Very few readers stumble across this trove of books, hidden in every library. Beware!
|The other day I went to the library to borrow some books and overheard an odd conversation through the shelving. They didn't know I was there, and even when I snorted in disbelief, they didn't notice. One guy rarely spoke. The other bloke wouldn't shut up.
This is what I heard...
Bill... (he said),
If I hadn't seen someone trip and fall in, disappear before my eyes, there's no way I'd have known.
You sometimes sit alone here without reading don't you? I know you do; you might be thinking, passing the time, relaxing in the quietness.
I've seen you in those comfy single lounge chairs, the ones with the covered cushions. All the libraries have metal shelving, for the books, Bill, with the bottom row set on a slight angle; I suppose the titles are easier to read.
I heard the rustle of newspaper, but no response to the questions.
Are you listening? Bill! Have you ever noticed the reflections? Most surfaces reflect light. See there? Just below where all the books rest is another set of books; they are the reflected books. They look the same and nobody gives them a second glance. They are so normal and boring, just reflections of the objects above.
Be warned, ok? They are anything but normal and, given the right circumstances, you'd be foolish to mock what I'm sayin'...
Those reflected books are in another section. The dark realm is on the other side.
Just then, Sarah, the junior librarian, came trotting along the aisle wheeling a tall trolley past me. She was carrying a printout of book holds. She stopped not far from me, efficiently searching for each listed item, and when she found one, tossed the title into the mesh basket along with the others.
The conversation through the shelving began again as if to include us both, and Sarah paused, glancing at me when she heard the next words.
Don't sit there grinning at me, you have to believe me! It's real I tell you. Real and dangerous. How many people have disappeared into this section I wouldn't like to guess.
Sarah had paused, frowned and stepped closer to where I bent, listening near the shelving. The holds list hung slackly, forgotten.
Bill, I saw it! I saw someone disappear! They fell in and never came back!
Yes, I know the reflected books look the same as the real ones, but those in the reflections are blurry, the edges of the pages are slightly darker and the titles are mirror reversed of course. Look for yourself, if you don't believe me. As I said, they are not the same books!
The other man must have been as sceptical as I felt, but I couldn't see them. The speaker had no such doubts. He spoke in hushed urgency, and the seriousness of his voice seemed to lend his ridiculous claim plausibility.
Lot's of people disappear right? It's in the papers all the time!.
He ended in a voice squeaky with fear. I pictured him speaking to "Bill" on a cell phone, but suddenly, this silent friend spoke for the first time. He wasn't happy.
You're probably right about people in the papers. But Jim, I come in here to make sure you behave yourself, in peace and quiet, and as you can see, to read the papers! And all you do is talk the whole time. You want to come here each time. But this is a library!
And, we have even less time this morning, with your urgent chores down town. Certainly no time to share tall stories.
Honestly, I think its a time wasting crock, Jim. You're telling me a whopper mate. I try to humour you and of course there's our duty of care. But fair go.
Are you sure you're well? Did you have your meds this morning like Annie told you, back at Special Needs?
Anyway, why is it no one else has seen this ... this place you claim is so dangerous? Jimmy...Jimmy, we have to go mate.
I heard a newspaper being folded, the muted thud of chair legs stabilising back onto the carpet, and soft foot steps.
Bill. That's the whole thing with this. That's the reason people have never seen it. When people browse for books or read near the shelving they are searching, scrutinizing the shelving. You know...really looking! But I've realised that this thing only works if people aren't looking. There it is, see? It has to be a rare accident when people are NOT looking, that's when its the most dangerous. Yer don't believe me do yer. Yer think all us clients are crackers, I know yer do, without our tablets. But I knows what I saw Bill.
He whispered with such utter conviction my neck hair stood up. The man must truly have mental issues.
They suddely moved chairs about and I heard their daily reading matter being slid into the rotating paper and magazine rack.
I can prove it to you anyway! I'll do it next time. I'll show you when we come back, when we aren't so rushed with chores.Tell you what. It's pension day tomorrow. See you here at ten?
There was a pause and a stifled, nasal braying sound.
Jim! Ah ha ha ha! You are a classic. You should keep out of the RSL and sober up a bit old mate! Ha ha ha ha!
