For those who don’t know, years and years ago, I wrote a novel (currently out of print) set on Llannonn, a planet where courtesy is literally the law. When I went on a blog book tour for the novel, I ran a contest for naming a character in a short story set in the same world. Fellow writer Holly Jahangiri (the real one) was such a determined contestant, I named a character after her, too. That character commandeered the story, and I’ve been writing about her ever since.
I write a Holly story on the Sundays of Story A Day May.
Holly Jahangiri (the fictional one) becomes, is, and retires as a Librarian at a library for living books. It seems that somebody on Llannonn read Fahrenheit 451 and decided a library of people who recite books they’ve memorized was a great idea. Typically for Llannonn, they officialized it. Becoming a living book is now a respectable career, provided you can get a gig in a library.
And now I give you:
HOLLY AND THE CREATURE FROM ANOTHER PLANET
Head Librarian Holly Jahangiri sprang to the window and threw open the sash, drawn by a series of ghastly screeches. She was just in time to see a bizarre vision: Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia, her apron flung over her head, disappearing into the kitchen door below, running from what looked like a beautiful, peaceful garden.
Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia’s preferred mode of communication was and had always been the contemptuous sniff, so Holly was, not to put too fine a point on it, alarmed.
Pausing only to wrap her signature purple feather boa around her neck in case of emergency, she took the steps downstairs two at a time, arriving in the kitchen before the distraught parlourmaid had had done more than sink into a hard chair and remove the apron from her face.
The cook poured Miznalia a cup of Llannonn’s best tea-like liquid and a second for Holly. She never touched the stuff, herself.
Holly, for a librarian is always both courteous and direct, said, “Are you all right? What happened out there?”
The stricken parlourmaid gulped her tea, fixed her haunted gaze on Holly, and said, in a horror-thinned voice, “Lawks!”
“Watch your language,” said Holly sternly. “There are children’s books in this facility.”
“‘Sorry, Mom. Sorry, God,'” said Miznalia, quoting one of the Chuck Palahniuk books who lived together in a separate outbuilding because they made the other books uncomfortable.
Holly repeated her questions: “Are you all right? What happened out there?”
“I saw –” The parlourmaid shuddered. “I saw a thing. A creature. It looked a little like an alleyjammer, but it was gray, and had black rings around its tail. It was …. It was wearing a mask.”
Holly involuntarily put a hand over her mouth. She had only been a child when the Plague of the Smelly Breath had swept over Llannonn, but she still remembered the masks everyone had worn as a courtesy to others.
Tambar Miznalia put her hands over her eyes and spread her fingers. “No. Over its eyes.”
The cook, looking out of the window as she refilled the kettle, gasped. “Is that it?”
Holly and the parlourmaid crowded up next to the cook.
“Yes!” said Miznalia. “And that’s what it was doing before. It’s trying to steal the bizzmmittee nest!”
Holly ran back to her office and, with trembling fingers, dialed her friend and the policing representative for her district, Pel Darzin. She described the creature.
He momentarily replaced his own image with one of a creature similar to the one in the library garden.
“That’s it!” said Holly. “Not the same one, but the same sort of creature. I’d wager our largest overdue fine on it.”
“It’s from the planet Earth,” said Darzin, grimly. “Always the troublemakers, those particular aliens. This creature was reported missing by a troupe of actors here on a cultural exchange. They’re doing a play called Trash Pandas of the Galaxy or something. I have their manager’s name and number here somewhere….” He pressed some touch pads on his desk. “Yes, I have his contact information. Just stay indoors and don’t interface with it. It could be dangerous. I’d better call Sol.”
The creature was retrieved by the troupe’s manager, who tried, without success, to persuade Holly to book the play for the library’s annual Hot Time festivities.
“Over Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia’s dead body,” was how she put it.
Parlourmaid Tambar Miznalia sniffed contemptuously.
The part of the alien creature was played by the raccoon on our back deck last night. No hummingbirds for us, apparently. If we hang the feeder, the ants get into it. I wasn’t expecting a panda with a sweet tooth.
A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: An unexpected criminal.