Let me start by saying that I’m horrible at posting new content because I’m constantly writing short stories and new chapters in my book. That’s why I’ve decided to just start posting the short stories that I’m writing for everyone to read and critique. So, please make sure to leave me some comments after you read!
The Library Book
Walking to the local library, Blaire felt the nerves twisting into knots inside her stomach. She’d never had a job before so she didn’t really know what to expect. Libraries are always quiet so maybe it’d be boring, but it would get her the money she needed to pay for the car she so desperately wanted for her sixteenth birthday.
Inside the building, it was dim and dusty. The carpet had stains all over it and the smell of mildew lingered thickly in the air. There were what seemed like never-ending rows of books just past the wood counter at the front of the library. It already seemed like a not-so-great place to work, but she could deal with it if she just pictured a car with a big, red bow at her party. She spotted an elderly man wearing a blue and green argyle sweater over a brown button down shirt at the front desk and walked over to introduce herself.
Putting on a smile and using the most confident voice that she could muster up in spite of her nerves, she spoke.
“Excuse me, sir. I’m Blaire Anderson and I’m supposed to start work here today.”
The old man raised his head to look at her through the thick lens of his glasses and nodded.
“Ah, yes. Blaire. Nice to meet you” he said as he extended his right hand over the counter. “John Oliver. I’ll be training you today.”
The old man motioned for her to walk around the front desk and get started. “You can lay your things under here where it will be safe.” The man pointed to an empty cardboard box with no lock, no lid, and absolutely no way for Blaire’s things to stay protected, but it was just her and Mr. Oliver so she didn’t see much harm in placing her things there for the next four hours.
Once Blaire’s things were secured inside the cardboard box under the desk, the old man pointed at a stack of books. “Grab those and follow me.”
Blaire picked up the books and began to follow the decrepit man down an aisle filled with old, worn out books. He took his slow, sweet time as he moseyed down the aisle which irritated Blaire a bit causing her to let out a quick sigh. She thought she’d be following him all day when he finally stopped, pointed to a spot on the shelf, and instructed her to put the books away in alphabetical order while he straightened up another shelf. Blaire did exactly as she was instructed, but had to picture that car with a big, red bow several times.
“What brings you to work at the library”, the old man questioned.
“I need money for a car.”
“Ah. It’s good to see a young person like yourself working hard for your own things.”
“Thanks.” Blaire immediately felt a little guilty for being irritated at him earlier so she decided to try and make the most of it. “How long have you been working here?”
“Long enough to know every story on every shelf.” The old man boasted as he grabbed a brown book off the shelf nearest him. It had no title and no author. Holding up the book for Blaire to inspect, the old man said, “This one is my favorite. You should read it sometime.”
“What’s it about?” Blaire asked inquisitively. She does like to read and she doesn’t want to be rude to her new boss at her first job.
“On what?” Blaire shot a sideways glance at Mr. Oliver. The wheels in her head began to turn as she wondered what he could possible mean by that.
“The reader, of course.”
Being weirded out by that last statement, Blaire’s first thought was that Mr. Oliver was just old and senile and had no clue what he was talking about, so she brushed it off and kept alphabetizing until her first shift was over.
As she was collecting her things at the end of her shift, she noticed the brown book sitting on the counter in front of her. How did this get up here? Blaire looked around to make sure Mr. Oliver was busy in the back before letting her curiosity get the best of her. She picked up the worn book and flipped through it only to find nothing but blank pages. This can’t be the same book he was talking about. Wondering if maybe she missed something, she slid it into her bag. She was going to find out exactly what Mr. Oliver meant, tonight.
After her evening shower, Blaire looked at her black messenger bag where the book was and thought about what Mr. Oliver could’ve possibly meant when he so mysteriously said, “depends on the reader.” He has to be mental. I mean, this book is…..it’s empty. She hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it since he said it and wanted to figure it out, so she grabbed the book from the bag and sat down at her writing desk next to the window that overlooked the backyard.
Before opening the book, Blaire took a deep breath in, held it for a few seconds, and then let out a quick sigh.
