A little girl sat alone at a giant desk in a cavernous oak-panelled study, swallowed in darkness, with only the dim light from a decades-old banker's lamp providing any illumination to her small corner of the world.
Looking at herself in a small mirror, she was slightly amused by the way the light had thrown her features into sharp relief. She looked like one of the monsters in an old black-and-white film, the shadows having turned her small, round face into something all nose and chin and sunken eye-sockets.
It was a terrible sight, absolutely fit for her terrible purpose.
The little girl was only eight, but she had already seen enough in her short time on Earth that she carried the weight of someone four times her age- if not more- in her heart. The things she'd seen on telly, the internet, and in the hushed whispers between her mum and dad. The way the world seemed to just be going ever-further off-balance, with everyone locked in their homes and nutters clamoring for freedom to do little more than hurt themselves and others. People in charge who were supposed to be helping, but who by and large just seemed to be making things worse, not better, fighting amongst themselves rather than just sitting down and doing what was right.
She was smart for her age- too smart, she often felt. She wished she could be like other people and get easily distracted by cartoons, or comics, but she couldn't. The news was there, the news was real, and the news terrified her.
She'd felt scared, and helpless, and the promises from her parents that everything was going to be okay just felt empty and meaningless. Like when they said getting the needle at hospital wasn't going to hurt and then of course it did. They were horrible at lying to her. They were scared too. She could sense it.
But then, she had found The Book.
The Book was old- probably something left over from her great-great-great-so-many-greats-it-was-too-great-a-struggle-to-remember-them-all-great grandmother's time. It was written in words that looked like English (kind of) but read like something a drunk Scotsman might try to say as he was coming out of the pub. It made no sense to her at all. Well, to her head, anyway.
But her heart- that was a different story.
Her heart knew what The Book was saying. She could just tell, somehow. It whispered tales to her. Tales of her family, and her home, and the darkness that surrounded it for generations. Tales of forbidden artefacts and works that could give even a scared little eight-year-old girl named Livia the power to change the world. The Power to make things Right.
Livia looked over the later pages of The Book, turning over each brittle leaf carefully. The words and writing, she noticed, had begun to change, from the drunken Scotsman style to things a little easier-if longwinded- for her to understand. The "S's" looked like "F"'s and that there were a lot of extra Y's that made no sense, but whatever. The handwriting was different too. Different colours of ink, different styles-
She realised with a start that at some point The Book had stopped being some kind of instruction manual and was now more like a catalogue of wishes. Or more precisely, a catalogue of stories about wishes. About what people wanted. For themselves and their friends, mainly. And each story was ended with a smear of blood, as if sealing a pact.
Not that she really understood what a "pact" was, but she got the idea. It was like a promise. She wondered what they promised The Book, in exchange for their wishes, but that was never mentioned. The blood made her feel uneasy, though.
But not uneasy enough to stop.
Livia turned the pages until she met a blank one. This one, she knew, was for her to use.
She grabbed a small gel pen filled with pretty, glittering purple ink. It was her favourite pen from school, and she felt pleased that she would be using it to make her mark on the family history- that someday, someone would open the book and see her tale, all glittery and perfectly inscribed with the balloon-like penmanship she was so proud of, little hearts above the "I"'s and all.
She began writing her name on the page. "I, Livia P-"
"Those are cute little hearts," someone suddenly chirped from behind Livia, causing her to nearly jump out of her chair in fight. She gasped and turned to see a tall, skinnyish blonde woman dressed like some kind of cheerful fashion accident standing behind her. Whoever this was, she'd made her way in completely silently.
Behind her was a massive blue box. When did THAT get into the study!?
Livia was at a complete loss for words and frozen to the spot. Who was this lady? Where were her parents? Did she hurt them? Were they in the box!?
"Cute little hearts," the blonde continued, seemingly oblivious to Livia's fear and confusion. "Not the sort of things one'd expect to see in a horrible wish meant to hurt so many people."
The blonde had now locked her blue eyes with Livia's,looking down at her with a stern, but not threatening expression. Serious, yet somehow curious all at the same time. "Why would a lovely little girl like you want to make a terrible wish like that?"
Livia had to mentally claw out of the fog of her fear. "I didn't... write anything yet," she slowly said, re-gathering her wits, and not breaking eye contact. She wasn't sure she could even if she wanted to. "Just my name, and... how do you know what I was gonna write? Who are you?"
The woman hunched down a bit to put herself at eye level with Livia and smiled reassuringly. "My name's The Doctor. I'm an old friend of the family." She paused, her nose wrinkling a bit as she considered something. "And an enemy too, I s'pose. It was a long time ago now, but it all worked out in the end, I reckon. But never mind ancient history, we're here talking about you right now. And that bit of ancient history in front of you." She glanced at The Book, Livia following her gaze.
"You know about The Book?" Livia asked, more as a formality than anything. Everything this "Doctor" said kind of gave away that she knew exactly what was going on.
"It's called a Soul-Scribe", The Doctor replied. "It's a book that takes what's written into it and manifests the stories into reality, if the writer wants it badly enough. It usually only makes its presence known to people with great ambition and greed in their hearts."
She looked at Livia again, continuing, "But sometimes, also desperation."
Livia turned her gaze away, her hands screwing into small fists for a moment out of frustration. She didn't reply.
