Checking Out

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

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Horror Fantasy Adventure

“You can’t make me go,” pleaded Jerry, holding on to the reading table of the Northwest Library. “You can’t. You don’t understand. It’s after sunset. It’ll get me.”

“We need to close up now, Jerry,” said Sandra, the head librarian with no time for more of his foolishness. “Nothing is going to get you. You’ve been reading too much from that book.”

“No, that’s not it. I don’t think it’s stalking me because I’m reading this. I’ve been reading this because it’s been stalking me. Oh, what does it matter? You just think I’m a crazy old man.”

“Don’t take it personally. I think everyone’s crazy. Come on, let’s go.” Sandra took his elbow to urge him to stand.

Jerry reached for his cane made of rosewood, leaning on the table. “I can manage. I’m just old, not an invalid.”

“Just habit,” she said, letting him stand on his own.

Jerry hadn’t yet stood to his full height when the lights clicked off, reducing the pair to the dimming glow of sunset that trickled in from the windows.

“Damn it. Some kids must’ve hidden in here when I locked the doors.” Sandra called out, “Who’s playing with the lights?”

“It’s here,” Jerry said, ominously. “It’s found me.”

“What? No one has found you. Calm down,” she told him. “If you don’t turn those lights back on, I’m going to come back there. When I find you, I’m calling all of your parents. Do you hear me?”

They could hear the pat-pats of bare feet running over linoleum tiles.

“Those kids are going to be the death of me,” Sandra said.

Then the pat-pats came from behind them. They turned around, but only saw rows of bookshelves.

“I’m not crazy,” said Jerry, annoyed that he wasn’t being listened to. “And those aren’t kids. It’s found me. Now, we need to leave.”

“But now I can’t leave… Oh my god.”

Squatting on top of a bookshelf and watching the pair, was what could not be called a man. It was man-ish shaped, squatting down like a toad. Its elongated head was as large as its body with huge eyes of opal black on either side of its face. Its skin was red as ochre. Long fingers lined with the suckers of an octopus on the underside, wrapped around the front of the bookcase. It opened a cavernous mouth and licked its lips. Thick, sticky saliva oozed off its tongue and the corners of its mouth.

Without a word, Jerry turned and made for the doors that lead out of the library, as fast as his aging and worn-out joints would let him. But he didn’t get far when the creature leaped off of the bookshelf, passed Sandra, and onto his back. The impact knocked Jerry to the floor. Its weight pinned him down, preventing his escape. The creature wrapped its long, almost serpentine fingers around Jerry’s face and neck. He screamed as the suckers pierced his skin and began to draw blood.

“Oh my god!” exclaimed Sandra. As she watched the event, she wanted to help. But complete surprise froze her where she stood.

Jerry cried out while the thing sat on his back and drew more and more blood.

And all at once, Sandra snapped out of it and ran for Jerry’s cane. When she turned back around to face it, it had begun to swallow Jerry, as would a snake. Its enormous jaw unhinged in order to make room for Jerry’s body and pulled him in whole and head-first.

“Oh my… Jerry!” She ran over and hit the thing with the rosewood cane, as hard as she could. The cane broke in two and the creature regurgitated Jerry then ran off.

           He laid on the floor, still alive but barely breathing, and covered in slimy spit from the creature’s mouth. He mumbled something that Sandra could see was important but couldn’t hear. She reached behind the checkout counter and grabbed a roll of paper towels to clean off his face.

           “I told you,” he whispered, as she wiped. “It found me. If you don’t get out of here, it’ll take you, too.”

           “What is that thing?” she asked.

           “The aborigines of Australia call it the Yara-ma-yha-who. Once it chooses you as its prey, it will take you as its own livestock and keep feeding on you until you either die or become one of them. I picked it up when I was visiting my grandson, about a month ago. I never saw it, up in the trees like some damn monkey until it was on top of me. I’ve been hiding from it, since then.”

           “But it was trying to eat you.”

           “No, no,” Jerry said, trying to force out the words. He’d lost so much blood that talking was an effort almost beyond his strength. “It was trying to store me in its belly. It feeds on my blood with those fingers. It would’ve taken me back to its home and held me captive, feeding on me for as long as it could. Until…” He looked at her with eyes of concern for her, not realizing that they were the same black opal as the creature. “You have to get out of here. If it picks you, it’ll never stop chasing you.”

           “You are a crazy old man if you think I’m leaving you here. You’re coming with me.”

She came around and lifted up his top half, helping him to his feet. As old as he was, his frame was still heavy, and she had to use all her strength to lift him. She swung his arm around her shoulder and steadied him. Together, they limped their way for the double doors at the front of the library. Jerry barely had enough blood left in him to keep him alive, but he gave everything he could to help.