“Here goes”, she whispered quietly to herself as she opened the front cover. There were no words on page one. Blaire turned to the next page, but still no words. Page three. No words. Page four. No words. Flipping through the book, there were absolutely no words. It was empty. Maybe Mr. Oliver mistook this book for another? She thought. But why does the library have an empty book on its shelves?
Becoming frustrated with its emptiness, Blaire left the book open to a page in the middle of the book and went to bed. Her thoughts consisted only of questions that she could not answer about the mysteriously empty book until, finally, she drifted to sleep.
During the night, Blaire dreamt of herself as a young girl riding her bike down a street when she saw a large, black snake in the middle of the road. As she tried to pass by, it bit her. Paralyzed, she lay screaming for help on the pavement until, finally, she died.
Blaire woke from her dream gasping for air. She’d just witnessed herself die by the one things she is most afraid of in this world: a snake. Blaire spent the next hour checking her sheets and floors, making sure there were no scaly creatures slithering around in her bed or in her room. She finally laid back down to try to fall back asleep. She tucked the blanket under her feet and wrapped herself up just so that nothing could possible get into her cocoon, making her feel just a little more protected from her nightmare.
With the sun beating down on her face through the window, Blaire peeked out from inside her safe cocoon, scanning the room for any reptiles that might be lurking about. When she saw the coast was clear, she stretched and sat up on the edge of her bed. She looked over at the open book laying on her writing table. She still had so many questions and she wondered if any of them would ever be answered.
Walking to her closet, Blaire glanced over at the book and noticed something different than what she saw last night. There were words. After rubbing her eyes and taking a second glance she ran to the book, picked it up, and started flipping through it intensely. Every page was filled from top to bottom with words and pictures that hadn’t been there the night before. What?…..How? she thought, How is this possible? She kept trying to find answers but came up short. Nothing could explain a book writing itself overnight, right? Noticing the time, Blaire slammed the book shut, got dressed, and headed to the library for her Saturday shift.
While walking to the library, Blaire kept thinking about all the things she wanted to ask Mr. Oliver. It played like a movie in her head as she thought about how she would go about confronting him. She’d walk right up to him, slam the book on the counter, and demand an explanation. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. There would be no way for Mr. Oliver to refuse her the right to know what happened with the book and he’d apologetically tell her everything she wanted to know with no hesitation. She had it all figured out until she walked through the front door.
“Mr. Oliver?”, she murmured. Blaire was barely able to get the words out, she was so nervous. All the planning and practicing she’d done for this moment on the walk here had been thrown out the window because now, as she stood before him, she could barely muster up the courage to speak his name let alone demand he give her answers.
“Ahh, good morning, Blaire”, Mr. Oliver replied cheerfully, “How are you today?”
“F…Fine. How are you?” Blaire replied hesitantly as she was caught off guard by his cheerfulness. She was so overcome by her nerves and fears that she was half expecting a scolding for taking the book without properly checking it out, but it was as though he hadn’t even noticed it was missing.
“Good. Thank you for asking.” Mr. Oliver smiled and then nodded at the stack of books that needed sorting and putting away.
Brushing off the confrontation she had planned, Blaire got right to work categorizing the books and putting them away. The whole time she was thinking about the worn leather-bound book that had written itself during her sleep. She thought about the words Mr. Oliver had said to her. It seemed like those two things were the only things running through her mind for the past two days and the way she froze up around him this morning, she’d never get any answers. She was going to have to buck up and just ask him.
When Blaire saw Mr. Oliver sitting at the front desk reading a thick, black book, she whispered, “I can do this”, to herself as she straightened up tall and walked over to confront him. Her heart pounded harder and harder with each step she took closer to him as if it was trying to tell her she, in fact, could not do this. She clenched her fists in an attempt to hold some control over the anxiety that was welling up inside of her. Her mouth ran dry and she began to feel like she couldn’t breathe so she stopped at the front desk, closed her eyes, took in a deep breath, and looked up at Mr. Oliver. She waited a second before slamming the book on the counter, and exclaimed, “Mr. Oliver, I need an explanation!”
