Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 3.3

Posted by harmony0stars on January 25, 2009

Glory sat through the auction impatiently. She could have had an agent handle the transactions over the phone, but she wanted to see the books for herself. She wasn’t the kind of person to buy sight unseen. So she sat and waited while the auctioneer presented ancient sealed vases (purportedly housing trapped demons) and art deco lamps (supposedly haunted), threadbare throw rugs (with djinn woven in to make them fly) and a cloth that was little more than a rag that was supposedly a fairy baby blanket or some such thing. She might study magic but she wasn’t gullible for goodness sake! Though she wouldn’t have minded examining them more closely…  just for the sake of curiosity.

The estate sale was for some rich old collector of the occult who had passed away, leaving no heirs but plenty of debt collectors clamoring for restitution. Glory kept forgetting his name and would not have even been in attendance if she hadn’t seen a newspaper article mentioning his extensive library. If the auction house had been offering it entire, she’d most definitely have dropped a fat sum on them and had the books shipped without examining them, but they were selling them off piece meal in order to wring a better price from those in attendance. Which meant that she had to pay attention, no matter how boring or sensationalist the auction was.

Most of the books were obviously old, but not particularly unique.  So far the books that they had trotted out for bidding were very mundane. She bid on a few and won or occasionally lost, but was not very disappointed when she did. The books were just not very remarkable. Perhaps he had sunk his fortune in flying carpets. There certainly seemed to be quite a few. But she had noticed a few books and manuscripts that looked interesting and she was eager to hear what the auctioneer had to say about them.

“Next we have an unnamed alchemical manuscript credited to Abu Musa Jābir ibn Hayyān, also called Geber.” Glory sat up a little straighter in her chair as the auctioneer continued, “Dating marks the text as thirteenth century. However Geber died four hundred years earlier while under house arrest in 815. Possibly a medieval translation, it is a rare example of a 13th century alchemical text in its entirety.  Bidding will start at $9000. Do I have $9000?”

Glory raised her paddle, but was almost immediately outbid by a sickly looking guy in sun glasses and his pink haired kid. At least, she assumed she was his kid, maybe sister. Both of them looked rather ragged, and he wore a jacket with a hood that hid most of his head. If it hadn’t been daytime, she might have thought they were a couple of vampires, as pale as they both were. Obviously they weren’t the only odd looking people in an auction primarily filled with occult collectors, but she hadn’t noticed them before, or maybe it was just because this was the first time they’d bid. Maybe they’d been there all along. Glory raised her paddle again and the little girl glared at her, whispering something to the guy who immediately upped his bid in response.

What followed was fifteen minutes of intense bidding until the price of the text was well over $50,000. The other buyers in the room ping ponged their attention back and forth between Glory and the pale pair as they each tried to outbid the other. But $57,500 was apparently their limit. Glory honestly didn’t know how to feel about spending that much on a single book. Having so much money still didn’t feel real to her. It was like spending Monopoly money. The girl gave her companion an angry shove and left in a huff. He followed behind silently. With his sunglasses on, Glory couldn’t tell if he even looked at her as they left.  His movement seemed to be very mechanical, as if every step was made by will alone.

In the next few hours, Glory won several more bids, but none of the books were as interesting as Geber’s manuscript. At one point, she was in a bidding war with a strange man for a Bulgarian translation of the Necronomicon. Or at least, she assumed it was a man. He wore so many layers of clothes that she couldn’t really tell. Since she didn’t read Bulgarian however and had never had the opportunity to examine the Necronomicon aside from short verses quoted in other work, she let it go after a few minutes. If she won, she wouldn’t even be able to tell if it was an accurate translation.

Throughout the auction, all she could think of was Geber’s manuscript. She itched to get her hands on it. What language would it be written in? She hoped it wasn’t old English. She hated old English. Latin was better. Or maybe it would be in Persian. The thought of having to learn a new dead language made her positively giddy. Even if it was not written by Geber, it could be a copy of something he had done or it could have been written by an alchemist who admired his work and so took his name as his own. It could just be a fake. She was such a nerd, it really didn’t matter. It was still a 13th century alchemical text, regardless of who wrote it.

As the auction ended, she stood and quickly intercepted the auctioneer. “Excuse me, I know that my purchases will be shipped to my home, but I would like to take the Geber text with me.”