The others voice was low and filled with a calm, measured tone.
Bill...tomorrow you wont be laughing.
They said goodbye. I noticed that Sarah had dropped her lists on the floor, but a couple of errant pages floated back and forwards like autumn leaves before disappearing through the shelves and into the next aisle.
The two men talking in the next aisle had left the library. I heard the librarian muttering through the shelving from the other side. I poked my head around the end of the shelves to see her down on her hands and knees searching. She had her back to me and was peering under the shelves looking for her papers. It was obvious Sarah had no idea what had happened to the lists
I think something about the men's strange argument must have lingered. Even though they'd rushed away, back to the Disability Community centre, there were confusing shadows, shafts of rainbow coloured light, between the rows of books as if reflected from a glass prism.
Honestly, I didn't mean to startle her but to my astonishment the book attendant jumped in fright, stumbling backward. She wasn't "searching" for the dark place in those reflections. They opened and Sarah's arms sank to the elbows. I could almost peer into the future, seeing it all happen in slow motion, unable to reach her as she tried to stay her fall.
With no substance to the shelving, the dull reflections fell away, the solidness turning to atmosphere; another shelf somewhere else, a row of books in a shadowy other world.
Sarah's departure happened silently and quickly. I saw her terror. She understood "Jim's" conversation; knew what was coming. She slipped into the reflected world, fell completely through with a scrape of clay off her sensible work shoes marking the sheet metal, and was gone.
When I ran to help it was too late. I was now a "searcher" and the reflected world was closed forever to me. For a moment, as I peered desperately but impotently into those shimmering bindings, tried to see around the title print on each spine, I thought I saw a blurry impressionist vision of her face in that other "section" of the library.
There was no one except me in the library now, puffing in shock and distress as I thought of Police interrogation rooms, Sarah's family shaking their heads in sad hostility at my pathetic story. Then the charges would be laid, an endless charade of court proceedings and the inevitable decades in prison.
Perhaps she's still in there, shelving and finding holds for a dark set of "clients".
I don't know because I was already rushing for the door to run outside, my mind in turmoil, eyes brimming with frustration and fear of the unknown.
I saw the news. It was all over the papers the next few weeks, about the "missing Sarah".
Maybe one day I'll visit a library again, but for now Bill and Jim can try to rescue Sara.
For now, I have a sneaking suspicion that whatever is beyond those foggy reflections in the shelving, the people who fall victim to this sudden emptiness can only be dead.
A question that keeps running through my recoiling mind, is why hasn't Sarah, and every other victim, waited their chance to climb back through the shelving, back into the world they left behind.
Yes, I have a strong circumstantial theory; we are on the evil side and they find themselves in a utopia, a nirvana of delight.
A perfect world and ours is the trap of death.
This would explain for certain why no-one ever returns. Here we are thinking that world through the shelving is terrible and just waiting to coldly abduct another hapless victim, removing all support, to let innocent, good, kind and helpful people, staff , fall through to their unspeakable fate of nothingness!
But we are the ones who have groundless fears of the unknown. Yes we are the ones who dwell in a place that's terrible; we live in a wilderness of untold suffering. Our future ends at the grave, and even while we live, what have we really, in life?
Is it not fear, waste, hunger, pain, hatred, restlessness, dissatisfaction and a constant ache to be "home"? Don't we all yearn for some need to be filled; where, we know not?
I can still hear Jimmy's hoarse certainty of what he'd witnessed, still hear his offended tone of someone who tolerated condescension all his life. I could still see him climbing into the Toyota Coaster bus that would take him back to the nursing home for cerebral palsy clients, and other special needs people who lived in the Disability Community centre.
He was still calling out as Bill, his part time carer rushed off towards the shopping centre.
I'll see you tomorrow Bill! I'll show yer. I will! I will!
There's two blokes I haven't seen for a while. I'd like to think they are still there arguing about the shelving, sitting together near the newspaper racks and easy chairs. But it's been quite some time since I've been in that library.
No, now that I think about it, I haven't seen them for a long time. It must be months.
Prompt;Genesis, Author: Karin Slaughter, (Page 88)