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20449Re: [Earth-1 After the Crisis] Tales of the Unexpected: The Librarian

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  • Frank Murdock
    Oct 29, 2013
      An excellent short. Even before the tale ended I was saying to myself
      how this story had a very Lovecraftian feel to it.

      There are a number of typoes early on in the early part of the story
      though. A quick proofing should enable you to catch them all.

      Good luck and I do hope you do not make your computer heavier as you
      fix the errors. :)

      /FM

      On 10/28/13, drivtaan@... <drivtaan@...> wrote:
      > Tales of the Unexpected: The Librarian
      >
      > This is not a confession, though when found in a day or two, possibly a
      > week from now, maybe a month or longer, that is how it will be taken. By
      > that time, it won’t make a difference for I will be long gone. You will
      > search for me everywhere, spending time, money, and manpower in what will
      > end up being a fruitless waste of it all.
      >
      > You already think me insane, and once you have read this, I have no
      > doubts that I shall be labeled as such until the end of time. Perhaps I am.
      > If so, it is due to circumstances I made no effort to change. If you won’t
      > be satisfied with anything less than a confession, one that will wrap
      > everything up in a neat little package that you can use as closure, let it
      > be what I am about to write.
      >
      > I knew the inevitable outcome of my actions, yet I was able to convince
      > myself that I was in control, that I was the one calling the shots. Ha. I
      > have never been in control. My entire life has been the result of someone
      > else controlling my every deed. Just this once, though, I thought the
      > control would be mine. There is my confession. I thought this was a chance
      > for me to take the reins of my own destiny and I failed.
      >
      > The voice whispering in my ear in the late evening shadows that filled
      > the library, crawling over the shelves like millions of silent black
      > spiders, made it all so tempting. People would hear of my “talent”, my
      > ability to help them become more immersed in a book than they ever thought
      > possible, and flock to me. I would become more than an obscure librarian in
      > a small, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town. I knew there would be a price, there
      > is always a price, but I thought I could enjoy the ride and, in the end,
      > stick someone else with the check. I knew the moment I first used my talent
      > that the price would be mine and mine alone. The first time was quite by
      > accident, but when it happened, oh, my, it was like getting that first taste
      > of a fine wine. I was addicted to the rush, the power, and I knew I would
      > pay whatever was required of me.
      >
      > An obnoxious lad entered the library with an overdue copy of Oliver
      > Twist, one of the books on his assigned summer reading list. He thought to
      > drop the book on my desk and then make a hasty retreat, but I stepped
      > between him and the door.
      >
      > “That shall be one dollar,” I told him, extending my hand. I shall not
      > repeat his response, for even now, the language used by one so young turns
      > my ears red.
      >
      > “Perhaps I should speak with you mother,” I threatened.
      >
      > “I walked,” he said, a lie. “My mother’s not here.” Another lie.
      >
      > “I watched you get out of her car and come in,” I told him. Foul
      > language and blatant dishonesty, someone needed to teach this child a
      > lesson.
      >
      > I held up the returned book in my hand and shook it at him. “Were it
      > only possible that you could live the life of one of the guttersnipes in the
      > book, then I have no doubt your manners would be greatly improved.”
      >
      > I am far from the most athletic person, and young children tend to dart
      > about like frightened fish, and before I knew what had happened, the brat
      > had circumvented me and was making his escape…without paying the fine. I
      > watched as he pushed his way through the first set of double doors and start
      > towards the second. His mother was busy doing whatever she thought was more
      > important at the time and was paying her son no mind.
      >
      > I sighed and looked at the book. “If only.”
      >
      > I carried the book back to its home on the shelf. I began to lift it up
      > when, for just the briefest of moments, it seemed to get heavier. I passed
      > it off as tiredness on my part. When I returned to the desk, a young
      > woman--I recognized her as the boy’s mother--was standing there.
      >
      > “May I help you?”
      >
      > “I’m looking for my son,” she said, a hint of worry on her face.
      >
      > “Is he the boy who returned Olive Twist?” I asked, innocently.
      >
      > “Yes,” she said. “Is he still here?”
      >
      > “I told him the book was overdue,” I said, leaving out his horrible
      > manners. “He said he didn’t have the money to pay the fine and ran out.”
      >
      > The woman looked upset, but her worry seemed to be growing. “I gave him
      > a dollar to pay the fine before he got out of the car.”
      >
      > “How odd,” I told her. “He indicated to me that he was alone, that he
      > had walked here.”
      >
      > The woman reached into her purse and produced another dollar. “Here,
      > this is for the fine. I’m so sorry for what has happened.”
      >
      > “Please, keep the dollar,” I said. “There is no reason for your child
      > to cost you an extra dollar for his dishonesty.”
      >
      > She asked if I was sure and I assured her I was. Take your money,
      > woman, and go, I thought to myself. I was eager to return to my books or
