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Funny Speculative Fiction

What I’m about to tell you is going to sound weird. I mean really weird. But it happened. I almost envy you, not living through it. Being blissfully unaware. But I need to tell you and you need to believe me or it will just happen all over again.

It began when me and my friend were in the campus library ‘working.’ And by ‘working’, I mean we had our books open in front of us, of course, but we were really procrastinating and doing anything which didn’t involve having to read about Carl Jung’s mirror theory. We thought we were being quiet, but we must have been making more noise than we thought we were, when I turned around and saw one of the librarians lurking in the stacks. She eyed me sternly and put a finger to her lips.

“Shhh!”

I rolled my eyes at my friend but, being spineless freshers, we begrudgingly kept quiet and even read the first paragraph of ‘The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire’, before calling it a night and heading off back to our digs. 

As I was walking back across the deserted campus, my friend having gone a separate way, I spotted a familiar figure, step into a pool of light, cast by a streetlamp on the opposite side of the road. It was one of my course mates, who went to the same Critical Theory seminars as me.

“Oy oy!” I called out, waving frantically at him and, thankfully, he eventually turned, recognised me and, smiling, waved back. I was about to cross the road when a noise stopped me in my tracks.

“Shhh!”

Heart racing, I wheeled round to the source of the noise. I couldn’t see anything, except for a small copse, which stood beside the path, its interior veiled in darkness. But as I peered closer, aided by the sickly glow cast by the streetlights, I could see something I thought I recognised. The librarian from earlier, crouched amongst the shadowy recesses of the trees, a finger pressed to her lips. I stood, my mind frozen, until the librarian slowly withdrew behind a tree and disappeared. My friend had also vanished and, wondering, if I had dreamt the whole thing, I practically ran the rest of the way back to my halls.

The next morning, waking late and feeling refreshed, I had almost forgotten the whole strange experience and I thought nothing more of it. I tried to reassure myself that it was all just a strange coincidence. I went to have a shower and, having the place to myself, since my flat mates all had early morning lectures and, feeling positively jaunty, I started belting out ‘Take on Me’ at the top of my lungs, until I got the uncanny feeling that there was another presence in the room with me. I shut off the water and peeked out from behind the shower curtain. The shower room was wreathed in steam but, eventually, I could see a head peering through the open transom window above the door, black tangled hair framing two baleful eyes which stared straight at me. She raised a single finger to her lips.

“Shhh!”

I yelped, slipping on the slick floor and nearly knocked myself unconscious. I squeezed my eyes shut until, shivering from cold and shock, I braved another glance from behind the shower curtain and saw that the room was mercifully empty.

“Did I have a fine? Or a late loan?” That was my first thought, as I stalked our flat, brandishing my flatmate’s lacrosse stick, searching for any sign of the librarian. This was how it started for almost all of us. Desperately trying to work out which one of the byzantine library regulations we’d transgressed. But it never occurred to us that there was something else happening. Something much, much bigger than all of us.

I first realised this myself when I FaceTimed my Dad for his birthday. When he finally answered, his face was grainy and pixelated but, despite the poor signal, I could still make out the panicked expression on his face.

“Dad? Where are you?”

“In the shed.”

“Why? And where’s mum?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know where mum is or you don’t know why you’re in the shed?”

“I don’t know where your mum is and I’m in the shed because… because…

“Dad, I can’t hear you, I think you’re breaking up.”

“Just let me finish! Last week, I went to the library, to return a book and…” He froze again. Convinced it was caused this time by the weak signal, I was about to hang up when he asked, in a rasping whisper:

“Did you hear that?”

I couldn’t hear anything, but I thought I saw a movement behind my Dad amongst the detritus in his shed. Either that or the stuttering video was making me see things.

“Dad…” but before I could finish, a hand burst through the open sack of compost, lying slumped in the corner, followed by a cardigan clad arm and eventually a balding, middle aged man’s head, still somehow with a pair of wire rimmed glasses balanced primly on the end of its nose finally emerged. Begrimed by the compost, dirt cascaded from the librarian as it forced itself free from the depths it had risen from. It raised a single, bony finger to its lips.

“Shhh!”

I’d never heard my Dad scream like he did then. Not even when he stubbed his toe on a pile of crazy paving at B&Q, whilst wearing sandals.

A few days after it all started, when the shock of what was happening had worn off, we almost all thought it was funny, it was all so strange. There’d be incidents, like the debate in the Houses of Parliament, MP’s ranting and raving at each other, until a librarian emerged from the dispatch box and shushed the chamber into a stunned silence. It wasn’t long though, until the novelty had worn off and the powers that be decided (quietly) that enough was enough and that something had to be done. But what that “something” was, no one knew.

Where the librarians went to, in between their sudden appearances, was anybody’s guess. They weren’t in the libraries, as they were all closed, everywhere, with no indication of when they would re-open. Naturally, this meant that calling in the armed forces or even the police was pointless. It was like playing a global game of whack-a-mole, except that, by the time you’d gotten over the shock of suddenly finding a librarian in your glovebox or your bowl of cornflakes, they’d disappeared.

There was no doubt that it was happening internationally, either. Even into outer space. I know you don’t believe me, but I can show you the video to prove it. I’ve seen it and I didn’t believe it the first time I saw it. It’s of the astronauts on the International Space Station. There all celebrating something like the 20th anniversary of the ISS, shouting, whooping, clapping each other on the back when, suddenly, they all go quiet, as something unexpected drifts past the frame. It’s a stamp. The words are backwards, of course, but you can still make out what it says: “Withdrawn.” That’s when the video cuts out, abruptly.

Eventually, as with everything, we all got used to it. Some people even think that things have improved. People are quieter, of course, and more civil. There are less arguments, although silent, passive aggressive sulks are on the rise. There are some things which I miss, of course. The birds are less effusive in their songs, as they once were. Even the sheep in the fields next to where I live just let out quiet, apologetic bleats, now.

It all ended just a week ago, about a month after it all started, as suddenly as it all started. I was walking through the campus, late for one of my lectures, when I noticed that the library was open. The librarians were back behind the counter, demurely sorting books and restocking the shelves, as if nothing had ever happened. A few students were even inside, studying, although they threw the librarians occasional panicked glances.

As quick as we can be to forget things and act like they never happened, the memory of the Great Shushing is still etched indelibly on our minds, like a bad dream we cannot forget. One thing which we could all agree on is that we needed to do everything we could, to make sure it never happened again. Which is why I am here, in the hospital, sitting next you, telling you this story. I know it is a lot to take in, you’ve been out for a while and you want to see your loved ones again. But when you do, please, for all of our sakes… keep your voice down!

April 30, 2021 11:04

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3 comments

Kanika G
10:10 May 12, 2021

This was a hilarious and scary read! The Great Shushing - where did the idea come from? It's frightening to think that something like this could actually happen. Your descriptions were great and evocative. I especially liked the ending where we find out the fate of the person the narrator was speaking to. The message is loud and clear - keep your voice down!! Well done!

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14:34 May 12, 2021

Thank you for your lovely comments! I really enjoyed writing it. It's inspired slightly by 'When the Yogurt Took Over' by John Scalzi. I liked the idea of taking a ridiculous premise and following it to a 'logical' conclusion. I also work as a librarian, so it was fun exploring the darkside of librarianship!

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12:15 Apr 30, 2021

This is such a departure from the style of your previous two submissions, but I absolutely love it! :) the specificity of the details really adds to the humour and the ludicrous scenarios are hilarious. Very whimsical and fun! :)

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