A crash echoed throughout the house, breaking through the silent pause of the clouds above. Thunder cracked moments later, followed by the sound of hurried footsteps and an inquiring voice.
"Are you alright, Cei?"
I responded with a tired "yes," and stood, wiping the dust off my clothes. My older brother appeared from behind the oak door, it's frame still covered in the dust we had yet to clean. He held a box of yellow sticks. Candles. His gray eyes narrowed, mirroring my own as he took in the pile of books resting to my side.
"Fell?" I nodded.
"What's with the candles?" I asked, nodding my chin at the box in his hands. He tightened his fingers around it, and looked up.
"Attic. Grandpa's, I think."
He nodded, and stepped back, disappearing in the shadows of the old hallway. I turned towards the shelf I'd fallen from, my eyes traversing from the disturbed shelf to the mistreated books now resting on the warped floors. I'd nearly forgotten about the water damage. That would be a bitch to deal with.
I knelt in the pile, searching for the book that had brought me down with it. It was bound in deep maroon, with silver-tipped edges. Likely the silver that shocked me. I picked it up, turning it over in my hands as I looked for a title. There was nothing on the hard cover, aside from a sigil that tugged at a memory. Which one, I wasn't sure, but it was probably the red book mentioned in my grandpa's journal. I traced the sigil with my fingernail, wondering what it meant. Where it was from. The book was void, perfectly so. Each page was empty, nothing more than clean, crisp, cream-colored paper. Maybe a journal my grandpa hadn't gotten too. I stopped, my fingers drifting across the sigil, tracing the four silver lines. I'd definitely seen it somewhere before. I shut my eyes, trying to recall the memory, when a loud boom echoed throughout the house, shaking the floor. Silence, and then heavy rain and a crack of lightening, tearing through the darkened sky, alighting the face of a figure standing just outside the window. Startled, I dropped the book, my heart thudding in my chest. A chill crept through my body, the hairs on my arms prickling with a sudden cold breeze. I swallowed, rolling my shoulders and bending to pick the book up once more, and put it back where it came. I was tired, and imagining things. The fear was unwarranted, a byproduct of misconceptions and nonexistent entities. I practically mentally face-palmed, scoffing as I realized how much I sounded like my professor. He'd loved big words, followed by more big words, and then, if he was feeling up to it, more. An eccentric.
“Cei!” My brother’s voice echoed throughout the room, followed by an echoing crack of thunder and the fresh sound of falling rain, as though it were in the house rather than blocked by walls and a roof. I turned away from the window, setting the book on the lowest shelf as I ran towards his voice. I stopped at the edge of the vestibule, staring incredulously at my brother's rain-soaked face. He had some brown thing in his arms. Then it mewed. A goddamn cat.
"I thought you were dealing with the candles?" I asked, an eyebrow arched as I waited for his excuse. He opened his mouth, staring at me with a serious expression, and then his eyes flicked up, and he pulled his lips behind his teeth. A good twenty seconds passed before he actually spoke, his eyes still pointedly on the ceiling.
"There was...meowing at the door, incessant meowing, really. I eventually decided to open the door and see what it was. And..." He shifted the cat in his arms, holding it up in the pose of that scene from the Lion King. I'd never seen the movie, but eventually you hear and see the reference enough to realize what it is at a glance.
"See? It's adorable. More so than that...couple...on your book cover..umm." He drifted off, turning his head to the floor as I stalked forward.
"Which, pray tell brother dearest, book cover might you be referring to?" I fixed him with my best predatory smile, already having picked out which poster of his I would tear to shreds and stuff in his laundry with a plastic baggie of bleach. We'd had a serious conversation about invasion of privacy, especially when it came to my books, a few months ago, and the bet was still in place about how long it would hold. Garret owed me fifty from past debts, and I would have to add another twenty to the tab.
"The...the one with the two...blue and yellow..." I knew exactly which one he was talking about, and it was a fairly new book. He swallowed, stopping there, and then sighed. "It's an adorable cat, and I'll ask the neighbors if it belongs to them tomorrow, but for now, we should help it. Right? Be...good Samaritans?"
I backed up, waiting until he met my eyes. "First, don't look at my books anymore, unless you actually want to read them, and not vandalize the cover. Even then, don't look at my books. Second, we don't have any neighbors. We're literally halfway up a hill, surrounded by a thick forest. Third, you will be the one helping it. I'm going to finish moving the small boxes, and then sleep. Got it?" He nodded, and I nodded back, then to the side at the first floor bathroom, nearest the kitchen. "That one is still dirty, but functional. I'd rather you wash it there than one of the cleaner bathrooms. And it's just dusty, so don't worry. "