My stomach lurched in perfect rhythm with the elevator’s herky-jerky ride down to the lobby. I held my cart for dear life praying that I wouldn’t see an encore performance of last night’s shots of liquid courage. Those books didn’t deserve the misfortune of that mess, they were innocent little stories just waiting to go back to their homes assigned to them by the Dewey Decimal System.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes in an actual cold sweat. Please let me get through this shift. Four hours isn’t asking too much.

The giggling girls poking each other in the ribs while looking at me got off at the lobby sneaking a glance back over their shoulders before running away. Who said that girls are more mature than boys? Definitely not always the case. Maybe they were getting their first taste of freedom away at school.

The doors closed and I readied myself for the jolt of going back up, this time both hands on the cart, feet spread apart to keep balance as if on a cruise ship in a hurricane. I glanced at the lights expecting to see the up arrow lit, dismayed at the down arrow still glowing. Great. If this elevator gets stuck I will literally lose my shit.

The rumble of the elevator and the rumble of my stomach continued despite the down arrow still showing our descent. I knew for certain there was nothing beneath the lobby. I had been working at the library since I was a freshman and familiar with every inch, every shelf in every department and all of the quiet nooks and crannies. There was nothing below the lobby.

The doors opened. What the fuck? Silence. Stillness. Solitude. I didn’t move. My cart didn’t move. The books didn’t move.

The doors began to quietly close. Oh, hell no! I stuck my foot into the space, turned around and pulled myself and the cart through before the doors met each other leaving us where exactly?

I looked around. I had never seen this room without a name on this floor without a number. But yet there we were, me and my cart of books. And my most wicked hangover ever.

Why, why, why did I drink so much? I put my hands up to my head pulling my hair as if to pull the throbbing ache out of my head entirely. The night was such a blur. Something about Ariana being there? I don’t know. Was she actually there or did I dream it? I never get that drunk. There were chunks of the night completely missing.

Maybe I was finally losing my mind from the stress of senior year, exams, and work. It was all too much. Recruiters showed up more and more often giving me actual stomach pains. Students lined up outside the conference rooms, boys in suits and ties, girls in skirts and blouses for their interviews. How did they turn into adults while I remained a nerdy college kid pushing around my cart of books to be shelved?

“Where the fuck am I?” I recognized the overstuffed chairs from the eighth floor lounge before the remodel. They were faded, slightly ripped with the stuffing coming out in spots but inviting nonetheless. Pushing a few together I laid down, my cart close by. My seating arrangement may look like shit but was comfortable as hell. 

I needed a minute to regroup. It’s ok. I’ll shelve these books in double time after the shortest nap in the history of naps. With my eyes closing, I imagined Ariana wrinkling her nose in disdain at my situation. She really had become a bit of a snob since we got together four years ago. Maybe it was time to look around, I thought out of the blue, my mind going back to those giggling girls in the elevator. When was the last time Ariana giggled or even smiled? I couldn’t remember.

I burped, almost threw up a little, picturing a slow painful death choking on my own vomit never to be discovered in this room that didn’t actually exist. I repositioned myself and fell asleep.



I was outside the conference room when the door flung open. The men in their suits and ties called out once again “Next”. I ignored them as I was just passing by on the way to the library for the night shift. 

“You are next, correct?”

“No!” Pushing my cart of poetry paperbacks, I tried to squeeze past.

“You are Jeremy, correct?” A man with wiry eyebrows peered at me, his face too close for comfort.

“I am Jeremy.” I admitted, my voice wavering a bit.

“Well then, you are next!” He stepped aside making a swooping gesture with his arm as if to say ‘enter.’ But I didn’t want to enter. I wasn’t on line, I wasn’t ‘next’, I hadn’t signed up for this. I just wanted to shelve my poetry paperbacks with their dreamy worn covers. I knew where they lived near the big picture window on the fourteenth floor. It was a relaxing spot, the grad students wrote papers there, sometimes reading aloud their short stories and poems. I enjoyed listening, sometimes reshelving books that were already shelved correctly just to eavesdrop on their creativity. They never noticed me as I blended into the background of their literary world.

