Between the Pages

In a magical world, Between the Pages, lives Sebastian and his twin Edmond. That is, until Edmond decides to work against the Queen and disappears to join the Queens brother, and setting a curse over the country. Concerned for his brother (and the world), Sebastian sets of to search after him. But he needs help.

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9. VI

Not only was it quite huge, building up over them with two stories, but it was also unlike any other train Lina had ever seen. The train carriages were old fashioned, and as if someone had plucked them out of a steampunk adventure, and stapled them on top of each other. However, the most scurrile part was the giant Falcons head that made up the front of the train. A giant metal bird, it’s bronze feathers clinging to the first carriage. Its eyes were directed towards the sky, as if it could take off every moment.

Sebastian was already on his way in, and nodded towards Lina. “Are you coming?”

Lina cast a last glance on the bird, and noticed how much detail had gone into the design. She shook her head quietly, and then stepped inside the carriage.

She was surprised by the simplicity of the train. While it’s outer was decorated, the inside much more resembled a normal train.

Besides the wooden panels that decked the walls, everything seemed normal. The first floor was packed with people, most of them sunken into daydreams, reading or drawing. An elderly couple were talking about an old acquaintance, and Lina and Sebastian went up the stairs.

Lina had never been on a train with two stories, and hurried to sit down on a seat by the window. Outside everything seemed just a bit smaller, small enough to make her distant from the world behind the glass. The train passed different shops, houses and streets they had visited earlier. When they had walked earlier, she had found the streets empty of trains, but now, the falcon headed monsters were everywhere.

She turned her head to Sebastian who was sitting opposite her. The benches could accommodate three people, and were surprisingly comfortable. In fact, the entire carriage seemed to be made under the motto “comfortable”. The sunlight bathed everything in an orange glow, and various magazines were spread around on almost every seat. She tried to imagine how this very train compartment would look, had it been drenched in the same grey that killed trees and animals, but found it difficult.

“We’re there in a minute.”

Sebastian was already up, and they walked down. The train stopped and the door opened without a sound. They had left the centrum of the city and arrived on the corner of a street. The elderly couple from before stepped outside with them, and went to a flower boutique across the street.

Lina turned around to see the train go, but was only met by empty tracks and the wind rustling up leaves of trees planted along the houses and shops.

It was a road near a forest and the houses here were bigger than the ones in the centrum of the city. But here the curse had begun to set in.

The buildings were matte and drenched of colour, and the trees looked like the ones they had seen when first arriving. The flower boutique only held a pale version of the normal flower arrangements, and all in all things seemed to be at a sorry state.

Sebastian didn’t seem as animated as before, his eyes were constantly drifting to the sky that seemed so much bluer in contrast to what lay before them.

Sebastians house was the most colourful of the bunch. Although it also seemed drenched, the sunshine yellow paint was still evident. The grass of the small front yard was a sickly green, although it was growing lusciously.

Small battered steps led up to the porch, and for the first time Lina realised that she was going to meet his parents. Or grandparents. Or whoever had raised him, she just realised she hadn’t even asked.

Well, too late for that now, Lina thought. Before she could even mentally prepare he had opened the door and invited her inside. She took of her cap, and brushed off her sandals, placing them beside a pair of bright orange flip-flops.

The hallway was small and narrow, the walls full of paintings. Inside everything seemed so fine, untouched by any curse, and the four paintings, each representing a season, lit up the hallway with their bright colours. To her left, the hallway opened up to a small, yet cosy, living room.

She was about to enter, when a sudden appearance made Lina almost jump up. Out of seemingly nowhere, that means the door to Linas right, a woman had stepped in.

Sebastians mother was tall and beautiful, and it wasn't hard to pinpoint the mother-son similarities. They both shared the wild curls, although hers was arguably bigger, and a huge life-confirming smile. She wore a plaid shirt and a pair of loose, blue jeans. Her feet were stuck in sandals and around her was a scent of dried paint, that was only further enforced by the paint streak on her cheek.

"Lina, this is my mother, Alma," Sebastian grinned, presenting the two. "Mom, this is Lina, my, eh, friend."

