I was sitting by the fire in my favorite armchair, the one that changes color when you wipe it with your hand. My sister was lying on the hearthrug with an arm wrapped around her Prema, drowsy from a long day at the beach. Her eyes were twinkling in the warm, golden light, her mind imagining whatever it was it imagined. I could hear my voice vibrating throughout the cozy room as I read from Inkheart, a book I had just received for my birthday. I flipped to a page that started a new chapter: “Basta, Chapter 21,” I read. All of a sudden, I felt vacant air beneath my body. I fell to the floor. The armchair was gone.
I was very puzzled. What had just happened? I stood up, shocked and confused, and turned around. “Did you see—” I was about to ask when my breath completely stopped. I saw my sister backed up into the corner, clutching her Prema with trembling arms as she stared at a figure standing in the middle of the room. There, right beside me, was Basta. “Basta the Bad Guy,” as my sister put it, looked terribly bewildered. I had read enough about his threats and his knife to be completely terrified. My body was totally immobilized by fear. Not my sister. She zipped past me so fast she had locked herself in her room before I even knew she was gone. I didn’t believe it. I had actually read a character out of a book.
Basta looked around with blinking eyes until he noticed me gawking at him. Dawning realization darkened his face. He remembered being read out of a book earlier on in the story of Inkheart. I gulped. Basta suddenly flailed out in anger, knocking over the reading lamp, and started to scream his head off. No sound was coming out of his mouth. Basta seemed to have lost his voice in the process of coming to my world. He turned to me again and silently shouted, you! His hand leapt to his belt, where he kept his knife, but the sheath was empty. I realized Basta had not only lost his voice when I read him out of Inkheart, but he had also lost his deadly knife.
“Good,” I thought. I got up slowly and walked over to the fallen lamp. A portion of my fear had subsided. “So, since I read you out of your story, I’m in charge until I somehow get you back in. That means you have to do everything I say.” It was a bad choice of words. As I bent down to pick up the reading lamp, I felt a foot collide heavily with my shoulder. I stumbled sideways onto the couch. “Auhhh…,” I groaned. I clutched my shoulder as pain pulsed through my upper arm. I heard my sister whimper in the other room. “Fine,” I said, “You don’t have to do everything I say. Just don’t break anything, okay? And that includes my limbs. If you hurt me any more, you’ll never get back to your story.”
Basta blew a careless raspberry and sauntered down the hallway in the direction of the kitchen, briefly glancing at the beautiful paintings my father had collected from Italy. What was I thinking? Did I truly expect Basta the Bad Guy to listen to a mere twelve-year-old? I stood up, still rubbing my aching shoulder, and followed him. When I got to the kitchen, I saw him behind the door of the fridge. “Yeah, go ahead and root through my refrigerator. Take all the food you want,” I said sarcastically. He peeked out with a look that told me he had no idea what I meant. “Stupid Neanderthal,” I muttered. He pointed a chicken leg at me warningly and then took a ravenous bite out of it. “You know, you’re very lucky my parents are away in San Diego for the week, or you’d be in prison by now,” I said. Basta glared at me and then turned again to the refrigerator. He pulled out a container of mashed potatoes and smiled at me. For a second I didn’t believe it, and then he tossed it at my feet. I jumped onto the chair at my side as the glass shattered. It released a sloppy gush of fluffed potatoes. “Hey! Don’t do that!” I yelled. Right then, I had an idea for a quick and easy way to control this monstrosity. I leaped across the table and ran down the main hall to the front door. I grabbed a handle sticking out of the umbrella potand sprinted back to the kitchen. I stopped abruptly and looked around. I saw Basta in the back reaching over the sink for a kitchen knife. “Freeze!” I panted. Basta froze he saw me out of the corner of his eye.
“Put the knife back. I have an umbrella in my hand and I can easily open itover your head. Do you how much bad luck doing that indoors causes you? You don’t even want to know. And an umbrella as white as this one, even worse.” I didn’t know if the color of the umbrella mattered in this old superstition, but I just wanted to make the whole thing sound as bad as possible. Gullible, superstitious Basta clearly fell for it. He carefully put the knife back in its place. I was glad to have the knowledge of his greatest weakness. Basta’s eyes were on my finger, which was touching the switch that would push the umbrella open at any moment, and his hand was squeezing his lucky amulet. I had really scored.
I pointed at the mess of glass and potato on the floor. “Sweep it up.” I said. I tossed him the mop. He looked at it and then looked at me. He yelled something that looked like: this is maids’ work! I pressed the button on the umbrella handle. Basta immediately jumped back, cracking a piece of glass under his boot. But I grabbed the flap of the umbrella before it opened completely. Basta cursed me and reluctantly began to sweep. His knuckles were white as he scraped the mop back and forth. I could see in his eyes that he was furious and losing precious tolerance. There wasn’t much time; I had to read him back in, and fast.
