There was an eagerness in the air and the shadows; a specific eagerness that hovered just near enough the doors as if to kindly usher out the last folk as the library closed.
A sunny, summer twilight softened the sky and those very shadows near the doors deepened and shifted, taking a form that was good at seeming human and bore a happy, gleeful look.
Leaola skipped forward with a squeak, flinging out her hands and arms to take in her surroundings. This was her favourite time.
A beautiful day of kind-hearted people had filled her home and she was free to roam, contentedly performing her tasks at her own pace, the functions of a demi-muse.
Born from the passion, the need to inspire at the heart of all humans, demi-muse like Leaola existed to prolong and protect that divine spark. They connected those with a special kind of genius to the things that would inspire them. As for Leaola, haunts like these had always been her favourite. Vast stores of human knowledge and creativity dating back even to the greatest in the city of Alexandria.
She let her mind drift until she began to feel a slight glimmer, a pull and sense of recognition emanating from an aisle to her right. She followed it.
It grew stronger until she could sense its source, pulsing from a slim volume tucked neatly on its shelf. She held it across her palms and opened her senses to find its match, the person who needed it. Leaola saw him vividly, a young boy frowning over a multitude of books and papers in what was clearly his bedroom at home.
She bowed her head over the volume in her hands, sensing the need and gauging if the time was right for it to be fulfilled. It was, very.
She rolled her shoulders to gather her focus and levitated the book in front of her, concentrating on the blond, bespectacled boy. The book revolved slowly, gaining a distinct glow that surged brighter and brighter until it was blinding, then abruptly vanished. She returned the book to its place, knowing he would come for it.
This was her process and Leaola followed it through with one book after another as they called to her. She would know. She would see their faces light up as her charges found the keys to their imagination. Or she would feel the connection dissipate if they turned away from them, only for her to try again. One way or another, she would bring them to their match.
Leaola’s quiet and focus was broken by the ruffle and thud of a falling book, of many falling books. She closed her eyes and sighed through her nose. She listened carefully, hoping she could be wrong. The dull creak of an ancient book cart’s wheels announced that she wasn’t.
Leaola turned in time to see the cart roll, seemingly of its own accord, from behind the book stacks, and to see the figure perched on top of it.
Leaola cocked her hip and leaned lightly against the shelf, offering Krasa a flat look.
Krasa flashed her a scrunched up, nauseatingly forced grin and wiggled her fingers in greeting. Leaola waited, saying nothing.
“Well don’t look too happy to see me,” Krasa pouted.
Leaola spoke at last. “I’m not.”
Dread dampened her tone and anxiety stiffened her shoulders. Not all passions that demi-muse were born from were good, and not all were born whole.
It was possible, just, that if an idea or a desire was strong enough and was aborted or crushed violently, the result was something like what had just shown up in front of her.
“I’d just like to know what brings you here.” She hesitated. “Please.”
“Ooooh!” Krasa squealed, flinging out both arms and calling a fresh rain of books down from the shelves. “Manners!”
Leaola sighed again. No night was a good night for tussling with a demi-muse gone sour, and Krasa had gained a particular reputation early in her existence. Still, she had to try.
“Was there something you wanted?"
Krasa rose from her seat atop the book cart and paced away from Leaola, taking in her surroundings and telekinetically flinging books and anything else in sight as she passed.
The cartridge of toner in a printer exploded, causing Leaola to jump. Dark ink splattered from inside the machine. Finally, Krasa rounded on Leaola, a bitter expression twisting her features.
Her coarse, nearly black hair flew loosely around a young, heart-shaped face whose features were still soft with youth. Eyes of a pure, deep brown glinted back at Leaola's hazel, challenging her.
“You’ve had a good run here,” she announced, planting her feet. “This place is small and stale but some of us aren't even that lucky, left to wander homeless for eons.” She held Leaola's gaze. “You're out and I'm moving in.”
Leaola shook her head, toffee-coloured curls swaying. “Not going to happen. Not on your say-so.”
Krasa affected a resigned attitude. “Okay then, if that’s how you want it.”
She surged past Leaola and levitated toward the ceiling, overturning furniture in all directions and ripping out light fixtures in a telekinetic storm.
Leaola called frantically for her to stop and the destruction raged on. She ran to stand below her, pleading. She tried with her own strength to quell Krasa’s power, but that was like attempting to force the direction of the wind to change.
