"Hey, watch where you're-"
Sam staggered backwards, colliding with someone while she wasn't watching where she was going. She was too busy thinking of the book, and the strangeness it carried with it.
"Oh, Sam! I didn't see it was you," the person said. As Sam steadied herself, she saw that it was her friend Emmy of all people that she ran into. Her friend was dressed in her jogging gear and had her blonde hair back in a ponytail. She took out her two earbuds and hung them over her neck, pausing her playlist.
Emmy looked at her friend with a worried expression on her face. "What's wrong? You look like something's bothering you," she said with sincerity.
"Sorry, I, uh..." Sam paused, unsure if she should show her the book that she found. It felt so unnatural to her, as if its very presence should be rejected by the world itself. It felt as heavy as a sack of bricks in her arms even though it looked like any other old book.
Still, Emmy was one of her best friends. If she couldn't talk to her, who could she talk to? "Well, I found this strange book a few minutes ago, and it's been seriously weirding me out." Sam held out the book that she was clutching close to herself so her friend could see it.
"Whoah, this thing is super old," Emmy said, picking the book up to get a better look at it. "Encyclopedia Chondria, huh? And you just found this thing?"
"Mhmm. Here, let me see it," Sam said, opening the worn cover. "And I found this weird note in the cover, that said it was my problem or something," Sam looked back up at Emmy for reassurance, who smiled back at her. "You don't think someone is trying to play a prank on me or something, right?"
"Beats me. So, did you look at what this thing's about?" she asked curiously.
Sam started flipping through the musty pages, describing what she saw earlier. "Well, there's a bunch of different pages in this book, and they each have a certain weird disease or condition on them." Sam stared intently at each of the pages, half making sure that she wasn't imagining things earlier. "I guess all of them are just really fucked up permutations of the human body. Like, there was this woman who looked like a mermaid, there was this one with no legs, and there was even one-"
"Wow, that's so weird."
Sam gasped and quickly looked back up at her friend. However, she immediately noticed that something was very wrong.
Emmy had two heads, wearing identical looks of concern. "What?" both heads asked at the same time.
Sam backed up and dropped the Encyclopedia, watching as it landed shut on the park path. A humming sound that must have been only there subconsciously died out, and the only sound that was left was the pounding of her heart against her chest.
"Sam, what's wrong?" Emmy said, moving closer to steady her friend. Sam couldn't help but to look back up at Emmy, expecting to see the two-headed anomaly that she became. However, Emmy instead looked like her normal self, except more than a bit worried.
Sam fell backwards, catching herself on her hands. She scrambled for the book and got back up, breaking into a sprint in the opposite direction. She clutched the hard, green cover against her sweater, and ran without looking back.
"Sammi, wait! Come back!" she heard Emmy call out in the distance.
Sam sat on the bus, staring out the window as she waited for her stop. Her phone occasionally buzzed in her back pocket, but she already knew who it was. She sighed, thinking about the two-headed version of her friend. She must have just been hallucinating, after getting worked up about the stupid book. But...
The bus stopped, and passengers started to get off. Sam sighed, shaking her head. She was just imagining things. Maybe it would be best to just go home and get some rest, and tell her boss that she was sick. How could she go back to work after seeing something like that, anyways? In fact, maybe it would be best to just leave this thing on the bus, so she wouldn't have to think about it anymore.
She looked down at the strange book, not realizing how tightly she was hugging it against herself. It sat innocently in her arms, looking like a regular old book. Sam's curiosity got the better of her, and she decided to keep it until she could get a better look at it.
The bus kicked into motion again, and Sam looked out the window again, waiting for her stop.