Lisa stood behind the brown wooden desk at the counter, once again lost in thoughts. This time, however, they didn’t concern clocks or soldiers. No, her distracted fascination centered on the ‘horror fiction’ area of the library. Few libraries separately sectioned their horror books. This genre was normally located within the fiction sector. In the library Lisa worked, the category was at the back of the building, set boldly beside the children’s crèche area.
The main computer on the desk was switched on. The online screen banner flagged BOWKER, and Lisa remembered the task she had to do. She would go check out the horror books later, just to be sure they were in all the right places.
She sat down and typed her log-in information. The screen windows transformed, and she was guided to the searchable database required to find the old man’s book. Out of It All. The book’s title flashed in her mind. That was what the old guy – Mr. Thomas – had told her it was called. Out of It All. Lisa hadn’t asked what it was about; she only sought the usual details: the author’s name and if he happened to know the date of its publication. But he knew neither.
However, Mr. Thomas did offer one piece of information to her. Through his glasses, Lisa had seen his eyes darting from left to right as if he was reluctant to share it or, perhaps, afraid? He’d leant closer to her so that his old, grey duffle coat had pressed against the counter. Lisa had involuntarily shivered.
“There were only so many copies made before they withdrew it from circulation,” he’d whispered.
“Made? We usually say printed. You can’t even tell me the year it came out?” she had responded sullenly.
He’d shaken his head, like a schoolboy retreating from a teacher’s interrogative stance. Lisa had taken the title down anyway, convinced that with the help of modern technology, she would eventually be able to locate the enigmatic book.
The Bowker search engine now informed her that the book did, in fact, exist, and could be obtained through various steps of ‘internetual reliance’ (this was a term she had coined not long after starting her assistant’s job). It meant she could order it through an online seller from another website with no fuss. She scribbled down the Web address of the seller and clicked the X in the top right-hand corner of the page to close the window.
The library was quiet. Too quiet. Lisa looked along the hushed spaces between the units; long stretches of carpeted nothingness which bodies should have occupied, flicking studiously though books old and new. It was the town’s only library, except for those in its school. Lisa had worked there for over two years and she liked the job. She had always liked books. She didn’t appreciate the true-life accounts of murder and mayhem; like the magazines, they frightened her too much. Cathy was right. There were too many evil men in the world. But she loved being able to read and research the books that other people couldn’t find. It was what made her good at the job.
Time passed. The clock said four-thirty; Cathy was outside the front door chatting on her mobile phone, so Lisa, short of work and bored to the hilt, decided on a coffee before heading home.
-From “Coffee Stains” by Steven Deighan
Learn the secret behind the mysterious book, “Out of It All” here: Millhaven’s Tales of Terror