Ms.Eloise sat in her chair that rocked like the ocean, the bank notices rested in her thin brittle fingers. The library was her only home, and the pending closure of its doors stung to her very bones. Each book on the old vintage shelves filled the void in her heart as if they were her children. These books depended on her or the dust and mildew of time would eat away at their delicate spines and hollow out their insides. Her books needed her and Ms.Eloise needed them. With them she was never alone. She rose from her old wicker chair and each footstep echoed in the library.
The dull rays of morning sunlight illuminated the dust like embers. She dusted off the shelves of each book case, the fine canvases of each nautical painting, and she checked that the elegant silver door was locked. She walked to the open center of her library and fluffed each cushion on the mismatched couches before going and unlocking the strong wooden doors. She smiled softly at the smell of the fresh air.
The children held each of their parents hands as they walked to the library. Ms.Eloise waited patiently in her pin up dress which she’d had since the 50s. Each shiny black button was perfectly done and each wrinkle carefully pressed away from the skirt to the colar, even both long sleeves. Ms.Eloise could have been a doll, she dressed so perfectly. As the children entered the Library they gazed in awe at Ms.Eloise and her fascinating dress, they hugged her when they entered giggling with joy. Ms.Eloise hugged the children back, greeting all of them by name. She led the children to the couches and she pulled out the storybook. Some parents gathered with the children, and some wandered the library alone.
Ms.Eloise drew in a long willful breath before starting “Alright sweet peas, we’re on the fifth chapter of our book today, can anyone tell me what happened in the last chapter?”
By all means, Ms.Eloise was not a teacher. Not a typical teacher at least, Ms.Eloise taught children to love books, and to love their stories. She was sweet with children and they were sweet with her. Each child became entranced in each word that left Ms.Eloise’s lips. She read her stories with soul, and deep emotion that entangled any living being like ivy engulfs a neglected building. She was simply enchanting.
Each child in the library adored Ms.Eloise, regardless of if their parents wandered the library, sat with story time or, like seven year old Vee’s mom, left and returned far after story time was over.
Vee was very familiar with the library, each day after story time ended she would help Ms.Eloise put away books, dust shelves or she would read on the comfortable couches. Ms.Eloise did not have favorites, but she felt deeply for Vee. She would often braid Vee’s curly blonde hair, that was so naturally light it looked like she bleached it monthly. Her natural hair was a gorgeous gift. Her green eyes endlessly roamed the library, and devoured each word on any book she could reach.
Just as Ms.Eloise mesmerized Vee and all the other children, her library reflected this mesmerization, but what was an old woman to do when her home was destined to belong to the banks. There is only so much money an old library can pull in, there is only so much time an old woman can give. Time seems borrowed. Ms.Eloise’s library was not only her home, but home to many of her customers; especially Vee.
The library was a charm, each shelf gave its secrets to those who came, each book bared its soul, and each beam held the weight of a thousand worlds. The endless dust that resided in the library carried its own stories and characters, and it existed over each page, each wall, and each door. Including the ornate silver door that Ms.Eloise swore to always keep locked. That she swore to protect against. For behind that door was a whisper, a whisper that rang out like the calls from an island of sirens. The door held back a danger, worse than anything experienced by the customers in the library. Worse than that of any creature found within the pages of the books Ms.Eloise read at storytime in her ordinary library.
Once the call from behind the ornate silver door sang out, there was no stopping it. It echoed like true hunger, a hunger that destroyed, that ate away any trace of humanity, and starved for fulfillment.
On that day, as Ms.Eloise read, the room behind the silver door called. The call rang out, and just as the sailors fell for the sirens. The deep call wove through each guest at the library until it chose its victim. One sweet little girl, with blonde curls on the couch fell into the longing. She rose from the couch, away from the sound of Ms.Eloise, who was looking at her book and missed Vee walking to the deep call of the silver door.