“You took the book?” Mr. Oliver seemed more intrigued than upset, which surprised Blaire a bit. She half expected him to point his finger at her and say You shouldn’t speak to your elders that way, young lady in a grandpa-scolding kind of way.
“Yes, sir. I… I took the book a…and I looked through it. It was all blank, but then this morning…….this morning, it was…..it was…”
“It was filled front to back full of words that had magically appeared in the middle of the night.”
How did he know that? she thought. Is this what he meant by it depending on the reader?
Blaire stared at Mr. Oliver in a state of shock that prevented her from doing anything other than breathing. Her heart was pounding so hard in her chest that she could hear it beating in her ears. She couldn’t wrap her mind around it. This can’t be real.
“Strange, isn’t it?”, he asked her walking over to put his hand on her shoulder in an attempt to calm her.
“How?….how did it do it? How did it develop words, phrases, even pictures overnight all on its own? Is it possessed or cursed or something?” Blaire let out an exasperated sigh and began to give in to the whole situation.
“Have you read it?” Mr. Oliver asked as he walked back behind the counter and sat in his chair as if none of this was out of the ordinary for him.
“What, no”, Blaire exclaimed some-what frustrated. “No, I, I woke up, found the book filled with words, FREAKED out, and came straight here.”
“You need to read it.” Mr. Oliver nonchalantly slid the book back across the counter to her and then picked up his own book, running his bony fingers through the pages.
“Why? Will it tell me how the words magically appeared overnight? Will it give me the answers I’m looking for?” Blaire was only interested in satisfying her own curiosity.
Mr. Oliver looked up at her with a smile spread across his face. “Just read it.”
“Read it”, Mr. Oliver interrupted not even looking up from the pages of his own book.
Blaire was furiously frustrated at Mr. Oliver. She’d demanded answers and he’d given her nothing but more questions.
“That’s it? I need to read it. Nothing else?” Blaire stared at Mr. Oliver, waiting for him to respond, but he said nothing as he continued looking through his book.
Sitting at the edge of her bed staring at the book, Blaire worked up the nerve to open it and start reading. As she read the first few pages, she began to feel a strange sense of déjà vu.
She was riding her bike down the road when she suddenly realized that just in front of her, there was a large, black snake blocking the road. She stopped dead in her tracks, filled with fear of being bitten by the poisonous creature. Thoughts of how to get around it flooded her brain, but they all came with a risk of being bitten. She just sat there, staring at this scaly predator, until she realized that the only way to get passed it was to go over it. Blaire backed up a few feet to ensure that she could gain enough speed to ride over the snake without it being able to harm her. She stopped, looked at the snake, said to herself, “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing”, and started peddling as fast as she could. The fear rose up inside of her to the point that all she could do was peddle. It was too late to stop now the snake could get her if she did. She kept peddling and peddling until she hit the snake. The sound of metal crashing onto the pavement rang out through the air as Blaire flew off the bike just a couple of feet away from the large snake. It coiled up, all its muscles working together, smoothly to allow the snake enough power and length to strike at Blaire, biting her on her left shoulder. Immediately, she began to writhe in pain. She could feel the poison seeping into her veins and being pumped through her body. She began to sense the paralysis that was setting into her body as the poison travelled farther within her. The more her heart kept beating the less she could feel, until it finally reached her heart. With a short gasp of air and small sigh of relief, she was dead.
She kept reading, becoming more and more intrigued with each page she turned. Suddenly, she realized that she knew the story she was reading because she had dreamt it the night before. She couldn’t stop herself from re-reading, tracing every detail to make sure it was consistent with her nightmare, until, finally, she fell asleep.
That night, Blaire had another dream. This time she was in a clear river enjoying the beautiful day. She closed her eyes to soak it all in. Just then, she noticed a large, black snake swimming towards her. The next thing she knew, she was sinking under water, paralyzed, drowning.
