The Library Tonight

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

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East Asian Fiction

It was 11 p.m. and the doors were closed. The lights everywhere were off, letting the shadows take over the night.

A cold air hung over the place, still like the silence. The months neared winter— and with each day, the nights grew colder, the air almost seeming to hold the hints of the winter frost in its breath. Now, the library almost seemed like a place forgotten by time, and in the darkness it felt, in all its silence and stillness, like a place shivering in the cold, hiding in the darkness, hoping that someone wouldn’t find it…

The silence and unmoving feel of the place almost seemed suffocating— the books were tucked still in their shelves, with each row, standing tall, moving not even an inch. The reception in front had sheets of some forms strewn about over its desk, yet they laid still, without a wind to blow them off the edge into disarray. The little office chairs were left there too— as if it were a forgotten star left to die nameless in the sky— left as if the world within these walls were, out of a sudden spur, suddenly detached from the tracks of time; the people who were once here all vanishing in the instant, leaving everything still and plunging it into darkness.

With every inch of the building inside cloaked in the nightly dark, the dark watery blue of the moon coming in through the windows…

Except for the one table in the reading section, the place tucked away as if it were a secret hushed to the darkness— and there, sitting all on her own with the little desk-lamp on, Miyuki sat reading a book.

She was reading Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, her eyes focused and, somehow, twinkling in some faint way. Her little lips moved softly, as if they were whispering a secret, as she read the passages of dialogue written upon the pages…

Usually, she’d be here reading other things like psychology, history, or even something like math or quantum physics if she had the itch to. But usually she'd read novels, namely those by Natsume Soseki, Yasunari Kawabata, or Kenzaburo Oe; her favorites being Kawabata’s Snow Country, Soseki’s Kokoro and Botchan, and Oe’s The Changeling and A Personal Matter.

She didn’t usually read Murakami’s works— though she did love Norwegian Wood and After Dark— but tonight she felt tired, her mind feeling a little numb and, in some way, feeling as if her mind’s gear failed, or wished not, to budge in thought.

And she remembered how simple she found Murakami’s prose, so she decided to continue with Kafka on the Shore.

She worked here as an assistant, in a way, and she lived here as well, living in the little office at the back from the reading area— sleeping on a little mattress in the corner, her blanket pulled up to her nose, eyes blissfully shut tight. She had been living here for a month now, well, nearing a month— she was given this room by the librarian, whom she was a close with.

The month before, her parents had both died in an accident— both dying in the ambulance on the way to the hospital after getting hit by a truck, an eighteen wheeler, whose brakes proved to be nothing as the wheels glided over the water, ramming into them head-on. The incident entered the news and was widely publicized, but it didn’t help that the reporters simply wanted to pry the grieving daughter just for their article or news report.

She hated that the most; how insensitive they were…

Now, living here, she felt far more at peace, and she’s able to go through book after book just to stop thinking of it all— whenever grief strikes, she’d always turn to books, to simply cram her head full of knowledge…

Eventually, she finished the chapter and shut the book close. Shutting her eyes, she leaned back and yawned as she stretched away her fatigue.

It almost 12 p.m. by now, and she should be getting to bed— tomorrow’s Monday anyway, she’d have to get ready for school; and tomorrow’s English first, a language she had never learned until entering junior high two years ago.

She should be sleeping, yet at the moment, sitting there before the book, staring at it, she couldn’t.

It wasn’t that the chapter surprised her, she was rarely surprised by books, no matter how skillful the twist was— it was just that the book made her think.

It was the chapter where the feminists enter the Komura private library and began arguing with the character Oshima, who turned out to be a girl.

But what made her think wasn’t the matter about Oshima, it was idea of hollow people, those who lack imagination, those who fill up that lack with toxicity.

Miyuki crossed her arms and lowered her head, letting herself go off and drift away into thought— forgetting of the book itself now as she wandered…

Those people— whether extreme feminists, or nationalists, flat earthers, white supremacists, racists, or even those who look at something and simply dismisses it as ‘weird’ or ‘illogical’ or ‘stupid,’ or anyone toxic in general for whatever reason— are simply those without imagination, those who fill in that void within themselves, that which they lack, with the meaningless straws of toxicity to fuel their biases, leading them high into the extremes, leading them to scream and yell all the toxic and mean words they need to make people do what they want.

Those people, those who don’t wish to admit when they are wrong, those who would say simply anything and truly anything just to make themselves right whilst screaming ‘you’re wrong!!’ at everyone who dares criticize them.

Those people, with such high levels of confidence and belief in whatever their biased ‘truth’ is, with such high egos enough to fuel their ignorance, are simply those who lack the imagination, instead filling it all up with the toxicity she hates.

She herself was a writer, one who started loving the craft since she was little, yet she could never muster up the confidence in her own words. She’s easily knocked down into a spiral of self-doubt at any criticism, no matter how little— so much so that she wished she could have a quarter of the confidence those men on television have, so fueled that they still believe they are right no matter how wrong.

Everyone clings onto something, some belief, something besides God if they believe so— and once they do find that belief, those who lack imagination, those who lack the power to admit, would go on fueling their belief and bias, on and on, until the end of time unless they find themselves crashing to the ground before the end…

At that point, Miyuki found that her musings had gone into such a dangerous point— that she had thought so much, and probably so harshly, to a near, and probably even overly, socially enraging point.

One shouldn’t say such things

Thinking that, she shook her head, trying to dismiss everything in her mind, trying to forget it all. But then…

Ka-thnn…!!

Hh-!?

A sound, a muffled thud, echoed in the silence…

Pulling out her phone, she tapped an icon, turning on her flashlight as she went to check it out…

A ghost…?

At the thought, she shook her head and ventured on, hearing other sounds; subtle ones, those sounding as if there were something lurking in the shadows…

Then, turning a corner around a shelf— she shined her light and found a cat pawing at a book, another one fallen beside it.

The moment she found it, the cat looked up and met her gaze.

Meow?

It seemed to say, its small voice sounding in echo through the silence.

Finding it, Miyuki smiled, “You must’ve came in before I closed the doors, huh?”

Saying that, she giggled to herself and neared the cat, bending next to it then rubbing its head. She could hear its purr.

It was just the two of them, there in the silence, and so, after spending a short moment together, she held the cat up and said, a smile on her lips,

“Let’s go, it’s time for bed.”

April 25, 2021 15:00

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