"The Star Guide"

© Rick Kephart

CHAPTER 1: The Thing on the Bookshelf

"Mommy, wake up!"

"What is it now, Lisa?"

"There's an elf on the bookshelf."

"There's a what?"

"I just saw a little tiny man walking all around on top of my bookshelf!"

"You just had another one of those dreams. Go back to bed."

"There's not really a little man on my bookshelf?"

"Of course not. Go back to sleep, and stop thinking about it. It was just a dream."

"Okay, Mommy."

Lisa went back to her bedroom. She was sure she saw a little man on her bookshelf. But, she had had dreams like that before, dreams so clear that she was sure it was real, even after she woke up.

She was very careful not to look over at her bookshelf. Even though she believed her mother that it was just a dream, she was still afraid to look. She got into bed and pulled the covers up over her head, but she kept thinking she could hear it come back. She stayed as still as she could under her covers. Finally she fell asleep.

The next morning Lisa woke up and looked over at her bookshelf. There was the little man again! This time she knew she wasn't dreaming. She ran into her parents' bedroom.

"Mommy! That tiny man is back! I just saw him on my bookshelf again. It's not a dream. I want you and Daddy to come and look!"

"What's this about a little man?" Lisa's father asked.

"There's a tiny little man walking around on my bookshelf, Daddy. I saw him last night too, but Mommy thought he was just a dream. But it isn't; he's real! Come and look."

Lisa tugged at their arms, and they got up and went with her into her room.

Her older brother Jerry was awakened by all the commotion. He usually liked to sleep late. He was upset that he had been awakened during a particularly pleasant dream. He got up and came out of his room to see what was going on.

"There he is! There he is!" Lisa shouted, pointing at a strange, dark, almost human-like figure. It was about as tall as most of the books, and it was moving around on her bookshelf.

There was a moment of silent shock as Lisa's parents and brother stood looking at the thing on the bookshelf. It did not seem to know anyone was there. It seemed to be exploring the shelf and the wall and the books, feeling and looking very closely at everything. Then the thing looked up and saw them standing there looking at it. Lisa jumped and ran around behind her father.

The thing stood there looking at them for a couple minutes, first twisting its head one way, then the other.

Lisa and Jerry's father took a step toward it, and it jumped back and ran behind a book. Their father inched slowly closer to the bookshelf. Then he swung his arm across, sending all the books flying across the room. There was no trace of the dark man-like creature.

Jerry came over to the bookshelf. "What was it, Dad?" he asked.

"I don't know. I can't see where it could have gone. It must still be around here somewhere."

"I'm scared," Lisa said, with her arms around her mother.

Jerry's father took him by the arm. He led Jerry out of the room, and closed and locked the door. "It's probably still inside the room," he said. "I don't think you should go into your room until we find out what is going on, alright, Lisa?"

"Listen to those birds!" Jerry said suddenly. It sounded like thousands of birds had suddenly descended onto their house.

"I could hear them earlier too," his mother said.

"I wonder if that ugly little man on the shelf could have anything to do with it," Jerry said. "Yesterday, while we were doing Arithmetic, I saw the biggest flock of birds I ever saw right outside the window. Do you think that might have anything to do with this too?"

"I saw a whole bunch of birds yesterday, too," Lisa said. "Last night before I went to bed. They were flying around in circles outside. What would make birds do that?"

"Shhh. Listen," their father said, putting his ear to the door. They could hear movement inside the room.

"The little man is back! Don't open the door, Daddy!" Lisa said.

Her father opened the door just a crack, and looked inside. A bird had flown in through an open window. It seemed to be trying to get out of the room. He went inside, and helped the bird get back out through the window. Then he shut and locked the window.

He searched carefully all through the room and then called out, "I can't find any trace of the thing. I don't think it's in here. It probably went out through that open window, the same way the bird got in."

"I'm not going in my room again! It might come back," Lisa said.

"You can sleep in our room until we see what's going on," her mother said. Lisa was happy with that suggestion, since she always liked sleeping with her parents since she was often scared during the night.

"Where's my radio?" Jerry said, looking into his sister's room. "I lent Lisa my radio. Where'd it go?"

