What's That?

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


Adventure Contemporary Fantasy

Mrs. Johnson turned off the lights to the library and locked the doors like she did every evening. She wondered to herself what happens inside the library when everyone is gone. Shrugging her shoulders, Mrs. Johnson headed home to her husband and a relaxing night of TV.

As soon as Mrs. Johnson and the rest of the humans had left the building, Charles stretched his left leg. The book that Mrs. Johnson had just put onto one of his shelves fell to the floor. “Oops,” he said with a laugh, “did I do that?”

Marybelle looked at the old wooden shelving unit. “Of course you did, Charlie, who else would have knocked a book off of you? Go put them onto the table over there and come join me for some tea.”

Marybelle was in the lounge area. Normally she had Styrofoam cups on top of her shelf, as well as napkins, plates, spoons, sugar, and creamer. She was nestled next to a table that held a coffeemaker and some tea bags. Marybelle had the coffeemaker heating up some water and a teabag in one of the cups. She put another one out for Charlie who shuffled over to her once he had removed all of the books from on top of himself.

“Thank you kindly, Miss Marybelle,” he said once he joined her. He took the cup she offered him and sipped it slowly.

“I wish they still had those cookies,” Marybelle said. “They were delicious! Mrs. Johnson said something about budgets and COVID rules meant they had to go away.”

“I don't understand that COVID stuff they are talking about. It's just like any other flu, isn't it?” asked Billy as he slid towards the two older shelves.

“No, no, my boy,” Charlie said. “It's more like that thing that went around in 1912. The papers called it the Spanish Flu, and many people died from it. I'm sure the same thing is happening these days. How else would you explain the library being closed for so many months.”

Billy shook himself. “Sorry Pops, I wasn't built at that time. This is all new to me.”

Marybelle agreed. “I wasn't around then either, Charles. Just you and Agatha were here at that time. She won't talk about it, even if you ask.”

“Quite right. Agatha did say she was afraid they were going to have to burn us once when fuel got scarce. Or was that during the Great Depression?

“Billy, please bring Agatha a cup of tea. I think she'd appreciate warming up her tired limbs.”

Billy took a cup from Marybelle and glided over to the History section. Agatha preferred to remain there, looking out the window. Billy handed her the cup, which she took and sipped quietly while gazing longingly out the window. Billy shrugged and returned to the lounge area.

“It has been quiet here in the library since they reopened us up. Why don't folks come back?” wondered Charlie out loud.

“I know! Why don't we make a window display showing the folks how much fun books can be during quarantine?” suggested Marybelle.

Billy agreed the idea would be fun. Charlie said they would need help from other furniture in the library and he didn't think the tables would join in. Billy thought it was worth the effort to ask. He glided on his wheels over to the big table near the door, after a few minutes of conversation, he returned to the lounge, a grin on his face.

“Yup, he said they'd help. The main request is that you put your books on the floor instead of on top of Stanley. He does not appreciate the extra weight.”

“Sorry Stanley,” Charlie called to the table he had put his books onto. He moved slowly over to the aging table and removed the books and put them onto the floor.

Paper and pens were strewn all over the lounge when Charlie returned. Marybelle and Billy were constructing a mask with one of the pieces of paper they had gotten out of the storage room. They had drawn the plans for the whole display while Charlie had been with Stanley.

A noise interrupted their work. They looked up, startled. Charlie thought it was coming from the archive room. As he moved towards the closed door of the archives, it swung open and banged loudly into the wall. Marybelle jumped backward. Sammy then came limping out of the room, his left side dragging loudly on the floor.

“Anyone see my screws? I think I may have one loose,” Sammy said as he limped over to the group.

“Ask the ones in Do It Yourself. I think they may have some lying around.”

Sammy then limped off towards the DIY section. The leg he was dragging caught up the mask Billy was working on and Sammy dragged it a distance before it came free. Billy rolled over to it and picked the ruined object up.

“Damn it, Sammy, you wrecked my project. We need that for our display!”

Sammy didn't hear anything because he was making too much noise with his leg. Billy stomped his foot hard on the tile floor, shaking things all over. Marybelle barely caught the coffeemaker and prevented it from falling.

“Be careful,” she cautioned. “Remember, they can't know we can move around. If you break something they will get suspicious.”

“Right, and putting a display in the window isn't suspicious?” Billy added. “Sorry, I'm just a little irritated. I know what you mean.”

Marybelle had just completed the banner for the window display. She asked Stanley and Chuck to come over and place it in the window. Billy then joined them with his masks, which they placed around the edges of the windows. Charlie had some books selected specifically with a pandemic theme and placed them around the window box. The display was bright and colorful.

Marybelle smiled. “That should get some attention,” she said.

Sammy then limped back towards the archive room. He made less noise but still dragged his left side.

“Those guys in DIY are great! They tightened me right up!” he said as he made his way to the archive room.

“Shhh” whispered Dan, the door frame. “Someone's coming.”

