Is Something Lurking Down There?

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

0 comments

Funny

   “So, you are telling me that you’ve known for over a week that there is some kind of creature inside the University library,” says Paul McDonald, rector of Queen Anna University.

    “Yes,” says Guido Bertelli. “Although I’ve never seen it, I have found signs that there’s someone or something sneaking around down there.”

    “Down…”

    “In the library stacks, says Guido. “The library goes 8 stories underground, you know.”

    The rector stares at the janitor for a moment and grunts. “Er, yes. What kind of ‘signs’ have you discovered?”

    “Well, some books have been upended, hairballs and…”

    “And?”

    “I found some footprints.”

    “Footprints? They were likely made by students or library staff members. In fact…”

    “Not these footprints,” interrupts Guido. “These ones were unusually large.”

    Rector McDonald raises his eyebrows and asks “How big?”

    “Twenty-four inches.”

   “But that’s…”

   “Massive,” finishes Guido.

   “How do you know this isn’t some kind of stunt by the students?” enquires the Dean, folding his hands together.

   “Well, that is possible of course, but nobody is allowed inside the library after closing. It’s just me and Kimberly.”

   “Has Kimberly mentioned anything to you about this?”

   “Not a thing.”

    The rector leans forward and says “Next Monday, we are going to send some campus security to patrol the library stacks after hours to search for whatever may be down there. However,“ he adds, glaring at Guido, “it would not surprise me in the least if they don’t find anything.”

    “We’ll see.”


******


    “It’s spooky down here,” says Fred Jones of Campus Security, aiming his flashlight down the long aisle of bookshelves.  

    “Cut the rubbish,” retorts James Smith, his co-worker.

    The musty smell of old books, manuscripts, and documents, combined with dirt and dust accumulated over years fills their nostrils. 

    “Do you think anyone reads any of this stuff anymore?” enquires Fred. “I mean…”

    “What’s that?”

    Both of them freeze in their tracks.

    There is a very faint scratching sound, very quiet at first, then getting louder.

    “It’s coming from about two aisles behind us,” whispers James. He nods his head at Fred, meaning for him to follow.

    Fred and James step slowly and carefully towards the source of the noises. As they get nearer, they begin to detect other even more alarming sounds. Groans and grunting! 

    Both men feel a pins and needles prickly feeling under their skins. It is really there! But what is it? 

    Just as they turn the corner of the second aisle, Fred’s flashlight illuminates the back of a brown, hairy leg! 

    There is a loud grunting sound and the creature is off like a shot.  

    “After it!” screams James.

    The two campus security men sprint as fast as they can down the aisle, but there is no sign of the creature.

    After a long, fruitless search, they sit down in some chairs and plan strategy.

   “We should report what we saw,” says Fred. 

   “The rector will laugh in our faces and say we’re crazy,” says James.

   “Well, let’s look for it again and this time I will try to snap a picture of it with this,” Fred says, pulling out his cell phone.

    “Ah, good thinking, lad,” says James.

     An hour later, having not found or heard any evidence of any creature, the two of them consider giving up their search.

    “Do you think the creature can use the stairs?” asks Fred.

    “Could be,” says James. “Or it could have taken the elevator."

    “Don't be ridiculous," growls Fred. "Anyways, I have to go to the bathroom,”

    “Now?”

   “Yes. There are restrooms on this floor, I’ve used it before. Wait here while until I get back.”

   “Don’t take too long,” grumbles James.

    Fred frowns and walks carefully to the restrooms. He shines his flashlight on the doors and selects the men’s room. He steps inside and walks up to the nearest urinal. He is about half finished when a sound startles him. At first, he thinks he is imagining things. However, when he had finished, there is no doubt about it. There is a grunting sound emanating from one of the bathroom stalls! Fred turns off his flashlight and approaches the stall very slowly, trying to control his breathing. His hands are sweating profusely. Very slowly, he opens the door to the stall and switches on the flashlight.

James, who had grabbed a book about Walt Whitman and is now reading one of his poems with his flashlight, hears a blood curdling scream emanating from the restrooms. He springs to his feet and rushes towards the bathroom. Before he can get there, the door swings open and Fred tears out, screaming his lungs out.  

Fred’s hair is standing on end, his face is white as a ghost, and his eyes are bug eyed.

    “It’s in there! It’s in there!” is all James can get out of Fred once they are safely away from the bathroom.

   “What is it?” James asks,   

   “I don’t know, but I snapped a photo of it!”