The library shaded the light from the girl, and her path became even clearer. Her blonde curls bounced lightly with each small step she took. From her perspective, centuries passed as she traveled to her calling, and each warning Ms.Eloise gave about staying away from the door disappeared from the girl’s mind. Her green eyes glazed white, and they grew whiter and whiter with each step she took toward the door. Her soft porcelain hand reached for the locked doorknob, but the silver door opened for her without a touch. Vee passed the protected threshold and behind her the elegant silver door closed. Ice cold air blew around her curls, and her now pure white eyes locked with the source. A book held closed with locks and binds, she reached for the book. Upon her touch it began opening for her, melting away all of its restraints. As the book slowly opened it rose face to face with Vee. And as it finally opened all the way, its insides ached, and screamed, so loud the girl’s ears bled. Her trance broke and fear shook her bones as the book’s dripping black teeth bared themselves with its scream, but it was too late. Her newly white eyes began to bleed like her ears as the book swallowed her whole, and its hunger was once again satisfied behind the locked elegant silver door. The book’s dripping teeth hid again as it closed and from its leather bindings grew its locks and restraints, as quickly as it had melted them off. It lowered from the height of the child and placed itself back on the shelf, just as it had been for years in Ms.Eloise’s library.
No one in the isles of the book shelves heard the enchanting scream nor saw Vee in her deep trance cross the silver door. Nor did any of the children in the story circle or Ms.Eloise. It wasn’t until she peeked up from the story book that she noticed the empty seat and missing child. Her eyes darted around the circle, and down the visible isles, but to no avail. Vee was gone, and Ms.Eloise feared that she knew what happened.
She drew a long shaky breath and the children lost their enchantment with her story for a split second before she continued, “‘For the cabin boy had fallen for the kind siren, and in secret he created a plan to be together. When all the magical bad men on the ship were fast asleep under the ocean stars he broke into the relic room,’” Eloise took a moment, “‘and after the sneaky cabin boy closed the door behind him, the search began for The Book.’” The children in the circle all leaned into the story, listening deeply to each word Ms.Eloise read. “That’s all kiddos, we will start the sixth chapter in two days.”
The parents thanked Ms.Eloise and the children all hugged her goodbye, despite their displeasure with the end of the chapter. Eloise closed the book and dusted off the cover before placing it behind her front desk. The library was single staffed so after the morning customers floated out Ms.Eloise would lock the door. She roamed the isles of books hoping she would find Vee, with her nose buried in a page, or rearranging a shelf, but to her dismay she didn’t. After checking out the last of her customers, and visiting with the end of the morning patrons she locked the door and flipped the open sign to closed. Her hands shook lightly, and the worry of Vee’s mother returning made her sick, how would she explain? She thought for sure the book was safe here, and that its magic was resting.
Slowly approaching the ornate silver door she took her shaky hands and rolled up her sleeves. Eloise grew scared, she had never feared the book, but she had always feared the rage it held and the aftermath of its destruction. She kneeled in front of the door and untucked the necklace from her dress. It was crafted from a long oxidized chain, with centuries of water damage and exposure, and hanging from the ancient chain sat a vial and a key. In the crystal-like, glass vial was a pinch of the ocean floor and saltwater that filled it to the brim. The key was deeply blue like the depth of the ocean, and reflected a turquoise blue like tropical water in the light. Despite being as old as the chain, it looked freshly crafted. Eloise held it between two fingers, and felt the smooth, water-like key for just another moment before placing the old key in the lock of the door. She twisted it slowly, and flinched at the sound of the clicking lock.
She stayed on her knees as the door opened. Shaking the nerves from her hands she rose, and entered the room as the door, just like it had with Vee, closed behind her. The cold air blew around her, and she looked around the room before approaching the book. The paint was broken, and cracked. The floors warped slightly with each step. And the wall of shelves rotted in unnecessary places. There was an open chest across from the book, that held pictures from her life, as many as she had. She smiled softly thinking of the memories she had collected and the people she’d been lucky to meet, but her smile soon faded. She walked toward the book and the cold air teased her neck, making goosebumps trouble her smooth skin.
