Lending a Helpful Hand

My adrenaline wouldn’t stop pumping. We were running full sprint down Wilshire in Los Angeles. As I and my partner in crime ran people watched us with equal parts confusion and surprise. “The gateway is just under the bridge up ahead, as long as its open we are home free!” yelled out Laina over the sound of racing cars on the boulevard. Sirens blared in the background as police made it to museum, it wouldn’t be long before they would be tearing down the street after us. In my hand I held tightly to a slightly charred book, the golden egg of our crazed idea.

I had known Laina just the previous year, we had met at a transit mall waiting for the train. I had an interest in history, so it surprised me to see the symbol for a sumerian moon god on a small purse she carried. She was equally surprised I recognized a symbol from across the world and centuries alike, it was more than just some simple trinket she carried though. A floodgate of esoteric and other-worldly fascination poured out from Laina, telling me what personal charms and glyphs on her person were supposed to do.

I remained skeptical of course, but she was kind and honest in her conviction so I let her continue. I did take interest in certain particular details, it seemed at least a lot of thought had gone into the backgrounds of some of her possessions. I wondered though why all of the items were for protection, “You seem to be wanting to ward things off” I asked her as I saw a train pull around the final bend. “Protection, you don’t take steps to protect yourself?” she replied back while standing up as it seemed this was her ride. I chuckled a bit and stated I prefer a taser or mace.

Time flew by though this last year but I kept up communications with Laina frequently. We became quite the chatting duo over different subjects others wouldn't take interest in. Times were tough living in LA though, but a few occasions we were able to help each other out which kept us both afloat. We became close and I really trusted her, one day though that bond was to be severely tested. She came up to me yesterday with a plea of help, something she desperately needed and I was the only one who would hear her out.

A simple red covered book that sat in a local museum’s exhibit. It had traveled there under an exhibit for King Rudolf the 1st of the Habsburg line. Laina told me that the book was a personal possession of the late german and that it was found on his person when he passed away. She told me there was a secret the museum did not know about, that the book was also a key. I was a bit taken back by the request at first, “I owe you a lot of things, but I don’t owe those old stories of yours validity”. “Please you are the only one here who would hear me out and the book leaves at the end of the week”, there was a level of sincerity in her eyes that made it hard to be so cold to the request.

I cracked, I decided to trust her somewhat here. I demanded to know why she needed it though if she wanted to me to help break into a heavily monitored building. She told me something was coming for her, that everyday it was getting closer. The book was a key to let her get somewhere that would help her fight the predatory phantasm. “The wards have helped, but it will find me by the next full moon. I don’t have any time left for other options.” She was a good friend who saved my skin in the past, so I guess I was about to do something very stupid.

We did not have the most stealthy plan, no repelling down from the ceiling to avoid the laser grid or any nonsense like that. We needed that book so Laina was ready to create a huge distraction between me and the exit. I grabbed a nearby object and smashed the glass on the wall, grabbing the book from its stand and running full speed, hoping I didn’t forget the exit. By the time I turned the corner I saw Laina creating her “diversion”, which turned out to be her locking the guards in their office and barring the door. It worked, and we were out the door, so I let it slide.

My heart never stopped or missed a beat from there though, time almost seemed to slow down. Laina had told me she had an escape plan just under the freeway nearby, by the time we arrived I could see a cop car turn down Wilshire at full speed. “Ok now for my sanity please tell me what the plan is” I begged Laina as I took cover behind the corner. “Here! This is prize we are after” she said as she pointed off into a dead end alley. It took me a few seconds of being stood there just staring, wondering what cruel joke my life had become.

Laina grabbed me by the arm and said we needed to move quick, then to my surprise she pulled out jackets from box she must of left here before hand. It was 95 degrees and we were both overheating already from the full sprint escape, I thought she really had lost it and did not know how to respond. She wrapped it around me and handed me the book, “Hold it out in front of you, I will follow just behind you”. I heard the police pulling up to the underpass, they must of seen us duck into here. “This is it” I whispered to myself.

But as I expected to be found cornered in an alley in downtown LA, I felt a very strong push from Laina into the concrete wall in front of me. That red book touched the wall first and as it did the wall didn’t push back. I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt as if I fell through a wall of water and onto the ground on the other side. When I hit the ground it was soft, it felt like snow. That’s when I got hit by a chill I will never forget. It must of changed almost 100 degrees in a split second, when I looked up though it was all explained though, I was no longer in LA.

“Still in one piece? Then we need to get moving before you freeze as a solid piece” echoed Laina as she picked me up from the snow. “What happened??” I asked somewhat franticly but with all energy drained. I looked around and we seemed to be in some type of pine forest with heavy snowfall coming down on us. “The book was a key, remember? We need to move to the next gate before we catch frostbite though!” She struggled to get the last sentence out as the wind barreled down into us drowning out any other sound.

We luckily only traveled a hundred feet before a large rock formation had broken through the snowstorm. Laina pulled my hand as we entered a small alcove in the rock, only a few feet wide. We sat down in the snow under the arch of the rock as Laina began removing the snow from in front of us. The ground below the snow was smoothed stone with symbols written across it. I couldn’t understand a single one but it all spiraled into a whirlpool at the center. “Place your hands on the outside of the circle, stare deeply into the center until you feel it pulling you in” she told me. I felt like I had lost my mind, I didn’t know where I was but I had no real alternative except for the motions she told me to follow.

As I looked into the circle, I wondered if the cold was affecting my vision. I saw the symbols slowly start moving and swirling around, my focus more and more centered into the whirlpool. I felt at calm for some reason and I started to forget about the raging snowstorm we were in. My eyes grew heavy for a moment and I closed them. I forgot about Laina, the book, the police who were looking for us, or anything else. In that calm serenity I felt a hand on my shoulder “We made it”.

I opened my eyes and the snow was gone, I was much warmer and I could hear my own thoughts again. I stood up with Laina from our position around the circle. The diagram on the ground was still there, exactly as it had been but not covered by snow anymore. I looked up and around to see a massive hall full of bookcases, groups of individuals human and not, and strange lights that blinked in and out of existence towards the ceiling. “I can get what we need from here, and I can finally be safe again” Laina said as she hugged me and began walking down a corridor. I asked where we were and she looked back at me with my confusion and shattered sanity “Welcome to the Library”.

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