"As to how I knew about your wish," The Doctor continued, standing upright again, and leaning casually against a bookshelf, "I've just visited an alternate future where Ms. Livia P. is considered a famous author." The look on her face was distant and disapproving.
Livia perked up a bit. "Famous?" There was a glimmer in her eyes. She was eager to hear more. So eager that she overlooked the detail about "alternate future."
"Yeah. They called her 'Livia, the Authoress of Death.'"
The Doctor's words hung heavily in the air. Leaden silence descended for a long moment.
"No!" Livia finally shouted, shattering the quiet. "That's not what I want at all!" She threw her glitter-pen at The Doctor, who caught it with ease. The Doctor leaned forwarded and locked gazes with her again.
"What do you want, then? You said you'd just started writing when I showed up. What beautiful wish were you going to put on paper, with hearts over your I's?" The look in the Doctor's face was one of direct challenge.
Livia's little face flushed red with anger. She bawled "I want to make the bad people go away! I want to make the selfish people go away! I want them to learn their lesson and get out of the way so the good people can take over and fix things! I want everything to be GOOD AGAIN!"
The Doctor's expression softened slightly, but she pressed on. "By 'go away', you meant 'die', didn't you?""
Tears flowed from Livia's eyes. "Yes, I wanted them to die! Bad people never seem to learn anything! The news talks about all the mean stuff they do but they never pay for it! They don't go to prison or get shunned, they just get more famous and more people listen to them and everyone gets put in even more danger! So yeah, I wanted them to just DIE!" She leaned forward, heaving heavy sobs. "If they were gone, I thought, maybe then people would learn their lesson and the good people could make things right." She sniffled again. "I know... I know it's not right but what else... what else can I do!?"
The Doctor closed her eyes for a moment, contemplating the sheer pain behind Livia's words, then reopened them and in a blur rushed over to the sobbing girl, giving her a big, warm hug, then pulling away after a moment. "Sorry, was that a bit too much?" She asked self-consciously. "I'm still getting used to the whole hugging thing."
Livia shook her head. "It's okay." She didn't know why, but she instinctively felt like she could trust this Doctor person. "I... just... the world is too much right now. Everyone I love is hurting and I just want to make it stop."
The Doctor nodded sympathetically, looking over Livia's gel pen, which she was still holding. She focused her gaze on the point of the pen, the rest of the world seeming to slightly blur to background as she did so.
"I hate this stupid evil book!" Livia exclaimed, slamming it shut. "I hate what it almost made me do!"
"Made you do?" The Doctor asked softly, still focusing on the pen. "The thing about Soul-Scribes," she continued after a deep breath, "is that they're actually not much more than jumped-up storybooks, you see. The main difference is that they make their stories come true. While it's true they seek out authors who have strong, passionate feelings, they can't force you to put anything in them. Like as not, little Livia, that bit's all on you."
Livia felt her blood run cold. She knew that her family history was filled with greed, treachery, deception and betrayal. That up until recently there had been little good about it. She'd always been afraid that she was cursed by some ancient evil, an d the Doctor's words seemed to confirm that.
She looked to the Doctor with tear-blurred vision. She didn't know what to say. This was too much for her to process.
The Doctor considered the little girl before her. "Livia, how do you think this Book works?"
Livia made a face and shook her head. "I dunno? Magic? It takes the words and makes them real? Or maybe some kind of alien super-sciencey stuff?"
The Doctor smiled a bit. "Well, let me tell you a big secret, Livia. The power of books all come down to the words written within them. And words-"
The Doctor placed a hand on one of her hearts. "-words come from in here, and then do you know where they go when someone reads them?"
Livia thought for a moment and then touched her own forehead.
"Right in one," The Doctor grinned. "Words - whether written in ancient mystical soul-scribes, or even on somebody's Twitter account- are ideas given form and reaching out from one mind- one heart (well in my case two but never you mind) towards another's mind and heart. It's a special kind of magic that can bring people together and inspire them in ways you can't even begin to imagine."
With a broad gesture, the Doctor swept the Soul-Scribe off the desk, and produced a cute Hello Kitty notebook from one of her pockets. It had a little bit of oil-grease on the cover and smelt of fresh oranges for some reason, but the pages were empty, neat and clean. She opened it and placed it before Livia. "Why don't you try writing in this one, instead?" She handed Livia back her pen.
"Is this one magical too?" Livia asked.
"All books are magic, but the magic in this book comes from you," The Doctor replied kindly. "as it should be. Use your words to reach out, to inspire. To bring out the feelings and emotions in people you want them to experience. To inspire your readers to action. To build the future you really want to see. Not the one you're terrified into wishing for. It may take years, or decades, but your feelings will reach out, and take hold, like seeds planted in a garden of the mind."
She stepped back for a moment to give the girl some space.
Livia looked at the blank pages apprehensively for a moment, and then put pen to paper and began to write.
"My name is Livia, and I want everyone to work together for a world where everyone can be good to one another and support each other, and have hope."
She smiled at the words and looked back to see what The Doctor thought of them.
But she and her box were gone.
And slowly, but surely, the world moved forward to meet Livia's wish, one reader at a time.
Having successfully invaded both America and Canada from her home base in Windsor, Paisley has become horribly corrupted by the world. She hates active voice and wishes to god Twitter had an edit button. Dedicated to "creating the greatest 'Ship of them all", she ponders horribly terrible, idiotic things for your amusement.