Her finger dragged over the spine of the book, and as she feared, she felt a third ‘x’ carved into the leather. She pulled the book off of the shelf letting it hit the floor hard, as the metal chains and restraints weighed its fall. She was livid, and her skin crawled with rage. She kicked the book across the room and cursed loudly.
“You weren’t supposed to be awake!” she raged as she kicked it again. She left it there, beaten on the floor as she rested her head against the wall near the memory chest.
The hair on her neck stood as she heard the flutter of pages echo in the small room. She stood up straight and held her shoulders strong, her chin high, and her eyes then met the book which floated at her height. It’s locks and restraints melted off for the second time that morning.
“You only have one more ‘x’ to collect. You must be proud of yourselves.” Eloise spat at the book, it spun as if bragging to her. Eloise grew annoyed, after centuries of this, it became tedious. The book calmed down and the sound of the pages ceased, slowly it lowered to her wrist and began gently rocking toward her hand and back. Eloise protested crossing her arms, and as she expected the book held even with her hand. She shrugged her shoulders, locking her eyes on the book. It grew irritated and began rocking fast, to her hand and away, to her hand and away. Over and over it did this until the sound of pages began echoing in the room again. The sound grew louder and louder until the pure intensity made Ms.Eloise’s eyes water.
“Fine!” she screamed, breaking the echo into silence. She held out her hand and the book rested under it, allowing full contact with its cover and her palm.
The room grew very dark and her eyes began filling with salt water. Each breath she breathed was replaced with the same ocean water as her eyes until her lungs were full and she collapsed to the ground. It was then, once her body lay there shaking and pooling in ocean water, her vision started.
She found herself falling through the ocean in the middle of the sea, but the resistance of the seawater was non-existent. It felt like she was falling from the clouds, and her plummet only slowed to give her glimpses of her past.
Eloise saw herself in her library, as an older woman, reading to the children in her grey pin up dress. She saw herself in the 1950s as a young teenager when the dress was new. She saw herself in the hidden speakeasies as a young adult. She saw herself at witch trials as a child. She saw herself on the Mayflower as a young woman holding the hand of her husband. Just as she saw herself on pirate ships in the beginning of her journey, holding her lover’s arm. In each of these visions, she kept the book. Finally, Eloise felt an impact, and she was back in her first form, reliving the day it started.
Deep under the ocean, in the 1500s, was a seamount of shapeshifting sirens. The sirens, while beautiful in appearance, were even more stunning in sound. The five sirens that lived there had been pulling sailors to their deaths for decades, and they derived satisfaction from doing so. The seamount would rise from the water at the will of the siren nymphs, creating an island that made hunting for men child’s play.
Edith, Elenora, Emelia, Estelle and Eloise, the indulgent sirens of that island all carried the same goal; feeding their hunger and entertaining their long enchanting days. Or so they thought. Eloise’s song was the most enchanting of the sirens, and she seaked the approval of her sisters, so ship after ship she led the torment of the poor men. But this was not her wish. Each soul that Eloise enchanted into the depths of her magic broke her heart. Sailor after sailor, and heartbreak after heartbreak, Eloise’s wish was to love.
Finally in the depths of night, when the island rested under the sea, a large ship floated ahead and Eloise woke to the sounds of stomping feet. While her sisters slept, she rose to the top of the water and there she saw him. The beautiful cabin boy, with sandy blond hair, and sculpted cheekbones. Eloise gasped, but was careful to be silent as to not lure the ship, he looked like a god. He glowed in the light of the ship’s lanterns like a god. The man sat on the edge of the ship admiring the celebration taking place on the deck, though he seemed heartbroken too. He smiled emptily, and seemed to be mapping out the actions of those on board, and for once Eloise’s heart began beating as if thawed from the icy water of the sea. Then she saw more, the shackles on his arms, the shackles on his ankles, and the deep vivid bruises on his skin.
