The Magical Realism of Life of Pi

The Magical Realism of Life of Pi
Review by Margie Taylor

Friday, January 8, 2016

Jurassic Library

Jurassic Library is an award winning story written by Kayla, a thirteen year old girl. We are very happy to be able to publish it here. Hope you enjoy it.


JURASSIC LIBRARY

I sprint down the sidewalk, my beaten-up sneakers squeaking with each step. Most days I take my time down this street, what with the old Victorian houses covered with ivy vines, or the historic shops wafting the scent of freshly baked bread. But I can’t slow down today. I practically fly down the street, hardly even noticing the vibrant new imports at the flower shop. My backpack bumps around with each step, and my lungs sting with my uncommon practice of exercise. I nearly miss the entrance to the library, the sign is hidden by an extremely overgrown shrub nobody ever bothered to trim.

The library is one of my favourite buildings in this neighbourhood. Hidden down a back road, the little brick building covered in foliage always fascinated me. I look down at my watch, pulling back the lilac-and-cream striped sleeve of my sweater. It’s five-thirty four. School ended nine minutes ago, and I am four minutes late. Pushing open the heavy double doors, I jog through the maze of old wooden bookshelves to the back of the library. Jenny, the kind librarian with thin, blonde hair and long, delicate limbs, pulls me into the back room. This room was added about ten years ago for all the events the library hosts. One of the walls is made completely of glass, and it overlooks the beautiful gardens, half of it donated by the local flower shop. The rest of the room is white and blue, and the little plastic chairs they use in schools are lined up to face the massive window.

 Today all of the seats are filled with people, who seem to be getting impatient. It’s only been four minutes! I will never understand the people of this town. Jenny ushers me up to the front, handing me my violin that I keep here for convenience. The parents of the crowd begin shushing their children, and I scan the people for anyone I might know. No such luck. Mom is at work, Dad’s looking after my little sister Annie, all of my friends don’t exist, and the rest of my siblings are either asleep, partying or studying.

I sigh, lifting my beautifully made violin to my chin and steadying my breath. I play freeform, seeing as it’s a Tuesday and nobody told me otherwise. Every ten notes or so is either flat or the wrong key completely. I cringe. I really should practice more. Maybe I need a vacation. Somewhere tropical. In the crowd, a baby starts crying, which makes me really question the parents who thought their four-month-old would appreciate an amateur fifteen-year-old violinist playing off-kilter music in the back of an old library instead of a nap.

When I finish the song, the cliché tiny amount of applause begins, but I’m just the intro. I hand the violin off to Jenny, who makes her way up to the front and begins playing. A shocked silence falls over the tiny crowd, showing how Jenny should definitely be playing in something much, much grander than a library. Her body moves with the song, swaying with the bow she effortlessly glides along the strings. I leave respectfully, seeing as I didn’t buy a ticket. Jenny always says I’m allowed to stay and listen because I helped open the show, but Jenny deserves something far better than that from her audience.

 I wander through the building, Jenny’s song faintly playing in the background. The main building has a much cozier feel than the back room. The walls are just pure brick, and the lights are emitting a warm yellow glow instead of bright white light. The floors are old scratchy carpets and the bookshelves are less than three feet apart. But my favourite area is the far left corner. Two old, overstuffed beanbag chairs sit next to an old-fashioned wood burning metal fireplace, all surrounded by tall bookshelves filled with the science fiction novels. Not the new easy-reads, the old ones that challenge you like War of the worlds and 20,000 leagues under the sea. I walk over to the faded blue beanbag and gently sit down. I made the mistake of dropping down onto it once and the cloud of dust was big enough to choke an elephant.

As I turn to reach for the hitch hiker’s guide to the galaxy for what seems like the 100th time, I notice a small wooden box on the shelf next to it. Strange, seeing as Jenny never even considered stocking colouring books, let alone a kit of some sort. I gingerly pick up the box, brushing off what seems to be fifty years’ worth of dust. The box is rectangular, with intricate designs carved into it and a rusty bronze flip latch. As I look closer, I see patterns of strange shapes lined up around the perimeter of the box, almost like an ancient language. Jenny has moved on to another song, she must be feeling good today. She won’t be finished for a while. I look up from the box, searching for a clue as to what it is. A small, yellowing piece of paper about the size of a business card sits in the place where the box used to be. I snatch it up, more curious than cautious now. I squint at the tiny handwriting on the faded slip.

This box should not be opened by the faint of heart, for a fascinating yet dangerous thing lies within.

