This was my 24 Hour Contest entry that became lost in cyberspace.
In the Library of the Mysterious Missing Middle Book
Who would have thought the old town library had a secret room behind the back storage closet? That weekend I volunteered to help Mrs. McNulty clear out the basement closet. The closet was dusty, dirty and damp, but I couldn’t let her down. It was the least I could do after all her help over the years.
When a stray water balloon hit the wrong person, the judge decided that I needed some book learning. Two hundred hours of Library community service, he announced.
At first, the only books I saw were ones to move, or ones to put away. Mrs. McNulty took pity on me, and showed me a whole world of books out there. I wanted to learn new things, and this desire led me to study and graduate with honors from high school and then college. Now, years later, I had come full circle. Once again, I was helping her move and put away books, only this time by choice.
The bulldozers and wrecking crew were due next week, and the movers had most of the books and magazines already boxed. Funds were low, so Mrs. McNulty would not be moving with the books to the new Library. She had wanted to finish the job the best she could, but was too tired to stay tonight.
When the broom handle fell against the closet wood paneling knothole, the wall separated from the shelves with a tearing ripping sound like the wall was coming down. A dry musty smell rolled out from the blackened paneling crevice. A rusty crowbar made short work of the worn shelves still attached to the wall, allowing the wall to swing free.
Jebidiah Oldham had deeded the library building to the town, along with most of the library’s books, after his death. This may be the first time anyone has seen the room since his death. Inside the newly discovered space, waist high to shoulder high book stacks lined the walls. Something glinted in the back left corner as I shone my flashlight into the deep shadows within.
Maybe it was something valuable, something that would help both the Librarian and the library! Setting down the flashlight at the room entrance, I stretched and strained over the stacked tomes for the golden reflection. I discovered a large book with gold lettering lying on its side behind the other books.
Pinching fingertips together, I carefully gripped the book’s corner. Pulling up and out, the book managed to dislodge other books from surrounding stacks and send them tumbling.
I cradled the book safely in my left arm out under the closet ceiling globe for a closer look. The book felt light for its size. Gingerly folding back the cover and first page, my pulse quickened in hopeful anticipation. No telling what this might be, or how valuable! Excitement gave way to despair as page after blank page turned up nothing. Throwing over a few more pages at once, I was shocked to discover a crude square area sliced out of the pages. My high hopes crashed down like breakers on a beach.
The booked slipped from numb fingers, falling open upon the tiled closet floor. The disfigured pages stood upright at attention as if glued together. It was time to get back to work, time to quit fooling with this book and get this new room packed and ready to go. Bumping the book with my tennis shoe only moved the book slightly. The upright pages stayed in formation. That was odd. Reaching over to close the cover, my hand brushed an open page.
A light chime sounded as a blue white glow flashed into being from within the open space. Swinging the glowing book atop an overturned five-gallon bucket brought up a glowing amber keyboard upon the formerly empty page. READY pulsed within the glowing space, gently cycling brighter and dimmer as a reminder.
Pushing the upright pages to adjust the display angle, more buttons appeared on either side of the cut pages. LOAD, SAVE, DELETE and SUBMIT buttons glowed in soft amber outlines. I may as well try typing something I thought aloud to one in particular. Mainly just to here a human voice in the quiet Library. Pressing random keys displayed the same letters within the cut page display. I knew about LOAD, SAVE and DELETE, but SUBMIT was something I had never seen on my own computer.
Pressing the SUBMIT key sounded three loud bells from the book, and the book began glowing brighter, and brighter. I backed away in response, further and further. As the book became too bright to watch, a low hum started. The humming stopped suddenly, and the book returned to normal, the inner light extinguishing slowly. RETURNING TO POWER SAVE MODE displayed briefly upon the screen, before blinking out and becoming air once more.
Ahead, the hidden room began glowing, and a young man dressed in khakis and blue polo shirt stepped out of the glows bright center.
“Ah, great, I see you’ve found my missing book. I couldn’t remember where I left it. I’m Marty Ray, or as people around here knew me, Jebediah Oldham.”
“But he was much older, and … deader.” I edged away slowly. Let the ghost keep the book!
Reading my expression, he exclaimed, “Relax; I’m as alive as you are. It’s amazing what a little makeup can do.” Grinning, he reached down to close the book. “When you hit SUBMIT, it helped me track the book back to here and now.”
“But why were you here before as Jebediah Oldham?” I asked regaining my composure and courage.
“Research. I wanted to learn about the people and customs of this period.”
“Oh, are you some type of historian or professor?” This made a little more sense, more than most of tonight so far.
“Nothing as lofty as that, I’m afraid. Actually, it was a self-study course. Here, let me show you.”
Opening the book to the first page, he pressed his left thumb against what I took for a smudge. Large bold writing sprang into being across the page.
Turning the book around, he held it out for me to read the title page more closely.
WRITE YOUR FIRST HISTORICAL NOVEL USING THE ‘YOU WERE THERE’ METHOD - all rights reserved.
As I looked up from the page, he simply stated, “I’m an author”, and disappeared. In his place, a yellow thank you note rested atop a stack of first edition Charles Dickens’ books. Maybe things could work out for Mrs. McNulty after all.
Word Count: 1093