For the next five minutes, which seemed more like five hours, Toby paced in circles around his brother. "It can't be. It's only a dream. Yeah, that's it: I'm dreaming." Toby continued the conversation within his own mind, seeming to forget that he wasn't alone in the room.
Finally, a somewhat amused Trevor broke the void. "What are you doing, man?"
"You-you're dead, Trevor. Y-you can't be here." Toby's voice trembled from a mixture of fear and disbelief. "H-how did you get here?"
"You cast the spell, dork. You tell me!" Trevor spoke with a tone that implied that he was completely oblivious to the fact that he had been dead for exactly one year.
Without replying to his brother's compassionate jest, Toby flung his arms around Trevor, holding on tightly as if at any moment, this vibrant dream would revert to the clenching darkness that follows a startled awakening from a deep sleep. The subsequent moments were spent arm-in-arm, expressing previously suppressed emotions through intermittent sobs.
Helping his brother to his feet, Trevor was the first to speak following the uncontrollably emotional reunion. "Alright, enough of the emotional crap," he said. "It's great to see you, Toby, and I would love to stand around and chat, but I've come back for a reason."
"Yeah. I know. I'm the one who summoned you, remember?" Toby's fright and shock has turned into giddiness, which proved annoying for Trevor. "No," Trevor rebbutted, "that's not the only reason They sent me here."
" 'They?' "
"Yeah, The Elders. They sent me to warn you that you are in grave danger. I would have come sooner but the rules say -" Trevor's monologue was abruptly halted by the sound of deep-bellied laughter.
"I should expect nothing less from you. You've been back for less than an hour and you're already cracking jokes!" Toby continued to laugh, slapping Trevor on the shoulder as a gesture of forgiveness for the bad joke.
"I'm serious, Toby!" Trevor's untimely humor and congenial disposition changed almost instantly. He grabbed Toby by the arm and pulled him closer. "Listen, there's no time to explain. You have to come with me," Trevor whispered.
"Go? Go where? You can't go out in public! Everyone think's you're -"
Toby's matter-of-fact plea was cut short as the locked door to the attic flung open with a loud crash, knocking aside a forgotten box of old little league trophies and last winter's wardrobe.
"Holy crap!" shouted Toby as a luminous hooded figure adjusted into sight. The only thing visible beneath a tattered cloak was a pair of menacing red eyes, which seemed to focus on the dust-laden book from which Toby had read aloud less than an hour before. The creature spoke with a gut-wrenching whine that made that hairs stand up on the back of the boys' necks:
"I've come for The Book."