Ghosts of the Library
| Haunted Library
Buck sat in the red, wooden, rocking chair by the Christmas tree. A fire burned bright in the fireplace of his favorite reading room of the old city library. He came here most days to fill his long hours. His recent retirement had brought him to this method of brain-numbing time passage. Here in his quiet personal haven, no one screamed for him to pick his pants up off the floor. No grandkids hooped and hollered incessantly. There were no doctors probing his anal canal and grimacing about his enlarged prostate. It was Buck's oasis, granting him peace away from the emotions of job loss and aging.
Each day, he took a book from the shelf to read the sonnets of his favorite poets or the scary tales from the likes of long ago authors, such as Edgar Allan Poe. He marveled at the ability of the old writers to cast a tale of intrigue or of the poets to create passion in one mere stanza. It was a gift that he wished he possessed. The characters in the stories were strong and life-like, with heroes to revere. They always seemed to start out as simple beings caught unaware, but somehow managing to find an inner strength to save the day. The stories gave him hope that there was something beyond the wasting away of human life. Buck envied them because these days he felt weak and unworthy. He failed to recognize his own accomplishments, such as his long career as a physician, or loving husband and father, and person of stature in the community.
Today, Buck's selection of books was from a more modern writer, Peter Straub with Ghost Story. He had found the book quite by accident, having knocked it off the shelf. The cover called to him with its bare tree branch that framed an old and eerie house hidden in the mist. The simple photograph tugged at his childhood memories. He had been to this place and seeing it again had jolted the man. Buck sat down in his rocker and began to read the story of a place that he believed had been buried many years before. He ignored the other patrons of the library, intent with his reading. Halfway through the book, Buck realized the house wasn't the same one he remembered but the ghosts were the same ones that had tortured his thoughts his entire life. He set the book in his lap with gentle reverence, appreciating the message it delivered. Deal with your demons before death overtakes.
In nineteen seventy-two, Buck had been a teenager in the small rural town of Mascoutah. It was nothing more than a farming community with dirt roadways and a red brick schoolhouse that doubled as a community center on the weekends. The number of students that graced the halls of the high school peaked at seventy-five before newer accommodations were found. Buck graduated long before that day, moving as far away from the town as his feet could carry him.
An image of Scat, his best friend from those days, passed through his mind as he rocked slowly in his suddenly pensive mood. Scat was a character with a daredevil personality. Most parents tried to minimize their child's interaction with the boy, believing him to be a troublemaker. Buck's parents liked the spunk and determination they saw in Scat. Like brothers, the pair spent every moment together until the day they came across the house in the woods. Just like the cover on the book, their first glimpse of the house was through the naked branch of a tree and Buck remembered it just as eerie.
Scat had cajoled him into taking a closer look at the house. He regretfully recalled his feelings of anger at Scat for teasing him about being chicken. The emotion left a lump in the man's throat, as he pictured the two of them running toward the house. With all his heart, he wished there was a way to redo that day.
b}The boys had found the house had been abandoned. In its obvious state of dilapidation and disrepair, the large structure stood out like a sore thumb hidden in the midst of the freshly blooming greenery of the woods. Scat had remarked that the house looked as if it had been pulled from some graveyard and been placed there as a rest stop for ghosts. The comment served only to make Buck more nervous about entering the abode. The front door creaked as they crept inside, wary of what they would find beyond the stone archway. Buck steadied his feet, knowing he would never live it down if he chose to run, but with every fiber of his being warning him of the peril the house possessed.
Buck had known instantly that the house was haunted, but Scat showed no fear. He taunted the ghosts that inhabited, inviting them to show themselves. He knocked shelves filled with dust off the walls. He pushed down the ornate railing that lined the stairs in a bout of defiance. Like an actor on a stage, Scat glided through each room defying his audience, wreaking his havoc as he traveled. Buck had tried to stop him but Scat had a mind of his own. He could only follow his friend, discouraging his actions.
They had soon found themselves in the middle of an elaborate old library. Its ceilings were twelve-foot high with painted cherubs adorning. The book stacks made of massive wooden beams reached to the rooftop. Books, too many to count, lined the shelves wrapped in a gritty cover of dust. In the center of the room hung a chandelier of crystal prisms that daintily lit the room with its gleam.
"Whoa, look at this place!" Scat had screamed in excitement.
"It's beautiful! Don't break anything in here, Scat. I gotta feeling somebody won't like it," Buck warned.
He had always held great respect for libraries. As an avid reader, he counted them as homes for the books that could carry him to the farthest reaches of his imagination. Scat, who had had never understood his fascination for the written word took the warning as a dare. Scat shimmied up the stacks knocking rows of the books to the ground as he passed. Flumes of soot filled the air as the books crashed to the earth.
"Stop it, Stop it, now," Buck screamed.
"Hey, don't lose your shit over some old books," Scat called from his place high on the shelves.
"I'm telling you to stop!" Buck yelled, finding the courage finally to stand up against his friend.
Before Scat could respond, a strong breeze blew through the library. The prisms on the chandelier shook violently, with the glass clinking loudly from the vibrations. The light fixture began to rotate in a clockwise motion, like a rocket aligning its trajectory. The huge crystal globe crashed hard against wooden stacks crushing Scat. His body limp and bloody fell to the ground in front of Buck. He watched in horror as a swarm of ghostly figures seemed to envelop his friend. The shadowy silhouettes of death munched on Scat's corpse in a frenzied feast. The ghosts of the library had accepted his dare. Buck ran screaming from the house leaving it and his friend alone to their fate.
Scat's remains were found in the woods, days later. The story in the local paper told of a youth being torn apart by wolves. Buck knew the truth and carried the guilt of leaving his friend behind.
Buck resumed the gentle rocking of his chair by the tree. Placing his hand lightly on the book's cover, he understood that his ghosts were present here in this library. The tree lights dimmed and then flickered in some unknown pattern. Books fell randomly to the ground. The rocking chair's speed increased without Buck's momentum. He found it odd that he had spent so much time fearing the cancer that threatened when a greater and more powerful enemy had been lurking. The thought struck him that he had been wasting his time waiting to die and here he was faced with his mortality, wanting to live.
The ghosts claimed Buck as he sat in the red rocking chair of the local library. The Christmas lights twinkled in seasonal glee while the black swirling shadows went unnoticed by the other patrons.
Word Count 1396