Book of Shadows
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 4:15 P.M.
I just did a bad thing.
I want to talk about it but I also sort of want to keep it a secret, which is why I’m writing about it here. That’s what diaries are for, right? To keep our darkest secrets safe.
It’s ironic, since my wanting a diary is what started this whole thing off in the first place. I’ve never had one before—I’m not really much of a writer, except when school forces me. But Lara is always scribbling away in hers. She says it helps, whenever she’s feeling frustrated or angry or upset, to write out her feelings instead of doing something stupid. God knows I’ve done plenty of dumb things in my life—stealing, destruction of property, mouthing off to teachers, getting into fights. But I’m trying to quit all that now, and I figured if having a diary helps Lara, it might work for me too.
So maybe it was a little counterproductive to go out and steal a diary, then.
I don’t know exactly why I did it. It’s been ages since I pocketed anything. I thought I was over that little hobby. I’d even set aside some cash to buy a blank journal to write in, and I went to the mall fully intending to purchase one. Like a normal person.
I spent an hour in the bookstore there, flipping through the ones they had, but I couldn’t stand any of them. Lara’s diary is made out of recycled paper and the cover is pressed bark, and there’s a strap made from woven hemp twine that you can use to as a bookmark. It’s so very perfectly Lara, and I wanted a journal that suited me just as well. Something with a little personality, but spare me the pale pink crap with kittens all over it, or inspirational sayings at the top of every page, or Bible verses. Ew.
Maybe it’s not normal to want to copy your best friend in everything she does. But the thing is, Lara is truly a remarkable person. I used to think I was pretty badass, picking fights with people when they pissed me off. I never felt so powerful as when I was punching and kicking the hell out of some asshole who picked on me or called me a name. But then I met Lara and realized that she is ten times the badass I am.
Lara’s a witch. Which seemed . . . a little odd to me at first, because I didn’t believe in witches. I thought it was like saying you were a vampire or a werewolf. But real witches aren’t like the ones you see in movies and cartoons—it’s an actual religion. Lara has been a practicing Wiccan for a couple of years now, which is so incredibly brave. Especially since nearly everyone else in our school belongs to this one huge, ultraconservative
church that hates gay people and premarital sex and alcohol and . . . well, fun. And when I say it’s huge, I mean HUGE—with about twenty thousand members, most of whom show up every week. It’s so big it’s made the national list of “mega-churches,” and that’s how everyone refers to it around here. Though the members call it the “church,” as if it’s the only church that has ever existed, or ever will—the rest of us call it the “mega-church.”
As far as the mega-church people are concerned, being a Wiccan puts Lara in league with the Devil himself. That’s fine with me—I prefer Lara’s Devil to their judgmental, hypocritical God. And I think I could do a lot worse than try to be more like her.
With that in mind, today I skipped the mall and went downtown to White Rabbit. It’s Lara’s favorite bookshop because it specializes in rare, esoteric volumes, and they have a really good section on magic and the occult. White Rabbit is one of the few places in town that actively resists what’s been going on with the mega-church, and isn’t afraid of pissing them off.
I don’t know exactly what I was expecting to find there. It’s not like they have a big selection of diaries or anything. It’s a cramped little box of a storefront, and they don’t have room for much, let alone a library of journals. But something pulled me there today, and I found myself in the occult section. I scanned the shelves, noticing books with the titles, The History of Witchcraft and Demonology, The Lesser Key of Solomon, The Black Pullet, The Picatrix, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, crowding the packed shelves.
Then my eye caught on this one book. Unlike the others, it didn’t have a title on its spine. With a cracked, leather binding, it looked much older than its neighbors. Most were paperbacks
from the eighties and nineties with lurid, colorful covers. But this one had gold embossing engraved into its matted, black leather. I took it down from the shelf, my eyes widening when I felt its cover—soft and unusually hairy, as if made from animal fur. Gold covered the pages’ edges, shining a bit in the dimming candlelight flickering in the store. More gold in fine, wispy lines decorated the front and back covers in a frightening design. At first I thought it was an abstract pattern, but as I stared at it, I started to pick out shapes—twisty vines and wilting flowers, animals with human faces, and sneaky looking little monsters. It was hard to see them at all through the delicate tracery, but if you looked closely enough, you’d catch an eye staring out at you, or a gleaming golden fang. Each one was different, and incredibly detailed. Thinking there had to be a title somewhere, I turned the book over and over again, searched its spine and looked for words hidden between the unusual figures. But nothing.