Marybelle looked at the clock on the wall. “It's only 3 am. Who could it be?”

“This person is dressed all in black and I can't make out a face. I don't think this person belongs at the Library,” Dan said.

Charlie looked at Billy. “Do you think it's a robber?” asked Billy, his eyes wide with excitement.

“Perhaps. Let's let the person in and find out. If it is a robber, we can take care of it.”

The furniture moved to their normal spots and froze in place. They heard the sound of the lock being picked, followed by the door opening slowly. A figure crept in, then closed the door. Delores, the door, locked loudly behind the figure. The person jumped, startled. The person then looked around the room, but seeing no one, moved quietly into the middle of the library.

In the center of the library was a display of old, historical books. These were kept under glass to protect them from dust, humidity, and human touch. Agatha gasped when she realized what the intruder intended to do. Like lightning she threw a book, knocking the intruder squarely in the head. Before the thief could pinpoint where the book came from, Billy threw a dictionary at the back of the intruder's knees. This hit the person hard, and the thief fell forward.

“Ouch,” a male voice yelled. “What the hell is going on here?” The thief stood up and pulled a handgun out of his pocket. He waved it around, trying to figure out where his attacker was. He turned toward Agatha, but only saw an old, wooden bookshelf sitting against the wall.

Sammy came limping out of the archive room. “Hey, what's going on here?” he yelled. Charlie tried to shut the broken shelf up, but Sammy didn't pay any attention to him. Sammy kept limping towards the intruder.

“Who are you?” the bookshelf demanded. The thief looked in disbelief as the shelf moved forward.

“Get away from me,” the man said, aiming his gun at the furniture.

“Ha!” laughed Sammy. “Do you think that's going to do any damage to me? Think again.” Sammy kept moving forward, getting closer to the intruder.

The robber aimed the gun at the center of the metal bookshelf and fired three times at it. The bullets ricocheted off the shelf and landed on the ground. The robber looked at the bookshelf as it moved closer and closer to him. He aimed again, this time pointing at the shelf's left leg. He fired, hitting the already damaged leg. Sammy stopped, shook the leg a few times, then kept limping forward.

“What the ….?” the robber said in shock. He turned to run towards the door, only to find Stanley had moved behind him. The robber ran right into the table and doubled over. Billy grabbed another large book and dropped it onto the robber's head, knocking him unconscious.

The furniture looked at each other. “OK, what do we do now?” asked Marybelle. The shelves and the tables gathered together around the intruder.

“OK, this is how I see it. This human has seen us animated. We can either kill him,” Charles said.

“Or we can convince him that he imagined the whole thing,” interrupted Agatha.

“And how are we going to do that?” asked Stanley. He was in favor of killing the bugger.

Marybelle was in the Psychology section looking at a book on hypnosis. “I think I know how,” she said. “This book is on hypnosis. I can hypnotize him and suggest to him this is all a dream.”

Agatha and Delores both agreed with Marybelle's assessment. The males, on the other hand, were leaning towards killing the man. After discussing what they would do with the body, the others agreed to try hypnosis first, and killing would be the last resort.

Marybelle set up the interior of the Library so that it would suit the hypnosis. The lights were dimmed, the intruder set up on a comfortable chair and Marybelle spoke softly to the individual. He couldn't see anything when he opened his eyes, but the blow to his head made it easy for Marybelle to put him into a trance. Soon she had him out completely.

“You are having a crazy dream. The furniture is normal, the building is normal, everything in the Library is normal. You will never return to this library ever again and you will never steal another thing as long as you live.”

“And never use a gun as long as you live,” added Sammy.

“As long as I live,” mumbled the thief.

“When I tap your shoulder you will wake up, get off the chair you are sitting on, walk home, and crawl into your bed. You will wake up at your normal time and the only thing you will remember is going to bed last night at 10:00 pm.” Marybelle reached out and tapped the man on the shoulder.

The intruder opened his eyes slowly, got out of the chair, and left the Library after Delores opened the door for him. Once he was gone, the furniture went about straightening the building so Mrs. Johnson wouldn't know anything unusual happened. Billy rolled over to get the cup from Agatha and threw it away. Marybelle cleaned up the supplies from their display project and Charlie started to put books back where they belonged. Once Billy was done with his errand, he picked up his books from the floor and arranged them onto his shelves. They all slid back into their proper places just as Mrs. Johnson turned the key and unlocked the front door.

Mrs. Johnson noticed the window display as she put her coat onto the coat rack behind her desk. “Hmm, looks good,” she said. She then turned her attention to the events of the day and didn't give the window, or anything else in the library, a second thought.

April 26, 2021 15:14

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Jade Young
15:44 May 05, 2021

This was a very interesting read ;D Keep up the good writing!


Ruth Smith
15:52 May 05, 2021

Thank you!


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Ruth Smith
19:48 Apr 26, 2021

I wrote two stories for this prompt. I thought this one was more unusual than the other. Please let me know if you like moving furniture or characters from books that come to life.


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