Todd Ingram's Sandbox

Wonder ahoy!

November 8

I often wonder if I am the only soul that will ever read these pages. This journal, bound in familiar leather, has served as a chronicle of my life, my hopes, my despairs, and my discoveries for years now. My eyes remain the sole visitor of its contents. I would be remiss in not mentioning that this is largely due to the measures I have willingly taken to keep the existence of this book a secret, so to complain about it would be rather hyprocritical.

But alas! these measures of secrecy are nothing substantial to the whims of the future. Perhaps my house will burn to a crisp along with me, and this journal shall be all that remains for my neighbors to find. Or maybe I shall absentmindedly leave it in a coffee shop on a cold winter's day, and have it be discovered by a curious and hungry soul. Perchance, instead, that extraordinary beings from another world will come to me and inquire as to the human condition, and I will offer them these words as evidence.

Remarkably, after what has transpired today, the third possibility may indeed be the most feasible.

I find myself taking great care in choosing my words with which to transcribe today's entry. I shall say, without great exaggeration, that the world I knew has been irreversibly and unceremoniously turned on its simple head. Or perhaps the process was rather ceremonious after all, now that I am slowly gaining a better perspective on my own thoughts by attempting to define them with ink.

It would be an ill exercise to fill the whole of this entry with all of the dreams and philosophies and other astounding things that have exuberantly glided through my consciousness these past few hours since returning home. I shall focus my current efforts, rather, on recounting the events. The details. The who, when, where, and what of that which came to pass today.

As for the how, and the why? Long before I began writing in this journal, I have viewed the answers to these questions as far beyond the scope of the human mind. Now, they seem farther away still, and yet infinitely more wondrous.


"Did you bring a book?"

John's question took a few seconds to breach Malcolm's state of mind. The latter gentleman was fairly preoccupied with gawking at the glowing, mahogany door that seemed to float ephemerally in front of the stone wall before them. With red light emanting from its frame, it served as a sharp contrast to the rows of green book lamps behind them that dotted the tables of the Bates Hall. Eventually, after a few long seconds, the words found their way past Malcolm's ears. He absentmindedly felt at a lump in his messenger bag, not taking his eyes off of the door for a second.

"Yes, I…I did." Malcolm's brow furrowed as he tried to make sense the situation. He spun around and glanced at the dozens of silent people sitting at long wooden benches. Some were using laptops, others were sifting through large tomes. None of them seemed to notice the phenomenon; for them, it was just another day at the Boston Public Library.

"They're not seeing this, you say?" Malcolm said as he turned towards John, who was still smiling warmly at the mysterious door. "Only we can?"

"Well, we're the only ones wearing cravats, are we not?" John gestured to his sternum and Malcolm's in turn. Both were adorned with neatly folded neckbands, although Malcolm's seemed somewhat anachronistic in comparison to his navy-blue polo shirt, leather sport coat, and dark jeans. John's wardrobe fit the part much better, complete with a tweed vest and patchy trousers.

"I suppose we are," Malcolm noted as he appraised his motely outfit. "I consider myself lucky I was able to find my grandfather's. But why, exactly, are we wearing these again?"

John's smile grew even warmer as he faced Malcolm for the first time in a few minutes. "So we can see the Way."

"The way where?"

"With an uppercase 'W'. Proper noun." John remarked authoritatively, in a way a teacher might correct a student's grammar. He gestured to the door. "This Way here," he said, gesturing to the otherworldy door before them, "is how you're going to get to the Library."

"Aren't we in the library already?" Malcolm looked in all directions, starting to wonder whether he could trust his eyes at this point.

John chuckled. "Once again, proper noun. Capital 'L'. The Library mentioned in your invitation. Do you have that, as well? You're not going to get very far without it."

"Yes, I believe so." Malcolm pulled a well-worn paper card out of the inside breast pocket of his jacket and thumbed it over a few times. "I've had it ever since you sent it to me last week. But where on earth did you get it?"

"From my Supervisor, of course. I'm in the 18th division, myself. They asked me, as your co-worker, to pass it along to you."

"I assume that's a capital 'S' in Supervisor?"

"Now you're getting the hang of it," John grinned, the corners of his mouth almost reaching the splashes of grey on his sideburns. "You'll fit in right well, I know it."

Malcolm faced the door once again, his eyes drawn to the immaculately clean brass doorknob. "So I just…go in? Are you coming with me?"

"Me? Oh, no, my division meets on Fridays." John rummaged around in a grey, cotton satchel around his waist. "Though I do have a book on Elrich tombs I've got to return by Thanksgiving, so I might pop in later today."