     ******

     News that a Bigfoot-like creature is in the library stacks hit the campus of Queen Anne University like a thunderbolt. Everywhere, either among students or teachers or faculty, the Bigfoot is the main topic of conversation. Almost instantly, the creature is the darling of the majority of the student body. They even give the creature a name: Queenie. In the campus newspapers, magazines and in posters and pamphlets are articles and opinion pieces about Queenie. Everywhere is the now famous photo of Queenie in the bathroom snapped by Fred. The photo, unfortunately, is a little blurry, and doesn’t show the creature’s face. There is no doubt, however, that this is no ordinary human being or some nutcase wearing a Halloween costume. This is a real live flesh and blood Bigfoot, and this naturally causes a sensation. The local news station is full of stories about Queenie, and even the CBC and Global News make passing references about it.


 *********

     “We have a situation here,” says Rector Paul McDonald. “The safety of our students, staff and faculty is at stake.”  

    “Queenie has not attacked anyone,” says Guido. “In fact, he or she is likely harmless.”

    “I agree with Guido,” says Kimberly. “Queenie is harmless and could even become a tourist attraction.” 

    The rector growls and then says “I do not want my university to become some kind of freak show.”

    “Hey there’s an idea,” says Guido. “We could charge admission.” 

   “You think this is funny?” roars the rector.

    The two janitors remain silent.

    “There is one thing that I find mysterious about all this,” says Rector McDonald.

   “You mean that a wild Sasquatch has decided to set up residence inside our library without paying any residence fees?” asks Guido.

The rector frowns. “Not that. I mean, how is this creature surviving? Doesn’t it have to eat? Also, I am no zoologist, but shouldn’t we be finding, er, droppings from the creature somewhere?” 

    “I can explain that,” says Kimberly. 

   “Well?”

   “I have been feeding it,” explains Kimberly, folding her arms and grinning slightly.

  “You have been… what?!? “roars the rector.  

   Guido is looking at Kimberly now, eyes bulging and mouth agape.

   “I feed her leftovers from the campus cafeteria,” says Kimberly. “It’s a she, by the way.”

  “What about the toilet?” demands the rector. “How was the creature using the toilet?”    

  “I toilet trained her,” says Kimberly, her face reddening slightly. “It was quite the feat, but she learned the trick.”

  “Let me get this straight,” says Rector McDonald. “You have known about this beast for weeks and haven’t told anyone?” The rector is unaware that he has stood up from his chair.

    “Three months, to be exact,” says Kimberly.

    “Three…. months…” The rector sits down again and chews on that for a few moments.

    Guido’s mind, which up until now had been spinning like a top, begins to form coherent thoughts for the first time. He had noticed that Kimberly had been acting rather strangely sometimes, but he hadn’t identified the source. So that’s it! She was caring for Queenie!    

    “Well,” says the rector, a sly smile on his face, “I’m afraid the creature will have to be eliminated.”

   “What?!?” blurts Kimberly. “That would be murder.”

   “I have already explained that this…thing… is a present danger to all of us, and thus must be eradicated immediately,” asserts the rector.

   “Maybe we could scare it out,” suggests Guido.

  “You will not harm Queenie!” screams Kimberly. 

  “I am going to raise this issue at the next Board of Governors meeting,” says the rector firmly. “At that time we will make our final decision about the fate of this…creature. After that, it will be entirely out of my hands.”

    Kimberly and the rector glare at one another for a few moments.

   “I have an idea,” says Guido. “We could hire a sasquatch extermination squad from the Himalayas to turn Queenie into steaks.” 

 Kimberly and the rector turn their regard to fixate on Guido.

  “Oh, maybe not,” Guido stammers.


*****


    Rector McDonald watches the scene unfolding in front of MacPherson Library. A CBC journalist is interviewing a student, who is talking about Queenie. Behind the student, dozens of other students are displaying banners and signs which read: Save Queenie and Queenie is a Person Too. 

    To the rector’s dismay, the journalist spots him and walks over to where he is standing. The student protesters follow. Some of them are chanting: “Queenie! Queenie!”

    “Rector McDonald!” says the journalist. “John Parkinson, Global News. Tell us your views on the Bigfoot.”

    “The creature will soon be removed from the library"’ says the rector, glaring at the student protestors, who have gathered around him. “Let me assure you that this is being done for the safety and security of the staff and faculty of this great university.”  

   “Where do you think the Bigfoot came from?”  

   “How am I supposed to know?” says the rector. “Hey!” 

    A student is shouting at him “Killing Queenie is murder! You should be ashamed of yourself!”   

   The other students are chanting “Let Queenie live! Let Queenie live! Let Queenie live!” 

   “Some people think that killing the Bigfoot would be murder. What are your views on this, Rector McDonald?”

   The students are silent.

   “No comment,” growls the rector and he strides away.


    ******


    “These are for you, Paul,” says the office secretary, Madeline.

