The Lost Chapter

The Lost Chapter
Illustration by Commando Jugenstil

It was a rainy December afternoon on Cornelia Street. I walked into a small antique bookstore, the smell of dusty untouched books filled the air. My muddy shoes tracked across the vintage carpet as I silently strolled down the long corridor, admiring the stunning architecture and dark wooden bookshelves around me. The elegance of the bookstore enchanted me, and slowly, I wandered to the basement. It was as though time had stopped. It was the most gorgeous place I had ever seen. Suddenly, the doorbell rang abruptly; it was as though I had woken up from a dream. “Willow, you came here to gather inspiration for your science fair, not to mess around,” I reminded myself. I took a few more moments to enjoy the scenery before moving near a sofa that seemed inviting for contemplation. I set my book bag on the floor and heard an odd noise coming from the floor. I felt the desire to investigate what it was. I knelt down and touched the smooth hardwood floor. When I felt a slight bump, I flung open the wooden plank. A strange relaxing aroma permeated the basement. There was a unique-looking book underneath. Several layers of dust were on it as if nobody had touched it in centuries. It had thin, delicate pages, and when I opened it, a peculiar light blinded me.

I reached for the soft, warm glow and felt myself falling into the light. I felt like I was getting sucked into a dark hole. The world faded into a dim kaitoke green blur. My back hit a patch of loose grass on overturned soil; the book landed in my lap. That was when I heard a frightening cry coming from my left. I stood up, still gripping the hardcover. I turned my head to attempt to interpret where the screeching sound was coming from. Unable to locate it, I became more and more intrigued. Carrying the book, I walked a little further only to find tree barks being force-fed into a tree spade. The traumatizing screech was piercing. I watched in agony as each tree got slaughtered. Suddenly, something shook in my hand. I discovered that the library’s vintage book had also been teleported to this strange world. Slowly, I saw its eyes flutter open. The terror in its eyes was petrifying. Tiny drops of crystal tears ran down his cover. I squinted my eyes to see if I had imagined this madness.

“Where am I? Why am I here? Are you alive? How is that possible” I asked immediately after seeing it. I was still confused as to how this object was talking to me.

“This is where I grew up; I spent my whole life with my family. Then one day, those machines murdered us all!” the book answered frantically.

“That! That’s where I lived all my life!” it said as it pointed to a lonely stump.

I slowly began to comprehend what was going on.

The book started weeping uncontrollably as it saw other trees getting slaughtered. I still couldn’t understand what was happening, but I kept my questions to myself. Screams still came from every direction; the logs were weeping and crying for help, and none knew what was happening. I observed logs being pushed onto a truck and secured against one another. The book I was holding began shrieking as soon as the engine fired up.

“Go after them! They are all going to be turned into paper! Please!” the book exclaimed.

I ran after the truck with all the energy I had left, trying to catch up to it. I dragged myself onto the moving truck by grabbing a lever, then fell to the ground and struggled to breathe.

“What are you doing? They are getting transported to a slaughterhouse! We need to save them!” the book said anxiously.

I nodded, still out of breath, but started to look for the rope tying them to the truck. I attempted to go around the vehicle when I heard a commanding voice.

“It’s over here!” said a sound that came from my left.

I approached the enormous log after seeing it and began untying the sturdy rope on the left side. The logs began to quiet down at that point. They were all speaking frantically among themselves, and I could tell they were all confused. I caught a glimpse of the book softly consoling some logs out of the corner of my eye. Never in a million years did I think I would find myself here, but now that I am, there is nothing else to do than attempt to free these logs. I pulled the rope with the most force I could muster, expecting it to give way, but to my astonishment, it held firm. It appeared that the workers had secured it firmly and that I would be unable to untie it. The sound of the truck parking startled me; time had run out!

“Hey, we must go now; we can’t risk getting caught. It is too dangerous”, a small voice muttered.

I looked down and found the book staring at me.

“What about them? I’m not leaving them all here; they will die!” I yelled.

“They will be fine. The work will most likely start tomorrow”, the book said calmly.

I stopped, swooped the book into my arms, jumped out of the truck, and huddled behind a giant pillar. The logs were checked in silence before being delivered one at a time to the factory.

“Let’s go; we need to get inside the building,” the book whispers.

I positioned the book so it could see its surroundings. Together, we cautiously tiptoed along the long hallway, trying to detect the room where they stored the logs. It was nighttime, and the factory was dark. A gloomy and uninviting world surrounded me.

“There they are!” yelled the book.

He dropped his voice, and I could barely hear him. Every word we said appeared to become tremendously loud since the facility was so echo-filled. I turned to glance around and noticed a room that smelled like wood.

I pointed to the room in front of me and said, “I think they are in there.”

“Alright, let’s try to go in then,” the book said with a hint of relief.

I turned the doorknob and saw all the logs piled up against the wall, struggling to take in each breath.

