Markus and a Billion and One Stories

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

0 comments

Fantasy Funny Happy

After all was said and done, Princess Amelie had an abundance of fond memories, memories of adventures she’d never forget.

The End.

What ensued next was nothing more than a pit of darkness for our dear friend Amelie. As the pages closed shut, it would be a while before they’d be opened again. It would be a while before new hands would clean the dust off the leather cover. A while before, new minds would breathe life into the young and audacious heroine once more.

Needless to say, The End would be the last words she was to hear for a while.

“Marie, let’s go; the library is closing.” A mother pulled a petite gold-haired girl alongside her as she dropped the book on the ground with an audible thump. “We can come back tomorrow and pick you out a new one.”

“I don’t want a new one!”

As the patrons and regulars filed out of the building one by one, one individual remained. Markus, the janitor, who liked to double as the library's tenant on lonely nights he didn’t want to go home. 72, never married and with no children, it wasn’t a wonder he chose to keep working well past retirement.

The library was dead quiet on its own - as one should be. The librarian, Mrs. Adler, was able to keep it that way thanks to her squinty eyes accompanied by her disapproving stares. Despite Mrs. Adler’s love to exercise her power over anything and anyone that dared blink too loud, both when it was and wasn’t necessary, the library was never as quiet as it was after hours. Scary quiet*. Being a repurposed old church, the elements of gothic architecture also certainly lent a hand in emulating this mysterious and eerie aura. Talk of ghosts and hauntings weren’t so rare - fans of literature and their crazy imaginations. Markus must’ve felt like Quasimodo every night when the library closed. The only thing missing was a few stone gargoyles to keep him company.

But don’t worry too much about him. He found ways to preoccupy himself that kept him far from being alone. The eerie setting could only be offset by the enormous stained glass windows. Outside of which, birds chirped loudly, recounting the stories of where they’d been and what they’d seen on this warm summer mid-June day. Markus observed the natural light that scaled the tall interior walls of the library - reaching high into the heavens and ending in a pointed arch. He slumped back in a large armoire, closed his eyes, and dozed off as the colourful lights danced along his temple and brow, tracing the folds of his wrinkled skin.

It would be a while before the sun would finally set; he needed his rest, for he would be there all night. And what a long night it would be.

———————

The End? What does she mean by the end?

What’s happened to me? I can’t see anything. I can’t feel anything.

Am I dead?

No, I can’t be dead.

Would I even know at all?

The End? Were those the last words I’d ever hear?

No, I think I hear something.

Amelie’s eyes fluttered open.

The delicate princess fumbled out of her pages into a new and unfamiliar world—tall pillars tracings long intercrossing pathways much like a maze.

The picture I am about to paint for you now can only be found deep in our childhood imaginations - something straight out of a Hans Christian Anderson novel. And well, funnily enough, that’s exactly where this little scene came from.

A shinning pond, with mermaids brushing their golden long hair, as pixies and fairies of all sorts flew in circles, filling the air with their glittering dust. Flowers, dozens of them along the shore, where a tiny girl could be seen emerging from a blooming red tulip. Amelie let out a loud gasp as she took in her surroundings. If she had died and gone to heaven as she’d suspected, she wasn’t one bit angry about it. This place, whatever it was, was beautiful, magical, and nothing like she’d ever seen before.

She began to make her way through the maze, taking in all the beauties of the vicinity. Suddenly she heard a galloping sound. A handsome, charming prince on a white horse, she thought to herself, yes, that would make this place complete. Every beautiful, magical universe needed a prince, after all. As the galloping got closer and louder, she looked up in terror. If it was a prince, he was neither handsome nor charming, as he had no head.

The princess let out a shriek and ran to a different aisle. This one was a lot plainer, and frankly, much more boring. In the classical fiction section, a conversation could be overheard.

“He’s such a slow reader!” Edmond Dantés exclaimed.

“He’s only 14,” responded Mercedes.

“I don’t care. I’ve been underwater for a day and a half! Someone should tell him to pick a book with pictures next time. Why he’s no older than that Tom Sawyer.” snarled the Count as two boys, Tom and Huck, chased each other through the aisle, bumping into anything and everything. That anything and everything happened to be Amelie. “Looks like we have a new one!” Huckleberry Finn chuckled as he helped Amelie off the ground.

All eyes were on her.

“I don’t understand. Where am I? What is this place? Am I dead? ” exclaimed Amelie frantically.

Someone scoffed loudly. “Can’t be dead if you were never alive in the first place! No, this is a fate much worse than death. Neverending suffering is what this is.”

“Oh, shut up, Dorian.”

Amelie saw a pretty tall brunette smiling at her. “I’m Jo March. These are my three sisters,” she said, pointing to three young girls who waved back at her. “As for him,” she said, gesturing to Dorian, “he sold his soul” she glared at him, “if you were scared of never-ending suffering, you should’ve thought of that before.”

Dorian Gray rolled his eyes in response.

“What does he mean by never alive in the first place?”

