What’s Happening at the Library: Halloween stories from the library

Published 11:59 am Monday, October 29, 2018

Librarian James Gardner, not only circulates books at the Clark County Public Library, but he also writes them, horror fiction, specifically.

Here’s a library horror story Gardner wrote for your Halloween pleasure. Be cautious about the books read.

The Old Librarian by James Gardner

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The old librarian looked up from his book at the patron approaching his desk. The old librarian attempted to smile then thought better of it, not yet.

“I’m looking for something scary.” The patron was smiling, eager, almost daring the old, gaunt librarian to try and satisfy him. The patron wasn’t fazed by the shadows that pooled among the bookshelves like standing water in the catacombs beneath Paris.

The librarian set his book down, placing a bookmark on the page he was on before slamming it shut, as though snapping a trap closed. He folded his thin fingers before him into a thin steeple of brittle sticks, looking over them into the face of the patron. “Well, I’m sure we have something to scare you. So what kinds of stories do you prefer?”

There was virtually no pause, no space of breath, between the librarian’s question and the patron’s answer. “Zombies, sir. I really like zombie apocalypse stories, where society collapses. And I don’t mind gross stuff either. The more blood, the better.”

“Let me see …” The librarian stood up and drifted to the stacks, his long finger caressing the books’ spines until he found what he liked, tugging it gently from the shelf with a spidery fingertip. “This one is about a zombie apocalypse. It focuses on the survivors, yes, but there is plenty of gore. And death.” He handed the book to the patron, smiling. “This book is definitely for you.”

The smile made the patron slightly uneasy, got him thinking about cats and canaries, but he took the book, flipped through a few pages, and looked at the zombie on the front cover that looked like it was trying to reach through it. “I’ll give it a go.”

“Perfect,” said the librarian as he quickly and efficiently checked the book out to the patron. “Have a wonderful time with that book.” The patron left, flashing the briefest look of someone who’d ate something bad before the wide-eyed excitement reasserted itself in the patron’s expression. The librarian noticed that brief look of distress because he had seen it hundreds, thousands of times before.

The librarian continued reading his book when a vampire stepped up to the circulation desk. Its suit was coal black, its hair somehow even blacker, an inky darkness that flowed over its shoulders. The black hair made its face more pale and ghastly, like marble save for the blood red of its lips.

“Did you find someone to scare?” The librarian asked.

The vampire held out the book to the librarian. The artwork on the cover was a very good representation of its main character, who now held the book.

The vampire opened it to a random page, and there was screaming, throat-shredding cries that only came with authentic, animal panic.

Someone screamed “Help” like it was the only word he or she knew (the voice was too high and keening to detect gender).

He could picture the screaming patron being chased through stone hallways lit only with burning flambeaus and the occasional flashes of lighting, of wandering deeper and deeper into the place until a coffin was discovered.

The thought made him smile in a way that might cause small children to cry.

The vampire had its eyes closed, drawing air through its nostrils as though drinking deep the smell of roses, of summer rain.

The librarian allowed himself a moment, only a moment, to enjoy the music of that soul’s terror.

“Time to check in, Vlad. Don’t want to be overdue.”

The vampire became translucent, then became mist, its form discorporating.

The book was suspended in the air as though on strings, still opened, as the vampire was vacuumed back into its pages. Once all the mist that was the vampire was sucked in, the book snapped shut and fell on the circulation desk.

The librarian smiled, hoping that the vampire’s victim would last at least a few rereads. He put the book back on the shelf where it belonged, and then turned to see his next patron.

“Got any good ghost stories?” she asked the librarian.

The old librarian grinned, his face going from mere gaunt to skeletal as he bared his yellowing teeth. “I believe we have plenty that will scare you.”

John Maruskin is director of adult services at the Clark County Public Library. He can be reached at john.clarkbooks@gmail.com.