Another Night in the Library of Worlds

Submitted into Contest #91 in response to: Set your story in a library, after hours.... view prompt


Funny Speculative Urban Fantasy

"It's cold tonight," Croix says into the comfortable silence of the W.A.L.T.E.R library after dark. He often came here to read or study up on the many worlds that joined together through W.A.L.T.E.R. Croix spent much of his time alone. He learned a long time ago it was safer that way. As a Ulladyrean, Croix hails from an inhospitable world, and though he's no longer there, old habits die hard.

Adalind adjusted her scarf as she read the book laid out on the desk in front of her. "What?" She looks over to Croix. They had been assigned the night shift to keep on an eye on the library. When she was first recruited, she didn't believe in other worlds, let alone a library that was at the center of them all.

"I was attempting small talk," Croix explains. He makes a gesture at his throat, indicating her scarf. "It's cold, isn't it?"

Adalind laughs softly. "Yeah, it's a little chilly in here. I can check to see if the heat's on? I don't know if they turned it off when they locked up. Sometimes they do."

"I'm all right," Croix says. He places a fingertip beneath one eye, pointing out the tell-tale reptilian slit. "I'm good with a lot."

"Right, cold, not a problem." Adalind laughs again. A gentle and soft sound. "I'll go check anyway. Want anything while I'm up there?" The W.A.L.T.E.R library had two floors of books and then a top floor used for book readings.

"A bottled water, if there's any left?" Croix asks hopefully.

"On it," Adalind calls. She makes her way to find the ac and turns it so it wouldn't be so cool. She rubs at her arms and is on her way to get two bottled waters when she spots a staff on the floor. The staff was near the Erealle aisle. "What's this about?" She makes her way to it and picks it up carefully. Every good librarian knows to be extra careful with the objects and the books. "Croix! Can you come up here a minute?"

Croix was on his feet and running for the stairs in an instant. "What is it?" He asks, head swiveling like a dog on the hunt as he searches for something to fight.

"There was a staff on the floor..." Adalind look around the aisle. "Do you see anything off?"

Croix strides alongside the stacks. "Nothing else is amiss," he says, returning to her.

She places the staff back on its shelf. "You don't think... Maybe it wasn't put back all the way after the Agents made it back?"

"Doubtful," Croix says with reluctance. "Inappropriate handling of artifacts is a demoting offense."

Adalind had a strange feeling nagging at her. "I don't know... Something just doesn't feel right."

"I feel prickly," Croix says, staring at the staff. It was a feeling akin to the hair standing up on the back of his neck, only it was all over.

A sudden brush of wind goes past her calves. She falls forward and is thankfully caught by Croix. "... I have a bad feeling something got out."

The lights directly above them explode. "I'd say you're right," Croix says, hastily righting them after the dive out of the way.

"Great." She sighs. "You get the gun, I'll get the net." She pats his chest before stepping around him to find where they last put the net. It always seemed to be in a different place after creatures got loose.

Croix wordlessly makes for the small hall leading to this floor's staff room. His chest feels strangely warm as he opens the vault and retrieves the gun and ammo. He returns to Adalind's side as the lights come back on. "It appears we're being toyed with."

"Must be a trickster... I'll get the Erealle world book," she says. After she gets the net. Adalind has to get on a stool to get the net from the top shelf in the Uryall aisle. "Oh no..." The stool she stands on falls out from under her, and she screams as she goes falling.

As Croix runs to catch her, his feet are knocked out from under him. He falls flat on his stomach, and an instant later, Adalind falls on him. "This trickster has it out for you," he wheezes.

"It would appear so..." Adalind rolls off his back. "Are you okay??" She puts a hand to his back.

"I lost the gun," Croix says, sitting up with Adalind's help. "I'll be all right," he adds, noting the look on her face. He offers her his arm. "Tough skin."

She takes his arm. "Still..." Adalind picks up the net. "I'll get the book." she watches him go and sets off down the aisle, net raised high, in search of the world book.

The gun should have been nearby, but it was in none of the obvious places. Croix considers the dangers this might pose. Only W.A.L.T.E.R agents or librarians should be able to handle the weaponry. That was the general rule, but Croix wouldn't be surprised if this trickster found a way around that, though.

Adalind hears snickering echoing around her. "Whatever you are, you have come to the wrong place!" she calls.

"No," a disembodied voice says. "I'm right where I want to be!"

"Oh great," Croix says sarcastically. "It talks."

"Just what we need," Adalind grumbles. She keeps on alert as she steps through the aisle. "You won't be able to leave the building, you know? It's warded."

"Why would I want to leave?" the voice asks.

"Why did you come here in the first place?" Croix asks, joining Adalind.

"It does seem to be rather foolish on your part," Adalind says. She nods for Croix to head toward the right while she went toward the left.

"Have you ever been trapped?" The voice asks, a few inches lower than a moment before.

Croix soundlessly circles to the right. As he gets into position, he spots the gun beneath a study desk at the end of the aisle.

"Actually, yes," Adalind says. She gestures for him to wait on her signal. She could feel a tingling in her temples that told her it was closer than she'd like. If she was a trickster, there's only one place she would be. Closing her eyes, she eases her breathe and waits. The second she feels the rush of air at her skin, she strikes out with the net.

Croix takes the opportunity to dive for the gun. He sets it to sleep and fires it into the thrashing net. The trickster screams, outraged, then falls silent. "I didn't kill it," Croix says into the silence. He stands and sets the gun's safety back on.

"Tricksters are hard to kill." Adalind sighs. "And to catch. Even with sensing." She removes her scarf and drops it onto the floor before the little demon had any ideas about choking her with it.

"Let's stuff it in the vault and leave it for the morning shift," Croix suggests.

Adalind eyes the net. "Good idea. They can deal with it." She leads the march to the vault. He opens the door, and she tosses the trickster into the warded room. She yanks the net back in time for Croix's to close the door. "Just another night at the library."

Croix glances at the wall clock. "And there are hours left yet till morning."

April 28, 2021 20:40

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