Selina collided with a figure hunched over a heap in a doorway. The figure let out a shout as it fell to the ground. Selina rolled off the man, and scrambled to her feet. She looked down and saw a bloodied knife in his hand. Her eyes flicked between the knife and the motionless heap. Legs streaked with mud stuck out from filthy skirts pushed up to the waist.
“There she is!” shouted one of her pursuers.
Selina took flight, rushing headlong down the alley. She couldn’t stop to think about the heap, or the knife.
What kind of place is this? she thought.
A commotion erupted as her pursuers ran into the man with the knife. One of them shouted a curse, and scuffling filled the air. Cries of ‘Murder!’ echoed around the alley. Windows flew open and heads poked into the darkness. Selina ignored it all, and the fracas grew faint as she rounded the corner. Relief flooded her mind as her pursuers forgot her.
Selina’s foot caught the edge of an abandoned cart and she stumbled forward. The book slipped out of her grasp, and fell open. Selina just had time to notice the starry void opening beneath her as she dived headfirst into space.
* * *
Selina woke up on the floor of the library. Cold flagstones supported her back, and a thumping in her skull told her she hit her head when she fell. She parted her hair and felt a lump. The black leather book lay open on the floor, just beyond her grasp. Blank pages stared up at her, telling nothing of her adventure.
Selina picked up the book and closed it with a thump. She pushed it back into its slot on the shelf. Selina shoved it onto the shelf as far as it would go, and the shadow of its neighbouring tome fell across the shiny golden lion.
Dusting herself off, Selina dabbed at the mud splatters on her boots with a handkerchief. Taking her time, she walked back to her table in the reading room. Quantum steam theory suddenly didn't seem so boring after all.
Part 1 : Part 2 : Part 3 : Part 4