“Listen, we will need to return tomorrow; it is too quiet to start right now,” the book said.

His voice was barely audible. I nodded before creeping down the corridor. We crammed into a musty closet after a short while to stay the night. I placed the book on a pile of old clothes in the corner. Then, I made an effort to settle into the other corner to sleep.

The truth is, I did not get any sleep that night. I still need to convey how I ended up here. Every inch of me was trembling. I had so many questions I wanted to ask the book. And my stomach was growling because I hadn’t eaten in a while. A lingering question kept me up all night.

Will I ever return home? I asked myself, “Will I be imprisoned in this world forever?” but I quickly dismissed the idea. Right now, I was solely concerned with trying to assist the log’s escape by trying to set them free. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the book had undergone the same procedure before. Surely, it would know what to do. I fixed my gaze on its peaceful expression. When he went to sleep, all of his concerns appeared to vanish, including those concerns about the logs and what could happen to them if we were unable to protect them. I struggled all night to settle down and disengage from my thoughts and questions while I closed my eyes and dreamed of home.

It had been seven long agonizing hours until daylight finally shimmered into the opening of the closet. I woke up with a massive headache because I had been leaning on the cold metal closet all night. I shook the book lightly until it woke up. At least he seemed to rest well. We had a busy day ahead of us. Slowly, I opened the closet door and stepped out. I tilted my head left and right, trying to see if anyone was there. I grabbed the book in my hands, and we quietly rushed down the stairs, searching for the room we saw last night. When I opened the door, my heart dropped.

A revolving drum was being supplied with lumber from the freshly cut trees.

The book murmured, “It’s too late; we can’t save them now.”

“No. We must save them,” I said, raising my voice.

“I’ve been through this before; hear me out. There is nothing we can do now”, the book cried.

I inhaled deeply and made an effort to persuade myself that the book knew what it was talking about. It was giving up on the logs, which it had fought valiantly to save the night before. I approached the device and observed that the logs had been reduced to tiny wood chips. I followed the chips and looked at every phase of the procedure.

The book began exclaiming when it noticed the bewilderment on my face, “Those are pulp mills; after that, they will be added to an acid solution to separate plant fibers, in other words, wash the fibers.”

I apologized and said, “I realize this is difficult for you as well.

No, it’s alright, it said.

As it stated, I could see the anguish in its eyes. It was not okay, and going through this is already tough for me, so I shouldn’t make the situation more challenging.

We spent the rest of the day observing the process. The book told me a lot about the procedure of turning logs into paper. The pulp was bleached to give the paper a whiter color; then, it was dried and belated. The remainder of the components were left to dry after the machines removed the majority of the water from the mixture. The paper was coated and sized to facilitate ink drying on the surface. The paper was run through many rollers in the last process, adding pressure and heat to make the finished product. It took the entire day to complete the job.

When the workers finally left and went home, I made my way down the hall with the book in my hands to return to the closet I slept in the first night. I noticed that my stomach was growling, but I did not have anything to eat, so I tried to fall asleep so I wouldn’t have to concentrate on the obnoxious sounds coming from my stomach. I rested my head on the bland wall and closed my eyes. I woke up to strange noises coming from my left. I slowly set my gaze on the book, and I see it weeping in the corner of my eye. A feeling of deep sorrow fills the closet, I knew it must have bothered it seeing all its friends getting slaughtered with its own eyes. I had been too afraid it would trigger the book if I talked to him about it, but nothing mattered more than its feelings right now. “Hey, do you want to talk,” I said softly.

“Sure,” the book said with misery in its tone.

“I know what it feels like. Seeing all your friends suffer like that, I lost my father when I was little. I saw him drown himself in drugs and alcohol.” I started, as my voice broke.

“You know, as soon as the logs got transported into the factory, I knew they wouldn’t make it out alive. Even if we did free them, we never could’ve transported them outside”, it said.

“I figured you needed to have a reason for that,” I replied as I held the book in a tight embrace.

“Deforestation is one of the worst environmental issues right now. Humans permanently remove trees and destroy natural habitats for animals and plants. Many of my relatives are torn down because of this; even though there are many solutions, people can attempt to save trees. I hope in the future someone will help change this and think about how cutting down trees is killing the environment”, the book stated.

“I’ll do it! I know this is not right, and I will do anything in my power to ensure that does not happen again”, I replied.

“Thank you… for everything,” said the book quietly.

A faint glow came from the book. I looked down, and the book gave me a confirming nod. I was going home, but I didn’t feel happy. I have spent little time in this strange world, but it still taught me a lot. I squeeze the book and let the light transport me back home.

I woke up to a pounding headache. I took a few seconds to comprehend what had just happened. The book was still in my hands. A smile spread across my face, and I looked forward, staring into the bookstore’s entrance. I took a small step and continued down the vintage hallway.

“I know exactly what to do for my science fair project now,” I say confidently.