      > rather, one book in particular.
      >
      > When she left at last, I fairly ran to the shelf where I had put Oliver
      > Twist. I jerked the book from the shelf, harsher than I intended, and began
      > flipping through the pages. I don’t know why, but I began scanning the
      > illustrations. I didn’t know whether to laugh or be horrified when I saw the
      > picture of the children in the workhouse, starving as young Oliver made his
      > way forward to beg for more food. There, seated on a bench, his face forever
      > frozen in the anguish of an empty belly was the obnoxious brat who thought
      > the use of foul language and untruths was the best way to avoid
      > responsibility. I didn’t know how he got there, nor did I know if he would
      > ever leave. All that mattered was the fact that I put him there with my
      > gift.
      >
      > He was only the first.
      >
      > Another time, a woman entered the library with complete disregard for
      > our policy of silence. She was a loud, horrid woman with multiple chins,
      > beady eyes, and the inflated ego of one who thought she was more important
      > than she really was.
      >
      > “I need you over here,” she bellowed, drawing the glares of those
      > seeking to read in peace.
      >
      > “I shall be there momentarily,” I informed her. “And please lower your
      > voice. You are disturbing the others.”
      >
      > She looked around at the others with obvious disdain. “They are just
      > reading.”
      >
      > “Still, they prefer to read in silence,” I told her.
      >
      > She laughed. “If they are unable to read because of a little noise,
      > perhaps they should go back to coloring instead.”
      >
      > One by one, the insulted patrons gathered their belongings and left. I
      > tried to apologize to each one, all the while trying to block out the
      > woman’s demands.
      >
      > “I need these copied. Move faster, you idiot. You need to be a team
      > player.”
      >
      > After the final person left, I turned my attention to the annoying
      > woman whom I wanted nothing more than to strangle with my bare hands. If the
      > truth were told, I had serious doubts that my hands would fit around her
      > porcine neck.
      >
      > “Now, ma’am,” I said. “What can I do for you?”
      >
      > “Do you not listen?” she complains. “Are you mentally challenged? Is
      > that why you work in a library, because you are too stupid for a real job?”
      >
      > I had had enough. “Ma’am, do you read?”
      >
      > The question caught her off guard. “What?”
      >
      > “I asked if you read,” I told her. “I have the perfect book for you.”
      >
      > “What are you babbling about?” She was completely out of her element.
      > For once in her miserable, self-absorbed life, she wasn’t in complete
      > control.
      >
      > “I have the perfect book for you,” I said. “I can guarantee that you
      > will find yourself lost in the pages.”
      >
      > “I did not come here for a stupid book,” she snapped, trying to retake
      > the reins of our conversation.
      >
      > “Wait right here,” I urged her. “I shall only be gone for a moment. I
      > know exactly where it is.”
      >
      > I rushed off and then returned a moment later. With a smile, I reached
      > the book toward her, which she accepted tentatively. I felt a rush of pure
      > elation when she read the title.
      >
      > “Dante’s Inferno?” What makes you think I would want to read something
      > like this?” she asked.
      >
      > I turned away and waited for the right moment. Seconds passed and then
      > I heard the book hit the floor. I turned back to find myself alone.
      >
      > I knelt to pick up the book; it was a bit heavier than when I first
      > brought it to her. I was not surprised. Placing it on the desk, I opened it
      > and began to search through the illustrations. I was anxious to see where
      > she had found herself.
      >
      > No face escaped my scrutiny. I finally found her writhing in the dark,
      > murky waters of the fifth level of Hell. The clawed hands of her fellow
      > cursed seemed to be tearing through the flesh of her arms, while the teeth
      > of another ripped at her throat. Her screams, though without sound, were a
      > sweet melody to my ears.
      >
      > There were many others. A twenty-year-old hoodlum in a wife-beater
      > t-shirt who found himself on the surgeon’s table in Red Badge of Courage. An
      > annoying salesman who was last seen sinking beneath the muck of African
      > quicksand in one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan novels. All told, my
      > victims, as the news media has come to call them, now reside in dozens of
      > the books that wait to be checked out of my library.
      >
      > As I said earlier, though, this power came with a price, and now is the
      > time to pay it. That voice from the shadows calls me even now. I would pray
      > that my fate is a peaceful one, but I fear those prayers would go unheard
      > due to my unrepentant heart. I walk through the library, feeling the draw of
      > my destiny. I stop and a chill runs down my spine. I glance up and read the
      > genre section that has drawn me.
      >
      > Horror.
      >
      > I cannot help but tremble as my arm extends with a life of its own. I
      > close my eyes, not wanting to see my punishment until the last moment. When
      > I do open them, a gasp escapes my throat as I read the author’s name.
      >
      > “H.P. Lovecraft.”
      >
      > Then I know the source of the voice. It was Cthulhu. The price of my
      > talent shall be paid in eternal nightmare.
      >
      >
      >
      > The End


      --
      sincerely,

      Frank G. Murdock
      Acadiana Area Council of the Blind President and founder
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