Malcolm opened his mouth to ask a question, but he doubted he was going to get a straight answer from John about what 'Elrich' meant. "Forgive me if I'm a bit…apprehensive," Malcolm apologized. "I assume you're used to this sort of thing?"

"Well, I was a bit shaky for my first few weeks, but you're of a better stock than me. I bet you'll feel fine after your first hour." John gave Malcolm a friendly punch on the shoulder. "You've always been the adventerous type."

Malcolm's mouth slowly left a state of confusion and began to form a smile. "So that's what's behind this door, then? Adventure?"

"That, and literary analysis." John mused. "Although, I think you'll find those two things aren't very far apart when it comes to the Library. Off you go, then."

With a gulp, Malcolm slowly rested his hand on the doorknob before pausing, a question caught in his head. "If we're the only ones who can see the door, what's it going to look like to all these people? Will I just…disappear into thin air?"

John laughed, shaking his head. "Oh, Malcolm. If there's one thing you're about to discover, it's that books have a penchant for taking you out of the scope of reality." He gestured to the tables behind him, where not a single head was raised from the pages or screen in front of them. "I'll be right here when you're done."

Malcolm straightened his round, rimless glasses as an undefined feeling began to form in his chest. Not a heavy weight, but a kind of force propelling him forward. A curiosity, a wonder.

He turned the doorknob with a soft click, his other hand resting on the copy of The Scarlet Letter in his bag, as the door began to open away from him. "Here goes something…"


"I'm sure the other two will be here shortly." Milo said, his fingers peeking out from under the sleeves of his dark brown robes, interlocked and resting on the table in front of him. "Why don't you tell me a little bit more about yourself in the meantime?"

Milo wasn't entirely sure the wasp princess could hear him. Her head was rotated 180 degrees to face the opposite direction, watching what appeared to be a large elk with crow feathers for fur peruse a small cart of books labeled 'Psychology'.

"Sorry!" An audible pop sounded from her exoskeleton as her neck snapped around to face Milo. "I keep noticing all these wondrous things, and I can't keep still for an instant!" Four wings vibrated excitedly on the back of her mesasoma as her small black eyes twinkled. Combined with the glossy surface of her skin and the vibrant jewelry draped around her neck and waists, she seemed to be made of many pulsating lights. The dark, horizontal black stripes along the lenght of her body was the only aspect of her that detracted from the image.

"I don't blame you at all, Princess." Milo chuckled. "To speak the truth, you're handling the Library far better than many of our first-time patrons do." One could easily be forgiven for thinking that Milo's anatomy consisted entirely of an animate brown cloak. Only on closer inspection would a nose, a chin, and a warm, fatherly smile be located amidst the blackness under his hood. The only other visible part of him that suggested a figure underneath of his cowl were his hands. His fingers were not jointed, but instead curved like tall blades of grass, bending to whatever shape was required. Even though the space where his eyes would be visible consisted of nothing but a pitch black shadow, an observer could notice a distinct change in their perception of Milo at certain times, similar to the sensation of making eye contact with someone. "I'll tell you a story sometime about a merman who had a panic attack in the Reading Room. Nasty mess. We had to have Docents on hair dryer-duty for weeks to make sure none of the books were seriously damaged…"

Milo trailed off again as he noticed that the princess's attention was once again stolen, this time by something just over his shoulder. "Why, that's the strangest one yet! What in Queen Kzzyx's name is that?"

Rooted to the spot a few feet away, Malcolm stared at the table. A small, brass signpost with the number 33 engraved on it had drawn him near, but he froze upon gaining a closer look at two of the strangest strangers he had ever seen. He blinked many times.

"That," Milo responded, turning to face the new arrival, "is a human, Princess. And one of our latecomers, I may add." Milo rose to greet him, the folds of his cloak that had been bunched under the table falling outstreched to the carpeted floor. After a short glide, he was in front of Malcolm. "I'm Milo, your Supervisor. You must be Mr. Lemuel…are you quite alright?" Milo tiled his head. Malcom was staring upwards at the towering bookshelves of the Library, trying to find the ceiling.

"I'm terribly sorry," Malcolm admitted, glancing back down at Milo. "I've promised myself not to gawk at anything. I'm afraid if I spent my time taking in everything here I've never seen in my life, I'd never leave this place," he laughed nervously. "It really is quite marvelous."

