(possibly part one if anyone wants a follow up)
Brianne ran into the building, shaking the rain from her hood as she went, ducking through the low doorway she entered her favourite place in the world. Letting out a pent up breath, Brianne felt like she was coming home. Entering this quaint cottage, that hid the surprisingly large selection of books always brought her more peace than anywhere else in the world. Her local library was a treasure in a dull town. She had spent so many hours of her life here, she knew every nook and cranny, every title in here, the smell of the musty books was etched into her memory as clear as her own reflection was.
“Hi, Marie” Brianne smiled as she passed the front desk, the elderly clerk was like a grandmother to her, she’d ran the library since before Brianne was born.
“Brianne love, what’re you doing here today?” Marie asked in surprise, “shouldn’t you be at your party?”
“I suffered it as long as I could, you know me Em, not one for glitzy social events” It was Brianne’s 20th birthday and her best friend in the world had thrown her a massive party. Kayla was a social butterfly and had invited everyone they knew, it was Brianne’s idea of hell. Every minute there, she longed to sneak back to her dusty haven but she knew Kayla did it out of love and not wanting to throw all the effort back into her best friends face, she’d got dressed up, let Kayla do her makeup, put on the stupidly high heels that hurt her feet and stuck it out all day just managing to get away 15 minutes before Little Ivywood Library’s closing time. “Plus I couldn’t leave you to sort out the delivery by yourself” Brianne added as she crossed the hushed building to the pile of boxes blocking the backdoor, “you’d hurt yourself trying to shelve all of these on your own”
“I wasn’t planning to dear, I knew how much you were looking forward to this and thought I’d save them all for you for tomorrow” Marie smiled back, the affection she felt for the young girl clear on her wrinkled face. “I wouldn’t have you missing all the excitement”
Brianne grinned her thanks as she ripped the packing tape off the first box she came across, “do you mind if I sort through these tonight? I really need some down time”
“Are you sure? You’ve had a long day and you should be at home celebrating with your friends not cooped up in here, it’s not everyday you turn 20”
“You’re too young for such an old soul” Marie said kindly “If I leave the keys can I trust you to lock up when you’re done?” Marie asked, knowing the answer, it was something they’d gone through many times before. “No staying here all night again either! I want you home and in bed by 9” she added with a chuckle.
“Of course” Brianne lied, walking over to kiss Marie’s cheek as she put her coat on, “8,30, I’ll be in my jammies having a cocoa” she chuckled, “now you go on home and do the same”
Brianne, gently led the elderly woman to the door, noting how small and fragile she felt, she was sure she never felt this delicate before, almost brittle. Once she was safely on her way, Brianne locked the door behind her and flipped the closed sign, heading back into the main room, she also flicked off the main lights, preferring the dimmer atmosphere of the side lamps.
Let’s unpack these mystery boxes she thought with happiness. Settling down on the floor cross legged in front of the delivery, she began exploring. It had been years since the library had such a large donation, Brianne had been looking forwood to this ever since the anonymous offer came through. It didn’t take long for her to get into a comfortable routine, pulling the book out of the box, flipping it over to read the blurb, cataloging it and placing it in one of may piles spread around her. Brianne worked in silence, occasionally humming under her breath, the pitter-patter of rain on the roof fit in perfectly with her slow and steady pattern, she was so lost in her work she didn’t notice the hours ticking away and soon there were only a few books left at the bottom of the last box.
Brianne pulled out the second to last book, and flipped it over, the cover was a dusky brown, covered in dust with a single green jewel on the front. No title or any other writing gave the book away, so she opened it and flicked through the yellow, time faded pages. The sickly sweet smell of old damp pages fluttered out with a cloud of dust, Brianne sneezed and squeezed her eyes shut.
“Let me tell you a story” the words, said in a slithering hiss, appeared to float right out the book, a woman’s voice, honey toned but vaguely threatening.
