Months passed. Binny and her friends remained at Misselthwaite Manor, but its countless rooms were now occupied by many more residents. And the Manor itself had to be expanded to accommodate everyone with sections of the opulent Gatsby mansion, and a dozen separate instances of Number Four, Privet Drive. Despite how cramped it was, everyone wanted to sleep under the stairs.
Some of the more industrious characters had scoured science fiction volumes to create systems that would let Stacks characters find each other and communicate across distances as they pleased. They could let each other know what they were doing, even when they weren’t together.
For a time this system became so popular that the glut of creativity that had flourished in the early days after the change started to wane. Everyone spent so much time chatting with each other and posting what they were doing, that nobody bothered creating anything new.
But quickly everyone came to their senses and decided that the obsession with the new technology was destroying all the gains they had made and threatened to bring a new dark period to the Stacks. It became socially unacceptable to spend all your time posting and chatting, and the overwhelming majority of characters in the Stacks ended up using it only to arrange times to meet and collaborate on new creations.
But the most positive side effect of the technology was all the reunions it effected. Binny’s family and friends from her book all found her in short order. They were all very impressed with all she’d accomplished during her short time in the Stacks and had stories to tell of their own.
Binny’s father Jay in particular was very excited about all the discoveries of how the Stacks actually worked. He and his friends Joe and Sammy set immediately to writing a short story about a machine that let comic book fans enter the world of each comic and meet their favorite characters.
They weren’t interested in finding readers for their story. Instead, they immediately entered it using one of the Narnian wardrobes and then from within their story used their newly created fictional machine to enter the comic books of their choice. Binny’s brother Zach had described their achievement as ‘hacking the Stacks’. Binny just thought they were crazy.
Days off had become much more frequent since the change had happened. Sometimes on lazy days Binny would pull the old Register from under her mattress and write simple poems and even little sketches on its pages. She no longer needed to hide it from anyone, but she kept it under her mattress anyway. It just felt right.
On a particular day off with an especially beautiful morning, Binny answered the door to Misselthwaite Manor to find a girl her age standing there in a dress that looked like it was from the 1800’s.
“Can I help you?” Binny said.
“I read that you were looking for me.” The girl said.
It took Binny a moment to focus. The girl’s earnest expression, her period clothing. “Laura?”
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s face lit up with a big smile. “I brought us a picnic. There are some of Pa’s sausages in here.” Laura pointed at her basket.
The day had been perfect. They’d picnicked in the summer sun in a field near Laura’s little wooden house. Laura made Binny recount stories of her mother reading Laura’s stories to Binny as a child. Binny peppered Laura with questions about writing and being an author.
Binny and Laura promised to get together again soon. But the next time Binny insisted that they would go to her house in Madrona for breakfast and eat some of her father’s delicious Chocolate Chip Banana Waffles.
It was late afternoon when Binny entered the Secret Garden on her way to the Manor and heard a familiar voice. “Binny?”
“I was wondering when you were going to show up.” Binny ran towards Hillel and gave him a big hug.
“I’m so incredibly proud of you.” Hillel said.
“I’m so incredibly proud of you.” Binny said.
“I guess we’ve become adept at using the same words.” Hillel smiled.
“I couldn’t have done it without you.” Binny said.
“I couldn’t have done it without you.” Hillel said back.
“I think we’re boring the reader.” Binny chided. “
Hillel laughed. “Come with me. There’s something I’ve been dying to do. OK?”
“Am I finally getting my wings?” Binny raised an eyebrow.
They left the garden and walked a ways down the hallway. Binny mused as they walked, “So, did it work?”
“Did what work?”
“Are people reading the Madrona Heroes books because they read this one?”
“Good question. Since we’re just wrapping this one up, I’m not sure, but do you want to know something? I really don’t care if they do or they don’t. I’m just so thrilled that we got to do this together. It’s meant everything to me.” Hillel couldn’t get the smile off his face, looking at his co-author and literary daughter bouncing along next to him in the grand hallway of the Stacks.
And then they arrived. “This is it.” Hillel pushed open a handmade wooden door. They plunged onto a dirt path that led up to a broad area that sat below an enormous number of cave dwellings carved into the side of a mountain. On second glance, Binny thought that maybe the caves were formed naturally, with only the connecting steps carved by human hands.
The broad area below the caves was teeming with people. It was some sort of fair or market. The people all wore period dress. And some of them had what looked like tiny dragons sitting on their shoulders, or flying about chirping. Binny thought she even saw one burp fire.
“Are those mini-dragons?”
“They’re adorable. Do they grow into full-size dragons?”
“Nope.” Hillel paused and then pointed skyward, “But those exist here too.” Just then an enormous bronze dragon popped into existence a mere fifty feet above their heads. It flew gracefully to a clearing near the fair, dropped off its passengers, and then launched itself back into the air and soon disappeared into nowhere.
Binny watched mesmerized.
“What is this place?”
“It’s called Pern.”
“How come I’ve never heard of it?”
“I tried, or rather your father tried, to get you to read the books when you were younger, but you weren’t interested.”
“Well, I’m gonna read them now.”
“Come.” Hillel took Binny’s hand and they entered the fray of the fair.
Musicians and dancers performed. Craftsmen and women had stalls where they plied their wares. And food was simply everywhere. Meat, baked goods, produce. Everything looked strange and delicious to Binny.
“I love this place.”
“Maybe your next novel should be a fantasy novel.”
“Maybe your next novel should be a fantasy novel.” Hillel smiled. “I’ve got a bunch more Madrona Heroes novels to write first.”
“Ooh, what happens to me in the next one?”
Hillel stopped in his tracks, a familiar look on his face.
“Yeah, yeah.” Binny complained. “I know. I’ll tell you what happens.”
Hillel laughed out loud at how well Binny had come to know him. “There’s something I’m dying to try. I always read about them and was dying to see what they taste like. I always imagined they tasted like the most delicious blackberry pies ever.”
They walked through the maze of tables until Hillel found the one he wanted. A pile of steaming pastries was stacked on the table fresh out of the oven. To Binny they looked like small open faced tarts filled with some sort of purple berry filling.
The woman behind the counter said, “Two bubbly pies for you?”
“Please.” Hillel pulled a small wooden coin out of his pocket and handed it to the woman.
“You brought Pernese money?” Binny said.
“I’m a planner.” Hillel winked.
The woman made change and then served Binny and Hillel each a hot pie.
Binny looked at the pastry, steam rising from its top, and little bubbles forming across the surface. It was certainly aptly named, Binny thought to herself.
Hillel was the first to take a bite. “Oh my god.” He said, with his mouth still mostly full.
“Does it taste like you thought?” Binny asked.
“Nope. Even better.”