Finally, she plucked up a bulky, multi-line phone unit and hurled it, striking Krasa in the stomach hard enough to break her concentration. Her yelp was proceeded by a profound crash as the phone dropped to the floor.
Krasa drifted down, settling on top of the librarian’s desk and folding her arms. A dense fog fueled by her fury exuded from her. It flowed outward to permeate the area with a foul, bitter psychic sent. Leaola stared her down.
“I’m not leaving.”
Krasa attempted rise but Leaola caught her in a psychic hold and was unrelenting.
“I’m not leaving,” she repeated. “And I won’t be forced out.”
She had Krasa’s attention so she eased her hold a fraction. That fraction was all Krasa needed. She launched herself from the desk and flew across the main space of the library floor, halting at the far end... near the boiler room.
Leaola surged in Krasa’s wake, too slow. The door was thrown open and Krasa hovered there, surveying the works of the heating system and eyeing the gas line and pilot light.
Choked by her pacifism, Leaola fumed. She couldn't match the unchecked force of Krasa’s rage. It just wasn’t part of what she was. Frustrated tears stung her eyes when she pictured this place in flames and smoke. Her mind desperately grasped for an answer but none came and panic swamped her.
The pilot light puffed out and the casing of the gas outlet on the furnace sprang apart with a crunch. Fumes hit the air in an instant, potent and destructive.
Leaola eased back, letting go of some of her corporeal form to focus that energy inward. Krasa turned, seeing Leaola as little more than a shade in the air, just clear enough to make out the blurred image of her clenched fist rise and spread it’s fingers.
Nothing was audible but the faint hiss of gas pouring into the room. The twilight deepened and dimmed everything around them, leaching all colour away.
One moment after another passed with Krasa watching in silence as Leaola remained in a kind of serene stasis. Slowly, Leaola doubled and redoubled her focus until she gasped and a silver light sprang into being above her.
She cocked her head, listening with satisfaction to the strains of music that were emanating from the light. Despite herself, Krasa leaned forward, every line of her being tight with suspicion.
“What is it?”
“You should know,” Leaola quipped. “It’s yours.”
“It’s yours,” she repeated, growing corporeal once more. “It’s your… source, the unfulfilled idea you should have been born from if it hadn’t been crushed."
Krasa was mystified, her eyes growing wide and shining. “You can do that? For one of us?”
Leaola rubbed a hand across her face, grimacing. “Not easily. But listen, this is you Krasa.” The music grew louder, an elegant shape of interwoven melodies. Krasa leaned back, uncertain.
“Why? What’s this about?
Leaola said simply, “Just take hold of it. I see the faces of the people I help. I know their names and see what’s ignited in them when they've connected with who they are. I can do this for you."
“Why? What if I don’t want it?”
Leaola played her only gambit coolly and shrugged. “That’s your choice.”
Tears flowed openly from Krasa’s eyes as she stepped forward, her bravado and defenses ebbing away. She stepped forward again until she was standing below the silver glow, still radiating the strains of song that drew Krasa closer.
At the first touch of light against Krasa’s face, it exploded outward and cascaded over her, scintillating and brilliant. It faded gently.
When the library was quiet and dim once more, Leaola gave Krasa a nudge. “So? What does it feel like?”
Wordless, numb, Krasa extended a hand toward the boiler and resealed the outlet, closing off the leak. She looked upward, outward.
“I don’t really have words, except thank you. I can’t begin to apologize just… thank you.” A complex mixture of lightness and wholeness settled over her. “Someday, can I come back?”
“Mmhmm.” Her mouth quirked into a wry twist. ”To visit.”
Krasa scoffed, still distracted by the new music and the new piece of herself that she had found.
She gave Leaola a last look of thanks before allowing her corporeal form to fade, leaving Leaola in the dark, deserted space and suddenly lonelier than she expected to feel.
Wandering over to the large windows, Leaola gazed out to the glittering night sky and allowed herself a few moments to absorb the events of the evening.
What she had done for Krasa would drain her for quite some time. It was rare and always a risk for beings like them to tap into so much of the force of their creation.
Really, she had only been the conduit. The choice of whether the part of her source that made Krasa whole was offered to her was decided by something much bigger than Leaola.
She would never know why that offer was made, but that was alright. She had her home and she had the people she helped. It was enough.
Dawn was breaking through the clouds as the librarian fumbled with her keys to open the door. She entered to find everything clean and in its place, ready to welcome a new day.