Tuesday, 7 August 2012

United Friends #256 - The Library

Write a tale of the Macabre …

It's that time of year again when we think of ghoulies and ghosties and long legged beasties. What I want is a spooky tale from you that makes us go - "Oh, that's just not right!" Don't fall back on the conventional Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts, Witches, Monsters... or any of the usual spooky ilk. Instead spin a tale of everyday life twisted or skewed in a surprising way. Perhaps Granny isn't quite what she seems to be. Or that nice little town you stopped in on your way down the interstate is, and has been a ghost town for years and you discover that fact on the return trip. The possibilities are endless. Let your imagination run wild!
No word limit on this one.  Have fun with it!

The library was built at the turn of the century: a pompous white stone building with a pillar on each corner and a large solid oak door. It even had a reference library. It was quite a memorable occasion when the library was opened by the Mayor. He was proud that his town now had a place where its inhabitants could choose books and read them. He was sure that it would increase the value of the town.

As the years passed, the library's white bricks slowly turned grey, caused by exhaust fumes of cars and buses and even the door no longer looked as solid and noble as it was. It was often sprayed with all kinds of graffiti by the local youth, cleaned, scraped down, polished, only to be sprayed again. Eventually the local council decided it was a waste of money.

Inside the library alterations had also taken place. The reference library was no longer in existence, as no-one seemed to be looking for references. Today every household had a computer and if you wanted to know something you asked the computer. There was even an internet station in the library, but that had to be removed. The computers were either stolen, pulled apart for their insides to be resold, or just broken.

Elaine, the chief librarian, was looking forward to her retirement. It was no longer fun working in the library. If a customer was looking for a particular book she would help him find it on the shelves or order it through another library if they did not have it. This was no longer possible as most of the books were now in a foreign language that she did not understand, catering for the local ethnic minorities in the neighbourhood.

Then there was Chav and his gang, the local trouble makers. She doubted that they could read, but they liked to pay their visits to the library, making noise, disturbing the customers and throwing a few books on the floor on the way out. Chav was one of the reasons she was looking forward to her retirement. However, she still had a year to serve, so bit on the sour apple, and carried on.

She especially hated the evening work. To cater for the working customers, the library was open until nine o’clock in the evening once a week, usually on Wednesday. Being in charge of the library, it was her job to stay. She had the keys to the library and was responsible.

On one particular evening, sometime in November she was waiting impatiently for the clock to strike nine. Chav and his gang were near, she heard their loud voices echoing through the empty streets, shouting and laughing and she caught a few snippets of their conversation.

“Did you see the look on his face?” said Fatty, one of Chav’s friends.

There was a roar of laughter from the gang “we really put him in his place” was the answer from another Chav disciple, “probably Dopey” thought Elaine, the voice was slow and slurred and suited his name.

Slowly the voices fainted into the distance, when the door of the library creaked on its hinges and a figure entered.

“Good evening Miss Elaine.”

“Good evening professor” Elaine said. She remembered Professor Chaucer from her days at the local college. He was a recognised expert on literature and his choice of books reflected on his knowledge.. She often had a talk with the professor when he visited the library.

“Can I be of assistance?” she asked.

“I don’t need any more books” answered the professor, “I am just returning the ones I had at home. Actually I was tidying up and now have quite a guilty conscience. One of the books must have fallen from my desk and I didn’t notice it. I think I will have to pay a fine on that one.”

That was one of the rules of the library, if you kept you book too long, you paid a few coins. It was not really the money, but just a way that the council liked to keep the borrowers under control. She wanted to tell the professor it would not be necessary, but he had already handed her the bank note.

“I am sorry, I don’t have any smaller change” he said, “but I am sure you have a few coins in the box.”

It was then that the oak door swung open and a gust of cold wintery air blew into the library.

“Well look who’s here” it was Chav; “Our little Miss Elaine taking good care of all our books. “

Chav naturally had his mobile in his hand. The latest fashion was to film the action when his gang were involved in terrifying the local neighbourhood.

“Yes  Chav” sidekick Fatty said. “Think I will take a few books with me as well.”

“Come on Fatty, now don’t make Miss Elaine mad. She knows you can’t read.”

“Course I can Chav. Dopey’s the one who never went to school.”

“Oh yes I did” said Dopey “I just liked to look at the pictures in the books, couldn’t make out what all those funny squiggles were.” Dopey meant letters of course.

“I’ll take this one Miss” said Chav, and removed the biggest book he found on the shelf. “It will be handy for throwing at people if they get on my nerves.”

“No, please” answered Elaine “it is part of our Encyclopaedia Britannica.”

“Big deal” answered Fatty, “now we don’t want the Encyclopaedia Britannica having a bit missing do we boys?” and they all laughed loudly.

During the discussion Chav kept poking his mobile in front of Elaine, thinking this will be a good film for the collection. “The old bat at the library shaking in her shoes and getting all excited.”

It was then that the professor appeared.

“Leave those books alone” he said “they are something to be treasured and not to be used as weapons.”

“Who said that” and Chav saw the professor. Elaine was frightened for the professor, knowing he was not a man of action, but she really did not have to be. It was Chave that then turned a shade of white, just like chalk. Chav and his cronies headed for the door, one after the other, and were even screaming. Elaine was quite surprised, she had never seen them disappear so quickly. She turned to thank the professor but the professor was not there. His returned books lay on the counter together with the money.

She was sure that the professor also became frightened and left the library. She wanted to thank him and of course, he had paid far too much money for the book fine. She looked for the professor’s address in the member’s records and decided to pay him a visit the next morning to return his change. Eventually she decided it was time to go home. Still shaking from the evenings events,  she put her coat on and was glad to lock the door behind her.

Elaine did not have to go to work the next day. She left her house and boarded the bus which would take her to the neighbourhood where the professor lived. It was quite a distance and she only arrived late in the morning. She was surprised when she arrived to see a police car outside the professor’s house.

“Has something happened to the professor?” Elaine asked one of the policemen.

“Did you know him?” she was asked  by one of the other policemen that seemed to be in charge.

“He is a customer at my library. The professor returned a book yesterday and I was just calling to bring him his change from the fine. He left quite quickly and forgot his money. Please tell me why you are using the past tense when talking of the professor?”

“I am sorry to tell you Miss, but the professor died yesterday evening. He had a heart attack. His house had been broken into and it seems he was confronted by the thieves, and it was too much for him.”

Thinking about the sudden disappearance of the professor at the library and the strange exit of Chav and his gang, she reported it to the police.

The police followed up her story resulting in the arrest of Chav and his gang. It seems that Chav’s mobile still had a recording showing how Fatty and Dopey were throwing books around at the professor’s house and Chav pushing the professor around. The film continued to show a shocked professor gripping his chest and gasping for breath before collapsing.

The funny thing was that the professor’s death was registered at seven in the evening by the police, but he entered the library just before nine in the evening.. Elaine decided not to tell the police the exact time that the professor was at the library. Something somewhere just did not seem right. It seemed that Chav’s telephone had no film showing Elaine at the library.

She still had the professor’s change from the fine. She placed it in a collection box they had at the library for the local orphanage.
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