The Top Shelf


Every day when she got home from school, Arameh visited the library down the street.  The shelves towered high and were stacked with old, weathered books.  She would curl up in a comfy chair and read to her heart’s content, breathing in the smell of the yellowed pages.  It was a crisp autumn afternoon when Arameh skipped into the library after a long day of math equations and geography quizzes.  

“Good morning,”  she cheerfully greeted the librarian, who offered her a warm smile.  The room seemed to welcome her presence.  Arameh found the fiction section and scanned the titles, hoping to find a book that she hadn’t read.  She spotted a thick brown novel on the highest shelf.  Arameh dragged the ladder over and climbed up the rungs.  She picked the book off of the shelf and started to open it.  But then she noticed a small, shiny handle on the back of the shelf.  She looked both ways, but no one else was in the aisle.  Arameh tentatively turned the handle.  

Light flooded into the room.  Arameh blinked and peered into the door and saw what appeared to be a forest inside.  She pulled her feet off of the ladder and onto the bookshelf.  Her hands gripped the shelf firmly.  The ladder clattered onto the floor and she heard footsteps approaching her from the next aisle.  It was now or never.  She took a deep breath and squeezed through the hole.

Arameh tumbled onto the soft forest floor and gasped in wonder.  Filtered sunlight seeped in through the glowing canopy above and rested its sleepy fingers on the world.  The trees and their rough bark towered into the sky like giants, their foliage painted with fiery ambers and scarlets that exploded against the sky.  Their branches swayed in the wind, whispering soft lullabies that reverberated through the forest.  A stream snaked through the forest, laughing softly.  Exposed roots and plush moss carpeted the ground beneath piles of colorful leaves.  A crisp breeze spiraled through the air like a serpent, carrying dancing leaves and the scent of autumn.

“What are you doing here?”  a frantic voice above her cried.  Arameh jumped and looked upwards.  An eastern towhee glided through the air, chirping nervously.  He landed beside her.

“What?  I…the library…”  Arameh began.

“You can’t be here!  With all of the thefts…” he stopped abruptly and eyed her warily.

“What are you talking about?”  Arameh asked, trying to understand what the bird meant.  “Who are you?  What thefts?”

The eastern towhee looked around nervously before speaking.  “I’m Butternut.  Books have been disappearing from the Bookworm’s Bumbleberry Library!  Dark forces are descending upon us!  A shadow has covered the Earth!  Every time a book disappears, some of the magic from our world vanishes!  It isn’t safe anymore!”  He stopped and lowered his voice.  “Shhhhhh.  Do you hear that?”  Arameh paused to listen.  She thought she heard the faint crunching of leaves.  Butternut beckoned for her to follow him.  “This way!  We need to get you out of here!”

He led the way deeper into the forest, Arameh chasing after him.  She pushed her way through prickly bushes and ducked under low hanging limbs.  “Wait up!”  she panted, slowing to a trot.

  Butternut ruffled his feathers and said in a solemn voice,  “We have to get you to safety.”

“But I can help you!”  Arameh cried, boldly staring him in the eye.  “What are the dark forces?”  Butternut pursed his beak and opened it to speak.  A twig crackled behind them.

Butternut grabbed her shirt in his beak and pulled her behind a massive oak tree, placing a wing over her mouth to silence her.  His bristly feathers tickled her lips and she held her breath as she stifled a giggle.  Butternut perched on her shoulder tensely.  Arameh felt something hard hit her head and glanced up.  Just squirrels collecting acorns.  She sighed in relief.  Finally, Butternut spoke.

“I think we lost them.”  He flew farther into the thicket.  Arameh started to follow him, but stopped when something that was nestled in the branches caught her eye.

“Hey, look at this!”  Arameh cried.  Butternut turned and gasped.  

“No!  Don’t touch that!”  he warned, but Arameh had already picked it up.  It was a smooth, speckled egg that fit into her palm perfectly.  She rubbed her finger along the warm surface.

“Careful!”  Butternut cautioned.  “We don’t know what’s inside of there.”

“Well, we can’t just leave it here!”  Arameh argued loudly, and Butternut shushed her.  “The dark forces that you’re protecting me from are a threat to this egg!”

The egg shook and a crack split down the middle!  Arameh held the egg steady as pieces of the shell shattered across her hands.  She gasped as she stared face to face with a baby dragon.  It had tiny wings folded into its soft, scaly midnight blue body, and a short tail that swished to the breeze.  Its big brown eyes the color of chestnuts stared at her with such vulnerability that she couldn’t bear to leave it.  It sneezed and a puff of smoke came out of its tiny nostrils.  Arameh giggled, but Butternut was not amused.

“A baby dragon?!  Great!  Just what we need!”  Butternut darted around muttering nervously and fluffed his feathers in protest.

“She’s so cute!  What should we name her?”  Arameh asked, stroking the dragon’s back.  She cooed at it and the dragon nuzzled her hand.

“Name her?  Why would we need to name her?  We’re getting out of here!”  Butternut cried.

Arameh stared at the sweet dragon thoughtfully.  “How about Luna?”  she suggested.  Then, she grew serious.  “I’m helping you, Butternut.  I need to stop the darkness and find the missing books.  And I have to save Luna.”  She persisted, “Please let me.  You’ll need my help.”

Butternut sighed.  “Something tells me that I’m going to be stuck with you no matter what I say.”

Arameh smiled and tucked her arm under his wing.  “Don’t worry, Butternut.  We’re going to be great friends.”  She looked across the fiery treetops, ready for whatever lay ahead.