“Stay right where you are mister. You better behave. Up-bup-bup, no. Gentle strokes. Not so hard. Yes—hey! Don’t give me that face,” I chided. I felt a quick surge of blooming power when I realized I was talking to a murderer like he was my three-year-old cousin, Toby. I kept my umbrella pointed at him as I scooted over to the hall door. He stopped sweeping and looked at me. I looked straight back at him, the umbrella’s point touching his chest. He looked back down at the mess smeared on the floor and glared at me with a look of total disgust.
He dropped the mop, and a fist came swinging toward me. I fumbled with the umbrella as my fingers rushed to press the button. It opened up in a swift, white blur. And almost as fast as it opened, Basta crunched it in both of his hands and snapped it in two. “Sheesh,” I said, and I ran for my life. I could hear Basta’s feet thumping behind me as I dashed back to the living room. I cleared a chair that Basta didn’t notice until I landed in front of it, and he collapsed over it with a satisfying crash. I bolted to the ottoman on which Inkheart was sitting and almost tripped over my momentum-driven feet. I heard an angry groan as I clawed at the pages. When I reached the beginning of Chapter 21, out of pure impulse I stuck it out in front of me so that the pages were facing Basta, who stopped. I was expecting some sort of magical beam of light to shoot out of the book. I shook it. Nothing happened. I suspect all this magic made me think anything was possible.
Basta got over his confusion and lunged at me, teeth bared and hands outstretched. I stuck my foot out directly in front of me and I felt his chin smash into my heel. Basta stumbled backward, but all too soon jumped right back at me. I didn’t have time to savor the pride of avenging my shoulder. I clumsily fell out of the way just in time to miss his ferocious fists. I then recalled something from Inkheart. The characters would reread the passage from which they had read out a story’s character in order to read them back in. I read quickly as I evaded Basta, “BastaChapter21BastaChapter21BastaChapter21.” I felt sweat drip down my forehead as I reluctantly realized that nothing was working. All of a sudden, I toppled over backward and dropped the book. Basta had caught my ankle with his foot and swept me to the ground. I rolled out of the way as he brought his heel down to where my face would have been. I tried kicking him, but he grabbed my foot and twisted it with two merciless hands. The pain shot through my leg and stung my eyes. I yelled as an excruciating pulse punctured my heart with the sudden fear of the before-so-distant death.
I suddenly felt Basta’s clutch loosen around my limp foot. I saw through my tears that Basta had fallen to the floor. I blinked a couple of times, wiped my eyes, and saw my sister with an absolutely terrified look on her face.
She quickly bent down to pick up Prema. I didn’t believe it. I blinked twice more. Did she really send Basta into the realm of unconsciousness? Wait, did she do that with Prema? How could a stuffed cat knock someone out? And how could it make such a loud… Then I noticed a big, fat dictionary on the ground.
“Whoa—ouch” I said. I hissed at the pain I was feeling in my right leg. “Did you—? How’d you—? Why the diction—”
“It was the only thing heavy enough that I could find!” she explained, red in the cheeks. I saw a shy smile of pride sneak across her face. “Aren’t you grateful that I saved your—” her smile melted away with her words when she saw my distorted ankle.
“Don’t worry about that right now,” I said. “Let’s worry about getting him back into the book.” I slowly shifted myself into a sitting position and picked up Inkheart. I spent the next fifteen minutes reading through the area of Chapter 21, every minute losing a drop of hope. After the eleventh time I read through the paragraphs before and after the words “Basta, Chapter 21,” I heard a grunt. I looked up, and the terror I had felt before crept back into my throat and I choked on the words. Basta’s eyes focused as he rubbed the lump on the back of his head. My sister gulped. He looked up and snarled. I automatically recited “Basta, Chapter 21.” Even though I felt a warm feeling as the words slipped out of my mouth, Basta was still there, and he was rising to his feet. Then, suddenly, out of thin air, my favorite armchair dropped down directly on top of Basta. It hit the ground with a mega thump that shook the whole house, and Basta was diminished to a plume of orange dust that eventually floated into the open pages of the book. I will never forget that when the armchair fell from the ceiling right back into its original place, I heard Basta’s voice for the first time in a deafening bellow.
I don’t know. Sometimes I’m actually hopeful for something like that to happen again. I continue to read out loud to my sister every weekend, but nothing has ever happened since that fateful day when my parents were away in San Diego. My sister woke up without the slightest memory of that strange afternoon; it was gone from her mind like a forgotten dream. I began to wonder if it had really happened or not.
I never told my parents, and the book Inkheart is by now probably somewhere in the Indian Ocean. I really don’t know how it could’ve been possible for me to read a character out of the book. It’s just one of those mysteries, one of those happenings in your life that you remember and no one else does, and you can’t tell if it was false or true, fiction or fact, dream or for real.
Written by Reylon, age 12