The Land of Strange Pets

There were lots of things--dramatic, terrible things--that could happen to a boy in a story, especially when it was time for the story to begin. He could get thrown out on the street, his parents could forget his birthday, or it could simply be raining. But had all three ever happened all at once? No, probably not until today.

There was the click of a door being unlocked behind Matthew, and he turned hopefully. However, it was only his younger sister, smirking gleefully as she held out a thick volume. "You still can't come in, so don't ask!" she growled in her ridiculously high-pitched voice. Then, widening her eyes and trying her best to look endearing, she asked, "Hey, Matt, while we're getting the surprise party ready,  can you return this book to the library for me?"

"You just told me it was a surprise party..." murmured Matthew quietly, knowing that if Aurora were to hear him she'd have a slight mental breakdown in which she would spend the next five minutes cursing her inability to keep secrets. He retrieved the book obediently, stopping to read the title: A Day in the Life of a Lubricus Terrestris. "And a lubricus terrestris would be a...?"

"Common earthworm." Aurora nodded cheerfully, leaning further out of the doorway and in the process revealing her T-shirt of choice for the day, which depicted a bright pink worm sporting a friendly smile and a flowery hat. An eBay find, no doubt. "In fact, screw this party. I don't like you enough for this. I'll come with you to the library.. Grab another book while I'm at it."

Matthew adjusted his umbrella, trying his best to hide his dismay. Though Aurora was only one year--eleven months, in fact--younger than him, her immaturity--and shortness--made them seem a lifetime apart. Not only that, their hair colors contrasted completely--Matthew's dark brown compared to Aurora's light blond. Add in her insatiable obsession with earthworms and most people would never guess the pair to be brother and sister. Matthew was happy to keep it that way, but with Aurora linking arms with him and telling stories about the "good old days," it was becoming much harder to do so.

The library was a daunting building, looking less like a place of learning and entertainment than a prison. The exterior was entirely made up of bricks, and only one window, positioned conveniently in the children's section where hyper toddlers would alway be blocking the light, existed. The Wyrm siblings knew the librarian well, but agreed, for once, on the fact that they'd rather that wasn't true. As they entered the building, Matthew shoved his sister forward aggressively, handing A Day in the Life of a Lubricus Terrestris to her. When she gave him a dirty look, he whispered, "My birthday, you go turn it in!" Sighing, Aurora slunk towards the librarian's desk, wincing every time her footsteps sounded.

"Oh, Miss Wyrm, what a pleasure!"

Aurora jumped, almost dropping her book in her panic. "M-Miss... er, miss li-librarian, we w-were just returning this b-book I had read..."

"'We?' Oh, so your dear brother must be here as well..." As the elderly woman scanned the crowd, Matthew ducked back into an aisle, crouching so as to make the smallest target possible.

It was in this position that a book caught his eyes. It was not the random title (The Land of Strange Pets) nor the odd coloring (purple) of the book, but rather the ominous aura emanating from it. It was an impossible feeling to explain. Matt himself would probably have called it "just general weirdness" with a shrug added in, Aurora would have called it "the kind of stuff that must come out of earthworms," and someone they had yet to meet would have called it "just plain freaky." Whatever the feeling, it compelled Matthew to reach up and pull the book out of its shelf despite the extremely uncomfortable position that put him in.

"Y-Yeah... th-thanks..." muttered Aurora, rushing away from the librarian's creepy wrinkled smile. Not seeing her brother anywhere around, she hissed, "Hey, traitor, where'd you go?"

"Over here. You'd better not tell her that." The sound came from somewhere to Aurora's right. Blinking, she turned to see Matthew perusing the contents of a violet-colored book. Glancing at the label on the shelf he was facing, she raised an eyebrow. "'Donated Books,' Matt? You know that means crappy ones, right?"

"Evidently." Matthew sighed and shut the tome, revealing a sickeningly glittery cover. "This whole thing's blank. What's the point of that?"

"Really?" Aurora scrunched up her face, walking over to meet her brother as he reshelved the empty book. "Totally blank?"

"Well, yeah, that's what I meant when I said--" Matthew paused as two pieces of paper fluttered innocently down to the vomit-colored carpet. "Did those just come out of that book...?"

"Yeah, they did. I saw them. Maybe someone donated, like, their notebook on accident and--" Aurora backed away uncertainly as Matthew bent to pick the two scraps up. "You're going to regret messing with that when you're old and have nothing else to think about, Matt," she warned.

At the time she was referring to the library's carpeting, but despite that slip-up, she was right.

The End

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