It was way past midnight. I looked around me. I could see rows of empty chairs in the massive hall of the library, and it gave me a spooky feeling to know that except for me no one else was present.
I was a regular member of this library especially during my exams. It was the oldest library in the town, and contained more than thousands books on shelves, that rose from the floor to ceiling.
Being faraway from town, it was less frequented by the students.
I lived in another part of the town, but preferred this library because it had all the books related to my subjects and a perfect ambiance.
The library was open for students from 7am to 9pm.
This particular morning I had reached the library by 10am, and remained engrossed in my studies till noon, I took a ten-minute lunch break, and returned to my books.
Around 5pm. a cold gust of wind started blowing in from the huge windows.
I heard one of the students say something about the possibility of a blizzard.
They were just a handful of students present, who lived nearby, and they decided to go home, before the blizzard got any worse.
I sat there wondering what to do, since I lived some distance away from the library and it would be foolish and risky to drive in the blizzard with slippery roads and zero visibility.
I looked out of the window, and saw fine snow blowing all around with great speed, knocking down everything that came its way.
Suddenly the speakers crackled, and an announcement was made, "Because of weather conditions, students who live far away are welcome to spend the night in the library."
I called up my parents to inform them, that I would be spending the night at the library and would return home as soon as the blizzard subsided.
I settled myself in a large chair preparing to spend the night in the library. Around 9pm, a guard came in for his round of inspection. He went around the massive hall, nodded at me and left.
My legs had become stiff due to lack of movement, and I decided to take a walk around the hall to flex my limbs.
There was a coffee vending machine at the far end of the hall and I went to fetch a cup.
As I reached there a movement caught my eye, a man was bending down to pick up something from the floor. I was surprised, as I thought I was the only one in the library, if not for the movement, I wouldn't have noticed him.
He was almost hidden by the large bookshelf. His face was covered by huge glasses, and his unruly, curly tresses were trying to escape from a large cap.
I hadn't seen him enter the library.
I was sitting right opposite the entrance, and wouldn't have missed anyone come in through the front door. He was not there when the guard had come in for his round of inspection around 9pm, and must have arrived after that.
As I approached him, I saw him looking intently at a road map, spread out on the table before him.
"Hello there", I called out to him.
He gave a start, as he looked up from his map.
"Relax, I'm not a 'ghost," I said.
"Oh, Hi, ! I thought I was the only one here" he said.
"I too thought I was alone here, as I didn't see you enter the library."
He didn't say anything.
"May I join you?" I asked.
I felt his hesitation, but he said, "Please do,"
"I'm Ann Porter," I said, extending my hand.
"I'm Nick "he said, shaking my hand
I noticed he had amazing blue eyes, and I was mesmerized by them.
"Are you a regular here?, I have never seen you before, as I come here often" I said,
"I am a Resident doctor at the Edward Memorial Hospital and I'm studying for my master's, so I come here whenever I get time" he said.
"I will be graduating in computer science, and my exams are next month, so I practically live here," I informed him.
"Oh, that's nice to know, I wish you luck for your exams."
"Thanks Nick " I blushed, I could feel his piercing blue eyes looking deeply into mine.
I guessed he was in his late thirties, tall and lanky. He was wearing a long woolen coat which was buttoned - up to his chin.
"Actually, I came here to get some coffee,would you like some?". I asked him.
"No thanks," I avoid beverages as much as possible".
He opened his bag and took out a chocolate bar.
"I am addicted to chocolates, and always keep a few in my bag, They are quite handy, here help yourself, he said.
It was 'Golden Pops' my favorite chocolate. I loved it, there was always some prediction, written on the inside of the wrapper.
"These are my favorites" I told him. "The wrapper has a prediction written on it which always turns out true for me."
"Oh is it? I never noticed it ,"
"That's surprising, everyone knows about them," I told him.
He just shrugged his shoulders in reply.
I opened my wrapper and read aloud what was written on it.
"Beware of strangers." I looked at him and we both smiled.
"Actually, that's my chocolate so I should be on my guard," he said in good humor.
"Do you like being a doctor?" I asked him changing the topic.
"Yes, absolutely , it is my passion, and my childhood dream., both my parents were doctors, sadly though, I lost them few years ago in an accident. I love saving lives".
"What a noble thought" I said liking him more, every second..
What about you? What are your dreams? he asked looking intently at me .
"Well, my dreams are very simple, I'm not very ambitious, after graduating I want to find a good job, I may go on a world tour, traveling is my biggest hobby and passion".
"That's very nice, I'm sure you will achieve your dreams.,he said with an endearing smile" which melted my heart.
We chatted for sometime talking about books, movies, music etc.
Actually being a shy person, I don't open up easily with strangers, but with Nick it was a different feeling, as though I had known him for many years. Some people have the knack of making others comfortable, and Nick was one of them.