The vision ended before she could help him, and though still shaking on the floor, she screamed and begged to have him back. Before Eloise got the chance to catch her breath, she felt the hard impact again, and another vision started. Once more she saw him, Oliver Wardd, with his sandy hair and sculpted face. This time, he was free of his chains and had snuck into the relic room of his ship, just like she had told in the story that morning. The man, who was a prisoner, finally found the book. The boat he was held on belonged to a band of thieves, who stole magical relics to harness their power but Oliver was determined to use the book for Eloise. They’d fallen in love by then, and the only way Oliver Wardd could think to be with her was to capture her sisters. And set her free.
He brought the book to the edge of the ship, and held onto it strongly as he watched the island rise. As it surfaced the sirens began quietly singing their song. Oliver opened the book, and a powerful ocean wind struck them all. The freezing air numbed Oliver’s fingers but he held on strong.
The beautiful songs of the girls were replaced with their screams. Slowly the book lifted the sisters in the air and pulled them toward Oliver Wardd. They bared their white eyes and black teeth as they flew toward the cabin boy, but it didn’t stop him. The icy wind was accompanied by ruthless rain, and aggressive waves, which grew more intense as the sirens got closer to the book. One by one the book consumed them, first Elenora, then Estelle, and Edith, and Emelia. Oliver forced the book closed before anything else could get pulled in, especially Eloise. Locks began growing from the leather book and sealed it closed, just as a necklace with a key and a vial dropped around Oliver’s neck.
The only siren left climbed onto the ship, now bearing legs and a sailor dress. Oliver held her in his arms, and told her everything he knew about the book now that her sisters were inside.
“Eloise, this book will hold them in, but once they each claim a victim with their call it will open again. Their strength will constantly fluctuate and their magic can overtake that of the book, but not for long. We can’t let anyone get lost in their call. Anything that holds the book will fit this key and only this key. ”
Eloise nodded and took the book from Oliver. On the back of the leather she read “‘He who wields the book is granted 100 years for every two souls caught inside.’ That means we can be together Oliver”
That was the end of her vision but her trance still held. Eloise remembered the centuries that they hid the book away, always in a locked chest, sealed box, or an entire secured room. They grew confident in their guard of the book and in turn, they were careless. Oftentimes Eloise would catch Oliver staring at the book, regardless of where it hid. She’d squeeze his hand and he would snap out of the trance as if nothing happened.
Deep down Eloise knew that Oliver was in danger with the book, but her trust in Oliver’s safety held. It wasn’t until the end of Oliver’s time that she realized how naive her trust in his safest was. Her heart broke when she found the lockbox on the floor of their home. No book in sight. She remembered the way his name felt as she screamed for him, frantically running to find him. But she was too late. His eyes were whiter than ocean pearls as he bled from the scream of the book, and all Eloise could do was stand frozen in the doorway, fear eating away her mobility. She watched as the book ate him, leaving nothing but the key which Oliver had worn on his neck.
The book fell and its locks grew back, as a deep ‘x’ formed in its spine. Its first ‘x’. She closed the book back into its box, and then slowly placed Oliver’s necklace over her head. Between two fingers she held the key and vial, this brought her back to the surface of her vision.
She awoke from the floor of the broken room in the library as the excruciating vision cycle ended. This pain, with the reminder of her loss and the book’s journey was her punishment each time she failed to keep it from getting another victim. There was only one more sister that needed to be fed, and as Eloise convulsed on the floor still expelling water from her lungs, the last sister made her decision.
Eloise had fought for centuries to protect the world from her sisters, and keep her identity hidden. She was likely the most powerful creature free on the Earth, yet crumbled on the floor she was weak. Eloise phased through her identities, shifting from child, to woman to elder, over and over as she fought to get all the water out. Her eyes were closed, and slowly the leather book that was unbound crept up on her. It silently opened completely, baring its dripping black teeth and swallowed Eloise whole.
The silver door in the library opened from the inside for the first time ever, and in the doorway stood four stunning young women with alluring eyes, and absolutely enchanting voices. They opened the locked door of the library, finally Edith, Elenora, Emelia, and Estelle were unleashed.