First Section: Monument
Chapter Two: The Library
After about twenty minutes, all of the students had managed to calm down. People gravitated to their friends and split up into smaller groups in the west wing of the library. Cara’s group was the only one to move to the east wing.
The library that had been warm and bright was now dark and chilly. In addition to the darkness, it was almost as if there was a subtle blue light being cast into the library as well. An overhead lamp had been turned on above the table Cara and her friends were sitting at. That was the only source of warm and familiar light that could be seen in this strange new world.
During the twenty minutes after the transition into darkness, several students had tried to leave through the main door. No matter how hard they tried to open the door, it wouldn’t even budge. It was clear that everyone had been locked in and that no door or window was going to open or allow itself to be broken.
There was a lot that Cara wanted to talk about with her friends, but there was still that unspoken question from earlier that continued to bother her. Back on the bus, after waking up, she felt like she couldn’t remember what had happened earlier that morning. She needed to know how she had gotten here, so she interrupted the conversation the others were having and asked.
“Guys, what did we do this morning?”
“What do you mean?” Martha asked.
“Before school began, what did we talk about?”
Every morning before school started, the group would meet outside of the back of the school building. There was a small area next to the back entrance where they could speak and pass the time. They had done this every morning for as long as any of them could remember and today should have been no different.
When they thought about it and tried to remember going there this morning, they found they also had no memories from before the bus ride. Scared and confused, none of them gave Cara an answer. Unfortunately, their silence was all that she needed to witness in order to know that she had reached the right conclusion.
Cara decided to quickly calm their fears. At least as much as she would be able to.
“I can’t remember anything from between going to sleep last night and arriving here.”
“It’s the same for me,” Adam said.
Everyone acknowledged that it was the same for them. Cara was glad to know that she wasn’t alone. At the same time, knowing that this had happened didn’t make anything better.
“How does something like that happen?” asked Tracy.
“This is almost like a dream,” John said. “Like when you realize what you’re dreaming makes no sense and you begin to wake up.”
“We’re definitely not dreaming,” said Martha.
“This is definitely real, but it does feel like that,” Cara said. She agreed with both of their sentiments. “What we’re experiencing right now is real, but I don’t think that it’s our reality. In the real world, or our world at least, people don’t just vanish into thin air. Storms don’t appear in a span of three seconds. But even though these things can’t happen, they are happening. So whatever this is, I think that it might be a different kind of reality.”
Even though impossible things were happening, they had all witnessed them. There was no choice but to accept it as real, so there had to be some kind of explanation. The best that Cara could think of was that they had been transported elsewhere at some point in time.
Despite how similar the library looked and how normal everything had seemed earlier, there was no way that they were still in their world.
“So then our problem is getting back home,” said Tracy.
“If something brought us here, then there must have been some reason for it,” John said.
“They might be waiting for us somewhere else in the library. Maybe we should just look around,” suggested Adam.
The group looked towards Cara to decide. She had always been a leader of sorts and up until this point she had been acting like one. Everyone trusted her to make good decisions, so when they all looked toward her she knew it was her decision to make.
“Well… we’re already in a dangerous situation. I think we should find out what’s going on by looking around the rest of the library. So long as we stay together.”
The group members all accepted this decision. It made sense and seemed like a good plan of action, but Cara felt nervous for some reason. She felt like this was a very important decision and she worried that it might not be the right one. It was the act of making a definitive choice in a strange situation that made her nervous.
It was perfectly natural to feel that way though. This was a strange, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable environment. Anyone would want to make sure their decision was the best possible one. Especially because it would have an effect on her close friends.
“We should start on the second floor,” said Adam. “Everyone else is here on this floor and it doesn’t seem like they’ve discovered anything that would help us.”
They agreed and proceeded to climb the stairs to the second floor. As Cara stepped onto the first step, she noticed the staircase didn’t seem as sturdy as she had expected. It made her hesitate for a moment, but if they were going to discover anything then she would need to continue upwards. She forced herself up and stopped a few steps into the second floor. The second floor was completely silent which gave it an ominous feeling. Even though the lights were on, Cara saw nothing but pure darkness outside of the window on the other end of the room. As Cara continued to move forward, she felt like she was moving into that overwhelming darkness.
“There’s nothing here,” she said a little too definitively.
“We haven’t even looked yet,” Martha replied.
“I can’t explain it, but I get the feeling that there’s nothing important here.”
Cara wasn’t sure why she felt that way. If it was a statement made out of fear, then she would have suggested going back. She wanted to continue on though. Just not on this floor of the library. Her instinct told her to climb to the third floor.
“Well, I still think we should look. How about Tracy and Adam stay with me, and you and John can look around the third floor?” Martha suggested.
“That’s fine with me,” said John.
Cara hesitated for a moment. Splitting up didn’t seem like a good idea to her. However, the library felt small and everything was close together. Even if she and John were one floor above the others, then they would still be close. Due to her feeling that the second floor was empty, she found herself agreeing.
