Winter 2007 Volume One Issue One
The Book of Nye - by Adam Heskett
The Killam Memorial Library, located on Dalhousie University's Sexton Campus in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was home to one of the largest collections of archived and historical material anywhere in the Maritimes. Henry Kinde knew this. If there was anything a student needed for their studies, this library was Mecca. Henry wasn't a student. He hadn't even stepped foot in Halifax, let alone the library's five story atrium, for twenty-five years.
Henry came for a book that would provide the solution to his deepest problem. A book that only existed here. Glen, a dear old friend, claimed the book to have been "written by either angels or demons." Unfortunate that it was most likely the latter. This didn't dissuade Henry.
"It's called the Book of Nye. It has an answer for everything," Glen said, years ago before his death. "I found it by accident while I was a student researching a paper at Dal."
Henry took the elevator to the fifth floor. He was so close.
Earnest students buried their heads in worn reference books and glowing laptops, oblivious that all their answers were right down the hall. He tried not to make eye contact with anyone as he made his way down the hall towards the "Special Collections" Department. They didn't even register his presence. Henry could've been any one of a hundred professors that weaved through the corridors of the university on a daily basis.
Henry opened the glass door into the reception. A young woman with a cherubic face smiled as he stood wiggling his fingers. He hadn't thought this far ahead. He didn't know how he was going to get into the back room.
The woman gave a nervous laugh and said, "Can I help you?"
"I'm here to see the book." Why did he say the? His fingers twiddled faster.
Her face brightened. "Are you Professor Millar from the Theatre Department?"
"I'm not a professor..." Henry said, "I mean, outside of class...you can call me Henry." He played the ruse handed to him. In a university the size of Dalhousie, professors were as faceless as the countless students.
"You here to see the new Shakespeare?"
Henry must have looked perplexed because she laughed again.
"You thespians are too much. The dean called this morning saying you'd be up to check on the arrival of Shakespeare's complete works. It's the 1873 Imperial Edition from Philadelphia. We've got it in the Special Collections back room."
Henry said, "Yes, yes. That's me. I'm Professor Henry Millar."
"Come with me," she rose from behind the desk and led him to the sealed oak double door behind her. She paused and looked at him, "Funny."
"What's that?" He forced his fingers to stop.
"People told me you had a thick German accent. It's hardly noticeable."
"Comes from living in the West for so long," Henry said trying to skew into a Germanic cadence.
She led him into the dimly lit back room within the Special Collections. Henry dreaded the number of stacks that stood before him. Somewhere within the Book of Nye waited.
A small wooden crate sat on a table in the center of the room.
"Shakespeare's in the crate," the young lady said.
"Must be cramped."
The woman let out a cheery giggle and covered her mouth.
"I'm sorry, uh..." Henry said.
"Christine Myers." She held out her hand. "Pleasure."
Henry took her hand. She blushed. She could've been his daughter, if he and Shannon, his wife of fifteen years, had been blessed to have one. Maybe there would be an opportunity.
"I do appreciate this, Christine," Henry said, "but I'd like some solitude when I open it. Eccentric theatre thing."
"Of course, Henry," she gasped as if she thought it dumb for not thinking it.
The door shut behind her with a muted click.
Henry ignored the crate and Shakespeare's works. There was a more important book. Somewhere upon these shelves there were answers to everything.
Henry learned about the existence of the Book of Nye almost two decades ago in a light-hearted poker game with a couple friends.
"Royal Flush," Glen said. A half-smoked cigar hung from his protruding jaw line.
Henry and Mike groaned and threw down their cards on the kitchen table.
"How many times was that?" Henry said.
"Four," Mike replied getting up for another beer.
"How in hell did you manage to pull that off four times in a row?" Henry said.
Glen took the cigar from his lips and puckered.
"If I tell you asses, I keep my winnings. Okay?"
"The whole twenty bucks? Yeah, sure," Mike said popping a top off three bottles.
"But if it's cheating, like palming or some card trick, you forfeit," Henry said.
Glen took another drag and leaned back. "Deal. I've got a list that tells me what hands I'm going to get."
"Bullshit," Mike said setting down a beer in front of each of us.
"I see your bullshit and raise you this," Glen pulled out four yellowed folded pages and tossed in upon the chips in the middle of the table, "Right there is the list of all the hands I've ever been dealt...in order."
Henry picked up the thin pages. They felt ancient and fragile. He unfolded them. Mike hovered over Henry's shoulder.
Henry could make out tiny rows of poker card combinations split into five columns spread on both sides of each page. Beside some of the combinations were dates written in Glen's hand dating back seven years.
"I did that so I wouldn't lose my place," Glen explained, "I only remember the big hands by remembering how many deals away they are." He pointed at a succession of four Royal Flushes near the end of the last page. "That's where I'm at now."
