The doors shuffled and banged. I ignored them. Twenty more minutes of time to set things straight, count the money for the drawer for fines, and boot up the computer lab. Twenty more minutes of quiet and silent work.
The doors rattled and shook. Whoever was out there was persistent. I imagined a pensioner, fresh off an early bird breakfast, books in hand while they stood by the sign with the library’s hours and wondered if it was a holiday.
Lights from outside. High beams against the windows still fogged with early morning dew. The person had given up. The lights continued, maybe they decided to wait.
I went about my business.
The books on the fiction cart were out of order. I set them right by section, mystery and romance and general fiction all separated and in order. The little stickers on the spines lined up like soldiers. I saluted them and walked to the entry way.
The magazines in the small reading area were stacked by the chairs. The chairs were askew, out of their little line. Someone had a reading circle last night. Easy to fix.
The lights outside got brighter. Maybe. Maybe I spent too much time indoors.
The doors banged once, hard enough to rattle the glass. The lights on the windows burned bright and strong. Fifteen minutes to go.
Just a moment, I thought. Just a moment to stick my head outside, tell them to be patient, and set my guardian out front to warn others. The pensioner in my mind turned into a persistent parent holding a stack of homework due within the hour.
I opened the door and found no one. Few steps out, looked around. No one. No lights in the parking lot. Even the streetlights were out, dawn snuffing them out as it did each morning by triggering the automatic timers.
Inside I went to my office and unlocked the filing cabinet. Pulled out a small pouch and counted out fifty dollars in ones, fives, and change. I debated breaking a roll of pennies, but that could wait.
The light from the windows was still the harsh white, spoiling the look of the circulation desk in the morning glow. The money went in its little tray, divots and box carved by my grandfather before I was born. The drawer closed with a metallic snap, little magnets catching and holding fast.
Ten more minutes. I could distract myself that long.
The doors boomed. I was ready, waiting, and crossed the room. The deadbolt slid easy and the door opened.
No one there. Kids playing while waiting for the bus to school? Hiding in the bushes and turning off their flashlights when I opened up? Easy to play a trick on a librarian, I supposed. Boredom gets creative.
Back in, over to the computers. The hum of the computer fans cut the silence, the gray-blue light of the monitors washed out in the bright light shining in the windows. I go around and check the monitors, shake out the keyboards of the flotsam inside. People are gross.
The light outside got brighter. Where’s it coming from?
The whole frame of the door shook this time, rattled and boomed as if by pulled by suction. The old wood and glass seem to bend and twist with the force. I yelled as I ran now, across the library, threw the bolt, and flung open the door.
Nothing. No parking lot, no light, no sound. A void spans in front of me, empty of mass and space. I stared and blinked and tried to come to terms with it. A blank, black canvas devoid of stars or substance stared back like nothing I have ever seen. My mind reeled, caught in the idea of the simple nothing staring back at me.
I heard a sound and felt my throat burning. My own scream, lost out there. Out in the blank.
Somewhere in my mind I felt the sensation. What if I jumped? Like the time I stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon and wondered how it would be to fly. To just leap off and keep going?
This morbid thought, this dream of flight, pushed against me like a stiff wind and I leaned forward. A cold, meaningless nothing was before me. My waking mind reeled against it.
I slammed the door, falling back. My hands and feet scrambled under me as I flailed away. I am on the floor of the library and I am okay, I think, staring at the door. My breathing, hard and fast, calmed me and slowed.
I am alive. I exist.
The door rattled again. The light is gone. Voices murmur on the other side.
“…thought it opened at eight.” The door rattled again and the voice is louder. “Hello?” The question drawn out to get attention.
I stood and opened the door again. The morning wind is crisp and blew a few large oak leaves around the elderly lady’s feet as she walked past me.
“Thought you forgot about us,” she said.