We’re all Stories in the End
By Matthew Rogers
Like all libraries, the one run by Grant had the floors blanketed with a harsh silence. No noises aside from the familiar squeals of chairs moving or the heavy footsteps that struck the solid hardwood floor were made. Silence was needed to give each reader time to absorb every word that was written, which was why a well maintained library could be seen as a safe haven for those who dedicated their lives to the written word.
As Grant and his co-worker Kelly worked the checkout desk, using the small lamps that had been installed years ago to go over notes that they made themselves, there was a simple noise that could be heard; the sound of someone sobbing. Every few seconds there seemed to be a small shaky rasp followed by a wheeze which echoed among the walls. This made the librarians look at each other, then down the rows of shelves that would eventually lead them to where they knew the person was.
There was only one other person in the entire building, so they were worried. Grant sighed and slowly stood up from his chair, running a hand through his thinning gray hair as he walked out of the checkout desk and toward the noise. Kelly started to rise, mostly to go and help Grant if he needed any; but the man raised his hand to stop her, as someone needed to be there if anyone else came in. Besides if he needed help he would just call out for her, no harm no foul.
While the sobbing grew louder as he walked, Grant looked at each shelf briefly and smiled to himself. Each held leather bound books, all still in good condition as each was made with care before finding their way to his library, though his old eyes would grace a book that had a new cover instead of leather. All in all Grant accepted any book, his library would house them without complaint and they would reside in the building with the rest of their brethren.
When he came across the reading area, Grant paused as he looked at the man who sat at the table. A book was in front of him, normal sized hardcover instead of leather bound. While the book was opened in front of him with one hand, the other was pressed against his face, scrunched up as if he was in pain, tears running down his cheeks as a small gasping squeak was emitted from his mouth.
“Sir?” Grant’s voice caused the man to turn his red face toward the librarian. Another noise was made, this time of surprise as he forced the chair back, almost slamming into the shelf behind him. Grant was glad the man had some restraint. He would have been quite upset if any of the books fell to the floor.
“Sir, are you alright?” The question did not have the effect Grant was looking for as the man placed his face in his hands again and made another noise. But this time Grant heard something, and when he moved a little closer he could hear, “It’s not how I remember…”
The head librarian raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
The book was pushed across the table, open and on the beginning of a chapter. The man quietly said, “The first paragraph…”
Grant, still puzzled, walked up to the table and took the book. ‘Eric raised his fist, looking down at the woman who was laying at his feet, her eyes wide in fear as she knew what was going to come next. Without another thought the fist came down, striking the woman across the face, a hollow crunch could be heard when his knuckles met cheekbone…’
“Page two-hundred and two…” Was mumbled and Grant flipped to the page.
‘“Get out of my house you faggot!” Eric screamed as a man in his twenties walked out the front door with another man, hand in hand.
“No Natalie, I will not accept that sick crap, he is not my son anymore!” Eric could not hear the sounds of his wife’s pleas over each breath he took, his fists tight as he could feel his heart thud hard against his chest.”’
And finally, “Page two-hundred and ninety.”
‘Eric sat quietly at the bar, his head bowed slightly to his chest as he held the mug with one hand. His eyes quickly glanced up to see himself in the reflection of the barroom mirror, a mesh of wrinkles, light gray stubble and dull hazel eyes behind a pair of thick plastic glasses. A moment passed before he turned back to his drink and took it all in one gulp, and when it settled firmly in his stomach he called the bartender for another.’
Grant settled the book on the table as pity graced his thoughts. He knew there was more, but he didn’t need to see the rest. “Sir, it’s time for you to go.”
The man raised his face to Grant but instead of wanting to ask for the book back, instead of pleading to stay, the man mumbled, “Alright,” and slowly rose from his chair.
Soon Kelly saw both men return to the checkout desk, yet the man continued on, leaving the library without second thoughts as he pushed open the doors and walked out into the sunlight. Grant on the other hand sighed as he made his way back to his seat and sat down, putting the book aside before picking up his pen once more.
“Why do they do it?”
Grant paused before turning to Kelly. “Do what?” he asked quietly, his wonder peaked by her question. She was looking at the book the man had, her fingers running over the title imprinted on the cover.
“Why do they choose the books that would bring them pain when they have others to choose from? I mean we have plenty of books where the reader could find out the reasons and wonders they’ve always dreamed of!” Kelly stared at the shelves that littered the building; all Grant could do was sigh.
“My guess is they want to remember, to see if they could find any meaning. But their hopes are usually dashed when given the truth, which they are now only words and pages, shelved among many others and no one cares about them anymore.”
Kelly frowned as she looked down at the book, the words Eric Lockerby, February 7th 1944 – October 1st 2010 were stamped on the cover in gold print. “I’ll go put it back.”
Grant nodded as he turned his back to Kelly, who was leaving the desk with book in hand. “Remember, it goes in the new wing.”
Kelly’s answer came in her footsteps that echoed through the building. She knew it wouldn’t take her long to find the 2010 – 2020 section. At least she had the wonderful view of all the books before her, and the rows of shelves that stretched on into infinity.