"I had it on the bookshelf," Lisa said.

Their father looked through the books he had knocked off the shelf. "No," Lisa said, "On the shelf underneath that one." He found the radio there. He picked it up and found that the back of the radio had been ripped right off! Quite a few of the pieces inside the radio had been removed and were gone.

Lisa and Jerry's father put the radio back down, and came out and closed and locked the door.

Nobody went into the room for the rest of that day. That night, Lisa slept in her parents' room. The room remained locked up all night.

The next morning, Their father opened the door to take another look inside. Jerry was with him.

"Did you see him run over there, Dad?"

"No, I didn't see him. Did you?"

"Yes. I think he was running from the tape recorder back to the bookshelf."

Lisa had a tape recorder on her desk next to the bookshelf. Jerry and his father carefully entered the room, and went over to the desk.

The back of the tape recorder was completely broken off. Jerry's father picked it up and examined it. It seemed the little dark creature was rewiring the tape recorder! He noticed some of the electronic parts that had been taken from the radio were inside the tape recorder. This thing, whatever it was, had to be very intelligent be doing the wiring it was doing inside the tape recorder, he thought. He wondered what the thing was trying to turn the tape recorder into with parts of a radio.

"We should have your brother Paul here," he said to Jerry. "He knows more about electronics than anybody else I know. He could figure out what that thing is trying to do with the tape recorder."

He put the tape recorder back on the table. "You're going to leave that here?" Jerry asked him. "What if it's making it into a weapon?"

"I don't think it can make a weapon out of a tape recorder. I want to find out what it is going to make with the tape recorder when it's finished."

They left and locked the door, and just then they heard a knock at the front door. They went to the door and Jerry's father opened it.

"Mr. Baron," the visitor said, not entering the house. "You've got to do something about all those birds."

"What? What do you expect me to do about them?"

"You must be doing something to attract so many flocks of birds! What are you feeding them?" the neighbor asked him.

"I haven't done anything to attract all those birds. I have no idea why they keep coming around my house."

"Your birds have already killed one of my cats. My son is scared to death to go outside. Mrs. Morley down the street suspects your birds have something to do with the disappearance of her collie..."

"They are not my birds!"

"You're responsible. You've got to get rid of all those birds or..."

"They are not my birds!" Mr. Baron screamed.

"Just get rid of them." With that, the neighbor left, as Mr. Baron slammed the door.

"I think that little monster has something to do with all those birds," Jerry said to his father. "Do you think the machine it's making out of Lisa's tape recorder is for birds?"

"I don't know what it could be making for birds out of a radio and a tape recorder. We'll just have to wait and see, I guess."

They did not go near the door for the rest of the day. Once in a while, they could hear noises coming from the room, and they knew the uninvited visitor was working.

Late that afternoon, the children's mother decided to call their older brother Paul on the telephone. She was also very curious about the little thing in Lisa's room. They did not call Paul often, because of the cost. Paul was attending an electronics school in a far-away state.

Mr. Baron and the two children stayed near the door listening, while she went to the living room to call.

"Did you get Paul?" Jerry asked when his mother came back.

"Come look at the telephone," was all she answered. They went with her into the living room. The telephone was torn apart. Pieces of it were lying all over the telephone table and the floor.

"The thing in Lisa's room must have come out somehow and done this while we were all at the door," Mr. Baron said.

"Think Jim's mother would let you use their phone?" Jerry suggested to his mother.

"I'll see," she said, and went out and went next door, to Jerry's best friend's mother's house.

"If anyone knows what's going on here, it would be Paul," Mr. Baron said to Jerry and Lisa. He looked at the useless scraps, all that was left of their telephone. Then they all went back to Lisa's door, where they could hear the strange visitor hard at work.

After a while, Mrs. Baron returned.

"Paul has vanished," she announced.

"What?" all the others asked at once.

"He's gone. They said one minute he was there, and then nobody could find him. They say they searched everywhere. Nobody saw him leave; he just wasn't there any more. It happened last week, and he's still nowhere to be found."

End Chapter 1


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