Sooths From a Library Shelf

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


Contemporary Fiction

*Note: All the titles and mentioned plots in this story are made up or intended to be used fictitiously. I must have uncanny guessing powers if a matching book and plot mentioned here actually exist in the real world. Though I think that the books I’m describing would be fun to read. WINK WINK*

“You’re angry.”

The one with long dark hair, Moida, sighed, throwing a glare at her companion but not denying the statement.

“How can I not be? My parents are forcing this oh so charitable donation for the library so that I have ‘no excuse to keep wasting my life,’ and then I’ll have to go back to flattering snobby rich people.”

Moida took a book from Return Cart 2 and shoved it into my top shelf. Holding in a groan, I rocked back a little at the force but righted myself. She always did have a strong arm.

“I’m stuck between being happy that the library will get the money it needs and hating that I won’t be able to work here anymore, especially because I’m the cause of both of those.”

“That wasn’t your fault. Your dad was egging you on.”

Moida remained silent, but the force jabbing into my shelves told me that she had much more opinion than that. Return Cart 2 scooted back a little from her swinging hands and gave me a small look of fear and sympathy, so I vibrated a little to say that I was fine. Humans never could pick up on our body language.

The companion, Kifi, moved around Moida and started helping to fill the shelves on my neighbor, YA 1430. He was much slower, but that was to be expected since Moida had practically memorized the placement of every book in the library. Perhaps though, he worked slowly because he watched Moida’s rage start to simmer down as the books started to slide, rather than slam, into my shelves. Yes, she must have looked dazzling to him in the pigmented evening rays streaming from the window. Without interruption from walking visitors, the light refracted through the dust in the air, like glitter, and danced around her.

If I had to be honest, his feelings for her shone in a painfully obvious manner, but whenever the other employees teased of their relationship, he always laughed them off with a tease of his own. Kifi was Moida’s number one confidante and friend, but she more often ranted to him about her parents or school or talked about their next off day adventure—so of romantic feelings, I had no insight of them. Kifi shifted, and I was pulled out of my thoughts and the drowsy lull of my filling shelves.


She turned away from him, but his arms circled around her, and she turned back. Sounds of sniffles and hard hiccups muffled against his clothes. Return Cart 2 wiggled to see behind Kifi’s body, but I could see the wet drops darkening his shirt fabric. I slouched a bit at the sight for I never liked seeing humans cry, especially Moida. I had become fond of her over the years with her passionate enthusiasm for my home and her gentle care with the books.

Neither of them said anything until her cries quieted.

“Sorry. I just… really hate it.”

“Don’t say sorry. I’m sure it’s hard. I wish I could help but… I don't have the money to buy, like, solid gold toilet seats like that one person whose house we went to.”

“Ha, if you did, my parents wouldn’t be pulling this stunt in the first place. They want me to establish myself in higher circles—as if having money made them decent people.”

She scooted out of his space, and Kifi let go of her, though I saw how much he wanted to hold on. His mouth pressed in helplessness, and his eyes darted around, like he was trying to find something. Moida didn’t seem to notice. She stared at me, at the books in my shelves, like she wanted me to give her a solution.

But how could I help her or Kifi? I had never needed to fend off rich parents, or to hide feelings, or to reach out and help another. The furniture of the library owned an independent existence, and though we occasionally made friends and everyone knew everyone, our relationships had minimal change or effect on ourselves—unlike the lives of humans.

They clashed, blended, ignited, cooled, suffocated, and liberated. I knew this because I observed them whenever they wandered across my aisle, when their fingers and eyes brushed over my titles. Most of the other furniture didn’t bother to watch them in real life. I had once asked YA 1430 why, and the reply had been a shrug.

“Everything we need to know about them is in the books.”

I couldn’t think of a counter reason, and in the silence, YA 1430 had asked me, “Let me ask you the opposite. Why do you like to watch them when you know all you need to know about them?”

“I don’t know. They feel… alive out here.”

YA 1430 snorted, a few books in the middle pushing out of the orderly line.

“No pulp. They’re all touchy and grabby and visitors reshelf us wrong. Only the employees know how I like my books. But my point is, all the actions and thoughts that they could possibly conceive of are in the pages. What more do you need to observe?”

I once again couldn’t explain my desire to watch them in the real world. I just knew that I wanted to witness the looks in their eyes, feel the softness of their touch, hear the breath of their hushed giggles. Before I had started watching humans closely, I knew how they were in the books. I did my duty, knowing my designation, memorizing the titles and authors assigned to me, knowing the contents and characters of each page, but I did not feel for them. It was only later, when Moida started working here, that I understood why the humans in my books didn’t mean as much to me as the ones that walked down my aisle.

Both were stories filled with their own kinds of joys and frustrations, but the only story I could participate in and help those in it was the one unfolding before me.

Suddenly, I had an idea. Or maybe I had always had it and waited for the opportune time to enact it. Maybe it was selfish and meddlesome—YA 1430 might have thought so—but even my shelf supports rumbled at the thought. If we could not communicate through speech, then we could communicate through books.

