“It’s Mavis,” said Roger before he was even seated all of the way. “She’s been sick for a while and no one knows why. Linda says it is all in her head, and she wished it was. And Harnswiggle heard her…”
Esperanza chuckled softly. “I should have known that Harnswiggle would be a part of this. She wrote it into The Book of Things that Are, didn’t she?”
They nodded, not surprised at her understanding, comfortable in her deep knowing.
“And now you’ve come to try and find The Book so that you can change it.”
Esperanza looked at Mavis. “That is Harnswiggle’s plan. But is it really what you intend?”
Mavis knew that she couldn’t lie to her. Not while she was looking at her with those eyes that were filled with knowing. “If it is The Book of Things that Are...couldn’t I just...couldn’t I…?”
“Write in it that you are not sick at all?”
Mavis looked down. “Yes.”
“Remember, child, that things are the way they are for a reason. You cannot erase anything from The Book of Things that Are. You can only add them or change them. The Book is not a toy. It should not be used to manipulate the fabric of our worlds or of our lives.”
Both Mavis and Roger were very sad and very quiet.
“You are wondering if you will be sick for the rest of your life,” said Esperanza gently.
“Yes, ma’am,” said Mavis.
“Don’t you know?” asked Roger, sure that she must know everything.
“It is not within my power, I am afraid, to tell you the future.”
“Couldn’t you guess?” Roger persisted.
“It is hard to guess at another’s future, Roger, because it is so far out of my control.” She sighed. “But I see that you will not be content unless I hazard some sort of effort in that area. I do not think that Mavis will be as she is now for the rest of her life. Perhaps some hero will rise up to change the course of her illness, or perhaps it will run through its lifecycle and be done. I can only say this with certainty: what Harnswiggle has written into The Book has been of a great disservice to Mavis, even though it was meant well. Whatever it is that is hurting your sister was not meant to be in her head.”
Mavis couldn’t agree more, and Roger was in no mood to be contrary. He was getting a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, and wanted to get on with making Mavis better, not talking about how she was getting worse. “Would you tell us where The Book is? Is it near?”
Esperanza shook her head. “Obtaining The Book will not be easy. It is in the outer regions of Otherworld, in the kingdom of the Rutlars.”
“I thought that Harnswiggle just had it!” cried Mavis.
“Unfortunately, she misplaced it on a train.”
It was Roger’s turn to sigh. He was beginning to think that Harnswiggle was a great deal of trouble. “How will we find it? This kingdom?”
“Someone will have to guide you there,” said Esperanza with a smile. “And seeing as Harnswiggle is the cause for all of this, I believe it ought to be her.”
“Will the Rutlars give it to us?” asked Roger.
“King Ragoon is...not the politest of men. Nor is he the most compassionate. But he can be bargained with. And it just so happens that I have something that he wants.”
“What is it?”
She gestured to a cupboard on the wall and the leaf curtain moved aside. Sitting on the shelf was a little bottle of liquid. “It is a remedy.”
“A remedy for what?” asked Mavis.
Roger squeaked. “Baldness? He wants a special remedy for baldness so bad that he will give us a magic book that changes reality?”
“The Book does not change reality,” said Esperanza without blinking. “It changes the things that are.”
“Oh,” said Roger. “That makes sense.”
Mavis jabbed him with her elbow.
“You have other questions?” asked Esperanza.
“Yes,” said Roger.
“No,” said Mavis at the same time.
“Proceed,” said Esperanza.
“Is Otherworld an actual world? Like another planet that orbits another star?”
“Otherworld is neither here nor there. It is a place between worlds, a place that is the best of all other worlds.”
“Ok. That wasn’t cryptic or anything. Does time stop here, when we’re back at our world? Does it stop in our world when we are here? Are we going to randomly come back 2,000 years from now and the Telmarines will have taken over?”
“Telmarines?” asked Esperanza.
“That’s from a book,” explained Mavis, shooting Roger a look. “They’re not a real thing.”
“You don’t know,” said Roger. “We found a door in a shed, but Lewis could have totally found one in a--.”
“Give it a rest,” said Mavis.
“I’d better get a trip to Narnia out of this somehow.”
“I am unsure of where this Narnia you speak of is,” said Esperanza. “Perhaps you should consult the map in the Central Station.”
“Sure,” said Roger. “When are we going on this quest?”
“It is best if you leave as soon as possible.”
“Now?” asked Mavis.
“Cool,” said Roger. This was more his style. Action, movement, implementing a plan. And hopefully he would get to kick some butts before this was all over. He had always wanted to kick a butt, even though, now that he thought about it, he wasn’t really sure how. Did you just pull your leg up from the ground? Or stick it to the side? Maybe you--
“Can’t we, I don’t know…” Mavis’ voice sounded wobbly.
“Are you feeling ok?” asked Roger, forgetting about butts and kicking almost instantly.
“I’m just--just feeling a little tired. Couldn’t we eat something, or just rest a minute?”
“Of course you may rest,” said Esperanza. She reached out and laid her hand on Mavis head. With a sigh, Mavis curled up and fell asleep.