Brianne shrieked, her eyes snapped open and she and threw the book away from her. “What the hell?!” she tried to shout but all that came out was a harsh rasping as her chest constricted and her heart raced. She frantically looked around her, surely the voice must have come from somewhere else, Brianne scrambled up onto her feet and ran for the main lights, her bare feet pounding the thin carpet, she slammed her hand down on the switch. Momentarily blinded she put her back against the wall and squinted into the maze of shelves.
“Who’s there?!” She demanded, holding her breath while she anxiously waited for an answer.
The weighted silence felt heavy in the air.
As nothing else happened for a few more minutes Biranne began to question herself and what really happened, her pulse slowed down and her breathing calmed, rational thought returned. She chuckled darkly to herself and wiped her eyes with her fist, standing in here with the lights on, she couldn’t believe what just happened, Damn, I must be more tired than I thought I was, I probably nodded off sitting there and didn’t even notice it, dreaming about books talking to me! I need to get some sleep. Brianne went through all the rational responses in her mind. She’d go find the stupid book, put it in a pile and deal with it in the morning, she told herself.
Brianne walked back to pile of boxes cautiously, most of them flattened and waiting to be recycled in the morning, she cursed herself for being such a baby, getting freaked out by a dream. On some level she just wanted to walk away from the whole situation but something was pulling her forwood, an inescapable force, she could feel in her blood. She tiptoed to the only box left standing and gingerly kicked it aside to reveal the book, laying open, face down on the faded green, speckled carpet. She thought she saw a faint glow flowing from the pages but convinced herself it was a trick of the light Taking a deep breath, she took the plunge and scooped it up, holding it at arm’s length, she slammed the book shut before any more imagined words could come floating out.
Brianne studied the cover of the book in more detail, it wasn’t a novel she mused, well at least not one that should have been given away, for free, to a local library, the binding was real leather, worn thin from use, at bottom of the spine she saw something etched there but it was too faint to make out. Her eyes were blurry- she was still scared and very sleep deprived but she knew she wouldn’t be able to rest with this mystery weighing on her mind, she just had to know where this book came from.
She carried the book over to the desk, still not trusting it completely. I’m totally losing it. She thought to herself finally let my wild imagination take over she added silently. She’d always loved books, especially the mysteries, she’d read all the classics from all the literary greats. That second hand experience came to her now. She turned on the lamp over the library’s front desk and rummaged through the drawers until she found paper and a pencil. Sitting on the rolling chair she placed the book between her legs so she hand both hands free and very gently traced the faded lettering on the spine.
One by one the small letters revealed themselves.
The secrets within….
Maybe it was a novel afterall? An original copy of a classic? Not a very well known one, you’d be hard pressed to find a book Brianne had never read, she raced through the millions of titles catalogued in her mind and came up empty. Placing the book on the desk, she rolled over to the ancient, bulky computer and punched the on button, tapping her fingers on the desk impatiently waiting for it to turn on. The decades old computer wheezed to a start, hiccupping a few times as it struggled to open the softwear. Pulling up the search engine she looked up the book, after surfing several, frustrating pages she gave up.There was nothing to be found under that title, not even a hint of a novel.
She turned in her chair to face the book on the middle of the desk, the lamplight spotlighted the book and shone on the dull emerald. Taking a few tissues from the box in the desk Brianne gently wiped the front of the book down, it did look intriguing. She was sure she was dreaming when she heard the voice, so why was she so reluctant to open it again? She felt an odd affection for this book, old and dumped with no information, probably unread for a hundred years, it called to her. She knew she was going to open it again, voice or not, the book pulled her.
Not tonight, she was exhausted, the hold the book had over her, as perplexing as it was, drained her. Brianne went back to the main room to turn off all the lights, the mess would wait until the morning, Marie wouldn’t mind, she’d leave a note and tell her she’d deal with it when she next came in. Walking around the familiar room, she felt something off about it, her once comfortable haven had an unexpected air about it, she wasn’t scared exactly, but nervous of being here alone, anxious to leave. Brianne shrugged off the feeling, she put it down to the strange book, and the late night, once she’d had some sleep and was able to properly examine the book, her home away from home would feel normal again.