Those eyebrows, those long wiry out of control eyebrows, were so uncomfortably close to my face. Why didn’t he trim them? “Come on in,” he taunted me with those eyebrows. 

“I’m afraid there’s been some kind of mistake. My name is Jeremiah, not Jeremy. I’m not next.” I fumbled for any excuse to run away and run away is what I did, down the long hallway, my books of poems slipping and sliding but hanging on for dear life.

I turned the corner to see Ariana with her girlfriends all walking in high heels, the highest I had ever seen, teetering on stilts they were. How was that even possible? I wanted to call out to her but then again I didn’t want to deal with her in those ridiculous twelve inch heels. I didn’t know who in the world she was suddenly and continued my run, darting quickly down the next hallway.

Shocked to see my parents in front of the school store holding out my cap and gown. “Try it on Jeremy, it’s one size fits all.” My mother was dressed in a housecoat and slippers, tattered and torn, her hair straggly and uneven. What happened to my mother? My heart was beating wildly out of my chest. “Here Jeremy, try it on. It’s one size fits all,” my father whispered wearing an olive green motheaten sweater vest. My father, my poor father. What happened to my parents? I put on the gown, was instantly swallowed by miles of heavy material gathering on the floor weighing me down, shrinking me into nothing. 

Running, running away from the wretched mother and father, poor and downtrodden. I couldn’t bear it. I started screaming.

I woke myself up.

I was soaked in sweat, shivering on those old discarded chairs, relieved to be out of that nightmare but still in that room that did not exist with the worst hangover in the history of hangovers.

“Where the fuck am I?” I jumped up suddenly, fighting the nausea, the pounding headache. I pushed my cart around the space, into all the dark corners of this unfamiliar landscape. Unmarked boxes piled without rhyme or reason threatening to fall over if I breathed wrong. Broken library carts with wheels missing, books without covers, computer monitors with dusty screens boxlike and clunky from the first of their kind in a web of twisted tangled wires.

The library had its own personal hell, and I was in it. Is that where I belonged? Drinking alone on a Friday night when I knew I had my early shift a mere few hours after indulging. The memory of ignoring Ariana’s calls all night came back to me. I had finally turned off my phone not wanting to acknowledge her. Another endless monologue about her interview with the recruiters for that top paying once in a lifetime opportunity would have been unbearable.

Once again I scolded myself for procrastinating. It was imperative to get my name on those lists and start scheduling my interviews. I would accept any job offer on top of working in the library to pay my parents back. Until my writing took off. I glanced at those books on my cart. One day my name would be on the covers, my books would be sitting on the shelves. I was determined to make that happen.   

Picturing my dream home, the click clacking of the keyboard as I completed my novel steadied my nerves, slowed my heart rate, cooled my sweating panic. I felt the solid handle of my cart while my eyelids fluttered and finally opened.

I gazed around totally confused. The giggling girls, poking each other before they got off the elevator. Didn’t that just happen? The man in front of me turned around peering at me too closely, those long wiry eyebrows inches away from my face. “Are you ok?” he asked. “I never saw someone fall asleep standing up. You must have had one hell of a night last night.”  Then he was gone, disappearing into the sea of students and professors in the library’s lobby, leaving me alone with my cart on the bottom floor, the lowest level that the elevator goes.

November 04, 2023 17:54

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Emily Manion
23:59 Nov 12, 2023

Hannah this is purely amazing! It was almost as if I was right next to Jeremy and could hear his thoughts and feelings! I think it was amazing and not too stretched out or too short, It was perfect! I love all of your work, you are an amazing writer!!!


Hannah Lynn
03:06 Nov 13, 2023

Thank you so much, Emily, for reading this story and for your praise! 😊 I’m glad you enjoyed it!!


Emily Manion
13:34 Nov 13, 2023



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Tom Skye
18:03 Nov 11, 2023

Great stuff, Hannah. I love a story about getting blasted in college 😂 MC voice was great. The hangover anxiety came through strong. Mysterious ending as well. Great work. Thanks for sharing


Hannah Lynn
20:46 Nov 11, 2023

Thanks so much for reading this, Tom! Oh boy, those college days were filled with angst and drink that's for sure!


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