Late Night Story Hour

Another late night spent in the library meant another night alone as far as Kathy was concerned. The patrons had long since left and she had set up the old radio to add some music to the air while she worked on some clean-up and repairs in the children’s room. Running the vacuum over the floor, she sang along to the music and tried to ignore the overwhelming feeling like she was being followed. Then she noticed the toys cleaning themselves up. All but the one shabby doll that hung in the air as though carried. Kathy took a deep breath and flicked the vacuum off. Walking over towards the toy corner, she spoke softly, almost not believing herself.
“Benji?”
It was as if the boy’s name was a spell. There were the messy red curls over the freckled cheeks and bright blue eyes. There were the half fastened over-alls and stained, striped shirt.
“I was helpin’, Miss Kathy. On account Mama a’ways says it’s good to clean up toys when you play with ‘em.”
Her hands were shaking but she managed to get them under control. So, the library really was haunted…by an old woman who checked in books and a little boy who put his toys away. Well, it could have been worse.
“When we’re all done cleaning, would you like me to read you a story?”
“Oh golly, Miss Kathy, that’d be real nice.” He hugged the little doll tight and smiled up at her. “Can you read the one ‘bout the pokey little puppy?”

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The Library

The quill scratched across the surface of the paper, the sound echoing in the long hall of the library. Knowledge poured from the mind into the book. All the while, screams hung silent, floating in the air. Waves of color and fear played throughout the room, emanating from where the prisoner hung on the wall. It was his knowledge that filled the book, his blood that formed the ink.

The librarian watched the pages as they filled until finally the book fell closed. Then, slowly, inexorably, he turned towards the holding cells.

“Bring forth the next.”

Ain’t My Dog

He put the book down and shook his head.
“It’s got a dog on the cover. I don’t read books that’ve got a dog on the cover.” He shrugged a little, hands sliding into the pockets of his overalls. “Thanks anyways, Ma’am.”
Then he turned and strode out of the library. He hesitated by the old railing and then continued on to where his bike leaned against a wall.

The ride back home was punctuated by distant baying, sharp barks, and bird song. He let the bike fall on the grass in front of the small house and jogged inside. It was quiet. Music played on the radio in the kitchen where his mother laughed and joked with his older sister while they made dinner. Somewhere out the back, the roar of an engine said that his father was working on the truck again. Instead, he went to go grab the .22 from his closet. He didn’t want to be around all these cheerful people.
“Where are you headed?”
“Just out the woods, Mama. I’ll bring back some squirrels, a’right?”

He was deep in the backwoods, far enough that it would take the big bell hanging by the back door to get his attention from the house. That was when he heard the sound. It was like a whimper or a whine. He set his rifle down by a stump and crept forward to investigate. There it was, a ratty little thing near the waterline. It was a puppy of uncertain parentage, soaked and shivering. The boy knelt and frowned, picking the puppy up by its scruff.
“You’re sure a mess.” He hesitated and then sighed. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up and I’ll drop you off somewhere.”
The puppy started trying to lick his face the moment the boy pulled him closer.
“None of that now, you ain’t my dog.”
He picked his .22 back up and held the pup close, making his way back towards the house.

“Pup ain’t gonna make it, son.”
The boy glared up at his father.
“He will. And then I’m gonna take him and see if anyone needs a dog.” Once again, the wriggling pup was trying to wash the boy’s face. “He ain’t mine, that’s for certain sure.”
“Whatever you say, boy.”

The dog was big enough to jump onto the bed now and had flopped himself across the boy’s pillows.
“Get down, Ra-”
Ranger. He stopped. He couldn’t do this. Not again. Not another dog. But the eager to place pup was washing his hands and dancing at his feet.
“Alright, you can sleep on the bed with me. But you still ain’t my dog.”

“Scout! Dammit, where’d you get to?”
The dog barrelled out of the brush, barking excitedly as he ran towards his boy.
“There you are. Come on, we’re goin’ to the library again. You know what that means.”
He clipped a leash to Scout’s collar and the dog danced excitedly as his boy went to get his bike.

Books

Walking through the forest
The light above obscured
The trail is straight
But I know not where I wander

The trees here are long dead
But they know ageless time now
As I walk among the trees that talk

Finally, I choose a fruit ripe
And sit to partake of its sweetness
The sugar is words of a time gone past
Leaving the core of knowledge now mine

The Midnight Librarian

The night was warm, almost oppressively sticky, as Kathy worked. She wandered through the stacks in the basement, trying to avoid the heat by organizing the long abused non-fiction. The lights were dim down here, another victim of the age of the old public library. I should really come down and clean those one of these days. She thought, for the thousandth time, but she knew she could only escape down here so long before she would have to return to the circulation desk and the public who needed her. Kathy picked up a book, an older book that promised real results in improving your writing and she chuckled, shelving it with care. That was when she heard the steps coming down the stairs and turned. An older woman was walking down, a large stack of books in her hands.
“Returns for the shelves.” Said the woman with a smile.
“Of course. I’ll get them set where they belong. Don’t you worry.”
“I don’t worry a bit, dearie.”
Kathy took the books and gave the old woman a smile. There was something odd about the situation which she couldn’t quite place, but she just shook it off and went back to work. At least this gave her an excuse to stay in the cooler basement for a bit longer. It wasn’t until she had put the last of the books, a careworn volume of Shakespearean sonnets, back in its home that she realized what was wrong. No one else was on duty in the little library right now. She took the stairs two at a time back up to the desk but there was no one there. Everything was neat and tidy though…and the books had been checked in. Odd.

The Mother Library

There exists a place where every book dwells, a place beyond time and space, just past the last shelf in every library. The doors there aren’t hard to find, but they are hard to open. If you can make it through the portal, though, you will find the mother library, the greatest and the first, the seed from which all others sprout. No one knows what the mother library looks like from the outside since the doors lead only back to the times and places patrons have come from, but within the hallowed halls of the mother library are shelves as far as the eye can see, bearing every manner of written word since time immemorial. On the farthest shelves lay stones with pictures painted on, then clay with simple carvings. There are racks of scrolls and shelves of leather-bound tomes, and now server racks replete with data.
No one knows who the woman is who runs the mother library, or how long she’s been there. Some of the histories in the mother library reference her, though the authors had no idea where they were. But every time someone falls through the stacks to the mother library, she is there to guide them. The descriptions of her never change, no matter how much time passes, no matter where the library’s patrons come from.