6 Must-Have Sentient Spellbooks (and How to Find Them) by Alexei Collier

We reached 25% of the Worlds of Possibility anthology Kickstarter funding goal on the first day, so here is a story!

6 Must-Have Sentient Spellbooks (and How to Find Them) by Alexei Collier
Art by Julia Kim

This is a story from the April 2023 issue of Worlds of Possibility. You can listen to an audio version on Spreaker as part of the OMG Julia Podcast, or read the full text below.

Listen to "6 must have sentient spellbooks and how to find them" on Spreaker.

Normally there's a longer wait from the time that issues go out to subscribers to the time that stories from those issues are publicaly available, but this one is going public on the same day that the issue it's in went to subscribers because we reached 25% of the Worlds of Possibility anthology Kickstarter funding goal on the first day! At the time of this post, we're about 40% of the way there! If you are seeing this on Sunday the 7th or Monday the 8th of May, 2023, you can still hop over the the Kickstarter page and take advantage of the early bird special that will save you $10 on the art rewards and print book rewards! These savings will vanish at the end of the day on Monday in the Eastern US timezone!

I started Worlds of Possibility in 2021 while recovering from long covid (something I am still doing), at a time when I really needed and wanted things that would make me smile, soothe me, inspire, and leave me feeling peaceful, hopeful, or happy. I started soliciting stories and poems and art, and now I have enough that I want to make a full color, hardcover book with lots of pictures inside. I'm also making stickers of some of the art, including the spellbooks illustration by Julia Kim that goes along with this story!

6 Must-Have Sentient Spellbooks (and How to Find Them)
by Alexei Collier

Spellbooks are not as rare as some think — if you know how to look. One might lurk in a grandparent’s attic. Another might lie moldering on a park bench. Yet another could appear in a cardboard box of castoffs left at the street curb. But you have found these common spellbooks already, devoured them with your senses and absorbed their lessons, and you crave more. You hunger for something powerful, deep, and true, a magic that touches you at the very heart of who you are. Here is how you may find what you seek.

1.     The Paperback of Outward Appearances
The first spellbook hides at the back of a secondhand bookshop, disguised as an ordinary paperback, pages yellow and dog-eared. You may have to return several times before you find it. Make friends with the bookshop owner; there are few wiser than those who surround themselves with well-loved books. When the time comes, the Paperback will show itself to you. Within its pages you will find even greater wonders, in faded type and ballpoint marginalia — as is the way of books, to contain so much more than their mere contents. But this will only fuel your continued search.

2.    The Folio of Growth and Withering
Visit the library and search the shelves for a book that isn’t there. Begin in the gardening section, and work your way outward in a golden spiral, unfolding your investigation like the petals of a flower. With wisdom gleaned from the Paperback, you will see through the Folio’s false outward appearance to its true form: a cover of woven maple leaves and palm fronds and climbing ivy. Handle with care, as the ivy may be poisonous. Trace the veins of the Folio’s pages as you read; it is a tactile book, yearning for touch. Make sure to give it plenty of sunlight, and water it frequently; if you don’t, its words will cease to blossom into meaning, it will bear no seeds of wisdom for you, and your quest will halt in desolation.

3.    The Hymnal of Transformation
On the night of the half-moon, walk into the woods. Carry no light; let your memory of the Folio’s veined pages guide your steps. Stop at the third sycamore you come to. Touch the tree and speak to it with the verdant syllables you learned from the Folio. Keep your voice soft and undemanding, and the tree will call the moonlight to illuminate a hollow knot in its trunk. Remove the Hymnal gently: coax it; do not grasp it forcefully or it will swoop away into the night and won't appear to you again. It is bound in soft hide, or shiny leather, or rough cloth — always changing, forever becoming itself, drawing you closer to your goal.

4.    The Monograph of Summoning
Place a bookmark within the pages of the Hymnal; make sure you mark the right page. The bookmark can be a piece of an envelope, or a faded receipt, or an old shopping list. Intone the Hymnal verse to invoke true transformation. The magic will take hold of you and you will feel yourself change, or not change, according to your truth. That truth may make you weep, may make you laugh. The Hymnal will accept your offering of tears, of laughter. Remove the bookmark and, in your hands, that scrap of paper will grow and warp and writhe and reshape into a book bound in red silk and silver, humming beneath your fingers with a current of potentiality, of magic yet unworked.

5.    The Compendium of Silences
Position the four spellbooks in the requisite pattern shown in the Monograph, filling the gaps with the proper sigils inscribed in salt and ash and iron dust to form the summoning circle. Sit at the circle’s edge and reflect on the meaning of speech and silence. There are no words to affect this summoning. The Compendium will know when you are ready and appear, glossy black and dense with the weight of long pauses, burgeoning with the sable shape of something new.

6.    [Title Unknown]
The sixth book is the most elusive of all, its discovery the most challenging. Find a quiet place and arrange all your spellbooks on a shelf. Most spellbooks enjoy company, but some are less social, and you may need to separate them with bookends or old dictionaries, lest they grow agitated. The quiet you find may be metaphorical, and the shelf may be in your mind. The place may be a cushioned corner, a grassy hill, an overstuffed armchair, or the solitude of a crowded subway train. Make peace with yourself, and with your silences; with the caesura between breaths, between thoughts, between sleeping and waking; and with that greater silence at the end of all of these. The final book is the one that lives inside you, its cadences pulsing in your veins, its words whispering under your skin, searching for release. Take up your magic implement: pen and paper, quill and parchment, your phone, an old typewriter, a laptop; the choice is yours. Begin to write. Keep writing. The next words are your own.

About the Author

Alexei Collier is a skeleton with delusions of grandeur, imagining himself to be a neurodivergent and disabled human who writes fantasy inspired by science and science-fiction inspired by folklore. Alexei grew up in sunny Southern California, but powerful forces flung him deep into the heart of the Midwest, where he now lives across the street from Chicago with his wife and their cat. His short fiction has appeared in Flash Fiction Online, Daily Science Fiction, and Diabolical Plots, among others. You can find out more about Alexei at his oft-neglected website, alexeicollier.com.

About the Artist

Julia Kim is on instagram as mulanartist. She says, “I’m from Mykolaiv, Ukraine. I love to create cute little designs that help me to donate to charity organisations of Ukraine.”

May is my birthday month, and I chose to run the Worlds of Possibility Kickstarter in the weeks before my birthday because I want to make this month a big celebration. Stay tuned for more posts! Next we'll have another public story from an earlier issue, which I'll release after we hit 50%, which I think may happen soon! So you may see another story TOMORROW!