I flipped it open but couldn’t find a title inside, either. In fact, I couldn’t find any words at all. There was nothing but blank pages, all the way through. Each page was so thin I could see my hand through it, but at the same time they were strong and firm, like it would actually be difficult to bend or crease one.
But no printing, no writing, not so much as a coffee stain anywhere in the book. Not even a tiny little mark by the manufacturer. It was the strangest thing to find squeezed in among all these regular books!
My first thought was, why would someone go to all this trouble to make a blank book? But then it hit me—of course! It was meant to be a diary. Like all those other blank books I’ve been looking at recently. It felt like fate—that I had walked into this specific store on this specific day, and gone to this specific
shelf and found this beautiful book, right when I was in search of the perfect diary. Clearly I was destined to possess this book.
So the obvious next thing to do was to bring it up to the counter and buy it, right? And I swear, that’s exactly what I was going to do. But then, before I even started moving in that direction, nerves overtook me. I realized a book this beautiful and old and carefully made would have to be really expensive. Probably way more than I had in my wallet, more even than I could get my hands on. Holding my breath, I flipped open the front cover, where all the other books in the shop had their prices penciled in by the owner in a neat, light hand. But there was nothing there. I checked every surface, inside and out, but of course I’d already noticed the book was completely blank. I couldn’t find a price marked anywhere.
I should have asked about the price, but I didn’t. I panicked. All of a sudden, a strange and terrible feeling washed over me: a tightness in my chest, a panicky flutter in my pulse. I thought, what if it’s too much? I had to have this book at any cost, but there was no way I could afford it. I hadn’t figured for spending any more than twenty bucks on a journal. If I had to, I could probably scrounge up more . . . do some chores around the neighborhood, borrow from friends, wheedle from my parents . . . But by the time I managed all that, what if I came back and the book was gone? What if someone else walked in five minutes from now and snatched it up? I thought about asking the man behind the counter to keep it for me, but that seemed risky too. What if that drew his attention to how precious this book is? What if he decided he could get more money selling it to some antiques collector? Or a museum, or a university library? I’m not sure what a library would want with
a blank book, but I was suddenly consumed with the idea that this was the most precious object in the world, and anyone who saw it would instantly want it. I couldn’t chance that.
So I took it.
And it was almost too easy. The White Rabbit doesn’t exactly have high tech surveillance cameras everywhere. There was no metal strip on the book to set off any kind of alarm. From where I was standing between two tall bookcases, I was out of the owner’s line of sight, and he was the only other person in the store.
The fact is, I’ve lifted in much more difficult situations than this. At one time in my life, I would have walked out with this book just to prove that I could—for the fun of it. But I’ve really been trying to put all that behind me. And I thought I did exactly that. So what happened? I can’t justify it, but I couldn’t resist. I shoved the thing into my bag, held my breath, and walked out the door.
It’s strange, though—the whole thing made me feel more anxious than I ever have before. Normally I know how to look totally calm and innocent in these situations, but this time I had no chill at all. I had to physically restrain myself from breaking into a run. I kept a quick pace until I was at least halfway home, and then leaned against a wall long enough for my heart to stop racing, and pulled the book out to look at it in the daylight. If anything, it looked even more magnificent than it had in the dim light of the shop. I could see how bright the gold markings were, and how intricate the pattern. I felt a buzzing sort of glee to think that I owned this object, and I let out a wild laugh right there by the street. But as I slid the book back into my bag, that giddy feeling crossed with something else. Something darker—a cold, creeping sensation deep in my gut.
I don’t know, maybe it was guilt over what I’d done, or fear about getting caught.
But I’m definitely not bringing it back. I love it too much. Even now, at home, I can’t stop taking it out to stare at it and run my fingers along its surface.