The Books in the Backroom

I didn’t believe the rumors.

So, I hid in the bathroom of the library till after hours and waited for everyone to go home. The lights shut off and I suddenly found myself in darkness. The only source of light was the silver glow of the moon.

But I wasn’t afraid of the dark.

I exited the bathroom and glided past shelves of books, cast in the pale pall of the moon. The library seemed even more peaceful and serene now that everyone was gone; as if it had become a private sanctuary just for me.

I brushed my fingers over the spines of book sitting in the shelves, walking towards the back of the library.

Julie told me not to stay behind. She said the off-limits section gave her bad vibes. She said the books they kept there were magic, cursed, and evil. I didn’t believe her. I wanted to find out for myself and when I told her so, she said I would be cursed if I went down there.

The rumors said the cursed would never return from the basement. Ridiculous.

I got to the door that led to the basement. They must have locked it.

I touched the doorknob, and to my surprise, the door swung open to reveal a dark staircase, untouched by moonlight.

My heart raced, not from fear but excitement. This was a different world. One filled with mystery. Curses weren’t real.

A cold gush wafted up, along with the smell of really old books. It reminded me of our old cellar; the stale smell of dust in a place that had gone untouched for years.

I pulled out my phone and turned on the flashlight, then began my descent. The stairs creaked softly and the painted walls went from eggshell white to plain brick. The air got colder. I sort of knew what was in the basement.

Jared had worked here before and he said he went down to the basement to put away some books that would be kept as antiques. He told me what he saw. Just a small basement with  specialized shelves that had glass to keep books from being damaged. Nothing more, nothing less. As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I saw just that. A regular basement. I smiled and rolled my eyes. Just as I thought, nothing amiss.

A sound came to from my right. I jumped.

I turned my phone in the direction of it and began to follow where I though the noise had come from. Two shelves over and one row down was a bookcase with glass doors wide open. On the floor was a single book. I went to it.

It could have been the wind, a slight breeze. These were old books.

I picked it up. It had no title, just a hard leather cover. I opened it, expecting children’s stories but inside, on its yellowed pages, I saw rows of names and dates. All were crossed out. Some dated back to the 1500s. John, Sara, Emmanuel, Thomasin, Ivan, Christopher, Mary; all cross out next to a date. I flipped through the pages to find all of them like that. Some of the pages even had dark stains; which couldn’t have been blood. It couldn’t be.

I finally reached the last page. The very last. Most of the names were crossed out, all except one.

It was my name.

And it was today’s date.

Why wasn’t it crossed out yet? A chill came over me and I suddenly didn’t feel alone. I heard a door slam and jumped so hard the book fell right out my hands. I ran back to the stairs and climbed them two at a time, breaking out into a cold sweat as my heart pounded.

What I saw made me stop in my tracks, frozen with the first true feelings of fear.

The door to the basement was gone. There was only brick.

“Hey! Hey, is someone out there?”

I placed my hands were the door should have been, feeling the cold brick with wide eyes. That’s not what was here. There was a door, I know there was. I heard the stairs creak behind me and whirled around, shining my light into an empty staircase.

I wasn’t alone here. They must have locked me in.

I turned back around and startled when I saw the door had returned. I nearly screamed in joy as I yanked it open. I stopped.

My blood turned cold.

Beyond the door was a basement. The same one with the same shelves. I couldn’t move. I was shaking.

To my right, I heard a sound and knew it would be a book that had dropped. I gathered the courage to move. My head was spinning. I walked two down and past one row, picking up a hard, leather bound book. I opened it and the smell of fresh blood hit my nose hard enough to make me nauseous. I went to the very last page, trembling fingers shaking the pages.

I saw my name written down, today’s date.

And it was crossed out in blood.

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