“Alright,” Cara replied. “Just don’t split up any further than this. Don’t let one person go into the east wing while the other two go into the west.”
They understood why she had said this and agreed. Cara and John turned around and ascended the staircase to the third and final floor of the library. The stairs led directly to a small space before a locked door. A single locked door that felt like it had all the answers they were looking for behind it. Cara and John both approached the door without any hesitation.
When they opened the door, they found that it led to a private study. This was the only room on the third floor. A collection of books adorned the walls to the left and right and a desk was located at the far side of the room in front of a window.
The other floors of the library felt open and simple, but this place felt extremely secretive. The room’s furnishings all seemed to match a single style. Knowing that this place was probably closely connected to an actual human made Cara feel better. She did wonder who would have their own private study at the top of the town library though.
“Look at this,” John said, pointing to the carpet behind the desk.
“It’s soaking wet,” Cara noticed. Even though the window was shut, it looked like rain had been falling directly on the carpet.
It had started raining when they entered the library which meant that the window had been open at that time. And even though this library was empty, someone had managed to close this window.
“No one came down the stairs to the first floor,” John said. “Which means that whoever shut this window has to be…”
On the second floor.
After John said this, he immediately ran back towards the staircase to warn the others. Cara turned around to follow him, but she stopped when she noticed a book on the desk. The symbols on the front were like nothing she had ever seen before. Her sense of danger was completely obscured as she reached out and grabbed it.
The book had a presence of some sort. It felt like it had reached out and demanded that she take it. Without even being conscious of it, she did just as it commanded her to. When she did take it, she felt like she was free to move again and continued towards the stairs. By the time she got down there, everyone was gathered in the space between the two wings.
“Are you sure you didn’t hear anyone?” John asked them.
“Yes,” Tracy said. “While we were looking around we weren’t even speaking. The only sound we heard was you running down the stairs.”
“So it would have been impossible for anyone to have left during that time,” Martha said.
“But what if they’re still hiding in the other wing?” Cara asked.
The others hadn’t thought of that yet. And perhaps that was scarier than any other possibility. Someone extremely close by was hiding from them and they knew exactly where they were hiding.
It was a difficult situation. If you know some strange person could be hiding in the room right next to you, then it becomes impossible to ignore. It would be frightening to confront the person, but it would be just as frightening to do nothing and let that person move about on their own. Until they figured out how to leave this place, they would be trapped in the library with them so they had no choice but to investigate.
“Alright, you caught me. No need to panic,” said a voice.
Everyone jumped and looked towards the door to the west wing. The doors slowly opened and a man stepped out of that room. He was clearly not their age and looked to be around 30.
“Who are you?” John asked, trying to think of a way to defend everyone if need be.
“Don’t worry, I’ll explain all that. This is seriously not how I planned for this to go. You were all more resilient than I expected.”
There was no response. The man knew that the last line he spoke was more for him than them, so he continued on.
“I’m the one who sealed you off in this dark world. I’ve got no interest in harming any of you either so please don’t be frightened. I am a magician, a sorcerer, or however you want to say it.”
“Why would you bring us here?” asked Cara. While the others had a strange reaction to what he was saying, to Cara it sounded like he was speaking about mundane things.
“It’s going to sound a little strange. Well, I might as well say it instead of trying to explain first. I brought you here to defend your world. The whole of your world is in danger of being destroyed.”
“Keep going,” Cara said after the man paused to let her absorb this idea. She didn’t find it strange at all and her friends could tell that she was behaving differently than normal.
“That’s a bit unexpected, but good that you’re eager to help. Let me explain to you what this library is. This library is like a tower. To you, this is the bottom of the tower. For me, this is the top. At this end of the tower is your world and at the bottom of the tower is another. The force on the other end is trying to use this tower to access and destroy the world.”
“This is insane,” Tracy said to the others. Cara and the man were seemingly ignoring everyone else. John wondered if Cara would even react if he reached out and tried to get her attention.
“I locked you in here and made impossible things happen so that you would believe me. If it was still sunny outside you would have run from me, but because we’re in this strange world you should be able to believe that I’m telling you the truth. I say strange world, but really we’re still in your world with just a little of mine mixed in.”
Cara nodded. This was an insane situation, but she was able to grasp it easily. Although her theory about this being a different world was defeated, this was actually better. She was still in her own world and it had simply been altered so that this man could prove to them that he wasn’t crazy.
“I’ll finish up my explanation,” he said. “You’re probably wondering a few things. I’m sure you’ll ask: Why us? I honestly don’t know. I was told to seal off this library when you and your friends appeared and I was told not to interfere, but I did so I really should get going before I disobey my orders any further. So before I go, I’ll answer your next question: What do we do now? You are supposed to move to the other end of the tower and stop the invaders. The world is yours to save.”
The man’s strange speech ended and he disappeared before their eyes. He was clearly in a rush to explain things and he seemed worried about his interfering. Cara understood it all, but she could tell the others didn’t. Almost like being released from a trance, she turned around and felt like she was looking at her friends for the first time in years.
“What… was that?” Adam asked.