A changing whirling morass of sensation, shifting like water as she attempted to grasp the fragments of image and memory that drifted afore the face of her thoughts. Sparks of elemental Creation drifting in an unseen wind, glimmering seeds of worlds unknown. She saw impossible things, a whirl of alien landscapes, cities and other things too bizarre to name. She saw screaming mountains, liquid fire seeping from between their teeth in coruscating waves. She felt a rippling forest of swarming trees, resplendent purple in the simmering gloom. She knew darkness, absolute, but in different shades, spiralling hues of colours impossible to recall upon waking – forming cities that coiled through time from birth to death, tower to ruin. She saw her own face, covered in an impossible message written in letters of fire that burned with a cold harmlessness through the cracks in her skin. She raised three hands to touch her cheeks, but she caught herself before she lost more fingers on the jagged words that swam from her mouth like fishes. A smile, and with her other mouth a wink, before she folded away into the darkness, and she just drifted away for a
In time, if time had any true meaning here, the darkness started to lift, as she crawled back in the general direction of consciousness. She had the vague impression of people moving around her, talking indistinctly and… maybe doing something? It was as if she was buried under layers of thick gauze, muffling and numbing, but the edges of sensation were creeping back – the shapes in the darkness became clearer, the occasional murmured words were tantalisingly close to audible and she could definitely feel that her body was numb specifically, rather than a generalised feeling.
Clarity returned to her hearing first; she clearly heard someone saying “Hey, I think she moved! Watch her, I’ll get mum!”
“Okay fine, if you’ve already told her. I still think that’s unfair.”
“Yeah, you’ve got a ‘telephone aptitude’, and you can do the brain speaky thing. It’s dead cool.”
“I dunno, you saw her moving too.” The voice took a deep breath. “HEY, MEAT LADY, ARE Y-”
The sound of a door slamming open. “Elizabeth Decimal Peterson, what have I told you about terrorising our guests?”
“No,” said the second voice with an audible eye-roll, “that is not what either I or your father have told you, and you know it. Now, Ed said she was waking up, but what did you see?”
“Well, she was moving, I think? Look, there! Her fingers moved!”
“Hmm. Well, Alice, if you can hear me, know that you’re safe, and in a safe place. Take your time if you have to.”
Meanwhile, the numbness was starting to subside, replaced by the prickling of pins and needles as the feeling started to come back to her limbs in earnest.
She attempted to say something in response to what the familiar voices had been talking about, but her control over the movements of her tongue was basic at best, and the eloquence she attempted was lost somewhere in the mumble.
“I’ll take that as a sign that you can hear me, at least mostly. Ed, if you could go get her a glass of water, while Liz tells your father that our guest is waking up, that’d be lovely.”
“Okay, mum!” said someone Alice was starting to recognise as Liz. The door creaked again, and a couple sets of footsteps vanished into the rest of the house.
“So,” said A Librarian, “your friends are staying in town, over in Index. I’ll call them in a moment, let them know you’re waking up.”
“Okay.” Her voice felt rusty as she started to speak.
She tried to sit up, and made it a fair distance before something stopped working, and she flopped back down heavily onto the bed.
“Careful! You don’t want to strain yourself!”
“So,” she asked, now sitting up in her bed, “how long was I out?”
“Gods,” said Aidra, “you were out for weeks.”
“How long was I actually out?”
“A bit more than a day, I think,” said A Librarian (the one who wasn’t busy wrangling two young children). “I mean, I didn’t see when you got knocked out, so I’m not sure if I can make a good estimation, but-” he trailed off, deep in thought.
“Well, we were definitely worried,” said Nik, “because first there was that thing with the rogue Bookwyrm or whatever that was, then an entire floor of the Tower exploded, and then, well. Next, we were hearing from Gyran the approximate-”
“-and very abbreviated-” Aidra cut in.
“Version of events,” Nik finished, glaring at his brother.
“Huh,” she said. “I don’t remember anything like that, I don’t think? Lots of it’s in dreamlike images and other weird whatsits.”
[That Is How Bookwyrm Possession Works, For A Librarians At Least. I Am Not Sure How You Managed To Survive A Full Possession, But It Does Appear To Be The Case.]
“What normally happens?”
“Well,” A Librarian said, shifting awkwardly, “the Bookwyrms and my people have a long symbiotic history, so they can sit in our brains without damaging them, but for other Lower Sentients, they have to tread lightly to avoid, er… unpleasantness.”
“Brains coming out their ears,” Aidra exclaimed. “Splat!”
“Well,” she replied, “thanks-but-no-thanks for that mental image, and I’m glad that didn’t happen even if I’m not sure how, especially since none of you seem to know.”
“I mean, there’s plenty of things we don’t know and that are pretty inconsequential,” said Aidra.
[Speak For Yourself.]
Alice chuckled. “So, where’s Red, then?”
“Oh,” said A Librarian, “he’s still with the Triskelion. I haven’t seen him, but when she gave us that entirely inadequate explanation for what had happened, she told us he was in Hollowed Hall.”
“I explained some other stuff that went on,” said Aidra, “and he might be a bit indisposed for reasons that are entirely unconnected from anything you did when possessed.”
“I did what when possessed?”
“You did many, entirely nonspecific things that didn’t include inflicting vast bodily harm on Red.”
“Aidra,” she growled. “What. Did. I. Do?”
“Define ‘I’, because-”
The door to the room creaked open. “Oh, don’t bother with asking him that, it’ll take all day.” Red stood in the doorway, tired-looking but otherwise unharmed.
Alice sighed, relieved. “Well, at least I don’t have to keep grilling him for ever-more-gory details of what happened.”
“Well,” Red began.
“You better not be evasive about the gory details, too.”