The Reading Room
It was a quiet night in the Gearford Science and Technology library and yet all of the city was abuzz. Rumors were rampant about the recent death of technocrat and famed inventor Charles Button.
Far from the tumult was librarian Theodore Emelior Beem, sitting at the special collections reference desk, reading the latest issue of the Journal of Flight and Technology. A small-scale model of the airship Manticore sat on the corner of his desk. Captain Fox, a calico cat sat next to him and sleepily looked at him. She yawned and stretched out her forepaws.
“It’s just you and me tonight, Captain,” sighed Theodore. With the city in an uproar, it was unsurprising the library was empty. On these rare occasions of quiet, Theodore usually spent his time catching up on reading, but tonight even he felt unsettled. Charles Button was a famous personality, a technocrat leader no less and had been a regular patron of the library. He even rated a private reading room. It wasn’t unusual for Button to send a special request for Theodore to pull a book from the reserves or from the restricted section. On those occasions, Theodore found Button to be mostly polite, if not a bit condescending.
The large grandfather clock tolled. It was ten o’clock and time to close the library. Theodore stood and shook out the stiffness in his leg. With the Captain following, Theodore made his way down the aisles of the library stacks making his final walk through before going home. While some found the library to be an unsettling place at night, with its overwhelming quiet, its statuary and portraits of people long dead, for Theodore this was his second home.
Walking through the inner hallway on the other side of the stacks Theodore paused. In front of him was Charles Button’s private reading room. He looked at the door and fingered his keys. Technically speaking, he wasn’t even supposed to have the key to Button’s reading room, but then again, he often covered for the head librarian and so certain things tended to be overlooked. He knew that he probably shouldn’t go inside. The Technocrats generally didn’t like people nosing in their business and in a few days, some men in dark suits would like descend on the room and clear it. Still Theodore was curious and this was the one of the few rooms in the library he had never seen. Usually, he left books for Button in a special drop box outside the doorway. Thinking it wouldn’t harm anyone, if he opened the door and took the briefest of looks, Theodore turned the key.
The room was cold and Theodore could feel a cool breeze at the doorway. Theodore turned on the light, which flickered for a moment. His eyes took in the sight of a room with a large desk and reading lamp. Several piles of books sat on the corner of the desk. Bookcases lined the walls. It was all rather ordinary, except for the hideous looking gargoyle that stood atop a pedestal next to the wall.
“Oh, well,” said Theodore to himself, “What did you expect?”
Theodore gave a cursory look around the room, recognizing many of the books on Button’s desk, since he had pulled most of them over the course of the last half year. He looked at the gargoyle. Although there were many of these around the library, which some found disquieting, Theodore saw these ghoulish figures as protectors of the library and so he treated them as old friends. However, this gargoyle seemed different from the others. He was carved in a slightly more modern style that would have been imperceptible to most people.
“Interesting,” thought Theodore. As he looked at the gargoyle more closely, he noticed that almost all of it was covered in a fine layer of dust. All of it was covered in dust except for the gargoyle’s right forefoot, which was almost shiny in appearance. Thinking it peculiar, Theodore touched the forefoot and give a squeeze, Theodore jumped back with start. Something behind the bookcase had clicked loudly. Pausing for a moment, and wondering if something or someone would leap from beyond the bookcase, he gave the bookcase a slight push. To Theodore’s amazement the bookcase slowly swiveled, revealing a passageway and a staircase that led down into the darkness.