Henry and Mike were skeptical.
"You see the last hand I was dealt," Glen said, "Tell me what's next."
"Pair Jack High, Seven of Diamonds, Four of Spades, and a Deuce of Hearts," Mike said.
Glen said, "Deal me. Face up."
Henry did and the cards flipped in the exact order just as the list had predicted. They dealt five more hands and all five were right. By the end, they were convinced.
Henry found the Book of Nye upon a shelf near the back of the room between a copy of the Necromonicon and Mein Kampf. The word "NYE" stood out on the black leather spine in gold print. The Book was as wide as three telephone directories bound together. Henry hefted the girth from the shelf, and lugged it back to the central table. He dropped it beside the crate.
Henry dreaded wading through the Book for his answer.
The spine crackled as Henry pried open the front cover. The first page contained one short paragraph written several times in microscopic print in more languages than he could name. His hand brushed a magnifying glass on the table and brought it over the page. He found the English version halfway down.
"Find your query in the index. Turn to the referring page number for your answer. Beware the cost of knowledge."
Henry knew the cost of knowledge from the Book second-hand. Glen paid the bounty on the last hand of his list.
Glen sat at a high-rollers poker table in Niagara Falls during his final few hands. He wanted to go out big. He bet everything he had: his car, his home, every dollar, every asset. His life laid upon the green felt table.
He held a Straight Flush King of Hearts high just as the list predicted. What the list did not predict was the man next to Glen with a Royal Flush. Glen watched his life vanish with one sweep and a sneer. Those at the table that night said Glen poor heart gave out and died before his face hit the table.
Henry understood the risks of playing cards with the Book of Nye very well.
Henry flipped to the index. There were no multilingual translations in the index. Only English. The Book no doubt had an explanation to this as well. He'd explore that another time. He had priorities.
He turned to Cancer, Remedies and Cures.
Henry wanted to weep.
"Thank you, Lord," Henry took note of the page number and flipped the onion-skin pages to the answer. He would weep aloud if there was a cure to save Shannon.
Shannon lay comatose with a malignant brain tumour in the Princess Margaret Hospital two thousand kilometres away in Toronto. She had suffered migraines for years before their doctor diagnosed the growth hidden within her grey matter. Chemotherapy had done nothing but cause more pain. Her doctor said that she may never reawaken and that Henry may want to consider making "arrangements." Henry took that to mean to reach out for whatever hope there might be in a book he had been told about so many years ago.
The cancer entry covered more than half the page written in fine print. Henry went to the heavy doors and bolted them shut. He didn't want to risk being disturbed. He returned to the ageless Book.
The Book of Nye outlined a treatment of cleansing chakras and chanting. The Book footnoted chakras as eight energy points in a person that mirror the body. Any illness that grew within the body grew upon the chakras. If the chakras were rinsed, so would the body be. Not much of why this worked made sense to Henry but the instructions were clear enough. The final phrase disturbed him though.
"One life for another."
Shannon was worth his life. She would never forgive him for doing this if she found out. Henry resolved that there was no other choice. He had given her fifteen years and promised her the rest of his life on their wedding day. That's exactly what he'd do.
He read the entry a second time and realized he couldn't memorize it. He didn't want to get back home and risk forgetting everything. He considered ripping out the pages as Glen had done but...
...there were benefits of possessing the answers to everything.
Henry folded the page over to not lose the spot and closed the Book. He needed both hands to manoeuvre its weight off the table and to the door. He snapped the lock open, and pulled the door ajar.
"You're sure you're Professor Henry Millar?" Henry heard Christine's voice echo on the other side.
"For the final time, Ms. Myers, I am Professor Maxmillian Millar," an angry crisp German voice said, "I trust this is all a misunderstanding but if the Imperial Edition is damaged in any way, you shall be held responsible. This I promise."
Henry slammed the door shut as he saw them enter the reception. He bolted the lock and leaned against the door. He embraced the Book of Nye to his chest.
Henry scanned the windowless room for escape. Sweat dripped from his temple. There was a vent over the table. Had he been thirty years younger, that would've been a viable option. His fingers tapped on the cover.
A loud banging behind the door startled him back to the table. He couldn't leave through the door. Not without the Book. He needed another solution.
"Security has been summoned," Professor Millar shouted, "In less than a minute, you will be in custody if you don't come out now."
Henry did have another solution. He had a book full of solutions.
Henry sat the Book on the table. In the index he found Escape, How to, The Killam Library Special Collections Back Room.
"He's still in there," Professor Millar said. The door handle jiggled.
"You got a key?" said deep voice.
"Yes, Tom...er...officer," Christine said.
Henry turned to the indexed page. All the Book gave as an answer was: "Tear out your page. Return the Book to where you found it. Go to the right back corner. Do this now."