Another woman approached Amelie, this time a beautiful blonde. “Well, we are only figments of imaginations! You must know that surely. What’s your name?”

“Amelie.”

“Amelie,” The woman snarled, “what a pretentious name.”

“Better than Zelda,” said a tan brooding man emerging from a dark corner.

“Jay Gatsby, shut your mouth and remember who you’re talking to. If it weren’t for my husband, you wouldn’t be here.”

“Yes, when he wasn’t busy drinking, he did write excellent characters,” Gatsby remarked with a sly grin. Zelda Fitzgerald’s eyes widened in anger as she took a step closer to him, her hand clenched in a fist. “Now, now, calm down. You’re just angry he loved me more than you,” he said, shuffling away.

“Enough, you two.” said a young plain-looking girl, no older than her early twenties. “You’re beginning to sound like the French couple.”

Jane Eyre pointed to a shelf in the distance where a young couple was arguing. And although princess Amelie didn’t understand a word, flailing hands and feet did much to help her comprehend the grievous tone of the lover's quarrel. The group looked on as three men tried to pry the couple apart.

“Cosette, Marius, S’il vous plaît, ça souffit!”

“It is no use, D’Artagnan. Perhaps we should let them tire themselves out,” said Artemis.

“I say kill her, Marius!” Said a drunk Athos, “Artemis be a dear and help the petit graçon, give him your sword.”

Yes, Milady had done quite a number on him. “If I were married, I’d be Les Miserables too! The whole lot of them!” He exclaimed.

“What more can we expect from the French?” Dorian said, monitoring the spectacle in disgust.

The group began to chat once more as if nothing out of the ordinary transpired, seemingly forgetting Amelie was there at all.

“If I’m not dead,” she finally interrupted. “What is this place?”

Jane and Zelda laughed. “It’s a library, my dear.”

“When people come here and pick up our books, we come alive.” Explained Jo. “Then when they are done with us, they bring us back here, and until the books are opened again, we cease to exist,” she said matter of factly, “and so on.”

“Yes, and many of us who are forgotten don’t get to see the light of day much. Look at poor Winston over there! He hasn’t been taken out in months!” Said Gatsby pointing to an older man sat in a corner, muttering to himself with his head slumped in his palms. “I love Big Brother, I love Big Brother,” he repeated over and over.

Gatsby lowered his voice “frankly, I think he’s gone a bit mad.”

“What’s your story, dear?” Interrupted, Zelda smiling at Amelie.

“I-I’m a Princess,” she responded shyly.

“A Princess? You mean like the ones who live in fancy castles and talk to woodland creatures?” As cliché as this sounded, this was precisely the type of Princess Amelie was.

“I could’ve told you that from the first moment I laid eyes on her! Isn’t it obvious?” scoffed a tall, lanky man with a rich London accent. “Sherlock Holmes, a pleasure to make your acquaintance, your highness,” he said, taking Amelie’s dainty hand in his own and planting on it a kiss.

“You’ve wandered quite far from the fairytale aisle.” Said the Count of Monte Cristo.

“See, why can’t his mother take him there next time. I’m sure her book has plenty of pictures!” He shouted across the room at his wife. Mercedes rolled her eyes.

“How is it then that we are all alive now? Outside of our stories?” Asked Amelie.

“There’s a man who works here, Markus,” explained Jane. “Every night when the lights go out, and everyone’s gone home, he lets us come out of our books. Here we are free to wander the aisles all night until the sun rises in the morning. Then we return to our shelves, and well, back to our slumber. We are like vampires.” She laughed

A man with black slicked-back hair and pointed teeth groaned. “Yes, wouldn’t you like that.”

“Don’t listen to him.” Said Edmond, “he’s just mad he’s no longer the only Count here. Isn’t that right, Drac?” The man let out a hiss before transforming into a hideous bat and flying towards the roof of the library.

“Don’t worry, you’ll learn to like it. Appreciate it even!” Said Jane as she noticed Amelie’s expression grow wary. “It gets tiring living the same life over and over, you know.”

“Yes, what I’d give to be a princess for a change,” sighed Jo.

“Who is this, Markus?” Amelie asked.

“If you’re so curious, and by the looks of it, I see that you are,” said Jo, “you can walk just a few aisles that way. He’s the giant in the armoire.”

“Just don’t confuse him with Goliath. You wouldn’t want to run into him, not on your first day anyway.” Gulped Gatsby.

“He’s a lovely man. I’m sure he’d love to meet you.” Smiled Jane.

And just like that, the group watched as Amelie began to navigate her way through the dark and unfamiliar library once more. As she walked, she clung close to the edge of the tall shelves resembling towering pillars. She could hear more voices in the distance and saw flashing lights, blue, green, red, soaring from one end of the aisle to the other. What could that be, she thought to herself.

As she got closer, she saw two men with pointed hats and long white beards pointing short sticks at one another, from the tips of which the lights emerged. Amelie has stumbled upon a wizard’s duel. The men screamed strange-sounding words and phrases at one another.

