In the Library

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Picture the scene.
It’s late at night
and you have an essay due soon.
You need to find a particular book
to provide a much needed reference
and you’re searching on one of the upper floors.
It’s empty, or almost empty.
Walking past banks of computers
you see the faces of fellow students
but they are glazed over, unseeing
each miles away
trapped inside their own personal academic hell.
You are not the only person here
but you are very much alone.
You plunge into the shelves
in search of the right section.

Wait, was that
movement?
No, it couldn’t have been.
The lights above each aisle are motion sensitive
and those shelves are still shrouded in darkness.
But still, for a second there
in your state of sleep-deprived coursework delirium
you thought you saw something
unfurling.

You move on
and before long
you find what you were looking for.
A thick volume, at about head height.
You pull it out from its resting place
and come face to face
with a face.
Or rather, an eye.
A single bloodshot eye, wide and staring
out of the shadows on the other side of the shelf.

The eye is level with yours
until, that is, the unknown figure straightens up.
In a creaking of floorboards
they are lost from view.
‘It’s coming for you,’ mutters a tiny voice
at the back of your mind.
You step back from the shelf, looking left and right
but in both directions there is nothing but blackness
and the sound of shuffling, growing louder and closer.

For a moment, you are paralysed
you do not know which way to run
and in that moment
the motion sensor in your aisle gets bored of your immobility
and the light above you switches off.
You are about to cry out in surprise
but before you can, a voice right next to your ear
whispers ‘Ssssshh! It’s a library.’

You panic, and bolt.
Dropping the book, you turn and run
and run, and run
not stopping to meet to confused expressions of students.
Ignoring the lifts you pile down the stairs
into the lobby
out of the door
and home.

That night you sleep fitfully
nothing wakes you until your alarm in the morning.
It is only when you get out of bed that you find it
underneath your pillow.
The book.
The one you were looking for and left behind
with a receipt tucked between the pages.
On it is scrawled just six words:
‘You’ll have to return it eventually.’

***

Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons. Author: Peter Halasz (Pengo).

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