Henry cursed. There must be something he was missing. He read it again as a key slid into the door. The words bolded on the page as if magic.
"Tear out your page. Return the Book to where you found it. Go to the right back corner. Do this now."
Henry flipped to the folded page and tore it down the seam. Henry wondered if Glen had been in the same situation so many years ago.
"Wrong key," Tom the officer said.
Christine said, "I think it's this one."
"Hurry up, you swine," Professor Millar bellowed.
Henry stuffed the page inside his inner jacket pocket. He closed the Book of Nye and huffed down the aisle to replace it. He slipped the massive volume back into its gaping home.
Henry heard the door fly open. He sprinted as fast as his aging muscles would take him towards the right back corner. The low lights brightened. There, a door emerged from the darkness.
"Where is he?" the Professor bellowed.
Christine said, "I don't know."
They never found him.
The doorway Henry used for his escape served as a seldom-used maintenance entrance. This entrance led down a short hall and doubled back to the elevators.
No one noticed Henry striding from the Killam Library main floor atrium into the fresh Halifax air.
Twenty-four hours later, Henry slouched at his unconscious wife's bedside.
"One life for another." The Book's deal was non-negotiable.
Shannon's heart monitor beeped through another minute.
Henry kneeled and prayed. "Please." He gazed upon her gentle features and almost fooled himself that she may still pull through. Maybe no sacrifice was necessary.
Henry wiped his nose. Shannon's cancer going away had gone beyond simple faith. There was no other way.
Henry rose and placed a hand on the top of her head (the crown chakra) and one over her left breast (the heart chakra). He shut his eyes and imagined the plague lifting from her aura.
He chanted in rhythmic timbre "Manara Rugu Toki," with every inhale and "Itok Ugur Aranam," at every exhale. Gibberish to Henry but just as the Book directed.
Henry felt the sickness within her fade. He chanted louder and faster as he saw her energy (those beautiful colours) cleanse. His own energy began to wane.
"Henry?" Shannon whispered.
Henry gasped. He lost connection with her chakra. His knees wobbled and gave out. He kept his hands on her body. He tried to stay conscious.
"Henry!" Shannon said.
One life for another.
Tender arms embraced and rocked him. Henry's eyes fluttered open.
The Book had shown compassion, it seemed. A stream of tears rolled down his cheek.
His face beamed. Shannon beamed back. They held each other silently for a long time. Just savouring each other.
"How...how are you feeling?" Henry said.
"Like I've been asleep my whole life," she kissed him on the forehead, "How about you?"
"Other than a slight headache," he smiled, "I've never been so happy in my life."
The doctors were baffled and dubbed Shannon's recovery a miracle. Tests showed the cancer had vanished as if it had never existed at all.
They enjoyed a worry-free and comfortable life the following few years leading into their retirement. Henry opted to keep the Book of Nye a secret in hopes that it wouldn't remember to collect its bounty. He kept the page that saved his wife close to his heart as a staunch reminder.
Shannon was his happiness, his life and his answer to everything.
Henry's headaches became steadily worse. Shannon took him to a doctor against his judgement. Henry knew they were caused by the Book. He sensed it.
By the time Henry was diagnosed as having a malignant brain tumour, the pain was disabling. Henry remained in bed most of the time, too taxed to get up. Speech became cruel torture shortly thereafter.
Shannon remained at his side during his final days reading to him and talking about old times. The time they danced in the middle of the street one late night after their first date. The way he proposed to her and how her mother said it was a mistake even though Shannon felt otherwise. They reminisced about how they tried for children but how it wasn't meant to be. She admitted now that she wished they had a child together. Henry felt inadequate and turned away. It wasn't fair. The Book of Nye had the answer. Of this, he was certain. Still, Henry kept silent through it all. He would not allow Shannon the opportunity to be tempted.
"There you go, honey," Shannon said while spooning one last scoop of mashed potatoes into his mouth, "All done." She took the tray and set in on the bedside table. Her shoulders drooped and turned. "I'm so sorry, sweetie."
Henry listened. He was sorry too. He wanted to tell her it was alright but it would've been a lie.
"If there's anything I could do to help you stop the pain," she said, "I would."
The Book...the page he kept...
His eyebrows rose. The cure. He'd get better. She'd get worse. They'd trade the tumour back and forth until old age caught up with them. And even for that, the Book of Nye would have an answer. It could work.
"What, sweetie?" she said.
"'Ove you," was all he could muster before wincing.
Shannon smiled and her eyes moistened. "I love you too." She gave him a long hug and a deep kiss on the lips. Henry realized then his plan wouldn't work. He couldn't harbour the sight of his wife in pain again. "Forever and always." She placed a hand on his forehead.
"'Orever," he said. Henry closed his eyes as she placed a second hand on his chest right over his heart.
Then the chanting began, and he was too weak to make her stop.