I have never been one to be phased by strangeness. It is very difficult to be phased by strangeness when one lives on a gateway. Not that you need to know about gateways – utterly irrelevant to the story I am about to tell. What you do need to know is who I am, or rather, who I was when this particular adventure began. Lettie Harperson, age sixteen, only child. That is important that last part. I, Lettie Harperson, can't tell you why just yet though; I would not want to spoil the story. Not that I knew there was a story to spoil back then. Except the one I was writing for English which couldn't particularly be spoiled as it wasn't a particularly interesting story. This story is rather more… remarkable. As I have mentioned English I might as well mention that I, Lettie Harperson, was also taking History (because my mother suggested it), Chemistry (because my father suggested it) and drama (because my Great Aunt Martha suggested it.) I was only taking English because my teacher suggested it.

As I took absolutely no joy in anything that I was studying it's probably no surprise to you that my favourite time of day was break, which, incidentally, is a very good time to get into the real story.

I had been in the library waiting for Toby (I spent a lot of time waiting for Toby, who I will introduce properly when he actually deigns to show up) when I, Lettie Harperson, had spotted it. It stood out because most of the books in our library were fairly modern looking, a mix of textbooks and paperbacks all covered with a protective layer of plastic, and this one was not. This was one of those proper hardbacks with the leather covers and I had never really seen them before for some reason (because, dear younger self, they are painfully heavy and nobody wants them!). I had drawn all of the obvious conclusions and assumed that it was probably a fancy dictionary or something from the history department that had been returned to the wrong place. So I picked it up.

God I was so stupid back then. These days I, Lettie Harperson, have learnt never ever to touch something mysterious, especially not a book, but back then it did not even occur to me that there was anything dangerous about the book, I flipped through it.

It was not a dictionary and if it was a history book then I had decided I was going to be very angry because they had clearly been holding out on us. The book, I could tell even when I had barely glanced at its content, was fascinating. I had been in the library for a reason and that reason was to find a good book and all I could think of back then was that the book I was holding looked good. Even now I'll admit I could see why I was tempted. It is hard to explain but there was just something about it. A pull. Lines of text on crisp pages and brightly coloured images of swords and magic and jewels and that papery smell and the way it felt in my hands. I was probably a little bit in love with it really.

There was only one thing that had been stopping me. When I had flipped to the front of the book there were no date stamps or security tag. It was not a library book and I was a good girl, I would not have just taken it. I did not want it that badly. At least I did not just then.

That was when Toby showed up. To this day I have never quite understood why I did not show him the book. Toby was my long time best friend and had never given me any reason to keep things from him but I had not wanted him to see it so I had shoved it under the shelves, wincing as I had done so because I had always respected books.

"Hello Toby."

I must have sounded at least a little suspicious. I had never been anything even close to a good liar, but Toby did not seem to notice anything odd.

"Hello Lettie."

At the time the way he had sat down next to me and not asked questions had been a surprise but really it should not have been. Toby would never have noticed even if I was acting oddly. Toby was most comfortable with odd and always had been – it was in his nature.

There was nothing noteworthy about our conversation that day. We did have interesting and important conversations but this was not one of those occasions. It was just chatter about our work and our teachers and how 'she is such a cow' and 'it is just the most unreasonable thing ever right?'. It sounds trivial and melodramatic and it was but we were just kids and it showed back then in everything we did. It did not really matter how grown up we were expected to be, we were not.

As I am sure you have guessed the story does not pick up again until the next day when I had chance to get back to the library and the book. There was no way I could have gotten rid of Toby at break or lunch but our school library opened at 8:30 am and Toby was never ever at school early. Toby was never even at school on time.

I can't tell you what that book was about and even if I could I would not. The stories were too good and there are readers in this world would even if I were to warn them not to ever search for the book would go looking and I can't encourage that sort of behaviour. I suppose Toby has shown up in this story now so I ought to introduce him as he is hardly going to be going anywhere for the time being.

Toby Holliday had been my best friend. He had been for just about as long as I could remember. He had pulled my plaits (I never took to pigtails) and covered me in mud and broke his arm getting my kite out of a tree for me and I would not have replace him with anybody, and trust me I had considered it. I had been Toby's only friend. And while there were plenty of people who would have happily been my friend there were not any willing to accept Toby and me as a package deal and I had promised Toby that I would be his best friend forever no matter how weird he was or how much everybody else wanted nothing to do with him. I genuinely had not seen anything wrong with him and even if I had I would probably have been too stubbornly against following the majority to act upon it. There would be no getting rid of him – or so I thought back then. But enough of that…

I went to the library before school for three weeks before showing Toby the book. It was a lunchtime and he had had a rather draining morning and I was not without pity for him. Of course I told him that I had found the book 'the other day' and that 'it seemed alright, the pictures are not bad' and, as I should have realised but did not, he just nodded and agreed with everything I said without actually looking at the book more than twice or giving any real comment. Books always were more my thing than his. But Toby knew now. And when I told him how annoying it was not to be able to have it issued from the library (although I never specifically mentioned coming in early to read it when he was not around) he was the one to suggest just taking it. It was not, he reasoned, theft if nobody wanted it. It was like picking up a penny from the gutter. I did point out of course that the book was clearly worth far more than a penny and I had found it on a bookshelf (a perfectly reasonable place for a person to store their books) rather than on the ground. Toby even offered to take it himself and just give it to me later if I was really so scared, which was of course a ridiculous offer as the taking it and me having it parts of the scenario would still have been the same. But it proved to be an effective argument and I, always so susceptible to goading, took the book.

Once again, big mistake.

But, as I reasoned before, how was I too have known.

The dreams were regular by that point. Have I mentioned the dreams? No. Well they started about a week after I initially began reading the book and at first I didn't think anything of them. They were all based off the book except that I found myself in the role of whichever character was most central to the action at the point I was reading. I had had dreams like that before although they were usually ones off and I tended to be whichever character I liked most rather than the primary one. As you can imagine I dismissed them at first, but I think that deep down by the second successive week of dreams a tiny part of me was beginning to think that there was something a little bit off about the situation. I ignored that little part of me. I always did that sort of thing back then. If I could go back in time and advise myself just one think it would be to pay attention to all of the niggling little doubts and instincts that I had – they might have saved me so much trouble.

I kept reading.