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  1. Opening Scene: Introduces protagonist, protagonist's wound, hidden magical world, and an important secondary character; plus ends with inciting incident. A burst of magic hung in limbo. No more than a bolt of spellbound energy, it had more in common with the wind than anything of substance; however, it vibrated with the urgency of a message needing to be delivered. Imbued with a tiny bit of magic, the missive was protected. Only the intended recipient could accept it. Yet, it still attracted attention. The wrong kind. The dark kind. Success required swift delivery. The magic hummed, zeroing in on the Veil’s opaque wall. It focused on one spot. Zizzing and buzzing, the barrier lightened to reveal a bookshelf on the other side. The message concentrated on a red leather-bound book intent on pushing it off the shelf. The Veil buckled. Pulsed. Energy transferred from one side to the other… … and the red-covered novel fell off the bookshelf in Baxter Creek’s old Carnegie library. The THUNK sounded behind Evangeline. She jumped, jerking around, causing long hair to swish around her shoulders. “Oh!” she said, scaring far too easily for a woman of twenty-two. She stared at the book on the floor. It’s nothing, she thought, walking down the stack to pick it up. A bit of cardboard stuck out. It marked a spot halfway through. She glanced at the red cover, noticing it was a book of limericks. Uninterested, she set it back on the shelf. As soon as she turned away—THUNK. Evangeline’s nose tilted upward, along with an eyebrow. She looked back. The limerick book was on the floor again. “What the—? You, my friend, are naughty and will have to wait.” She turned her back to the book, completely missing a glowing spot on the wall—the outer wall behind the shelving. It pulsed softly. The barrier was thin but still intact, allowing a glimpse of the waiting message. It blinked for attention once, twice, its magic fading. Darkness tugged around it, muting the glow. Yet, the magic persisted, called out with no voice. Its dying signal, unfortunately, offered an opportunity for others to penetrate a weak spot between realms. Tormented specters converged, ramming into the fragile stain. The silent feeding frenzy had to be ear-piercing on the other side. Hunger twisted wicked teeth. Screaming mouths shouted. They attacked, putting everything into breaking out. The barrier held, but the sickening rage seeped through, quivering from the transference into an intangible residue. It reformed into a wicked wave, rising, building, disturbing air particles as it crashed across the library. Only a heartbeat away, the wave washed over Evangeline. She shuddered, shoulders instinctively curling forward, as a jolt of static electricity sparked between her cleaning rag and the wooden shelf. “Aw!” Evangeline stopped dusting, wiggling her fingers. The wave ebbed into the dusty air, losing any force. It’s power evaporated along with the missive’s magic. The barrier strengthened. Nothing else would have a chance to escape as the wall abruptly turned solid again. A calmness settled back over the library. Evangeline glanced one way and then the other, sensing too late that something was off. Her eyes darted to the stacks. Vintage books waited to be catalogued while other shelves were empty. Nothing seemed out of place, so she wasn’t sure about the warning sensation. Not that she could trust her feelings. Like a constant, worrisome companion, Evangeline had a massive blindspot in her memory. It tainted her instincts, because it masked big swatches of her life. She remembered the inane stuff, like why she only had one red shoe—the high heel broke off when she tried to run across a grass lawn. Not that she recalled the actual party. Just an urge to escape. She didn’t even know when she’d lost her memory. And no one will know it’s gone, she vowed, until I get some answers.But she couldn’t blame her condition for the tension clutching at the library. She reached to touch the opposite shelf. A faint, cell phone kind of vibration buzzed her fingertips, growing fainter. “Oh… shit.” The shelf was original to the library, sturdy oak and usually non-buzzing. “Do you hear an alarm?” Evangeline spoke to the library, but no one answered. She patiently waited, as if it would. The main floor of Baxter Creek’s Carnegie library was divided into three parts: the entry, including a librarian’s desk, a lecture room on one side and a reading room on the other. Since Evangeline intended to convert the library into a coffee house with a bed & breakfast, she’d turned the lecture room into a sitting area. It contained the book stacks—including her dusting spot—one original long oak table with straight-backed chairs and space for cozy reading. Sadly, its two loveseats were on backorder. The opposite side of the library had been cleared out to prep for a coffee shop. It needed a lot of work, although three round cafe tables and chairs hinted at its future. The space mostly showed signs of construction with drop cloths protecting what needed to be preserved from what needed to be fixed. Shoved into every corner stood boxes. Most of them were filled with the library’s original book collection. Eventually, they’d all be in the stacks or lining the walls, as Evangeline intended to make good use of the library’s original design. Practically every wall was fitted with shelves. They went from the floor up ten feet, stopping well below the fifteen-foot-high ceilings. Between the top of the shelving to the roof were the windows. They were placed high to offer plenty of light during the day, without impacting the needed wall space. “I’m talking to you,” Evangeline called again, “not myself.” A closet door slowly creaked open. “Huh?” Danna asked. She leaned partway out, striking a pose as she stifled a sneeze. Dust floated around her stylish African head wrap, protecting her long raven braids. The bold purple silk covered her head and tied at the back. She pushed the oak door wider. “I thought you were talking to yourself. Again. You do that. In a totally cute way, of