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The First Prologue

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The museum was ready to close up for the day. The lights shut off one by one, and the tour guides bid each other a good night. The security was lax, which was no one noticed the small figure outside pressed up against the exterior of the museum. That was the intent, of course. She didn’t want to be seen – not yet. She held her breath, watching the moving shadows behind the glass doors. She waited as they faded, perhaps taking a back entrance. Now was a good chance.

She moved slowly against the wall, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose. There was the ‘trick wall’, a delightful illusion, just as described by her classmates. Beyond this unusual entrance she would get the answers she sought. Still taking slow, careful steps, she walked in, and was covered in darkness. She hadn’t counted on this part – she fumbled, trying to find the walls, hoping to put her hand on it and use it to guide her way forward. She held out her hands, trying to feel her way through –

But someone felt her instead, a cold hand grabbing her wrist. “What do you THINK you’re doing here?!” a voice roared into her ear, and a scream died in the lady’s throat. For a good moment she thought it was a monster, and she desperately yanked herself away, but he would not relent, grip tightening on her arm. “I said… WHAT do you THINK you’re doing here!”

That was when the man and the girl got a good look at one another, thanks to the man’s flashlight, focused directly into her face. The man was a stocky old security guard, his bulging eyes and bulbous nose trying to take up as much space of his body as possible. The girl was a student, her school uniform failing to hide her trembles, her glasses threatening to slide down her face. She wished she could hide under her brain hair, but alas, there was no escape. “I… I… I just wanted to see The Book of Life! It’ll be quick, I promise!”

“And you know what would be even quicker?” the guard snapped, trying to drag the girl from whence she came. “Throwing you out! We’re closed! Scram!”

The girl dug her heels into the floor, scared but desperate. “Please, it’s just one story! I just need to know this one story!”

“Surely we can make time,” a new voice said, “for one story.”

Both of them turned to face the newcomer – the girl’s eyes widened as she realized this woman fit the exact description given to her by her classmates. The tall, slender physique, those large, bright eyes, that flowing red hair… it also helped that she was wearing the standard light blue tour guide uniform. The woman smiled kindly. “There’s no need to treat her so rudely. We can make one more exception today.”

The security grumbled, but he let the student go.”And you call me a rule breaker…”

Dismissing that odd remark, the student shyly stepped up to the tour guide. “M-Miss… my friends at school… they told me about the Book of Life, and… and about the amazing stories it had… I had to come here, to hear one special one for myself. I promise, once I hear it, I’ll leave… but I really have to know…”

The tour guide continued to smile, and she turned away, waving a hand to indicate the student should follow her. “I admire those who take risks in order to hear stories… they’re the sort of people who understand the value of a story.”

The student made a ‘mm-hmm’ of agreement, loyally trailing after the tour guide. The security grumbled again, mumbling something or other as he watched their steps.

The Mexican exhibit was still as vibrant as it had been described – candy skulls hanging on the walls, illustrations lining the walls, displays ready to come to life in the blink of an eye. The tour guide approached the gigantic book up at the furthest point in the room, giving a slight hum as she fingered the pages. “I’m always happy to tell the beloved tale of Manolo and-”

“Oh, no.” The student suddenly interrupted, one finger held up. “I’m… well, I didn’t come here to hear about Manolo and Maria.”

The tour guide paused, glancing behind her. “… Is that so?”

The student then pointed at the mural on the wall, depicting the gods and goddesses that watched the world. “What I wanted to hear was… How the beautiful and kind La Muerte… came to love that ugly, awful Xibalba.” Now that she had been allowed into this inner sanctum, the student felt a little braver and thus spoke clearer. “From what I heard, those two… they’re complete opposites! How did they become gods? How did they come together? That’s what I have to know!”

Silence hung in the room, and the student was afraid the request was going to be denied. Instead, the tour guide chuckled, a hand to her mouth. “Well now! This is really a most unusual demand… I don’t get to tell that story so often.” Now she began to head for the beginning of the book, where the cover met the pages. “But if you insist on hearing it… I guess you could call this the First Prologue.”