March 9, 2013 by Lyn
September 2003, third week of school.
Opening the door Lolly spun in place while waving Cody through, “Here you go, the library. We’ve got lots and lots of books here. Big books, little books, even old boring books with no pictures at all!” Reciting it all in a sing-song voice before bending over to peer at her with wide eyes. “You really haven’t been here even once yet?”
“I meant to, but stuff kept happening.” Cody tried to keep a smile on her face even while desperate thinking, please leave already, surely I’m to boring to bother. Lolly had looked cute, like a big doll, whenever Cody saw her before. But from the moment she’d agreed to show Cody where the library was she had been feeling creepier than that ranty-squirrel Reese. “Thank you. I’ve got weeks of reading to catch up on.”
“Oh, you’re welcome! I’d help you find fun books, but I’ve got things to do. But the boring books you wanted should be off that way.”
Lolly turned, then came around again with a big grin stretching across her face, “Oh! Don’t say I never gave you any presents!” Lolly handed over a ball of twine before giggling and all but bouncing around away. She sounded even more demented than she had on the way over. Even for Addergoole it was so odd Cody couldn’t help but stare.
“Bye-bye nice crazy lady with silly gifts.” Whispering the words before heading for the tall shelves that dominated the room.
She’d meant to find the library back on Saturday, then Hell Night had to go and steal her whole weekend before she had even tiny bit of the morning. At least Yolanda’s collar was supposed to tell everyone else to back off. She ran a finger along the simple silver band with a grin. Then sighed. It helped with feeling safe but hadn’t blocked the creepiness of Lolly at all.
At least the Library should be a source of sanity. And unlike some keepers hers hadn’t ordered her to come straight home after class.
Ball of twine in hand she walked along the nearest shelf. “Books, books, and more books. I’ve been missing you, good ol’ Library Shelves, hello new books. Now, where are the ones on those words hiding.” Those odd, almost familiar words they’d all had to recite yesterday. “Well, she pointed this way so…” She skimmed over the titles slowly walking shelf to shelf in the direction that dolly Lolly had pointed. “Cartoon Guide to Statistics? There’s a cartoon guide to… Oh, it’s by Gonick, score!”
A few minutes of searching left her holding a small stack of books. Her free hand pointing from book to book while she skimmed the shelves and read the titles.
“They Have a Word For It… aw fudge just pop-linguistics. Wheelock’s Latin? Mmm… Do I have time for that and Russian too? Why not.”
She ran out of space for books before finding anything that looked even remotely like a guide to those twenty-two puzzling, mind-tingling words. Both her hands held the bottom of her stack of books, the ball of twine dangling on a finger, and her chin clamped down on the top of the stack to hold it steady.
She was sure she’d seen a table earlier but now all she saw were shelves. Turning a few more corners didn’t find her a table. But there was a marble statue on a large pedestal.
“Eh. Better than nothing.”
Carefully she dropped to one knee before easing the stack of books to the floor. Resting her back on the cool stone of the statue’s pedestal she took the top book, a slender volume on native American stone fetishes, and started reading. The photos inside followed on the promise of the carved turquoise bear on the cover. A quarter hour later she turned the last page, pondered the book for a moment and decided it would start her check-out pile.
* * *
She was almost finished with the eighth book when she found a fancy flower edged card covering the right hand page, a few words written on it in purple calligraphy.
Please look up.
Another note was waiting for her when she looked up.
Are you lost?
“Lost? Oh, no no, I’m just reading.”
On the floor?
“I didn’t see a table.”
Go right, then take the next two lefts.
“Oh.” She looked at the stack on her left. “I changed my mind on these, should I–”
Another card, Leave them here.
“Oh. Okay.” A day ago she would have expected this to be creepier than Lolly or Reece, but whoever was leaving the cards about seemed to be trying to help. A few questions came to mind, like where to find a map, but now that she wasn’t busy reading her back and legs were demanding she find a proper chair. “Right, then two lefts…”
The twine went on top of the stack she was keeping, wobbling but staying in place when she stood holding the books she was keeping in both hands. Finding another card when she took the first turn.
Next time, tie the string at the entrance.
Tie the string? She puzzled over it a moment before her eyes went wide. “Oh! Of course!”
Please be quiet in the library. Unlike the others, this card was old and clearly well used.
When she found the table she spotted another card on top and somehow managed to keep her giggles quiet.
You are handling this well.
“Handling this well? I guess. After the last week I’m not sure if anything– no Cody, let’s stop there and not jinx ourself. Being lucky with who kept us is all the more reason not to taunt Murphy.” She started to read the next book then looked up and asked, “Do you always talk with note cards?”
Nothing. No new note cards on the table or anywhere she could see.
“Sorry if I offended you. I’ll uh, get back to my reading.”
* * *
The latest book had a chapter on poetic forms that put every literature textbook she’s been assigned in the past to shame. Why had none of them brought up Roundel’s before? Or the Villanelle? And how long had someone been sitting next to her?
Her head whipped up while she squeaked out, “I, oh!” Cracking a smile as recognition kicked in. “Hey Yolanda.”
As the adrenaline rush faded her back twinged and made it clear she’d been sitting hunched over far too long. A soft growl from her stomach agreeing with her back. “How long…” Oh. Yeah. Watch. One look at the time made it perfectly clear why her keeper was sitting by her. “Oops?”
“Yeah. Are you ready to come home?”
She gave a quiet nod. At last Yolanda didn’t sound angry. Maybe a little worried, but not angry. Gathering the books she wanted to keep she spotted one of those flowery note cards. “Yolanda? Is the library haunted?” She cringed inwardly after asking. Way to go, could I sound any more like a little kid? But Yolanda didn’t laugh, maybe even smiled a little.
“Haunted? No, that’s the librarian.”
“We’ve got an invisible librarian?” That would explain the shushing. And knowing where the tables were. “That’s actually kind of cool.”
Books in hand she went to lean on Yolanda’s arm only the be interrupted by another growling in her belly. “Stulta stomako.” Looking up to her keeper again, “Did I miss dinner?”
“You did. We can stop by the Store and grab you some pizza.”
“Pizza? That would be great!” So, so lucky no one else grabbed Yolanda for their keeper first! Giggling as thoughts of toppings brought a question to mind. “Say, have they been hiding special menus for people with animal changes the last few weeks? Like mouse pizzas for feline changes.”
“I… Have never asked.”
“Oh. I haven’t been hungry for anything strange. At least I don’t think I have. Maybe I should ask Wylie if he’s been hungry for roadrunner.”
The halls were quieter this late, letting them walk for the store in silence. Which simply made it harder for her to ignore the guilty feeling that was fighting with her hunger for possession of her stomach. “Um… So, libraries make good Cody-traps…”
“I worry. It’s better if you tell me where you’re going. Or leave a note.”
She saw it coming, but didn’t duck from the knuckles that rapped her head. Pressing closer to Yolanda’s arm afterwards instead. “Sorry! They close earlier back home, I didn’t… I’ll tell someone next time. Or leave a note. Oh crud, never even found what I was looking for either.”
“What were you looking for?” Yolanda’s arm came around again, snagging the book instead of rapping this time.
“Something about those words. The one’s they gathered us to recite yesterday.” Of course with her hands free she could hold onto Yolanda’s arm instead of just leaning on it, so she did. “I’ll carry the pizza?”
“I’ll find you a book on that later. Come on kiddo. Pizza. Without mice.”