The Books of Darkness
by Robert N. Stephenson
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Diana Arlyn is an author of gothic fiction best-sellers. A hard drinker with bipolar disorder, she falls in love with a mysterious woman, and the turbulent relationship draws Diana unwillingly into a legend.
Diana is haunted by questions: why did the woman pick her, of all people, and how can the Ta’ibah, the hunter of darkness, know so much about her? She is also haunted by the ghost of a dead author. She must find out what he wants, recover a lost book that belongs to someone who wants to kill her, and ultimately survive the darkness.
“Sarina is planning something,” he said, sitting on top of a burnt-out car. The night, clear, created shadow about its hollow interior. “I have felt changes in the symbol.”
“You said it had no real power,” I said. A symbol was merely a representation, nothing more.
“I can feel these things, it is part of me.”
“What is she planning?”
“Perhaps protections for the woman. She knows we are after her.”
“What is it you want me to do?”
He laughed, a sad sound of dying, his sound, my sound. He had the answer. If he could be amused I would say he was. His laughter, a human affectation designed to remind me of what I wasn’t, more than a display of joy. The smell of burnt rubber and metal hung about us, the gravel beneath my feet crunched as I moved around the car. If Sarina protected Diana then how was I going to get the book and then the symbol of the Uttukes?
“I knew this would happen,” he said.
“You could have informed me sooner. I could have taken steps.”
“You have taken the steps I have allowed you to take.” He flowed into the night and reformed standing before me. “I need you to do something, something you don’t know you need to do.”
“I am not going to take on Sarina openly,” I said. He understood I wouldn’t.
“No Ta’ibah, you won’t, nor do I expect you to.”
“Then what is it I am to do?”
“You will know when the time comes.”
More riddles. What could he gain from such a human concept, a human game?
“I have much to do.” I said. His answers would not help. “I should have what we need soon.”
“I expected no less.” He began a slow descent into the ground. “This needs to be done. You need to do it.” With that he was gone.
I didn’t understand what he wanted. I reached into the web, stroked Diana’s filaments, created a thought, a touch, a minor tickle. Did he already know what I had set in motion? Doing something I didn’t know would be rare, even for me. Who was I to question the logic of someone older than time itself? He had his reasons and they would become clear when necessary, for now I played.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert N. Stephenson