The book I needed sat on my upper right, so I pulled left before snapping back. The momentum was enough, and with a bit of angling, I managed to push the book onto the floor.

The bang! in a full library would have attracted unnecessary attention but luckily only Moida and Kifi stayed to lock up. The two jumped, turning towards the sound.

“What the?” Moida maneuvered around Return Cart 2 and picked up the title. “Did this just fall off?”

“Was it the infamous library ghost?” Kifi let out a nervous laugh.

Moida didn’t reply to him and instead narrowed her eyes at the book.

‘Royal Pain in the Politics’?”

“Isn’t that about the princess who runs away and ends up queen of a swamp?”

“Yeah.” Moida gave him an eyebrow. “I’m surprised you remember what I told you about it.”

Kifi’s gaze shot to the ceiling, and his cheeks accented the pink and gold evening.

“Uh, it sounded cool. Ya know, princess finding her own path and stuff.”


I vibrated in excitement as Moida thumbed through the pages. First she needed encouragement, reassurance—and a story about a runaway princess who then takes control of her own destiny even if she returns to the royal life she ran from matched Moida’s position perfectly. The next book I needed sat in my bottom middle, but with Kifi silently flustering with himself in front of the same bay, I wouldn’t be able to get the book off.

I pleaded in my thoughts for him to move, just one or two steps to his right, but he just leaned closer and muttered himself to keep it together. I clenched my shelf brackets together, willing him to move, when another bang! sounded to my left. Moida and Kifi, and even I, rattled a bit. A book had fallen, but I hadn’t forced it off my shelf. The book laid near YA 1430‘s lower end, a love story about two shy servants.

“The humans need to clean here more. Dust irritates.”

I laughed, a tinking in my bottom shelves, at YA 1430‘s attempt at indifference, but watching humans let me observe my fellow furniture as well.

“Thank you, YA 1430.”

“Hmph. I told you that the dust was just irritating me.”

In lieu of a response, I turned to Kifi picking up the book and his cheeks outcoloring the fading evening.

“What fell?”


Moida walked over, leaning in close to look at the book in the dim lighting.

“Oh, I didn’t know you were willing to read stuff like this.”

“I wasn’t reading it! I mean, it’s cool and all, but people might get the wrong idea so not in public, because I don’t know how to handle that.”

“Because you’re a dude?”

“Yeah, and false advertising is rude and could…” He gulped as he turned and his face neared Moida’s. “mislead others.”

“So not into dudes?”

“N-Not that way.”



“Hmm. Good to know.”

Moida turned back to me just as I popped out the next book, picking it up.

“Tactics of the Dead? In this one, the main character cheats their way out of an unfair contract by God.”

“Anything you could replicate in real life? Without the exorcism and giant three-headed dog?” Kifi asked.

“You’re not seriously thinking—”

I knocked out one on my middle left and almost creaked in exclamation when Moida’s confusion turned into epiphany at the tome.

“This is about how two rival businesses band together to defeat a corporation. Oh, my pages. I know how to get out of this.”

“What? Moida, they go undercover in that one. You can’t do that with your parents.”

“Don’t have to. I just need to organize the donations primarily under my name. After all, I’m part of the Luchok family, and everything under humanities is my domain.”

She let out a victory cry, gathered all the books we had popped out, and raced towards the check-out. Despite the empty building, Kifi kept his voice a loud whisper.

“Moida, what’re you talking about?”

“I’ll explain on the way home! Are you going to check out the one you got?”

“N-No! I don’t have time to read…”

I still as another book from YA 1430‘s shelves hits the ground. Moida had flicked on a few lights, so I read the title as Kifi did.

The Confessor’s Secret

Kifi flipped it over to read the blurb, but I knew what that book was about. Return Cart 2 particularly liked that one and had told me the plot, YA 1430 occasionally adding in points during the explanation.


“Uh, I’m getting a different one.”

“What is it?”

“I’ll check it out myself!”

Dashing out of the aisle, Kifi practically shrieked when Moida reached for The Confessor’s Secret in his arms, and spun her around to check out the book for himself. They shut off the lights and left, buzzing about Moida’s new plan, walking closer than before, so that their shoulders bumped against each other’s.

I rattled out, unable to contain my joy anymore. The story before me—I helped write it. Maybe no one would ever know, but if my meddling helped Moida and Kifi, then I couldn’t find myself to worry about that.

“YA 1830, you’re so nosy,” Return Cart 2 giggled at me. “I think that came in handy this time though. And YA 1430, I didn’t think that you would help out YA 1830 and the humans like that.”

I looked over at YA 1430, also wondering the sudden change in numbering. YA 1430 shimmied up from bottom to top shelf, but that had been one of the first manners I deciphered from the older shelf, one of embarrassment, so I tried to keep the laugh out of my voice at the reply.

“It was the irritating dust, you know.”

May 01, 2021 03:50

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