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Ghost in the Library

WARNING: Contains Language. Discretion is advised.

It was late and Matthew Berger was tired. Sitting at the front desk, he looked at the two shelving carts full of books yet to be added into inventory. He sighed. It seemed that no matter how efficiently he put in the information, how quickly he typed, that he just wasn’t making any kind of dent into his workload. The only dent being made was into his Christmas Eve. Matthew looked out at the rest of the library. The only lights on were of his computer screen and the gooseneck lamp on the desk. Beyond that oasis of light was near pitch black darkness. With the blizzard outside, the little moonlight that could make it through the windows made them ghostly pale grey rectangular specters along the walls. 


Turning back to his computer, he sighed again as he saw the time: 11:15pm. He tiredly wiped his face with his hands and grabbed the next book from the cart. He rolled his eyes at the cover. Love’s Savage Secret was the hundredth bodice-ripper type romance novel that he’d cataloged this evening. With a cover of two women in lingerie that was barely a step up from soft porn, he was amazed these things were still bought by the county. He opened the book to the copyright page and started typing in the information. 


“Get all these in,” Karen Ericksen, the head librarian, had said the day before as she volun-told Matthew into this arduous overtime. She’d been gesturing to all the Louis L’amour knockoffs on the carts. “They need to be put in the system by the 31st, ready for Valentine’s season.” 


Matthew wanted to tell her they still had a good six days after Christmas to get it done. But the tone of finality in her decision about it made it clear she wasn’t going to tolerate any arguments, as usual. All he could say was, “yes, ma’am,” and text his girlfriend that he would be working late on Christmas Eve…again.


By 11:30, Matthew had gotten through a dozen more books and was starting to get more hopeful about his progress and pace when he heard the loud echoey flush of the toilet in the men’s room.


“Fuck,” he groaned and got up. Taking out his phone, he switched the flashlight function on and made his way across to the bathrooms. As he walked, he calmly dialed 9-1-1, but waited to press the green “call” icon. If it was another homeless person who’d somehow stowed away to get a free warm place to sleep, or who’d found a place to try and overdose in the quiet library, Matthew wanted to be ready to phone for help. Gingerly, he pushed the bathroom door open. The motion sensor lights clicked on and he had to squint from the sudden brightness. Well, he thought, that meant there wasn’t anyone in here to begin with. He checked the stall just in case, but the bathroom was indeed empty. Glad he hadn’t started the call, he made a mental note to e-mail Karen about the faulty toilet. As he got back to the desk, he smirked, thinking that if he had called the police about faulty toilet plumbing he’d been likely berated by the dispatcher or even laughed off the phone. 


He grabbed the next book, this one a kid’s crafting book centered around 101 ways to make anything with duct tape, and began to log it into the computer. He got only halfway through the ISBN number when the computer screen flickered once. Matthew looked down to make sure he hadn't accidentally kicked the power strip. No, he hadn’t. He looked back up to verify where he was in the number when the screen flickered rapidly half a dozen times before shutting off completely. 


The dull hum of the PC died and a moment later the lamp’s light shut off as well. Sitting in the dark, Matthew groaned and got up. Luckily the system saved automatically with each entry, but any time spent struggling with the fuse box was just more time eaten away into his holiday.


As he walked by the light of his phone, he went down an aisle of the fiction section. Right as he got to the end of the row, there was a chaotic, loud, fluttering thud as half the books flew off the shelves behind him. Matthew yelped with surprise and looked down at the mess of books piled on the floor. Heart pumping, he bolted to the backroom and to the fuse box, instinctively flicking on every lightswitch he passed, but not registering that none turned on. 


He got to the fuse box and examined the switches. All of them were in the “on” position, including the main breaker. Swallowing, he reached up and pushed the main switch off, waited five long seconds, then pushed it back to “on”. It made a heavy thunk and all at once the entire library’s lights came on. Matthew only had time to sigh before they all turned off and he was plunged into darkness once again. Desperately, he flipped the breaker switch two more times, but none of the lights came on this time. 


Shaking, heart pounding in his ears, Matthew darted back through to the main library. Miraculously the lamp of the front desk was on! He raced over and slumped into the chair. He sighed, feeling slightly foolish for getting scared. He bent down to turn on the computer, but after jabbing the power button multiple times, he was resolving to just abandon the work and go home. But as he was sitting back up, there was another loud crash of dozens of books flying off their shelves. Then another. Matthew fell off the chair in shock as the crashes got bigger and closer. As he lay there on the floor, the lamp's light shut off and darkness swallowed him. When the echoes of the final crash fell silent, Matthew heard a set of heavy footsteps from the other side of the desk and sensed something leaning over the counter above him.

Text Copyright © Maximillion Almgren-Bersie 2023

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