The interior of the library was almost pitch-black with the power off. A little light filtered through some windows high above me, and I could see Becky's thin wispy form in the corridor. She looked much less substantial than she had before. "You okay, sis?" I felt rather than heard her say yes but I knew it would take her some time to recover from the exertion of bending the wire. She shimmered a little then dissolved completely, and disappeared.
From here on, I was on my own. I had a small torch in one of my pockets, amongst other assorted useful bits of equipment, but I didn't dare use it. Instead I relied on the faint light from outside, and gut instinct. Most of this, I'd be doing with my eyes closed anyway. I pulled the crystal from my pocket and held it on my open left palm. It was natural quartz crystal, about three inches long and two around its circumference. It sat neatly on my hand, point upwards, and I felt it's gentle pulsing all the way up my arm. I willed power into it, and the pulsing increased. "Show me where," I whispered.
There was a sudden flurry of images in my mind, pictures that I couldn't decipher beyond vague impressions of colour and movement. Most of the colours were shades of red, white and grey. Somewhere, perhaps far away in time, I heard an animal scream. Not now, not now...Dizziness overcame me, I staggered back against the wall, almost lost my footing, and fought against also losing consciousness. Too much exertion in one night, and too close to whatever was here, what I feared was here. I drew back some of the power I'd pushed into the crystal and felt the dizziness subside a little, leaving only a feeling of mild nausea.
Two deep breaths, and I concentrated once more on the crystal. I turned a full one hundred and eighty degrees, all the while concentrating on the crystal in my hand. At one point there was a movement, and a feeling of tugging downwards. Whatever it was, it was in the basement. I jogged around to the main lobby, wanting to sprint but not daring to, not yet. My long legs took the stairs three at a time, still holding the crystal in my outstretched hand, still feeling the gentle tug, and following its direction.
The library's basement was mostly taken up by a theatre, but the crystal tugged me away from the theatre's entrance. I found a door marked "Archives" that my trusty wire opened easily, and followed the tugging down a narrow, curved corridor. Instead of taking me to the archive room, it abruptly tugged me in a different direction, towards a door off to one side. I was about to try the handle when the sound of several police sirens outside sent a chill down my spine. They'd been slower than I'd guessed but still too fast. I'd barely begun.
With any luck, they'd search the ground floor first, or head upstairs to the collection of rare and ancient books on the top floor. Maybe I still had a little time. This lock also yielded easily to my wire and I opened the door, closing it quietly behind me. The room appeared to be a small office; the only light came from a row of tiny windows right up near the ceiling. Presumably those windows were right at pavement level. Fortunately, what I wanted to see didn't need light.
The crystal in my hand had stopped tugging and now it was pulsing more strongly. The air in the tiny office felt thick and tainted, leaving a faint taste of corrosion on my tongue. I wondered vaguely how anyone could bear to work in here. The sound of footsteps and voices carried down from upstairs and I held my breath, anticipating the door to be flung open at any minute. No time to waste. I drew on the crystal once again, feeling it's electric warmth flood up my arm and over my whole body. Gradually I let the energy field spread out, extending a few inches around me in all directions, like a cocoon. Then I closed my eyes and started to push it outwards, until I felt one patch where it met resistance.
Carefully I turned my inner eye to see what was causing the blockage, and immediately the taint and taste of corrosion increased tenfold. I fought against another wave of nausea and pulled the crystal's energy field around me, like a protective blanket. Then, more carefully, I looked again.
There is a veil between this physical world and the etheric realm that parallels it. Normally this veil protects each realm from the other. Too much magic in the physical realm would cause sheer chaos. Too much of the physical world in the etheric realm would suck the life-force out of both. Occasionally there are creatures that are able to cross the veil and pass from one realm to another, or at least observe and interact through the veil. Ghosts are one such creature. I, as a shaman, am another.
And here, in this tiny office in the library basement, was the evidence of a third. There was a scar in the veil, ragged and torn and looking almost burned around the edges. It was big enough that I could have walked through it easily, and still left a foot of space above me and to each side. I reached out my right hand to touch it, and then froze.
The footsteps and voices were very close, right outside the corridor. I held my breath and pressed myself against the wall. There wasn't any furniture here or even a shadow large enough to hide me, I just hoped my insignificance spell would hold under scrutiny. The door-handle rattled, and a voice with a local accent spoke. "This one's unlocked." The door opened and someone scanned the room back and forth with a torch. I held my breath as the light passed right over my face and then paused. The police officer swung the beam back over me again. "Nowt in 'ere," he said, and closed the door again.
I let out my pent-up breath and turned back to face the rent in the veil once again, but I could no longer see it. The distraction had broken my concentration, the energy in my crystal had dissipated to the faintest hum, and only the taste of corrosion in my mouth remained. That was enough though, to tell me that my concern and my instinct had been correct.
By the time the police had completed their search of the library, and found no damage, nothing missing, and not even a trace of an intruder, I was already at home and sound asleep in my bed.