A Quest Of Bad Decisions At Jane Austen's Party

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anoukinabook

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In my thirteen years on this planet, not once have I ever felt the urge to stop by the library at a quarter to midnight on a rainy Tuesday. A friend’s swimming pool? Been there. A movie theater on the opening night of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2? Done that. The local library whose interior design has not seen the light of day for 30 years? No, thanks. Anyway, this rainy Tuesday wasn’t supposed to be any different. I’d be up till twelve doing homework and watching Netflix simultaneously, waiting for that guilt-inducing query ‘Are you still watching?’, probably way too hyped up on Starbucks from earlier that day.

But no.

In a turn of events that shocked exactly no one, I’d been guilted into being social. As in actually talking and hanging out with other human beings. It’s a radical concept. How this relates to ending up parked beside the book drop off at 11:45, I’m not entirely sure. Somewhere between complaining about everything; taking shots of pumpkin spice lattes mixed with god knows whatever else a murder of teens found in a 7-Eleven; and documenting everything on Snapchat, the hive mind decided it would be a good idea to crash Jane Austen’s party.

“Uh, are you guys sure this won’t get us arrested..?” asked Claire, voice jumping an octave and stuttering to a halt.

For a frame of reference, we’re circling the library looking for the window that is allegedly left open by the custodians during the warmer nights of the year. The library is oddly shaped, and it almost seems like the architect decided that the less logical the layout was, the better. Oh, and add the least possible amount of windows so that the building can best fulfill its potential as a bigger-than-life-sized coffin.

“No one checks the cameras, and the custodian is at least a hundred years old. Chill.” came the sharp response of an obnoxiously tall guy hiding behind an even more obnoxious pair of neon orange sunglasses. Meet Kevin. The lack of light did nothing to soften the garish shade of orange.

“We found it!” the yelling from around the corner echoes around the empty parking lot.

We all race toward the sound, caution overpowered by a sheer curiosity and stupidity very rarely seen outside of a middle or high school. In a matter of seconds, everyone makes it to the open window, which is surprisingly large and could easily allow for the average sized person to step through.

However, at the moment it’s filled by three adolescent boys all graciously volunteering as tribute.

“Stop– what even– what are you guys doing?!” asks Kate with a dangerous level of exasperation. “Get a room. We can’t all go through the window at the same bloody time.”

After a few minutes filled with muttered cursing and bad leadership, everyone’s made it into the library. Thanks to the lack of windows, it’s pitch black inside the library; add in the strange shadows and this is the perfect set of a bad horror movie. It’s fabulous. There are a few beats of glorious silence to complete the mood–

“Ten dollars says that there’s someone with a chainsaw hiding behind one of these bookcases.”

“Nooo wh–”

“Shut up”–

“Hell yes!”

An unharmonious chorus of voices and opinions slices through the quiet. With that lovely symphony as our cue, we all scatter across the library, splitting up into groups and pairs as we explore a place we’ve known forever. But the dark adds a whole other dimension of time and space.

I’m with Kate and Sam, heading towards the block of shelves housing mystery, fantasy, and horror novels. Light dots the library and adds a camp-like aura– adjusting to the lack of light, people have pulled out their phones as flashlights. Hushed voices and muffled footsteps serve as the background music in this scene, sounding almost exactly as the library does during its open hours.

But like– the dark. It’s undeniably there.

Because we’re hardcore rebels, Sam and I switch around a few books. Maybe Stephen King never expected to be next door to Sir (Arthur Ignatius) Conan Doyle, but as the newest generation, we’re really changing the game here. Amidst this revolutionary literary experiment, an interruption worthy of the Emmy’s pierces the air.

“AAAAAHHHHHAHHHHHHH” I recognize the scream, and judging by their face, Sam does too. We stand stock-still and wait for some kind of confirmation that it was a joke, just another stupid joke. We stand there with the irrefutable knowledge that that scream was probably the realest thing said that night.

The sudden sound of swift footsteps– a noise which had been silenced the moments in the aftermath of the scream– awaken me to my lackluster senses. Sam and I spin around to see Kevin with an expression of shock and terror previously only seen by Pennywise. He quickly readjusts his demeanor and approaches us.

“Wher–who –what was that?! Are you guys okay?” he asks, glancing over our heads, eyes darting around the building.

“Other than being scared to death, yes,” I respond without the usual amount of snark.

“It came from over there”– Sam points to the homework center set up in the far corner of the library– “...and I think that it was Kate..” Their voice trails off apologetically and merges with the deafening silence.

“Let’s go.”

With that, we head over to the center. An unlikely sort of alliance seems to have been formed between us now that we’re going on this quest of countless bad decisions. Looking back (paranoid, me?), I see that a few people are heading out the window with their phones pressed against their ears as if it’s their lifeline to safety. Turning back around to face reality, I realize we’ve made it to the entrance of the homework center.

It’s blocked off from the rest of the library with colorful “walls” that are about the height of the average adult. The entrance is open, but right in front of it is a dry erase board blocking any direct view from the main area of the library. “Today’s snack: Halloween Oreos and apple cider. Have a Terrific Tuesday!” is scrawled on its surface in orange with a crude drawing of a smiling pumpkin as punctuation. The unintended creepiness of that smile really seals the deal.

I don’t remember when my breathing got so shallow and short, matching my heartbeat. Our army of three has stalled in front of the entrance, courage long since disappeared. Next to me, Sam is biting their lip and shifting their weight from leg to leg. Shaky breathing from behind me alerts me to Kevin’s presence, equally as terrified as us. Slowly, cautiously, we step into the center.

Somehow, it’s even darker in here than the rest of the library, and we all hesitate to raise our phones and flashlights, scared of what they could uncover. But when the area is bathed in the minimal light we can muster, no one seems to be there. There are the usual chairs and round tables scattered across the space haphazardly, casting freakish shadows on the floor. The typical lack of people to fill them. The decade-old posters struggling to stick to the wall, folded over like soldiers returning from defeat.

Rustling. A stifled moan.

Ahead of me, Sam and Kevin freeze in place, slowly rotating to the far right corner neglected by light. Almost unable to move and shaking uncontrollably, I follow their gaze. One of us– maybe it was me, by some miracle able to move my limbs– points their phone at the corner.

“Oh sh*t.”

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