(The following short story was first published at Redhead Reflections my other Blog)
Tuesday began as any other boring day in the life of Annie Smith. The alarm clock rang at exactly 6:45 am which gave Annie at least two wacks at the snooze button before she had to be up promptly at 7 am in order to make it to her job at the Martin County Public Library. As usual, she stumbled to the shower for a quick body rinse to begin the awaking process which ended after her second cup of coffee. Coffee, toast and one boiled egg and she was out the door of her small apartment, down the three flights of stairs, to stroll to the nearest bus stop.
Sure enough the drab Library was just where she left it the night before. Annie inserted her skeleton key and thus began her lonely 8 hour shift. Annie had always been an introvert, so this job suited her personality; however, as of late, she’d been experiencing a feeling…something akin to loneliness. As much as she tried to shake the alien feeling, it clung to her and periodically invaded her thoughts throughout her 8 hours as librarian. The feeling, like an intrusive grain of sand in her shoe, pestered her ever so softly, just enough for her to know it there.
Yesterday, while at work, Annie had been so irritated by the feeling that she found herself strolling the romance section scanning the books on the shelves. She noticed one particular book was jutted out a fraction more than the others. Annie reached for that book and whispered the title aloud in the empty library… “I Have Come for You” She had opened the book’s worn cover and read the first sentence of chapter one: “Annie, oblivious to the precipice before her, fell head long into a seduction that would forever alter her lonely life.” Shaken by such a personal application, her hands that held the book quivered until the book fell to the floor. She stared at the open book, lying on the floor, for what seemed like hours. Finally, she bent down to retrieve the book and saw that the left page of the book was blank but the right page contained the heading for chapter two which read…“There is no escape…I will have you.” Annie had laughed nervously, and then shook her head in unbelief, as she put the book back into its place upon the shelf.
Today, as Annie strolled from one computer to the next, making sure each green light was lit, the whole scenario from yesterday seemed ridiculous to Annie . What an absurd idea that the book had been personally speaking to her. She giggled loudly with the thought. Startled from the sound that had escaped her lips, she quickly put her hand to cover her mouth. She looked around to see if anyone had slipped in through the front door. No, the tiny library was as empty as when she had walked inside a half an hour ago. For some reason Annie was frightened by the sound of her own laughter. She couldn’t help but think that the shrill cackle had come from the lips of someone going mad. No one else was here, so it had to have been her laughter. Surely, she was not mad. The thought rested uneasy within her psyche.
“Oh Annie…don’t be so stupid…,” she nervously berated herself and walked rather jerky to toward the comfort of her plush office chair. The chair was one thing she had insisted upon when she took this job. It was soft and firm where it needed to be to conform perfectly to her slightly overweight form. Annie placed the palms of her hands on the desk and began to sit, but before she completed the final descent into the beloved chair she noticed something out of place. There, lying atop the keyboard of he computer, lay a book. Her faced blanched white because she knew it was “the book.”
“What the fuck?” Annie never cursed but the word had come from her mouth as if she had been saying it all her life. Her exclamation was loud but she didn’t care. She didn’t care if someone was there to hear her profanity because nothing mattered to her exceptthe book lying on her desk. Slowly she picked it up and instantly felt compelled to turn it’s pages to chapter three. She did. Glaring at her from page 117 were the words… “Don’t look behind you…” Annie’s heart quickened in her chest. She desperately wanted to turn around, just to prove that they were only words on a page, but she dare not. Her heat began to beat even faster and once again the cackle of laughter filled the library. Annie heard it but was unaware it belonged to her. Her mind raced with fear and wonder as to what the book would say next. Slowly she turned the pages of the book until she came to chapter four.
Annie closed her eyes, too afraid to look. She squeezed her lids so tight it was painful. She wouldn’t look…she couldn’t look…NO, she told herself…but alas she was overcome with curiosity and so she opened her hurting eyes to see a blur scribbled across the page. Her heart beat wildly as she waited for her eyes to focus. Finally her vision cleared and she read the sentence, “Annie…can you feel my breath upon your neck?” The words brought on chills that crawled all over her body. Tiny beads of sweat covered her already clammy skin. She could feel a rhythmic draft of air upon her neck. It touched her and then it was gone…touched her and then it was gone… Each time it came back to her it was warmer.
Something inside, perhaps sanity, told Annie to burn the book. It pleaded for her to “…take it outside now, strike a match and burn the fucking thing before it was too late!” But the breath kept touching her. It slid down her neck to caress her breasts. Her nipples hardened and her heart beat even faster. Again the voice inside pleaded with her to burn the book, but Annie turned a deaf ear. The breath was too warm, too erotic.
There were two more chapters left in the book and Annie knew she was destined to turn to each one. Desiring more of the feelings that hugged her body, she turned to chapter five with fervency, wondering where the breath would take her next. Under the heading of chapter five she read, “Annie…feel my hands touching you…” Annie gasped as the breath upon her body became hands wooing her to ecstasy. Deep inside her she heard the remnants of a distant voice saying something…something she barely recognized as…matches…or…fire? Annie didn’t care. She only cared about the hands stroking and begging her to turn to the last chapter. When the thought of…yes I will…formed in her head, the book fell open to the last chapter of it’s own accord.
Annie’s eyes were closed but this time she didn’t need to read the words on the page. The words of the book became sound and spoke to her in a man’s voice.
“I’m here for you.”
His voice was smooth as honey. His hands, still warm upon her body, slowly turned turned her around.
“Open your eyes.”
And so, Annie obeyed. She opened her eyes to stare into a hooded black hole. The hole, shrouded by the hood, was so dark that she thought it to be empty, but then it smiled. The white of its teeth broke the darkness and slowly morphed into a “Cheshire” grin of jagged fangs. Her desire instantly turned to terror. The thing gnashed its teeth, taunting her. Annie screamed into the shrouded hole and her heart burst red with blood. Her last thought was, …the book…I should’ve burned the book.
One month later:
“Yeah, they said it was’a heart attack” Roger scratched his head and added, “…hmmm…but I ain’t so sure.”
Katherine, the new librarian, looked at the janitor, “What do you mean, you’re not so sure?”
“Well, I ain’t never seen a face of death quite like that one…sum’ing just wasn’t right. It was like she’d seen…” he paused a second to shake his head slowly, then spoke in a hushed tone,”…it was…it was like she had seen sum’ing that scared the life right out’a her.”
Katherine smiled kindly at the janitors whispered words, and tried her best to quell his fears, “Don’t you worry, Mr Roger, I’m sure there’s nothing at all to be afraid of in here.” She let her eyes scan the mundane emptiness of the library and added, “nothing at all, except maybe, boredom.”
“Yes, ma’am, you right about that…this place can get kind’a lonesome.”
Katherine watched as Roger shuffled out the front door leaving her alone in the library. She wasn’t afraid of being alone. On the contrary, the introvert inside her welcomed the solitude…just more time for reading, she thought.
Katherine stretched within her comfortable chair and stifled a yawn. Wondering what the thermostat was set on she got up to check but stubbed her toe on something beneath the counter. She looked down to see what it was but nothing was there. Figuring her toe had shoved whatever it was further under the counter she got on her hands and knees to see. Sure enough lying in the dusty darkness was a book. Katherine seized the book and rather clumsily stood to get a better look. Turning the tattered book in her hands she read its title, “I’m Here for You.”
“My goodness! How long have you been hiding under there?”
Forgetting about the thermostat, Katherine sat back down into the plush chair and blew the dust from the book’s cover. As she stared at the book she felt something akin to loneliness. Quietly she whispered, “What the hell,” and opened the book to chapter one.