BUFFALO GROVE, Ill—When resident Nicole Smithers failed to report for work this past Thursday, her boss took notice.
“She’s always on time,” said Marshall Winston. “So when she didn’t show up, we got worried.”
Numerous attempts to reach Nicole failed, and her social media accounts went dark.
“Normally she posts on Facebook a few times a day,” said friend and coworker Andrea Stephenson. “But her last post was on Wednesday, and it was really esoteric. She was babbling on about ‘hollowgasts’ and ‘wights,’ which in itself was alarming. We were pretty concerned.”
Area police waited the requisite 24 hours before attempting to locate Smithers at her residence.
“We could hear someone mumbling inside but no one answered the door, so we were about to break in when the door was opened ever so slightly,” said Sgt. Michael Murphy. “We could see Ms. Smithers on the other side, her hair disheveled and looking in a pretty worried state. She insisted we remove our sunglasses so she could make sure our eyes had pupils, and open our mouths so she could count our tongues.”
Once Smithers determined the officers posed no danger, she allowed them into her apartment, but was clearly agitated.
“She was holding a book at her side, her thumb marking her place as she paced the room. She said she ‘needed some alone time’ and she ‘just needs to know what happens next,’" said Sgt. Murphy. Smithers admitted she hadn’t eaten since she first bought the book this past Wednesday, and said she might have “minor bladder damage” due to “holding it in” until she got to a place where she could break for a minute, and walk to the bathroom with the book in tow.
Officers determined the book to be Ransom Riggs’ “Library of Souls,” the third and presumably—but not definitively—final installment of his young adult series, “Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children.” The book released Sept. 22, and it follows the exploits of Jacob Portman, a Florida teen who discovers he has the peculiar ability to see, communicate with and control creatures that prey on children with other peculiar abilities. Torn between the life he knows and the world that needs him, Jacob endeavors to save peculiardom.
“She said as ‘normals,’ we’d never understand, but she asked us to tell her boss that, ‘bird willing,’ she’d be at work on Monday,” said Sgt. Murphy.
When approached for comment, Smithers waited until she finished the book on Saturday to return our call, at which point she gave the book “11-teen hundred stars.” “That might sound hyperbolic,” she continued, “But it’s just that good.”
“At first I thought there were a few problems—things I initially dismissed as typos—but now I’m pretty sure they’re secret messages,” she continued. “On page 355, for example, the word ‘soul’ is spelled ‘suul’—TWICE. That’s one too many times to be a typo.”
“What does it mean?” asked Smithers. “Did I miss a reference to ‘suul’ elsewhere in the book? Is it similar to but different from ‘soul’? I just don’t know.”
Smithers determined the only way to get to the bottom of this mystery is to read the book again and look for more signs. If there’s still no resolution, she’s going to email Emma—a character in the book whose gmail address is included in the concluding pages—in hopes of putting the issue to bed once and for all. From there, Smithers plans to write some fan fiction, tentatively titled, “I Ain’t No Hollowgast Girl.”
She’s also looking forward to the Tim Burton-directed film debut of the first book, due in theaters Mar. 2016.
“Mostly I just want to know whether or not I’ve been pronouncing ‘ymbryne’ correctly. I mean, Riggs includes a phonetic breakdown at the end of this book, but I won’t really know until the movie comes out,” said Smithers.
When reminded that the Hollywood adaptations of Harry Potter apparently mispronounce “Voldemort,” as author J.K. Rowling revealed earlier this fall, Smithers insisted that Riggs “would never allow that.”
In regards to the scare her two-day disappearance caused family and friends, Smithers shrugged it off as “normals doing what normals do.”
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Smithers continued. “Hasn’t anyone ever gotten lost in a good book before?”