarian shout a short distance away, “Come on, take the kid and let’s go!” He heard the shuffle of footsteps and Steve grunt as the Librarian and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn began to make their escape with Steve in hand.
Davy tried to orient himself as he heard Steve’s fading shouts. “DAVY DON’T GO AFTER THE NEXT ARTIFACT UNTIL AFTER I GET OUT OF THIS I FULLY EXPECT YOU TO HALT EVERYTHING AND SAVE ME UNLESS I SAVE MYSELF BECAUSE I COULD PROBABLY DO THAT BUT STILL DON’T HAVE ANY ADVENTURES WITHOUT ME I DON’T WANT TO MISS ANYTHING COOOOOOOOOOOOL…”
The silence returned to the station. After a few seconds the lights turned back on. Davy looked around. Scattered all across the station were incapacitated members of the librarian’s gang. They were all tied up. A number of them were hanging upside-down from the ceiling, rope strung up around their ankles. Most of them were drenched. All of them had similar looks of horror on their faces, as if they had just seen the face of madness.
The few normal citizens who hadn’t fled the station also looked around, unharmed, but in shock. One woman down the station from Davy seemed to struggle for words. “It…it saved us…” she finally uttered. “The Night Retcher saved us!”