“You’re going to do what?”
Katniss and Binny were walking to the library early. Arya walked ahead, scouting for any sight of Hermione. There was none.
“I’m gonna tell everyone in the Stacks the truth.” Binny answered.
“And how are you going to do that exactly? You know nobody is going to believe you.”
“I know. That’s why I’m going to write it down. I’m going to write a book. It’s the one thing everyone here respects. Even the Keepers.”
“Oh, no big deal. Even if you could do it without getting caught, do you know what a huge undertaking that is?” Katniss wasn’t convinced.
“I got some professional coaching last night.” Binny winked.
Katniss was puzzled for a moment and then realized what Binny meant. “Even with advice from a real one, you’re not an author.” Katniss tried to make her tone less jokey when she saw how serious Binny was.
“We’re surrounded by the products of millions and millions of books – not to mention the books themselves. Are you telling me that not even one character in the Stacks is capable of writing a book? Not even one? And if there’s at least one, then why shouldn’t it be me?”
Katniss lowered her voice. “I admire your ambition. Really I do. But do you remember what happened when you wrote that poem? Do you think hiding the creation of an entire book from them will be less hard than that was?”
“No. I think it will be harder.”
“Then…” Katniss let her voice trail off indicating the question she was asking.
“I have a plan.”
They had run out of time for conversation as they’d already walked under the arched doorway into the library and were rapidly approaching a shelf where their books were sure to be waiting for them. Arya was already pulling a thick volume off the shelf to pop into.
“Will you promise me one thing?” Katniss asked.
“Can we lay low and not draw any attention to ourselves until we discuss the plan? I’m figuring we’ve gotten into enough trouble in the last 24 hours, and more scrutiny from the Keepers,” Katniss’ eyes darted back and forth looking for them “is the last thing we need right now.”
Binny said, “Agreed. Best behavior,” Binny smiled mischievously and added “for now.”
Binny’s day in her Madrona Heroes book passed as it always did, according to script. And true to her promise, she went to dinner with Katniss and Arya and behaved like a model citizen of the Stacks. No fiery speeches. No throwing dessert.
Binny saw One and Two at various points. They never looked directly at her, but Binny felt their eyes on her back as she passed them. Katniss was right, they were keeping a close watch.
Back at Misselthwaite Manor, Arya had gone to bed, and it was just Binny and Katniss sitting by the fire.
“OK. Can you tell me now?” Katniss asked. “What’s your big plan?”
Binny took a deep breath and walked Katniss through her thinking.
“That’s a lot of wishful thinking.”
“Well, I guess it’s not so much a plan as it is optimistic speculation, but at least it’s a start.” Binny said.
Katniss saw Binny’s face fall a little bit. “I didn’t say I wasn’t in. Just pointing out that there are a lot of potential risks.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“And you really think telling everyone what happened will create real change here?”
“You got any better ideas?”
“Well that’s not fair. You know I don’t.” Katniss joked.
“One more thing though. I know I said we need to lay low for awhile and not draw attention to ourselves, but I think to pull this off we’re going to need some help.”
“We have Arya. I’m sure she’ll help.” Binny said.
“You know I love Arya, and her sword,” Katniss gave Binny a knowing look, “but I think we need even more horsepower. Can I tell a few of my friends? I think they’ll want to help.”
“Sure. Do what you think is right.”
For the next several nights, Misselthwaite Manor became the headquarters for Binny’s new movement. On the first night Meg Murry, from A Wrinkle in Time showed up with Elphaba from Wicked. With Arya and Katniss in attendance, Binny told the whole story. There were some fits and starts, but eventually Meg and Elphaba, as well as Arya, were enthusiastic about Binny’s plan to share the truth far and wide.
Each night more characters came, and each night Binny’s recruiting pitch improved bringing more characters to the cause. When Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz showed up, Binny worried that she and Elphaba wouldn’t get along, but apparently they were already long friends, and only asked that Glinda not be invited as they both found her deeply annoying.
It wasn’t just young women either. James Bond appeared with Sir Lancelot and Dr. Frankenstein in tow. Apparently they all had a penchant for gambling.
Bond said, “Don’t misconstrue, you know I’m absolutely on board. I just worry about whether this is something we’re capable of. We’re not in our books, where heroism is laid out for us, we’re here, biding our time, rotting. Our existence here is one big unintended consequence.”
“James, let’s say you’re correct for a moment. And our existence here, in fact, the entire existence of the Stacks, is just an accidental byproduct of literature. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And that doesn’t mean it can’t evolve.” Dr. Frankenstein was in sync with Binny’s notions from moment one, though Arya had made him promise not to try and reanimate anyone if things went poorly.
“So Victor, we’re like the platypus perhaps? Evolution gone awry?”
“I’m embarrassed to admit how much the platypus could have been one of my creations. But if that’s the metaphor you require, then fine, we’re platypuses, and I’m proud to be one.”