If Alma was surprised, she was surely good at hiding it, almost ignoring her son, and turning her full attention to the girl beside.

"How nice to meet you! I would shake your hand, but mine are full of paint."

She showed her palms, covered in the splatters of orange, red and yellow. Lina couldn't help but grin.

"You're an artist?"

"The best one in town!" Sebastian laughed. Alma rolled her eyes at her son and shook her head, although she was still smiling. Lina would have nominated her for the happiest person existing, had it not been for a certain sadness hiding in her eyes.

"I'll leave you two alone," she took a look at the clock that hung in the living room. "Dinner's ready at seven!" Then she disappeared through the same door she had come in from, and her soft steps were replaced with rattling and other noise.

Lina couldn't help but smile. "She's lovely!"

"Huh? Oh, you mean my mom.” He stood up a bit taller. “Yeah, she's the best," he grinned, but the smile quickly faded and he turned around, facing the living room.

Lina took a step inside.

"Did your mom make all this?" She asked, while eyeing the living room.

Every inch of the wall was decorated with paintings. Some were merely shapes, other silhouettes and others again were just splats of painters, seeming as random as a Pollock. Different signatures, and no signatures prided them all.

And then there was the wall with the fireplace. That was one single wall filled with shelves of books, from the bottom to the top.

"I guess you include reading a lot amongst your interests," Lina murmured to herself.

Sebastian turned around. "Reading a lot kind of comes naturally when you live in Between the Pages."

Linas eyebrow instantly went up. "That's what you call this world? Between the Pages? Because you can travel through books?"

"Because we are books."

Her forehead wrinkled as she tried to figure out what he meant by that saying. Noticing her obvious confusion he tried to explain.

"I told you I'd explain this world when we were here."

"This is just going to raise more questions, isn't it?" More questions seemed near to impossible. My head already feels like exploding.

Sebastian smiled a clear yes. "You might want to sit down."

Taking his suggestion, Lina let herself fall in the light brown sofa, so soft she almost disappeared in it. Sebastian rubbed his palms and then, finally, sat down. Sometimes he reminded Lina of a hyperactive bunny on sugar, yet other times he was calm as the night.

“Do you write stories?”

Lina thought, but except the mandatory essays in school she had never done creative writing. “Not really,” her eyebrows furrowed. “Should I?”

Sebastian shook his head. “That’s not what I meant.” He took a breath.

“Whenever you write, you use your imagination.”

“Unless you're writing non-fiction.”

Sebastian sighed again. "OK, let me rephrase. Whenever you write something creative that is actually worth reading, you use your imagination."

"Agreed?"

A smile hid in the corners of her mouth and she nodded. "Agreed."

“So, where do you think all that imagination is coming from?"

“Life?” she suggested.

Sebastian snorted. “Life. Well that's a wonderfully abstract word. But, what life?”

“You can stop now, you're reminding me of my teacher.” This time it was Linas turn to sigh.

“At least that would mean I had some sort of qualification to be talking about this.”

"He's been 3 times divorced and turned bald when he was 27."

Sebastian's expression turned to that of one who enjoyed biting in lemons.  "As I was saying,” he continued through clenched teeth.

“Imagination must come from somewhere. And that somewhere is here. Between the Pages.” He shrugged. “Kind of obvious, if you ask me.”

Lina rubbed her temples and took a deep breath. “So you're based of someone's imagination?”

"The other way around. We are the base of someones’ imagination. Everyone you've met today, every single person, could be the essential character in one of you're favourite stories. Our personality isn't based of a book character, the book characters are based off us!"

"Wouldn't that mean you are the book character?"

Sebastian rolled his eyes. “I can’t be bothered with technicalities”

"How can you just whisk your entire existence away with “technicalities”?” She sat up and bit her tongue, concentrating. “And how come I haven't read about you in a book then?" she asked, flimsily grasping the concept. Sebastians smile dropped, and he shifted in his seat.

"Not everyone has a place in a book."

She waited a while for him to continue, and once it even seemed that he would. Then he seemed to decide against and jumped up.

“I should show you where you’re going to sleep tonight.”

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