    The rector snatches the huge pile of letters examines them briefly. One is from the Humane Society. Another is from the Campus Animal Rights Foundation. A third is from the World Wildlife Federation. A fourth is from David Suzuki. A fifth is from the American Sasquatch Society.     

    Rector McDonald grunts and slaps the letters, unopened, down on his desk, which is already cluttered with piles of letters. He had long ago put his phone on answering service and stopped reading his e-mails, after a torrent of messages about Queenie had given him a migraine and almost crashed his computer.

    A commotion outside the window catches the rector’s attention. He opens the window and is greeted by hordes of students with signs and slogans supporting Queenie. Some protestors even have t-shirts with the famous snapshot of Queenie on them, and Queenie caps and pennants.       

   The rector slams the window shut, but before he does, a sudden gust of wind knocks over the pile of letters on his desk into a tumbled mess.

   He hears sirens, and grins.

   They have come at last, he thinks. The vile creature will soon be put down and things can return to normal around here…

   Rector MacDonald is unaware that Madeline had wandered into his office.

   The rector opens his mouth to speak, but something in Madeline’s expression freezes him.

   “You know Paul, there was time when we were young too, and we had our causes.”

   “But this cause is completely absurd,” says the rector, staring out the window at the protestors. “This hairy monstrosity could harm someone and then the university…”   

    “Paul…” says Madeline in a different tone of voice, “you represent this university, which is made up of students, right?”

   “Oh course! “blurts the rector. “The students are the most important…”

   “Are they?”

   “Well, I…”

  “The students want to save this creature, monstrosity or not, and you should seriously consider doing just that!” Madeline stomps out of the rector’s office and shuts the door none too gently.

    Rector McDonald sits in his chair thoughtfully for a few minutes, until his gaze falls upon an old photo of him on his desk. It was taken during his university days during a protest against the Vietnam War. 

    On an impulse, he rushes out of his office and heads straight for the library.


  ******

    Seven police cars, sirens blaring, pull up in front of McPherson Library, followed by a large black armored car.  

    As soon as the police get out of their vehicles, masses of student protestors, journalists and curious onlookers begin pouring in front of the library steps, blocking them.

    The police approach the stairs before halting. One of the police officers seizes a blowhorn and shouts “This is the police! You will immediately clear the library steps!”     

    The crowd blocking the steps doesn’t budge. They begin chanting. “Let Queenie live! Let Queenie live! Let Queenie live!”

    The police begin advancing en echelon. Some of them have riot shields. When they reach the crowd, several scuffles break out.

   “Stop!” screams a voice.

    Everyone turns. It is Rector Paul McDonald. His face is flushed and tears are in his eyes. “You have convinced me! Queenie must live!”

   There is a tremendous cheer from all the protestors.

   The rector walks up to one of the officers, and they discuss something for a few moments. The officer nods her head and grabs the megaphone again.

   “We promise to not hurt Queenie!” she roars. “We will use our Tasers to stun her. Then we will take her to the forest where she will be released into the wild.”   

   There is a roar from the students that could be heard in Siberia.

  “Please clear the stairs so we can get inside the library and restrain Queenie,” says the policewoman.

   At once, a path is made, and the police stride up the stairs and enter the library, Tasers at the ready. 

  Half an hour later, the police re-emerge, carrying a massive, brown, hairy creature. It is unconscious. Hundreds of people snap photos of the creature with their cameras and cell phones. Several news cameras are filming the event. At last, the doors of the armored car are opened, and Queenie is gently placed inside, on top of soft cushions and blankets. The doors are closed, and the armored car, closely followed by the police cars, drives away.  

    There is a huge roar from the protesters, who are milling around and talking excitedly about what had just transpired.

    Rector McDonald is just about to turn around when he is grabbed by a woman who hugs him.

  “Oh, thank you Rector McDonald!” yelps the woman. “Thank you for saving Queenie!”

  The rector looks at her and his face lights up! It’s Kimberly!  

  “It was you and the students that saved Queenie,” says Rector McDonald. 

"We should rename the library after Queenie," says Kimberly softly.

"I think that could be arranged," says the rector, to cheers and hoots from the crowd.

Rector McDonald senses that someone is looking at him and he turns.

"I am very proud of you, Paul," says Madeline.

"Look!" shrieks a voice.

Everyone turns and see a hairy brown creature, which is standing across the street, staring at them with its beady eyes.

"It's Queenie's mate!" screams a voice.

The creature removes its head.

"Guido!" roars the rector.

There is an explosion of laughter and mirth from the crowd.

"I think we just found our new campus mascot," says Kimberly.


THE END  


April 26, 2021 15:38

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

0 comments