Fear is a basic emotion that governs a fight or flight response. When your worst fears become reality what will you do?
My day started off so peaceful, it had the prospect of being the best day of my life. That seems to be the way it goes though, the best days often have the potential to be the worst. I came in to work without running into an ounce of traffic and for New York that's a miracle in itself. The first parking space of the employee lot at the library was open which should have tipped me off right then because life so far was too good to be true. I came in a few minutes early for my shift and did a walk through trying to get the good book truck but wasn't hopeful. I walked around the room shuffling my feet against the carpet because the sound, annoying to most, calmed me. I pulled my headphones out of my pocket and turned the corner of the staff room to find the last piece of the prophetic puzzle. There in front of me was the best book truck in the library and there and then I should have known this would be the worst day of my life. It was a beauty to see. Its sides were welded to the shelves in such a way that even under the weight of our heaviest books it wouldn't bow or rock. The handles were wrapped with a soft cloth that made lugging around the awkward shape of it almost enjoyable. The last quality that made it the most envied book truck in the whole library were the wheels. All four wheels worked perfectly and whats more is that they made virtually no sound when you trudged through the book stacks, saving its handler from the incessant shushes of the patrons. I grabbed the book truck with with gluttonous zeal and held it close to me as if grabbing for my new born child. As I pulled it in it clunked against the side of my steel toe boot. My boots were brown and thick and a size too big making room for the extra layer of socks that I wore on my feet everyday. I cursed my feet for touching the object of my affection as I had done so many times before. My hatred for feet started around high school but only because my fear of my own feet, or feet in general, had wore on me since the day I was old enough to understand that these monstrosities were attached to me. I refused to touch feet and only dealt with mine when I absolutely had to. I avoided looking down at all costs in order to keep my gaze from the feet of others. Each and every time I witnessed a naked foot it sent chills down my spine rendering me almost catatonic. Coming into contact with the most detestable piece of my body was a mild setback for having lived through the perfect first half of the day, so I took it in stride and went on my merry way. I pulled my book truck through the sorting room and waited for the rest of the employees to show up. Slowly people started to trickle in making their way through the sorting room and turning the corner only to meet less impressive tools than the one that was gifted to me by fate. With every groan I heard come from each one of my coworkers I couldn't help but feel my pride growing as if fueled by the misery of others. We lined up in front of the head librarian waiting to be assigned a section to shelve, as was the routine.
"All right people this is the last day before we close for the holidays so lets try and get it all done quick. So I want Withersby to shelve non-fiction zero through five hundred. Let's see, McCloy five hundred through the end of non-fiction. The Twins and Niedermeyer will take fiction. Winnifred you take classics and if anyone lulls then take over biography. That'll probably be you Winnifred. All right people I'm leaving early today so I'll leave Niedermeyer the keys and when the library closes he'll lock the doors and when you finish your sections the doors are already locked so just clock out and walk out."
Mr. Berkley was a good boss. He made sure to show the proper respect to people and tried not to show favoritism but I could see it in his eyes he favored me the most. He always called me Winnifred even though he used the last name of everyone else he always called me by my first name as if I were one of his friends instead of one of his employees. I was more than happy to see that I had pulled classics. I wasn't really overly fond of any section in particular but classics had some of the better looking books and was the most secluded in the library. I weighed down my book truck with first editions and plugged my headphones into my phone. I moseyed to the very back of the stacks and walked into the aisle that held all of the classic fictional literature. The day flew past so quickly that i almost didn't notice that Mr. Berkley had already taken off, had I not caught a glimpse of the keys on Niedermeyers belt then I wouldn't have realized his absence at all. I had finished up all of the shelves in the sorting room that were assigned to me when I looked up at the clock and noticed I had fifteen minutes left until we closed. I made it through work with ease. I pushed my book truck to the storage area and as I turned there in front of me was a stack of classic books sitting on another book truck. My mind raced trying to find the slightest reasoning for their existence. Did I place them here? Maybe I forgot about them? No, I never bring books back this way. Did someone do this on purpose? My worrying and inner reasoning was cut short by chortling laughter coming from the sorting room. I looked around the corner to see the possessor of such conniving laughter. Niedermeyer! He must have hid these books back here without my knowledge earlier in the day knowing full well that I wouldn't come back here till about closing. I bit my lip so hard that a small trickle of blood found its way on my tongue filling my mouth with the taste of iron. My chest puffed and the hair on my arms stood straight up I was livid with righteous indignation. Had I the time I would have hurled insults at Niedermeyer till I was blue in the face but I only had fifteen minutes to get what was about forty five minutes worth of work done. I didn't have the time to transfer all of the books from one truck to the other so I had to leave my beloved and take with me the wretched cousin with two jammed wheels.I pulled and the wheels wobbled so much that the metal rattled and the books clunked together and the partial brake on the two side wheels made a squealing noise akin to a pig being slaughtered. Patrons stared and shushed me as I made a spectacle of myself trying to right the course of the book truck as it veered from one side to the other. I finally got to the classics aisle only to find Mr. Stevenson a homeless old man that used our facility as shelter from the elements and quite often our chairs as a place to nap. He had kicked up his legs into another chair barring me from getting into the aisle, so I had to maneuver the truck around him.