"I quite understand," Milo reckoned. "However, I'd appreciate it if you at least sat down and got accquainted with the two of us." He gestured to the other peculiar figure at the table. "Our final member will be arriving any minute now."

Malcolm nodded vigorously in lieu of a response, and collapsed into a comfy chair opposite the cloaked figure. He tried to think of something normal to say, to reacquaint himself with reality. "Should I…show you my invitation, or…?"

"No need. I'm a rather trustworthy person." He extended a grey, somewhat translucent hand, which Malcolm shook slowly. "My name's Milo. We'll hold off on formal introductions until everyone's arrived, but this is Princess Byxzwizxkx. She hails from the Camellia Province of the Pyrrhic Realms." Milo smiled. "And you?"

Malcolm, still in the middle of comprehending what was just said to him, spoke in intermitten bursts. "I'm, uh…Malcolm. Malcolm Lemuel. From…" He was unsure of how specific to be. "…Boston. Earth…Echad." He remembered what had been written on his invitation and parrotted it, which seemed to impress Milo.

"Earth Echad?" Princess Byxzwizxkx (whose name Malcolm was hoping he wouldn't be called upon to pronounce) mused, tilting her head in interest. "Is it anything like Earth Shalosh-Esrei? I have a thirty-eighth cousin who does archaeology there around this time."

"I…don't believe so, no?" Malcolm's mind was working overtime to take in the appearance of the princess sitting before him and to understand the words coming out of her mouth, which was heavily guarded by sharp, horn-like protrusions from her lower jaw. He turned to Milo, whom Malcolm thought seemed very collected, for help.

"The only real similarity between Earths is the general topograghpy," Milo explained, leaning forward slightly to make sure Princess Byxzwizxkx could hear him. "The common factors end there. Each of the one hundred Earths, from Earth Echad to Earth Me'ah, varies wildy in terms of species, climate, atmosphere, and everything else."

"One hundred Earths?" Malcolm repeated. He turned the phrase over in his head, which was refreshingly entirely made of words and terms he could understand. Miraculously, this made it seem like one of the more plausible things he had heard all day. "All right, then." he muttered in acceptance of the fact.

"One hundred, indeed," Milo concluded, straightening. "You'd be surprised at how many Jupiters there are, as well. It's an interesting phenomenon-"

A heavy metallic grinding sound interrupted Milo's speech. Everyone in a short radius covered their ears, or what passed for them. Floating above the center of Table 33 was a strange collection of ornate gears and metal pipes, orbiting around each other like electrons spinning around an atom. The amalgam itself was about the size of an old tube TV, and was surrounded by a thin aura that distorted the light around it, like invisible steam rising off of a grill in hot weather.

Milo was the first to speak, as Malcolm and Princess Byxzwizxkx were still reeling from the sudden cacophony. "Would you please mind speaking Creverian when talking to us? I know it's your second language, but it's the only way we're going to have any meaningful discussion!" He emphatically pointed to an empty chair where no one was sitting. "And get off the table! You're being rather rude."

The noise stopped. The strange apparatus moved slowly and haltingly until it rested a few inches off the seat of the chair. "Apologies," sounded a deep voice from the nucleus of the mechanical sphere. Layered under the voice was a faint rumble that threatened to become ear-splitting feedback at any moment. "It poses a considerable challenge to conduct myself whilst simultaneously maneuvering this clockwork automaton. I assure you, if my true form were allowed passage through the Way-"

"That's a story for introductions," Milo interrupted with a raise of his hand. "Why don't you just tell us your name, for now?"

A strip of yellow metal began to spin faster around the globe as it spoke again. "Enumerating all of my titles would be simple for me, but I have been informed that time means far more to mortals such as you than it does to me. I am primarily known as Kargél, Lord Of Bronzehill Valley, Revered Nur-Deity, Dreamwalker of-don't touch me." Princess Byxzwizxkx had extended one of her front legs into the mesh of spinning cogs and had almost had it torn straight off. She recoiled with a sharp buzz.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!" she apologized, rubbing her legs together. "I can't help myself. Everything here is just so fascinating! I hope I didn't hurt you."

"Impossible." droned Kargél. "Not only is this metallic construct susceptible to neither pain nor any other sensation, my true being is nigh-indestructible; it is reinforced with bronze armor forged in the fires of-"

Before Milo could cut him off again, a cavalcade of falling books did it for him.

All four turned around to see what Malcolm thought looked like a cross between a bear and a dragon. Covered with fur aside from scales on its underbelly and knees, the beast stood on all fours beside an overturned book cart. It looked down, grunting dissappointedly.

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