He gave her a look of distaste before covering it up with a professional smile. No doubt he thought everyone who’d attend an auction of mostly occult items were all freaks. She really couldn’t speak for the others, but she’d be the first to admit to being a bit on the outskirts of normal. “There’s no need for that miss. All purchases will be delivered with the utmost discretion. You can expect delivery tomorrow or you may arrange for pick up if you prefer.”

“But I can’t just leave with one of my purchases now?”

He hesitated, then shrugged. “Well, it’s not the normal way things are done…”

“Okay, well that’s the way we’re going to do it this time for this one item that I just paid you a whole heap of money for, right?”

“Er…yeeeees, okay. I guess I can’t think of a reason why not, aside from protocol.”

“Great!” She said with a sincere smile. Was it really that he was bending the rules for her, or was it one of her tattoos encouraging his cooperation? Did it matter? A few minutes later, she walked out of the building, clutching the carefully wrapped text close to her chest. It was actually little more than a thin sheaf of pages, not even bound. It barely made a bulge under her coat.  She’d almost forgot her coat, so eager was she to get home and begin examining the manuscript. In fact, she did forget to call for a cab before leaving.

The sun was going down and it was starting to flurry as she stepped onto the side walk and actually looked up long enough to realize she had no ride.  Glory fished around in her pocket for her cell phone.

“Hey, hi!” said the pale little girl from the auction as she pushed away from the wall where she’d been leaning with her friend. “I’m Gozala, and this is Mike.”

“Um, hi…?” She couldn’t help but notice that they weren’t wearing coats, well aside from Mike’s hoodie. Gozala was just wearing an overly large t-shirt with a smiley face on it and jeans. Now she knew how disconcerting her lack of proper winter gear was to other people. Least she was dressing for the weather now, even if she couldn’t exactly feel the cold.

“We were kind of hoping that you’d be willing to let us look at Geber’s manuscript. It’s really important to Mike.”

“I see.” Glory glanced at Mike who stood impassively beside Gozala. At least he seemed to be doing slightly better in the cold than he had been in the warmth of the house. He was still abnormally pale, but he looked more comfortable.

“I could pay you. I mean, we could. I mean, we could like, maybe, sort of rent it. It’s realy, really a matter of life or death.”

“Life or death…” Glory repeated with a sinking feeling.She was glad the book was hidden under her coat.

“Do you need a ride?” Gozala caught Glory by the sleeve and tugged her toward a beat up old Cadillac. “We could probably explain things much better in private. See Mike’s really sick, and we’re hoping that maybe Geber’s work in takwin might help him.”

“You know about Geber’s work in creating artificial life?” Despite herself, she allowed herself to be led to the car.

“Yeah, sure. We got a copy of his Book of Stones, but its written in code and well, we figured some of it out, but it still didn’t work for us. But we heard about the manuscript you just won. It’s supposed to have a key to his code!” Mike got into the driver’s seat without commenting. Gozala opened the passenger door and looked at Glory expectantly.

She knew she shouldn’t trust these people, but she honestly didn’t think they had anything to do with her sister. And Mike really did look very sick. She told him her address in the upper east side, not that he gave any indication that he’d heard.

“Um, I hope you don’t mind, but Mike really can’t stand the heat. It’s very bad for his condition.” Gozala explained as she climbed into the back seat. “It’s a good thing it’s been a cold winter. We really couldn’t be here in the summer.”

“So the cold doesn’t seem to bother you.” Glory replied, glancing back at Gozala in her t-shirt.

“Oh, no. Actually, what’s wrong with Mike is kind of my fault, though kind of not. I mean, if he’d just left me with my dad, everything would have been okay.”

“I see…” Glory replied, though she didn’t really. “Look, I’ll make a deal with you… if you can come into my house, I’ll let you look at the book.”

“What do you mean, if we can come in?” Gozala asked with a frown.

“Well… we’ll see when we get there. If you can walk in the front door, then I’ll let you look at the book.”

“Why wouldn’t we be able to come in the front door exactly?”

“It’s nothing… life threatening. I have… enemies. So you just have to walk in the front door, and if you can do it, I’ll let you look at the book. No problem.”

“Okaaaay,” Gozala drawled, giving her a look that clearly said she thought Glory was a weirdo.

to Book 3, page 4

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One Response to “Tattoo Book 3.3”

  1. Miladysa said

    😀 More please

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