Once they stood in front of the doors, they could hear the pat-pats of bare feet, again. “He’s back,” Jerry said. “He’ll never stop hunting me. Just go.”

Sandra looked over to him and found that his skin had turned the same ochre red as the creature.

“What is it?” he asked her, clearly seeing the concern in her eyes.

“It’s nothing. Let’s just get out of here.”

“Damn it. I’m turning. Aren’t I?”

Sandra tried turning the lock, but it refused to budge as if it was welded in place. She leaned Jerry against the wall so she could use both hands, but even when she put all her weight on it, it still wouldn’t move.

“I think the lock is rusted,” she told him. But when she looked to him for a response, she found him forever silent. He had taken his last breath in the time it took her to try to open the lock. She kissed his forehead then laid him on the floor and crossed his arms over his chest. At least he was saved from the hell of becoming one of those things.

She heard the pat-pats of feet again and had a flash of an idea. Sandra quickly snuck over and grabbed her cellphone from under the counter and hid behind it.

“Hey, Sandra. What’s up?” said her boyfriend Rob when he answered.

“Rob,” she said in a hushed voice. “You have to come get me. I can’t open the door to the Library.”

“What? Did you lock yourself out?”

“No.” She took a frustrated breath and tried not to raise her voice. “I’m still inside.”

“I don’t understand. Do you need help opening the door?”

“Yes!” she tried to yell and keep her voice down. “You have to come now. I’m in danger.”

“What? What’s going on? Are you okay?”

“I’m being… Oh no.”

Sandra looked up to see the creature staring at her from on top of the counter, squatting down like a toad. Its enormous mouth hung open as it watched her with eyes of black opal. A line of thick drool fell from the corner of its mouth and swung just in front of her.

“Sandra?” asked a worried voice.

“Get here. Now!”

She dropped the phone and ran as fast as she could. The creature leaped to try to catch her, but it was too late. It just missed her and hit the wall behind her. As it shook its head to try to regain its senses, Sandra ran through the library towards the reading table and the book that Jerry had. It has to say how to kill that thing, she thought to herself. That must’ve been what he was trying to find. A way to kill it. There’s a way to kill vampires and werewolves. There has to be something.

Without stopping, she grabbed the book as she sprinted past the table and went straight into the Young Adult section, and ducked down behind one of the shelves. She quickly leafed through the pages, looking for the section on the Yara-ma-yha-who.

“Where is it?” she said to herself. And then she finally found it. A skillful illustration of the creature that stalked her in the library graced almost an entire page. She quickly scanned the text for anything that read something like, “If you should ever be chased by one of these, here is how to kill it…”

But as she read, she could hear the pat-pats of bare feet coming towards her.

“Not now. There has to be…” Drool fell on the page of the book she was reading.

She looked up and saw the creature looking back at her from on top of one of the shelves. It jumped down and she ran at full speed, leaving the book behind. She ran as fast as she could and when she came back to the double doors, her boyfriend Rob was looking at her from the other side.

He backed up and ran at the door, shoulder first. The door didn’t budge, and he cradled his shoulder with his other hand.

 He could see Sandra open her mouth to tell him something important before the creature came up from behind her and wrapped its fingers around her neck and face. She screamed in pain when its suckers pierced her skin and drank from her.

Rob picked up the trash can beside him and swung it at the glass of the door with all his strength. It just rebounded off and fell to the ground without leaving so much as a scratch. Sandra instinctively reached out to him, knowing that she couldn’t touch him behind the door. The creature kept drinking from her.

Rob shouted as loud as he could, “Stand clear of the door! I’ll be right back!” Sandra couldn’t hear him, but it didn’t matter.

He ran back to his sedan and jumped in the driver’s seat. He started the engine and released the parking brake.

Sandra collapsed on the ground. The creature squatted down by her head and began to draw her into its mouth. It inched her inside, bit by bit while she tried to struggle. But it was all in vain. All her strength left her when the thing drank her blood. The creature ignored her useless struggles and kept drawing her into its gaping mouth.

Rob drove his sedan right into the glass doors of the library, shattering it and sending shards all over the lobby. The creature brought Sandra back up and ran off as the car came crashing in.

Rob stopped the car and jumped over the hood to where Sandra lied on the carpeted floor. She was covered in the thick saliva of the beast and tried to wipe it off her face so she could breathe. Rob quickly bent down and took his shirt off to wipe it off for her.

“What the hell was that thing?” he asked in fright. He continued to wipe the goo from her face and neck.

“That was a… yara…. Something. It’s not important,” she said, drained of all her strength.

“I’ll call 9-1-1 and get you to a hospital.” He whipped out his cell phone and began to dial the numbers.

“There’s no time,” she told him, pushing away the phone. And she looked at him with eyes of black opal. 

April 30, 2021 16:36

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