The books were laughing at me. Their spines cracked and groaned as they flipped open, the pages riffling like an orchestra of wheezing accordions.
I stared at them in wonder and horror, unable to comprehend how they were moving of their own accord. Or how they managed to stay upon the shelves in spite of their convulsions. The study was filled with bookshelves, all teeming with books, and all of them now moved, animated by some malevolent spirit. Or so it seemed to me. It was not a generous, welcoming laughter that echoed from those pages. There was a menace to it, a cutting edge as sharp as their fine pages.
I backed away from the room, which I had only entered moments before, and which had seemed a quiet and somewhat austere place where I might seclude myself for some hours. Instead, I now feared for my life.
I had closed the door behind me upon entering, but now, when I tried to turn the handle, I found it locked. How that could be possible—for the mechanism appeared to allow me to lock the door from within the study, keeping intruders out—I could not say. The laughter of the books grew louder, turning into a gale force of noise. Shuddering in horror, I threw the full force of my body against the door, thinking it must be jammed and that I might be able to dislodge.
It seemed to have no effect. In fact, I was quite certain I could feel the door responding to my efforts by moving to brace itself, and perhaps even to push back against me. Panic seized me, sweat going frigid upon my forehead, as I contemplated what terrible fate might await me if the entire house turned against me.
“What do you want with me?” I cried out at the empty room.
The books did not cease their movement, but instead of laughter I heard a garbled chorus of indistinct words. “You are not wanted here.”
“Then let me leave, I beg of you.” I shouted, frightening myself with the tinge of madness breaking in my voice.
No words followed from the tomes, only further laughter. I fled across the room to the large window at the far end, which let in the dying embers of the day’s sun. Fumbling with the latches, I tried to pry it open so that I might throw myself free of this place. The window was resistant, the latches snapping shut even as I opened them, and I pinched my fingers more than once. This led to even louder gales of laughter from the books.
“What have I ever done to you?” I said, as I searched the room for some other means of escape.
“You are not wanted here,” came the reply.
“Do you take me for a fool?” I yelled in exasperation.
“You are not wanted here.”
I cursed under my breath, resolving to speak no more with these recalcitrant volumes. Whatever spirit animated them sought only to taunt me, it was clear.
A stout chair sat near the window, where it would best offer a solitary reader the day’s light. I judged that I would be able to lift it, and perhaps even send it through the window. Before the house had time to realize what I was about, I strode over to the chair and, grasping it by the arms, threw it against the window. It glanced off, showing no apparent ill effects, though I could hear something like a moan come from the books.
“Let me out, or I’ll do it again,” I said, attempting to put something like a threat in my voice.
In response, one of the books tumbled off the shelf near my head. I dodged it, letting it glance off my shoulder. Picking it up, I tore at its pages, those that I could grasp, for they continued to flutter and move as if alive. The pages above me groaned in fury, the whole house seeming to seethe and hiss at me.
“You are not wanted here.”
“Damn you,” I said, my anger dampening my fear, the blood hot in my cheeks. “What right have you to turn me away? I have come here, meaning you no ill will, and this is how I am treated.”
“You are not wanted here.”
I picked up the chair again and threw it at the window. This time, a blemish, tiny, but there nonetheless, formed at the center of the pane. The books fluttered incoherently, as though debating what to do next. I felt flush and triumphant.
“I’ll do it again. I’ll break the window and escape. You cannot treat me like this. I’m a decent man. I have come here with only good intentions.”
“You are not wanted here,” the pages said, though they no longer sounded so resolute.
“You don’t get to determine that. It is not your place. I came, bearing you no ill will. I can stay, if I so choose. In fact, I believe I shall.”
With that, I seized the chair again and turned it over, sitting upon it beneath the window. The books clattered above me, some of them spilling off the shelves, even landing upon my head. But I remained resolute.
“You are not wanted here.” It sounded like a desperate cry, plaintive and weak, with none of the strength that had moved the pages before.
I did not respond, remaining in the chair, my jaw set and my expression blank. The pages continued with their cries, the whole house seeming to moan and shiver, while I stayed seated. My anger cooled as the house quieted around me. I had shown my resolve and demonstrated who was its master.
Eventually, silence reigned, the pages going still above me. I could even hear the chirp of the insects in the grass outside. I rose up and wandered about my new abode, for every door was now open to me. I nodded my approval, not even hearing the faintest whispers from the study: “You are not wanted here.”
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