"Mr. Stevenson the library will be closing in about fifteen minutes," I noted as I ushered past him through the small opening afforded by his chair placement. He nodded his head in agreement and started shuffling about as I passed by him. I put my headphones in and and started shelving at a remarkable pace. I was heated by Niedermeyers treatment and fueled by the need to thwart his pitiful attempt at ruining my day. I had never shelved so accurately or so fast in my life, about ten minutes had gone by and I was so focused that I barely noticed that I was getting close to being finished. Out of the corner of my eye I caught Mr. Stevenson still sitting there. I put up another book and walked towards him. when I got close enough to him I opened my mouth to alert him that there was probably only a few minutes until we closed when I looked down and saw them. There in the middle of the aisle were his bare feet. My world started to spin and sweat beaded up against my temples and ran down my cheeks. I was trying to form some words but my mouth was as dry as a bone and tongue felt heavy like it was filled with sand and weighted against the bottom of my mouth. I couldn't rip my eyes away from the contemptible sight that was Mr. Stevenson's feet. Slowly the contents of my lunch made their way through my esophagus and were strewn about on the carpeted floor next to the beautiful leather of the books. I could finally look away but only because the world started tilting on its side and before I knew it my cheek was lying on the rugged carpet my head was throbbing and I finally realized that I was about to pass out.
I woke up in a puddle of my own sick and small pieces of potato glued to my cheek. I looked up to see Mr. Stevenson's repulsive feet still there lifted by the chair and even without eyes staring into my soul. My body began to shudder as my throat dry heaved attempting to expel more of the contents of my stomach. My arms maintained a modicum of mobility and with what little strength I could muster I pulled myself back away from his feet dragging my own behind me. I couldn't help but weep as I dragged my almost lifeless body across the floor. Tears streamed from my face blurring my vision which I was almost grateful for. I turned my head to face towards the beautiful leather bound first editions and tucked my own wretched feet under myself to allow some time to regain my composure. After the sniffling and the shuddering subsided I called out to the unperturbed Mr. Stevenson.
"Mr. Stevenson," I yelled. "The library is closed!" I looked around to see that the main lights had been turned off and the only lights remaining were the security lights. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and tried to check on the time to see just how long I had been laying there but to my dismay the phone was dead. I had been listening to music on it all day but I had done that before in days past and still went home with at least some battery left. I perused the phone and noticed the headphones still plugged in to the jack. If the music had been going while I lay there unconscious then the battery surely would have died after at least ten minutes leaving me with no clue as to what time it was or how long I was laying there.
"Mr. Stevenson you need to leave the library now," I tried once more. I looked over at him and through my tear soaked eyelashes could make out that he hadn't moved an inch. Niedermeyer must have done a run through of the rest of the library and left the classics section for me to tend to. He should have come this way. He should have alerted me that the library was going to close soon and that the rest of them were leaving.
"Mr. Stevenson!" I yelled at the top of my lungs for as long as my breath would allow and the man still didn't move. I started to wonder if he had himself a pair of headphones on himself but that idea was thwarted by the thought that he didn't even have anything to plug them into. I clawed behind me my arms still feeling lifeless and pulled a small book from one of the shelves, I pulled my right arm over my legs and swung the book as hard as I could. The projectile found its home on the side of Mr. Stevenson's leg. I chuckled a little in relief that such a terrible plan had gone in my favor. I looked over squinting my eyes so as to not connect with the full force of his feet's mesmerizing power. I waited and sure enough he was slowly moving just not in the manner intended. He slid off the side of the chair and fell limp to the floor. His body connected to the ground with a thud and there he stayed prostrate on the ground. The moisture in my eyes started to build and sobs ran out through my open mouth as I realized that Mr. Stevenson wasn't asleep or listening to music or even just uninterested in the world around him. He was dead. Mr.Stevenson Sometime between closing time and now had died and with no one coming in or out of the library for the next five days and me almost incapable of moving I was stuck here.