It's short story Monday! Check out my first entry here, and see what Victoria Schwab came up with here.
And leave comments, even constructive criticism? Pretty please? Comments sooth my savage neuroses.
“Come with me.”
I followed The Director through the library proper, passing chipped Formica study carrels occupied by sallow-skinned students and well-ordered stacks organized via Dewey Decimal system. I wondered if Gamer Boy had put the books in their proper places, or if the staff kept him behind the check out counter.
Eye candy for the bookish set.
We turned a corner and faced a dark corridor. The Director paused briefly. All thoughts of Gamer Boy disappeared.
A murmured chorus of whispers beckoned to me, the pull so strong that I would have followed it even if I’d been alone. Whether the unintelligible words were praise or protest wasn’t clear – but the tone indicated the sentiment was unanimous. Rising and falling, as repetitive as a piston rod on a steam engine.
The whispers grew softer as we drew closer.
The hallway ended at a set of heavy wooden doors. The Director took out an ornate brass skeleton key, slipped it into the tarnished lock, turned it and then pushed. The whispering ceased.
I turned around to grasp the doorknobs, prepared to rattle and shake, kick and scream, until The Director let me out. But there was nothing to grab.
There were no doorknobs.
Claustrophobia hit. I tasted dust in the back of my throat and swallowed convulsively. Bending over at the waist, I focused on breathing, made every effort to regain control.
Calm down, Coop, assess the situation. Formulate a plan.
I straightened, shaking, but determined. Shelves, floors, tables, chairs – even windowsills – were piled to the ceiling with precariously balanced books. There was barely enough room to turn around, much less find an escape route. They were everywhere, consuming air and space. I'd never thought of books as predatory, but I suddenly felt hunted, pursued like wounded prey.
I shook it off. Silly.
Windowsills. Windowsills meant windows. We hadn’t climbed any steps, so we were still on the ground level. I’d break a window if I had to.
The voices started again. They were coming from inside the walls.
Time to break that window.
I resisted the urge to push the stacks to the floor and scramble over them, afraid I’d set off an avalanche of hardback covers and sharp, pointy edges that would either kill or maim me. Carefully navigating the cardboard binding and paper maze, I made my way to the blocked window.
Curious, I tipped my head to the side and leaned over to read the spines of the books I planned to move. No titles. Not one.
The whispers from the walls became murmurs.
Swallowing my fear, I split the stack on the far left side of the windowsill. I took the top half, balancing it under my chin as I lowered it to the floor, bending my knees. When I stood, a red leather tome stamped with golden scrolls caught my attention. Face up, it teased me, practically begged me to open … open … open it.
There was no title stamped on the front.
I gave in and opened … opened … opened it.
“No way.” The murmurs coming from the walls grew more insistent as I flipped through the pages. I opened all the books in that stack, the next, and the next.
Every single page was empty. I slammed the last cover shut and closed my eyes, covering my face with my hands.
The murmurs turned to shrieks.
Pressing my fingers into my ear canals, I tried to stop the voices from piercing my skull. I could almost feel brain fluid leaking through, running down my hands to drip off my elbows.
I was losing my mind.
The cacophony grew louder and louder, until I could no longer bear it. I screamed, “So I lost a book, I’m sorry! What do you want?”
Louder. And louder.
I seized the red leather book in one hand, ready to rip out all the pages inside. The second I touched it the shrieking stopped.
A pen appeared in my other hand.
There was a brief second of silence, and then a simple request voiced aloud, spoken so softly it felt like a caress against my aching eardrums.