Blaire’s body jolted her awake, sending an electric shock throughout every limb. She sat up, unable to fall back asleep, and decided to pick up the book again. As she began reading, she noticed the story had changed. It was no longer about the little girl on her bike. Now, it was about her standing in a crystal, clear river. The current was just strong enough to feel as though it was running right through her. She closed her eyes, tilted her head back, and let the sun beat down on her glistening skin. With every passing moment, Blaire felt the stress of the world being lifted off of her and carried away with the moving river. She felt at peace with everything, until she felt something brush against her leg. Letting out a short, high-pitched scream, Blaire opened her eyes. She began to look for whatever had just brushed against her leg, but couldn’t see through the murky, brown water that had once been so clean and clear. She felt it again. It was definitely something big. Blaire tried to run to the bank of brown leaves and broken tree limbs, but her feet were stuck in the thickness of mud and muck that coated the riverbed. It was impossible to move. Glancing around for anything that might help her get un-stuck, she noticed a large snake slowly swimming towards her like it knew that she couldn’t move and it had all the time in the world to attack its prey. Blaire screamed and screamed until the snake got close enough and sunk its teeth into her. Immediately she became completely paralyzed. She dropped beneath the water, trying to hold her breath for as long as she could. After a few moments, her body’s reflex took over. She took in a deep breath of murky water. Her body jolted back and forth, longing for oxygen until she died.
Blaire cringed at the memory of her dream. Bouts of fear shivered up her spine. How did it change? Why did it change? I don’t understand. How can a book do that? What does it mean?
“The story changed!” Blaire practically yelled at Mr. Oliver, who was checking out a copy of Sense and Sensibility to a middle-aged woman. The woman stared at Blaire with big eyes until Mr. Oliver handed her the book. “Have a nice day”, he said to her as she took the book in her hands and proceeded to the exit. She took special precautions not to get too close to Blaire while leaving, making sure to keep a watchful eye on her until she was safely out of the building.
“It was about a girl on a bike last night and then this morning, it was completely different, except it still had a….’
“A what?” Mr. Oliver seemed genuinely interested. His wide-eyed stare at her, made Blaire feel slightly uncomfortable. She felt that maybe he already knew the answer to that question, but she couldn’t be sure about that.
“N..nothing”, Blaire answered reluctantly, “but how did it change.”
“You changed it.” The old man sat down in an antique, red-velvet chair. He placed one leg over the other and rested both hands on the arms of the chair.
“No, I didn’t. I was reading it and then I fell asleep. I didn’t do anything.”
“Yes, you did. You changed it. The book shows you your future and with every choice you make, your future changes.”
Parts of her dream, particularly the nightmarish snake parts, flashed through Blaire’s mind.
“That’s my future?”
“Yes. Well, in a way.”
Blaire’s pulse began to rise and it became harder for her to breathe.
“I don’t understand”, she responded worriedly.
“In literature everywhere, there is always some deeper meaning. Things are not always what they seem. They represent your deepest desires and your greatest fears. So, in a way, your dreams are trying to tell you something that is critical to moving forward in your life. You need to look deeper.”
Blaire paused for a moment as she thought about what Mr. Oliver was trying to tell her before asking, “How do you know all this?”
“They should be teaching you that in school. Do you take English courses?” Mr. Oliver’s face was filled with worry at the thought of this younger generation not being taught the lessons that literature has in store.
“No. Yes. That’s not what I mean.” Blaire sighed.
“You asked the question.” Mr. Oliver nodded in a what-do-you-expect type manner.
“I meant, How do you know so much about this book?”
“Ah, well, experience.”
Blaire’s eyes shot up to Mr. Oliver’s face. “What? You mean, this book did the same thing to you?”
Blaire waited for Mr. Oliver to elaborate and when he didn’t, she threw her hands up and glared at him. “Sir, I don’t mean to be rude, but….HELLO! What happened?”
“Well, I took the book home out of curiosity, same as you, and I fell asleep trying to figure out why it was empty.”
“Uh huh, go on”, Blaire nodded.
“Well, I had a horrible nightmare that resulted in my death and when I woke up the next morning, the book was filled with words describing the dream in specific details; details that I couldn’t remember.”
“….and what did it all mean?”
“Well, for me, I had two dreams. Both of them were of different times in my life but they both had one similarity in common. The thing that killed me had stayed the same.”
“What was it? What killed you?
