Through the Bookcase: Adventures in Classiopia

A rainy night in an old, English, country mansion…

A bookshelf filled with masterpieces of the literary art…

A pair of twins with matching necklaces…

What adventures await them, what friends will they discover…

Through the Bookcase

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~Chapter One: A Broken Ghost~

Gray rain fell from gray clouds on a flat gray landscape as a little gray car made it’s way across the gray landscape. I gazed out the window at all the grayness of the English moor. Thankfully, the inside of the car did not exactly match the world outside. Sure the interior was gray, but my twin sister, Katarina, was certainly not. With her glossy black hair and mismatched blue and purple eyes, she stood out like a jewel lying in the dust. I pushed a lock of my own black hair out of my face and turned to meet my own mismatched eyes in the window. She sat beside me in the car as we were driven to an uncertain fate.

There came a glimmer of light through the rain. as it approached, it took shape and became a classic, English, country house covered with ivy and lit from the inside with golden candles. The little gray car pulled up under the portico. The door on Katarina’s side was opened by the social worker who had been handling our case ever since the accident that had claimed the lives of our parents.

We were greeted by the sight of a motherly old woman whose hair was the gray of pussywillow fuzz and whose eyes were the soft blue of forget-me-nots. Her voice was kindly, and her accent sounded homey rather than foreign.

“Welcome, my dears, to Hearthfire Haven. Come inside and have some tea, you must be hungry after your long drive from the airport.”

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Katy looked around at the massive entrance room. You would think that the main section of the house would be simple and elegant, but the ornate bookshelves and cozy looking chairs spoke volumes of the literature-enthusiast that owned the beautiful home. The raven-haired girl glanced over at her twin, giving her a reassuring smile.

We’ll be fine here… Our Aunt LOVES books! That means she’s probably cool and interesting… maybe even MYSTERIOUS!

She took a deep breath, her nose filling with the scent of dust and roses.

“So uh… do we have a room somewhere upstairs? Or is it down here somewhere?”

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Our aunt gave a smile that made me feel at home immediately.

“Right this way, my dears; but, first things first,” She turned to me and my twin. “Which of you is which because for the life of me I cannot tell.”

I spoke up, “I’m Katherine and she’s Katarina.”

“Ah, such lovely names. Did you know that they are from Shakespeare? Love’s Labors Lost and Taming of the Shrew respectively. I have copies of those works somewhere in here.” She gestured to the enormous library around her. “As or me, you may call me Aunt Adriana, or simply Aunt Drina if you will. Let me show you to your room, Hawkins will get your things.”

My eyes widened at my first sight of Hawkins. He was by far the most British looking man I had ever seen, if it weren’t for the patch over his right eye. He had a gray mustache that drooped at the tips and the air of a man who was surprised by nothing. His eye was gunmetal gray and his hair was beginning to go thin at the top of his scalp. He nodded to us politely as we went by. I smiled slightly at him, though he had gone to get the bags and didn’t see me.

Aunt Drina led us up the grandest staircase I had ever seen to a hall with a long carpet. he motioned my sister to one door and me to another. Through that door was a beautiful room with a large bookshelf, a painting of a ship on a stormy sea, and a tiger rug in front of a roaring fireplace. There was also a connecting door, which I assumed led to my twin’s bedroom. I sat down on the four-post canopy bed and stared at the ivy-patterned wallpaper. Raindrops splattered against the french doors that led to a balcony. I smiled at the pattern of droplets and took in my surroundings once more.

Perhaps this could be a real adventure after all.

It was during these musings that I heard a knock on the connecting door. “Come in, sister,” I said with a smile.

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Kat opened the door giving her twin a cheeky grin.

“Peekaboo!”

She slipped into the well-furished room, looking around with a slight note of awe. Everything here in England seemed so homey and beautiful, with just this overall elegance that seemed to show through all of her aunt’s home. She let out a soft hum.

“Your room is so nice! Mine has aqua colored paper with small violets on it… and I got a window bed and guess what was sitting on it?!”

Katarina held up a beautiful leatherbound copy of ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. The cover was split diagonally, with one half being tan leather and the other being black. The lettering on the spine and cover was all in antique gold. Kat gave a happy squeak, hugging the book close.

“How did she know?!”

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I shrugged, “Perhaps it is a favorite of hers and she thought you might enjoy it.”

Just then, my hand touched something hard. I picked it up to discover ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ beautifully bound in navy blue and embossed with gold and silver sea creatures. I stroked its cover lovingly, it was one of my favorite stories.

“We should go thank her. She probably put a lot of thought into making us feel at home.”

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The younger twin grinned, nodding and examining the cover with a hand.

“I also have a copy of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ on my fancy bookshelf. It’s so cool that she wanted to give us these books to borrow.”

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My smile widened, “My shelf has some of the short stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. We should definitely go thank her.”

At that moment, there was a gentle rapping on the door. “Miss’s Bennet, I was to inform you both that it was time for dinner.” It was the most British voice I had ever heard, and I suspected it belonged to Hawkins. I was right, as opening the door proved.

We were led to the dining room, which had a massive crystal chandelier hanging above the long, wooden table. Aunt Drina sat at the head with two places set on either side of her. Kat and I took our places while Hawkins brought the food.

“So,” said Aunt Drina, “are the accommodations to your liking?”

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Kat nodded, examining the dish in front of her. It seemed to be a savory stew of sorts, with pieces of meat, carrot, leek, and potatoes. A piece of what looked like bread was beside of it, so she cut it open to put some butter inside. Her eyes widened as she discovered there was a cut of steak within.

“Y-Yes I love it here! The rooms were amazing!” She took a sip of the stew, and her eyes widened. “Wow this is great… Do you mind if I ask what this is?”

The literary collector gave the twins a smile.