“They are excellent swimmers you know. Platypuses that is.” Lancelot said, between bites of the cheese and crackers that Arya had taken to serving at these gatherings. Lancelot’s comment seemed to placate everyone and the conversation continued late into the night.
While Binny was as well-behaved as she could be in public, by the fifth night the manor had become a bustling headquarters for the burgeoning revolutionary organization. Matilda and Maisie were there. So were Fezzik Watson, and Sally Kimball. Grima showed up but only after making sure that Gandalf was not there.
Arya was asking less and less about Hermione, but Binny knew that she was hurting at Hermione’s disappearance. In truth, as angry as Binny was, she was hurting too. Binny also missed Michel but he hadn’t made an appearance yet either. Binny thought it was probably for the best as congregating with him might only garner unwanted attention. But she missed him nonetheless.
“You weren’t kidding about inviting a few of your friends.” Binny remarked to Katniss as they surveyed the group.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this Binny. Not everyone in the Stacks is a sheep. We just never quite knew what to do. I should have known that the one thing that could unite everyone was the creation of a book. It’s poetic in a way.”
Binny smiled at the compliment.
Katniss continued, “You ready for this?”
“Nope.” Binny said. “But I don’t think I’ll ever be, so there’s no point in waiting.”
Katniss put her hand on Binny’s shoulder. “Sounds good enough to me.”
They had already been working hard not drawing attention to themselves, coming and going at Misselthwaite in small groups that would garner no attention from the Keepers. By the sixth night they had all become quite practiced at it.
In teams of two or three they casually walked in an ever-widening perimeter around Binny, Katniss, and Arya, pretending to be lost in conversation, but actually keeping an eye out for One, Two, or Three. But for the moment, they were nowhere in sight.
Binny approached a shelf and scanned. There it was. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
“I still am not quite sure why we’re going up there.” Arya said.
Binny took a deep breath, trying not to sound exasperated, “As I explained, the books may be gone, but the lectern was still there.”
“Right, right, the lectern.” Arya said.
“Maybe if you spent less time practicing your swordfighting…” Katniss mused.
“I think you should spend more time practicing your archery. You saw what a great team we were before. Next time I’d like to dispatch the enemy before I get my ribs cracked.”
Binny interrupted, “I’m hoping there is no next time.”
Arya and Katniss followed Binny up the Library staircases heading to the top. The monitoring teams continued their circuits, but to the casual observer, they would have just seemed like passersby. Only the group from the Manor really knew what was happening.
Binny had spent the last several days trying to be such a model citizen that this public rule breaking was giving her butterflies. She pushed away her fear thinking that Inanna would appreciate the imagery, so maybe there was a purpose to the nervousness as well.
And then, after several flights of stairs, and some time wending their way through row after row of empty bookcases, they had arrived. The Rare Books Room. The sign was gone, but the room was still there. Binny took a breath and turned the handle. She had worried it would be locked, but it was not.
It had only been a few days, but the place was inordinately dusty. Noone had been here. And sure enough, the books were still gone. The Keepers had made sure of that. But where was the lectern? Binny felt a lump in her throat when she realized that the lectern had been removed as well.
“Oh no.” Arya said. Where did they take it?
“It’s probably with the books.” Katniss said.
“I’m an idiot. Why did I think they would leave that thing here for anyone to access. We should have checked earlier. I’ve wasted everyone’s time.” Binny lamented.
“Don’t be silly. This isn’t your fault. We’re all in this together.” Katniss consoled. “We’ll put our heads together and figure something out.”
On the walk back to Misselthwaite Manor to strategize, Binny felt the sting and humiliation of failure. She could just imagine the sanctimonious look on Two’s face as she removed the lectern to make sure Binny could never use it again.
But actually, Binny thought, Two wouldn’t even bother doing the work herself. She’d probably just delegate it to Three who would be stuck doing the heavy lifting while Two just gave out orders. Instinctively Binny felt in her pocket for the key – the bronze key, with the ivory handle. And then a thought struck her.
“Wait.” Binny stopped in her tracks, and grabbed Katniss and Arya leading them to a tiny alcove at the edge of the library where they wouldn’t be watched. Binny produced the key from her pocket and showed it to the others.
Arya’s eyes bulged.
“What is it?” Katniss asked.
Binny explained how it had come to her, and then added “Don’t you see, I think he wants us to find the lectern.”
“Or it’s a trap.” Katniss snorted.
“I don’t think so. I think he’s different than One and Two somehow.” Binny explained. “When I spoke to Inanna, she told me that the characters who changed things were ‘two women’. She never mentioned a third character, a man.”
“That’s kind of thin.” Katniss said.
“I’ve always liked Three best.” Arya said.
Katniss looked at her, and then back at Binny. “Okay. Even if you trust Three, you have no idea what this key unlocks.”
Binny responded with a triumphant smile, “Actually, I think I do.”