I glanced at the clock it was 3am. We had been chatting for nearly an hour, and I felt guilty for keeping him away from his studies.
"I'm sorry to keep you away from your books".I apologized.
"No issues Ann, but I want to get back to what I was doing. I guess we both are stuck up here till the storm blows away its impossible to get out now.
"True, I'm just desperate to go home, I have my car if you need a ride let me know,
He gave me a thumbs -up sign, and went back to his road map.
I returned to my seat, to the other end of hall. I tried to read. but couldn't concentrate, I was thinking of Nick and our conversation.
After some time I started feeling drowsy, I laid my head on the table and thought about taking a short nap.
I glanced outside the window the blizzard had lost its fury, and had started ebbing, but it was still dangerous to venture out.
I planned to leave the library by 5am. By that time hopefully everything would be clear.I would offer Nick a ride and then it was up to him if wants to accept or no.
" Hello Miss! Wake-up! " I heard someone calling out to me, and woke up with a jolt.
It was the security guard.
"It's 6am Miss, the blizzard has subsided, you need to get home"
I was wide awake now, I got up and went to the far end of the room to look for Nick, but his seat was empty .
Nick had left already, maybe he didn't want to disturb me I thought.
"When did the other guy leave?".I asked the guard who was observing me curiously.
He looked perplexed.
"Whom are you referring to Miss?"
"The man who was sitting at the far end of the library ,wearing a long coat."
"When I came in for my last inspection at 9pm , you were alone, and no one has entered the library since then". He said.
I tried to keep the irritation out of my voice, and explained to him as calmly as possible.
"A man was sitting at the far end of the hall. I spoke to him, in fact we chatted for nearly an hour. He was wearing glasses and a cap. I think you must not have seen him enter the library"
"Miss I was awake all the while, and sitting right next to the entrance door. I couldn't have missed him, if he entered through the front door. I don't think anyone in their right mind would have ventured out in the blizzard
You look very tired Miss, it's best you go home and take some rest".
I was too sleepy and tired to argue with the guard.I picked up my bag, and left the library.
There was snow everywhere and the weather was very cold. Many trees were uprooted and lying by the side of the road.
I carefully drove through the slippery road.
Throughout the drive I kept thinking of Nick, and felt disappointed, that I couldn't meet him before he left the library. But what confused me most was the guard saying, he didn't see anyone enter or leave, how was it possible for Nick to leave and enter the library without the guard noticing him?.
I had forgotten to ask the guard, if there was a rear entrance to the library.
Nothing made sense , was it possible that I had been hallucinating and imagined the whole thing?, however, I had been sitting in the library from yesterday morning, exhausted, stressed out and hungry.
My phone rang and it was my Mom inquiring about my whereabouts.
I assured her that I would be home in no time.
As I put the phone in my bag, a piece of paper popped out of my bag. I picked it up.
It was the wrapper of 'Golden Pops',I turned it around, and saw the words 'Beware of strangers' on it.. I knew then, I had not imagined anything, I did meet Nick, and the proof lay in my hand.
I turned my car towards 'Edward Memorial hospital'.
It was a small two -storey hospital in a nice neighborhood.
There was lot of activity going there, doctors and nurses were hurrying about, it looked like they were in a midst of some emergency.
I managed to reach the reception desk, and found the receptionist busy on the phone. It was a whole ten minutes before she could attend to me
"May I help you ?" She asked giving me a tired smile.
"I was looking for a Dr.Nick who works as a Resident doctor here."
"I'm sorry Miss, we have only four Resident doctors here, three are females and one male, his name is Dr Timothy."
I was getting anxious now, and desperately wanted to find out about Nick.
" I'm sorry to bother you but do you have any doctors by the name of Nick here? "
She typed the name on her computer searching for Dr Nick,she looked at me and shook her head, before I could say anything, her phone rang and she got busy again.
I left the hospital with mixed feelings. I was sure that I had met a man in the library but who was he? and why did he lie about himself?.
I started developing a splitting headache, as I pondered over those questions. I just wanted to crawl into my bed, and sleep.
I entered home, and was sorrounded by the aroma of fresh coffee and pancakes, the family's favorite breakfast.
Mom was busy in the kitchen, and Dad was glued to the television, watching the morning news. He didn't notice me, as I entered the living room.
"What's the breaking news dad, anything interesting?" I asked him.
"Oh yes dear!" he exclaimed, his face was lit with excitement.
"It seemed last night as the blizzard was blowing, a dangerous serial killer named 'Nicholas Burns' broke away the security cordon and 'escaped from Edward Memorial Hospital, where he was undergoing treatment.
There is a massive operation launched to hunt him down. They are flashing his pictures all over the television channels".
I looked at the Television screen and saw a familiar pair of 'blue eyes' staring, right back at me.