A few days ago I found some old 3.5" floppy disks that I thought had been lost forever. They contained, among other files, the only digital copy of the first novel I wrote as well as, to my surprise and delight, several other pieces of writing that I had forgotten all about. Thankfully, my husband is still using an older computer so I was able to get my files onto a memory stick. The following short story, called The Library, was an early attempt at writing suspense.
Deep in the bowels of the library, in the second basement where the books on the obscure sciences were shelved, she stood, absorbed in a paragraph about the discovery of the mu-meson. Unaware of time, her finger traced the words. A stringy voice crackled over the sound system announcing that the library would be closing in five minutes. She didn't hear it.
The book in her hand snapped closed and, looking up, she selected three others from the shelf and headed for the elevator. The library seemed dim, she realized, looking around. There was no one in sight. She pressed the up arrow of the elevator and glanced at her watch. 5:37. The library is supposed to close at five o'clock. Why didn't they announced it?
She heard a sound behind her, like footsteps. She swallowed. Perhaps she wasn't the only one here. The doors of the elevator slid open and she scurried inside, turning around so she could look out. She jabbed the CLOSE DOOR button and then MAIN.
Stepping out of the elevator on the main floor, she was startled by a sound off to her left. She froze and listened.
Cautiously, she started toward the exit doors, keeping her heels up and rolling on the balls of her feet so as to make no sound.
There it was again. It sounded like footfalls on the old hardwood floor. She veered right and tiptoed between the soaring shelves then crouched to peer between the levels of books in the direction of the sound.
Creeping forward, she edged between the rows toward the door. Another snap sounded, behind her, off to her left. Her heart pounded in her throat now. Her breath came in shallow gasps. She opened her mouth so that her breathing would be silent. Every sound counted. She started down another row of books.
She could see the door.
Rustling. A ski jacket sleeve brushing against the side of a body? She could feel the dampness in her armpits. Sprinting for the door, she rammed her body against the handle bar. Her head struck the glass but the door held. She whimpered and struck the bar frantically with both hands.
The door was locked. Spinning around, she flattened herself against it, her eyes flicking around the huge room, darting between the towering rows of books.
Again the floor creaked, this time farther to her right. She lunged behind the librarians' station and searched for a telephone. Snatching up the receiver she saw the number for Campus Security on a sticker and stabbed the buttons with a numb finger.
"I'm locked in the library," she whispered to the voice that answered. Peering around the corner of the counter she pleaded, "Get me out of here."
She sank to the floor and leaned her head against a filing cabinet. The dark fluorescent tubes pinged overhead. Bookshelves groaned and cracked. The library was cooling off in the dusk. She sat and listened. Slowly, she realized that the creaking and snapping came from all over the room. Of course, the library was settling in for the night.
Outside, she could hear scuffling and then a key turned in the lock. The door swung open and a uniformed security guard strode in. She jumped to her feet.
"You all right?" the guard asked.
"I'm fine," she said, straightening. "Let's go."
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