Shh! by Rachel Blackmon


Aeryn tripped and landed face first in the grass outside the library. She got up, spat, wiped her knees clean, then continued running.

How could she forget that research paper?

She burst through the door of the Tomas Rivera library and slid along the sleek floor to the front desk.

“Can I help you?” the red-haired receptionist smiled.

“…British literature?” Aeryn squeaked.

“Level seven.”

“Thanks.”

Why were there so many stairs?! Her vigor dropped by the time she reached the seventh floor.

“Finally!” she screamed. She opened the door.

Ten other students stared at her. If looks could kill.

“Sorry.” She winced and hid herself in the library stacks.

Finally. The British lit section. Aeryn looked up at the clock on the wall.

Alright, Aeryn, she thought. It’s 8AM. You have one day to write a twenty page research paper. Fifteen sources. MLA format. You can do it.

She glanced at the wall and caught a glimpse of the library’s hours. Good. They were open until 11PM. If she stayed at the library all day… if she skipped lunch… That should be plenty of time.

Time to get to work.

Hours fell upon hours. Six sources by lunchtime. She grabbed a Twinkie from the machine downstairs. By five she had thirteen sources and fourteen pages written. Perhaps this was possible after all.

Just need two more sources. Just six more pages.

She took to the stacks again. Two sources should be a piece of cake.

Six o’clock came around. Then seven. Then ten. Still nothing. How hard can it be to find two sources?!

Aeryn sat on the hard floor near a stack of books. She glanced at the clock and bit her lip. 30 more minutes. She just needed two sources. She could finish the last few pages at home. She opened her book.

The words melded together. Her eyes drooped.

She shook her head violently. She couldn’t sleep now! She was so close! She turned back to the book.

“Shh!”

Aeryn woke with a start. She groaned. What the hell happened?

“Shh!”

Aeryn blinked rapidly. Why was it so dark? Where was she? She stood up.

Crash! She jumped. A book lay at her feet. She was still in the library. The book in her lap fell. The lights were all out.

Wait… The lights were out? Shit! She fell asleep! The library closed! She pulled out her phone. 2AM?! Her other sources! How could she get her paper done now!?

She shoved her phone back in her pocket. Gotta get out of here. Gotta to get home. She stepped toward the hallway.

“Shh!”

Aeryn froze. Was someone here?

“Hello?”

“Shh! Shh! Shh! Shh!” The hissing hushes echoed in her brain. She held her hands over her ears. Ow!

“Is someone there?” she called.

“Shh-shh-shh-shh-shh-shh-shh–” the shushes multiplied. Her ears rung. What was that?

“Stop it!” she shouted. The shushes grew. “SHH-SHH-SHH–”

Fffftttllll-slam! Something fell. What was that?

“SHH!”

What the hell was going on here?! She had to get out. She took a step toward the hall.

“SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH–”

“Stop it, stop it, stop it!” Aeryn screamed. She bolted toward the door of the elevator.

Ffftttlll-thump! Was that a book? The hissing amplified. Aeryn looked around. There was no book on the floor.

Ffftttlll-bang! Another amplified hiss. Another empty hallway. Where were these books falling?

“SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH–”

“Go away!” Aeryn screamed. Her heart pounded in her chest. Her head felt heavy and bloated. Her feet refused to move.

The elevator. It was so close. She could make it. She could escape.

Ffftttlll-smash! Something collided with Aeryn’s face. She clawed at it. She gasped. Yank!  She grabbed the object and threw it to the ground.

Moby Dick stared up at her. What the hell?

The book shook. Aeryn stepped back. It shook again. Harder… harder…

SLAM! The book crashed into Aeryn’s leg.

“Ow!” She shook her leg. “Leggo!”

Frankenstein fell. The Monk fell. They vibrated, leapt to life and latched on to Aeryn’s leg. She fell to one knee. How could books be so heavy?!

“Leggo! Leggo!” She pulled at the books. She ripped their pages. They refused to let her go.

Hamlet fell. It latched on to her arm. She pulled hard. “Help! Someone help!”

“SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH–”

“No, no, no, no!” Her breath came in ragged gasps. The weight on her leg pulled at her.

How could books be so heavy?!

Wuthering Heights. Dracula. Ethan Frome. They stuck to her. Her arms weighed down. Her legs. Her torso. Her chest. She fell to the floor. Books weighed on her.

That insistent shushing.

She couldn’t see the elevator through her tears. Only her face remained.

“…Help.”

Her body moved. They pulled her. Pulled her harder. Harder. The elevator disappeared.

“SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH-SHH…”

Fahrenheit 451.

Help…

***

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