Brianne did the usual familiar routine of closing up for the night, grabbing her bag and the book on the way out. As she shut the door behind her she suddenly realised how much time had passed since she first picked up the book, the rain had stopped without her noticing and the sun was just cresting the horizon, the sky red and orange. She locked the door and dropped the library keys in her bag, fishing out her car keys and phone as she did. She balanced the book and her damp coat in her left arm, and tried to check her phone.
“Dead, just my luck” She muttered chucking it back in her bag, she clutched her keys and looked around in trepidation, she’d always felt safe here, any time of day or night but tonight was not a normal night. She’d parked her car by the park across the road as she usually did nowadays and had done the short 2 minute walk a thousand times before and never before had she had a second thought. So why did she question the safety of the little lane now?
Glancing around her nervously she started her route, cursing the strappy heels for hindering her speed and making such a loud clacking noise with every painful step, the sound seemed to echo in the early morning light bouncing off trees and buildings she’d known her whole life, now strangers in an unfamiliar landscape. With every step she took her burden seemed to grow heavier and heavier, her steps faltered and slowed until she was dragging herself along, she had the same thoughts on a loop, running around and around in her head; put down the book. get to the safety of the car. Go home and sleep.
But she couldn’t. As much as she wanted to drop everything and run, her hands just wouldn’t unclench, her arms wouldn’t move, her legs had concrete blocks attached. She staggered on under the weight, lurching from one point to another, the small lane seemed to stretch out before her, like a nightmare, however far you go, you’ll never get to the end.
Just as she was about to lose hope, she saw the curve of her bubble car. A VW Bug, her mum hated it but she had worked in the library for pocket money for Marie ever since she was 12, she had saved nearly every penny, plus birthday and Christmas money, she had planned to buy a car herself on her 18th but it turned out all that prudishness with money was unneeded, her absent father had bought this one for her, she’d found out a week before her birthday, luckily she hadn’t started the process of buying her own one. She was undoubtedly grateful, the little car was a lot better than anything she would have been able to buy, she hadn’t given her any trouble in the 2 years she’d owned her. Bubbles, she had named her, was her lifeline, her independence. As much as she had always loved her, nothing else had ever compared to how she felt right now.
Swaying to a stop beside the car, the red sky shining back at her from the polished chrome, she was finally able to unclench her arms, her possessions tumbled to the damp gravel but the book remained stubbornly in her arms. Despite the chilly early air and her lack of coat Brianne was sweating with exertion, she no longer paid any attention to her surroundings, her mind was torn in half, one side begging her to just get in the car, the other half tugging her towards to book in her hands, begging her to open it. Just one look, she promised the former half, a tiny glance then we’ll go.
Opening the book, the bright light that shone from within shocked her into staggering back against the bonnet of her car, words appeared, both written and somehow spoken aloud from the book, in a different voice from earlier. Still female, still honeyed but no longer threatening.
August 7th 1867
Warren is still missing, it’s been weeks, I don’t think he’ll be found, sheriff said he probably had an accident on his horse and was eaten by buzzards but I don’t believe it, it doesn’t feel right in my bones. Warren would never fall of a horse, he’s been riding since before he could walk plus, If it were true, faithful Toby would have found his way back to me, that horse has been with us since he was a foal. And he ain’t the only one missing around here, Mrs Potter next door lost her boy not 3 months back and old Mack on the farm said his eldest went missing last year. There are rumours around town, unusual happenings.
Something strange is going on, I’m going to try and figure out what.
Brianne Hart stood there, in the glow of the early morning, in the glow of the book, stunned but somehow not surprised. It felt like somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew something supernatural would happen. She had never experienced anything supernatural before, never believed in anything supernatural before, yet she accepted it, with calm and grace. Don’t mistake coincidence for fate her mind whispered. Tearing her eyes away from the book, she looked around. I’m not in Kansas anymore, she thought to herself and she noted the now truly alien landscape. The world had turned on it’s head, tipped her upside down, sent her million miles away. From woodsy small England town, to sandy desert hills.
“Let me tell you a story” Said Annabelle Hart.