No name, no clarification, nothing. Just a stupid little message telling me that something bad is in this harmless little box. I throw the card on the ground. I’m brave. I got rid of that spider in Annie’s room despite my arachnophobia. I can open this box. I slowly lift the latch, which is surprisingly easy considering the amount of rust coating it. As I lift the lid my heart is in my throat. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m not brave enough. Too late now. I look into the box, and see a rough, clay stone. Laughing, I reach for the rock. Nice one, Jenny. As I touch the stone, I jerk my hand back with a cry. Blisters are spreading across my fingers down to my palm, creating an unbearable, almost acidic pain. I open my mouth to scream, and everything goes black, Jenny’s beautiful song fading off into the distance.
*    *    *
I hit the ground from what feels like almost ten feet up. I struggle to catch my breath, the sun practically blinding me. I guess I was found and brought outside. I sit up and start coughing, trying to clear the sand from the fall out of my throat. My hands brush up against something stiff and tall and I jump. Looking around, I see that I’ve somehow gotten into a field with very tall grass. I stand up, confused, looking for the library or even a person. But I’m all alone. The field is actually a small clearing, surrounded by massive trees, almost sixty feet in height and ten feet in width. Vines drape between trunks, creating almost a curtain-like effect. Giant ferns and exotically coloured flowers, the kind of flowers you only see on TV when they go into the amazon or something, fill the gaps of the jungle.

The entire place almost seems alive, with a low buzz emanating from every angle, I can practically feel the energy.  I take a few shaking steps and stop short when I see the dragonfly on the ground in front of me. It looks completely normal, almost pretty seeing as it’s a bright shade of luminescent turquoise. The only reason why I almost pass out is that it just happens to be the size of a modern-day hawk. It flies away, its beating wings making a noise equivalent to the volume of a jackhammer. I take out my cell phone, planning to call either my parents or the mental hospital, I’m really not sure which yet. I press the “ON” button, but the screen stays black. Of course. It’s just like me to forget to charge my phone and then end up in the craziest place possible.

I start to walk towards the jungle, maybe some of the buzzing is a highway or a government observation building. As I trudge along to the trees, I hear the buzzing stop abruptly. I have seen a lot of movies in my time and most often, whenever all of the small creatures go quiet, it means something big is nearby. I start walking faster. A steady, rhythmic thudding sound rises behind me. I start jogging. I sprint into the jungle, tripping over rocks and concealing myself in one of the giant oily ferns.

As I peek out from the leaves, I see the cliché birds flying away and trees shaking. I almost laugh. I guess Hollywood wasn’t too far off on that detail. The thudding gets louder, sending vibrations through the ground and rustling the fern around me. Why am I hiding? The worst it could be is an elephant, right? I step out from the fern and back into the sunny clearing, swatting away branches and strange leaves. I look up to the treetops and forget how to breathe. Emerging from between two of the largest trees is a baby beige Brachiosaurus. It steps out into the small clearing and raises its tiny head well over the trees. I clench my hands into fists and realise I still have the rock in my left hand. How did I miss that? I shove it into my jeans’ pocket and, with a jolt, I realize that I am most likely not in Canada anymore.

Snapping my head back up to the Brachiosaurus, I am surprised by my lack of surprise. This is a creature that supposedly went extinct over two billion years ago. Shouldn’t I be scared or excited? I get knocked over as its massive three-toed foot lands about a metre away from me. I scramble to my feet and sprint for its tail. It clearly knows where it’s headed, and I wouldn’t survive ten minutes out here on my own. I jump and cling on to the massive swinging tail of a Brachiosaurus. I still can’t wrap my head around that. One step at a time, I slowly make my way onto its back.

We’re well into the trees by the time I figure out how to hold on. On our way through the jungle, I start to see dino nests and giant bugs everywhere. Branches the size of maple trees snap beneath us. In the corner of my eye, I catch a flash of movement. Looking back, I see a fallen red leaf twitch on the forest floor, reacting to movement. Maybe it was just the Brachiosaurs’ tail swinging. I pluck a green, oily leaf from a low-hanging branch and look closely at it. I used to study dinosaurs as if it was my job. I had an obsession. I guess now is when it pays off. This tree existed in the late Jurassic period, as did many of the most famous dinosaurs. I hear a noise to my left, and I see another movement. This time I’m certain that it’s not only a plant eater that I am dealing with here. 