Blaire drew in a deep breath and raised her hand to her mouth. She felt sorry for Mr. Oliver. In her dreams, she only had to die by something that she already hated most in the world, but he……he had to die by someone he loved. She couldn’t imagine the emotional trauma that must’ve put him through.
“What did you get from all of it?” Blaire looked up to him for guidance. She needed to know there was a point to all this madness.
“Well, it’s different for everyone, but for me, I learned that I only saw the good in people, even when they stabbed me in the back.”
“Is that such a bad thing?” To Blaire, this seemed like a quality more people should have.
“It can be. You see, it caused me a lot of pain. I kept asking myself how anyone could do that to the person that was trying so hard to help them. How could I extend a helping hand and he just throw me to the wolves. In the end, I had to learn to not put myself into those situations. You can only help those who want to be helped. Eventually my brother came around. He reached rock bottom and when he came to me, I saw the change. I knew immediately that he was a different man.” With the shrug of his shoulder and small smile brightening his face, Mr. Oliver turned and got back to reading his large, black book.
Blaire thought about Mr. Oliver’s advice. Maybe he’s right.? But, how am I supposed to figure out what it all means?
As Blaire prepared for bed, she thought about the dreams and what they might mean. She was not an interpreter. She had no idea what the future held for her, but she needed to know more.
Trying her best to shake it off, she crawled under her purple comforter and closed her eyes. As Blaire drifted to sleep, she began to fall into another dream.
She was driving down the road with the windows down and the music loud. Everything was fine until she noticed her right foot kept pressing harder and harder on the gas pedal. Pulse rising, heart pounding, she began to freak out as she couldn’t slow down. All of the sudden, something darted out in front of her. As she tried to swerve, the car began to spin out of control. Her fingers clutched the wheel tighter and tighter as the car just kept spinning and spinning. The shrieks from the tires being shredded across the pavement filled the air. Completely helpless, she closed her eyes and heard Mr. Oliver’s voice saying, “With each choice you make, your future changes.” She began to chant to herself, “Everything’s going to be alright. I’m safe. I’m alive”, over and over again. When she finally opened her eyes, there was absolutely nothing wrong. She was driving down the road with the windows down and the music loud. She began to seek the snake on the side of the road, but felt no fear in its presence. Instead she looked out at the scenery behind it and focused on all its beauty.
When Blaire woke up the next morning, she felt at peace with herself. She was beginning to understand her nightmares. Sitting down at her writing table, she opened the book to see if the story had changed, but there was nothing there. It was empty again. No more words, pictures, nothing. What? She closed the book, threw it in her bag, and ran to the library.
On the way to the library, Blaire began to focus on things she hadn’t noticed before like the weeping will trees that lined the road, the purple and yellow flowers that added little pops of color to the overwhelmingly green grass, and the white, puffy clouds in the sky that seemed to float by, so weightless, without a care in the world. As she studied her surroundings, she began to understand how small she was in this great, big world. Fear began to creep in. As a summer breeze blew by, Blaire realized that, though she may be one small part of this world, she can always grow. That’s when she fully understood what her dreams meant.
When she arrived at the Library, she walked up to the front counter where Mr. Oliver was sitting, and laid the book down in front of him.
“I’d like to return this book, please.”
Mr. Oliver smiled. “You understood your dreams, then?”
“I did. I do.”
“And what did you learn?”
“I learned that there will be bad things that happen within my life. Those things threaten to take away the beauty in life if I let it. BUT, if I choose to focus on the beauty that surrounds it instead of focusing on the what-ifs, then I won’t be poisoned by negativity and fear.” Letting out a deep breath, Blaire smiled. She thanked Mr. Oliver and, right then, felt completely at peace with everything.
As Mr. Oliver walked to the back of the library and began to place the book back on its shelf, Blaire wondered if there were other books like this one. Mr. Oliver must have been able to read her mind when he said, “No. It’s unique. The only one of its kind. There has never been one like it before and there will never be another.”
“…but, there is still so much that I don’t know.”
Mr. Oliver looked her in the eyes, put his hand on her shoulder, and said, “If you want to know more, there’s a room full of books waiting to teach you.”