“Militia Cae,” Shouted a wizard in a grey robe as thorns hailed down on his opponent.

The other wizard, this one dressed in a purple robe, cried out in pain before drawing his own wand up in the air with a fierce cry.

“Dracovenire!”

A green Dragon with gold scales emerged seemingly from thin air.

“Conjuring is against the rules!” Yelled Gandalf.

“I wasn’t aware that there were rules!” Retorted Merlin.

The two continued their duel, which was only interrupted by a sly remark every now and then. Amelie watched on in wonder and disbelief. Never before had she seen such a scene. Her universe, after all, was much like her, quite plain and ordinary, besides the odd talking fawn or rabbit. There was no magic, no spells, or flying dragons.

The duel went on for quite some time, and as mesmerized as she was, they were blocking her way.

“Excuse me?”

The wizard in grey looked over.

“What’s this then?” As Gandalf looked at Amelie, he was hit in the side by a powerful force and fell to the ground.

“Now that’s not fair, I was distracted!”

“Enough excuses! Great Wizards don’t get distracted.” Merlin exclaimed.

“I’m looking for Markus.” Amelie interrupted. “Do either of you know how much further I am to walk?”

Gandalf scoffed. “Merlin over here thinks he’s all-knowing. Why don’t you ask him.”

“Pardon my friend here. He’s a sore loser. He and I were just trying to settle a little debate; who’s the most powerful wizard in the world. You see, miss, I mentored one of the greatest Kings of our time. He mentored a couple hobbits. I don’t think there’s much settling to be done.” Said Merlin with a smile.

A young boy with a lightning bolt-shaped scar chimed in. “I think we all know who the greatest wizard of all time is!”

The two older wizards exchanged looks and waved him off dismissingly. “This new generation thinks they know everything.” Gandalf sighed. “No offense to you, of course, young miss. You look rather young yourself. You said you were looking for Markus? Yes, yes, just a few more aisles that way.”

As she thanked the wizards and went on her way, an enormous shadow engulfed the entire aisle of where they were standing. A man stood towering over them, about 12 feet tall, his expression full of rage.

“H-hi, you must be Markus? I’m Amelie. I just…” before she could finish, the giant emit a most unpleasant grumble.

“Goliath!” Merlin exclaimed in joy, “What are you doing all the way over here? Was it those pesky monkeys again? They got you all riled up?”

The Giant moaned and shook his head yes in response.

“Monkeys?” Amelie questioned.

“Yes, The Origin of Species,” explained Gandalf. “Written by Charles Darwin. His apes are of quite a pretentious nature indeed.”

“Our friend Goliath here you see is from this book called the Bible.” Merlin stated, “The writers don’t agree much with Mr. Darwin's ideas.”

“I don’t know who he thinks he is. I can turn an ape into a man too. Watch me do it on Merlin now!” Gandalf said, raising his wand in the other wizard's direction.

“I’d like to see you try!”

As the two begun quarreling once more, Amelie began to walk once again through the dark library.

She made acquaintance with many more odd creatures and personages along the way. If we were to cover all her interactions, we’d be there all day. Three apes were one of them, and Gandalf was right; they were pretentious. Eventually, she’d made it, a large worn-out armoire stood in front of a large window at one corner of the library. An old man sat slumped in the chair, a book in hand.

Princess Amelie’s Great Adventure

It was her book! The very same one she’d walked out off that same night.

“Ah, look who it is” He smiled at her as she walked up to him. He picked up the princess and set her down on the armrest.

“You’re reading my book?” She exclaimed happily.

Markus pointed to the stained glass windows, which began to illuminate the floor with their beautiful lights. “It seems the sun is rising.” He said sadly. “I’ll get you back to where you belong.”

“But I don’t want to go back! I rather like it here. I don’t want to be a lousy princess for the rest of my life! I want to walk free, here, with all of you.”

Markus smiled. “You’re not just a princess. You’re going to make some young girls very happy, you know. I know if I had a granddaughter, she’d love you. And don’t you worry, we’ll see each other again - tomorrow night and the night after that.”

Amelie didn’t seem convinced. She let her head fall as Markus tried to offer the last piece of consolation he could.

“I saw a young girl this morning. She comes in with her mother every day.” He recounted. “Her mother disclosed to me that she has a hard time getting her to read anything without starting a fuss. And yet, your book she read from start to finish without a peep.” He smiled kindly. “If her mother hadn’t pried it from her hands, she probably would’ve brought it home with her. And I’m sure that when she comes back tomorrow, you’ll be the first she’ll run too.”

Markus’ words left a warm feeling in Amelie’s heart. It wasn’t easy coming to terms with the world not revolving around her after all, especially after all the interesting people and creatures she’d met today - from Counts, Vampires, Wizards, Giants, and Authors themselves. It was a good feeling. Knowing that Amelie and her story mattered to someone.

The sun rose higher, and the library became brighter. “I’ll see you tonight then?” She smiled. Markus smiled back, and Amelie stepped into her book. 

May 01, 2021 00:21

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

0 comments