A horrible screech comes from in front of us, followed by a large crash as the Brachiosaurus falls forward onto its knees. I get thrown forward, triggering one of my chronic nosebleeds. Six or seven little dinosaurs crowd around the wounded sauropod, climbing up its sides and onto its back with me. Judging by their yellowish-green speckled patterns and raptor-esque appearance, they seem to be Compsognathus. But that can’t be right, Compsognathus came from Europe, whereas the Brachiosaurus came from Africa or the USA. It doesn’t matter right now though, as my nosebleed has alerted them to my presence. I run for the base of the long-neck’s neck, climbing as far out as I dare. I make it to the base of its skull as the Brachiosaurus shifts back onto its feet, raising its head and sending me about forty-two feet into the air. I scream, which startles the beast into whipping its head back downwards and setting off on a limping, uneven run through the humid forest.

The Compsognathuses seem to have doubled in number, and are catching up fast. Suddenly, the trees split apart and a fully grown dinosaur resembling a T-rex bursts out. I scream even louder as the thick-skinned, scarlet beast swallows one of the small dinos whole. An Allosaurus. The tiny carnivores scatter in a panicked frenzy, leaving the Allosaurus just for us. It sets after us, smelling the blood from the injured knee of the long-neck. The Brachiosaurus is injured, it can’t run fast enough despite its longer stride. I glance back and see the Allosaurus sprinting towards us, the long tail of the sauropod just inches from its razor-sharp rows of teeth. I can hardly hear myself think over the sound of six feet pounding against the ground with a combined weight of over three tons behind them.

We emerge from the jungle abruptly, bringing vines and brambles with us onto a grassy plain.  Approaching us fast is a rocky cliff that drops directly into the ocean. We won’t be able to stop in time. But we could turn. The Brachiosaurus is panicked and frantic, it can’t make that decision. Still clinging on to its neck, I wrench it to the side, forcing the massive herbivore to turn. We make it by about three inches, startling the Allosaurus. The carnivore screams, a horrendous sound ten times worse than nails on a chalkboard. It tries to stop, but the momentum created by a thirty foot long half ton dinosaur in a full sprint is too much to slow in two seconds. It gets thrown off the edge of the cliff, plummeting over 60 feet to the water level. It lands with a massive splash, surfacing with another ear-splitting cry.

 A dark shadow moves towards it, circling the helpless dinosaur. The shape disappears for a split second before a massive plesiosaur jumps up from the water, jaws open, swallowing the Allosaurus. From the looks of it, a Liopleurodon. It submerges back into the water with a scary silence.

The brachiosaurus kneels in exhaustion, and I jump down to inspect its knee. A large tooth protrudes from its thick wrinkly skin, with a small amount of blood trickling down. Not lethal, just annoying. I carefully remove the tooth and clean up the blood with a large leaf. I turn around, and gasp softly.

The field is covered in lush green grass, and inhabited by more dinosaurs than I could ever imagine. Stegosaurus nests and Pterodactyls in the wide blue sky, Triceratops families at the watering hole with Parasaurolophus herds grazing in the distance. And to my right, is a group of beige Brachiosauruses. The long-neck behind me stands and lumbers over to join what I assume is its family. I stand in awe, stepping out into the field. How did I end up here from just a rock? I wrap my hand in my sweater, reaching for the lump in my pocket. Before I can get a chance to look at it closely, the Liopleurodon jumps, slamming against the rocks in the process. The cliff shakes violently, causing me to let go of the rough stone. I scramble to catch it before it falls off the edge, my hand shooting out from my sweater. The second my finger brushes it, the world goes dark once more.

The cloud of dust rises around me as I collapse onto the old beanbag. I rub my eyes, tears already gathering from the dust landing on my eyeballs. “No!” I never wanted to leave! I frantically grab the stone and brace myself, waiting for the blistering to begin again, for the dinosaurs to come back. Nothing happens. I clench the stone, drawing blood from my hand, practically begging to go back. Nothing. I sink back down in defeat. The rough, familiar fabric of the beanbag chair calms me. I twist around, picking up the book that started all of this.

It doesn’t seem like any time has passed here since I left. Jenny’s at the same point in her song, the sun is in the same place, as is the wooden box that the stone was originally in. Looking closer at the stone, I can see the faint indentation of a bone, of a fossil. It looks like a dinosaur tooth, caught in the mud and preserved by time. Gently, I place it back into the creaky box, and the card with it. Maybe that’s enough brain usage for one day. Putting the book back on the shelf, I pick up the box gently, and push through the double doors of the library once more.
 On the walk back home I smile to myself, happy for my very own Jurassic Library.

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