course.” “Of course,” Evangeline said, “because little signs of insanity are so cute.” She tried to hide the pang in her heart. No one needs to know I’m broken. “It’s original. Talking to books,” Danna said. “Just let me know when they talk back.” Evangeline could have hugged her only employee for downplaying a bad habit. She often spoke out loud to no one in particular. “Not this time,” she said. “It wasn’t the books talking back, I heard something.” Danna paused to listen. “Probably just the dust invading your brain. Ignore it and come get a closer look at what we will be calling the Closet of Forgotten Awesomeness.” She opened the door wider. It was too far away for Evangeline to see inside, and she had no intention of being distracted. The renovations were dragging. She needed the business up and running, sooner than later which meant no time for the closet. She ran over a mental to-do list: call the contractor to report the vibration, pick up the fallen book and more dusting. She might even drive to the city and get one of those HEPA air purifiers for the dust. She’d eventually get to the closet. She wanted to experience every new find, since the library held so many secrets. Its secrets can wait, she thought. Just like mine. If she’d been closer to the closet, however, Evangeline would have made a different list. And the closet would have zoomed to the top. The intricately carved interior with nooks full of scrolls and bound leather boxes promised amazing discoveries. “Later,” Evangeline said, retrieving the red covered book from the floor. She gave it a swipe of her dust rag. “I need to find a home for my new friend.” “Huh?” Danna's voice sounded muffled, having moved deeper into the storage closet. “Don’t tease me, I know I just called a book a friend,” Evangeline admitted, “but I bought a library. If it’s okay to talk to the books, why not treat them like long lost friends?” Danna briefly poked her head out of the closet, making a face. “The friendship should extend to this closet.” Evangeline was torn. She didn’t want to dissuade her only employee—and the only person close to her age in the whole town. Well, it wasn’t that bad. Baxter Creek had plenty of residents in their twenties, it just skewed older. The small town’s average age was over forty, favored jazz music and liked their coffee with tall tales. As an interesting town quirk, the residents embraced superstition. The fact intrigued and worried Evangeline. Of course, she understood. The town had history—the kind that didn’t always end in neat, logical answers; but would that translate into physical change? Would they embrace the library’s facelift and new purpose? “We shall see,” Evangeline whispered to the room, not wanting to admit she was a little superstitious, too. “What did you find in the closet?” Danna took another step into the main library. She brushed at her clothes. The movement sent glittering particles dancing in the air. For the briefest of moments they formed a halo over her head. She coughed. “Uh, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. You gotta see it for yourself.” “More secrets?” “The best kind,” Danna promised, sensing Evangeline’s deeper meaning. “Don’t worry, I didn’t find a ghost or anything that cool.” “Don’t say the ‘G’ word,” Evangeline gasped. A rumor like that could stall renovations and the clock was ticking. She could almost hear it. Tick. Tock. Tockity Ting. Tonk. Tung. Pausing, Evangeline listened. She could actually hear a clock. It sounded broken. Looking around, she didn’t see the source and knew that she hadn’t brought anything into the library that ticked. Since the building kept revealing hidden treasures, she was sure the clock would turn out to be another one. “Trust me, you have time for the closet,” Danna said, checking her phone. “And I’ll be leaving you to it, but I should point out a couple of things before I go.” Evangeline waved the dust rag in the air. “I just need a minute,” she said, taking the red covered book over to a special section of the library. “Only if it’s really a minute,” Danna said, disappearing back into the closet. Evangeline crossed the foyer of the historical building. It had served the community for over eleven decades, but the digital streaming age—plus a bigger library attached to a nearby college—made the little library obsolete. The town council put it up for sale, along with all the contents. Unfortunately, few people wanted to deal with a historical property—enter Evangeline. It was a lifeline. She’d grabbed onto it, feeling lucky the opportunity had appeared. It filled a void… one where some of her memories should have been, but she didn’t like to think about what she’d lost, only restoring the gaps. Standing back to admire the special reading corner, Evangeline had to admit it would always be her favorite spot. She hoped her guests liked it, too. She imagined an avid reader snuggling up with a good book in the winged burgundy chair. Its leather was seasoned to a buttery softness with a faint scent of woodsy tobacco. Once owned by a little old professor from Oxford—at least that’s the story she told herself. She’d actually found the chair at a swap meet. Behind it, Evangeline admired a walnut bookcase she’d discovered in the basement. It was a Danner Revolving bookcase, with four levels, 23-inches square with a rolling base like a desk chair. She spun it to reveal space on a lower shelf, perfect for the fallen book. As she stretched to add it, something heavy dropped out. The trinket clattered on the parquet floor. Evangeline picked up a 2-inch by 3-inch photograph—a ferrotype or tintype—common in the 19th century. It must have slipped out of a cardboard mount: the bookmark she’d noticed earlier. Who are you? she wondered, knowing the couple posing in a tight embrace were long gone. Shifting the iron-backed image toward the light, her heart lurched. The quality of the dark gray image was poor. Rusted in spots, it also had blistering where the enamel lifted away from the thin sheet of iron. Still, one face stood out, unsmiling—Evangeline’s.
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