“That would be Welsh Cawl with a Beef Wellington on the side. True English classics. Do you like them?”

Kat grinned, cutting of a healthy piece of the pastry-covered steak.

“I absolutely LOVE it!”

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Aunt Drina smiled while I slurped the stew. “I’m glad you like the meal, but you should really thank my cook, Polly. I’ve had her for ten years and every meal has been better than the last.” She turned to me, “What about you, Katherine?”

I chewed my beef in silence, not really knowing what to say. “Well, the room is really nice and the books are beautiful.”

Aunt Drina sat back with a smile, “Ah, yes, books. As you can see, I’m extremely fond of them. I was hoping to start you two off with your own collections of classics. Feel free to flesh them out with any you find in the library.”

I smiled while making a mental note to search for Alice in Wonderland, “Thank you, Aunt.”

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Kat’s eyes widened, and she looked up at her new guardian.

“You mean the books in our rooms are ours? For… like to keep?”

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Aunt Drina laughed, a homey sound like the crackling of a fire. “Of course, what’s the point of owning all these books if I can’t share them with anyone?”

“However, you must wait for dessert before losing yourself in the treasure hunt. Polly has made something special and it would be a shame to let it go to waste.”

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Kat nodded eagerly, letting her eyes wander over the light blue wallpaper and the ebony wood trimming of the immaculate dinning room. The matching ebony doors on the far side and right of the room were embellished with brass door handles and small ivy-like designs. The one farthest from her lead into the kitchens she supposed, as that was where the servants had came from, but the other set of doors let into a part of the house yet unexplored.

She would have to change that as soon as she was settled.

She finished off the last bite of Welsh Cawl and Crusty Bread, letting out a satisfied sigh.

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I finished off my food as Hawkins carried in a pie. “It’s called Chess Pie and I hope you really like it.” My eyes lit up as she slid a piece onto my plate. It looked delicious, and tasted as good as it looked. All too soon, it was gone and Hawkins was clearing our dishes.

“Run along now, I’m sure you’re eager to explore.” Katarina immediately rose from her place and bolted for a set of paneled oak doors. “Wait for me,” I called after her.

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Kat shot a look over her shoulder, flashing her twin a cheeky smile.

“Come on! we have a WHOLE MANSON to explore and we can take ANY of the books we want! We’re practically living in a Literary PARADISE!!! I HAVE to find all of the 1800 era science fiction classics!”

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I followed close on my sister’s heels. If there was anything by Jules Verne in this house, I wanted to find it, and locate Lewis Carrol’s most famous works as well.

I was not prepared for what lay on the other side of those doors. Shelves went all the way up to the ceiling and were crammed with books. My twin and I hopped onto a rolling ladder and yelled with delight as we shoved off and sped off down the shelves. We skidded to a stop near a bronze statue of a griffin and looked around for someway to stash our loot. Our purposes were met in two baskets that strapped could be carried like backpacks and looked big enough to carry all the books we could find in one night. The insides were lined with black velvet to keep our treasures safe.

We ran laughing from one shelf to another, calling out books as we found them. All too soon, our pack-baskets were crammed with classic fiction. As we had gotten a little lost more than once, it took longer than we expected to find our rooms again. However, we did not mind wandering around in that library of a mansion with it’s beautiful books, strange devices, patterned carpets, and countless other wonders.

We eventually found our own floor again by taking a turn at a display of taxidermy owls. It was almost like coming home from an adventure to see the identical doors that led to our rooms. Katarina went through one and I went through the other. Our bags had been delivered, courtesy of Hawkins. We settled down to filling the shelf in our room with our loot, talking all the while about the stories we loved so well.

“Katrina,” I said as I admired the way she had arranged her bookcase, “haven’t you noticed something strange about our bookshelves? They don’t seem to stand against the wall, they seem to go right through it. It’s almost as if they are connected through the wall.”

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Kat looked up from categorizing her books by genre and title, examining the ornate Cherrywood and silver book case from her side of the rooms. The wood seemed to continue to the wall, and then right through just as her sister had said. One of her raven-colored eyebrows raised slightly.

“It almost looks like the wall was made to fit around the bookshelf, and not the other way around. Huh… that’s odd.”

The younger twin picked up a grey leatherbound edition of ‘The Invisible man’ and placed it in its place. She fingered her book-shaped dark silver locket, just like she had since the day she and her sister had received the identical necklaces from their mother. They were family heirlooms, and had been their mother’s at one time. It was a special piece of her family and ancestry, and she almost could feel the weight of the history and cultures it had been through.

She had never had the chance to ask her mother why it had been in the family for so long.

She quickly shook off that train of thought before it became… grief paralyzing.

“Why do you think it’s like that?”

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I traced my fingers along the silver designs in the cherry wood. “What if it is a door between the two rooms, but why would there be any need if there was already a door? Suppose the connecting door was put in by someone who didn’t know about the bookcase?”

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Kat shrugged.

“Maybe… but if so wouldn’t there be a handle or a keyhole to unlock it? Search your side and see if you can find anything.”

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I went back around to my side, noting the grandmother clock as I passed it. It was almost midnight, which rather surprised me. I hadn’t thought we would stay up this late, but I really didn’t mind at all.

I called to my sister as I felt along the sides. “No, I don’t see anything right now.”

Just then, the clock struck midnight.

“Katherine!!!” I heard Kat shouting from the other room, “What’s happening?!” I was just as confused. The fire opal in my necklace glowed intensely against the dark sliver metal. The colors within swirled and changed like a nebula-colored whirlpool. I blinked and shook my head as the clock continued to chime. The bookcase appeared to spin in front of my eyes, faster and faster until I was sucked into the swirling vortex of wind and colors. I could hear my sister’s cries and the rustling of pages before the wind settled down and everything went black.

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