Time for another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Friday Challenge, postponed a day in this case so I could match my little alphabet things up. This week, Chuck gave us a picture of a door, and told us to open it, walk through, and write the story.
Footsteps in Time
I would have expected it if I had still been ten. I spent my childhood reading about things like the Wardrobe that leads to Narnia, the door into the Secret Garden, and Alice falling through the looking glass. And in spite of that I didn't give a moment's thought to the great wooden door with a lion head knocker in the middle, not to mention the strange fractured stone lintel, none of which I remembered from previous visits. To be honest, I didn't even notice. I just opened that door and walked right through. It was in the right place, so it must have been the entrance to the hairdresser, right?
Wrong. Just how wrong was gradually dawning on me in the seconds after the door swung silently shut behind me. I'd expected to see Clarice, my stylist, and a brightly-lit room full of people getting cuts, mani-pedis, and a week's worth of gossip. I'd smell the shampoos, polishes, and heaven knows what toxic chemicals that are Clarice's stock in trade. I'd sneeze three times, and wipe my nose through the whole haircut, because I'm stupid allergic to all that stuff.
What I saw instead was . . . nothing. It was pitch dark. I smelled the musty aroma of an old library. Correction: an ancient library. The scent of mildew and dust and paper, and maybe some other things that don't bear too much thinking of. A hint of distant coffee, long burning on a stove somewhere in another room.
Since I couldn't see anything, my nose was working overtime trying to make sense of the place, so naturally I sneezed three times. It was the only familiar thing I had just then, and I found it strangely comforting. Not so comforting that I didn't turn back to feel for the doorknob and leave. Wherever this was, I didn't belong here and needed to get back to my own world right away, or I'd miss my hair appointment and wouldn't be able to get a cut scheduled for weeks, by which time I’d look like some kind of bag lady.
There was no doorknob.
There was no door.
I wanted to panic, but instead I began reviewing all the books I'd ever read where someone passed through a door and ended up far from where they expected. Nearly every one had ended well, I told myself. I tried to ignore the fact that first they usually had to save the world--some world--and that it was nearly always touch-and-go. I'm not much of a fighter type. I just wanted to get my hair styled and go have a few drinks with the girls, you know?
But here I was, in the dark, in a strange, ancient library (if I'd understood the smells correctly). And I needed a bathroom.
The Pevensies NEVER needed a bathroom. Did Alice ever have to stop to pee? She did not. But I'd been kind of hurrying to get to my appointment so I could use the loo, and now. . . Now I didn't even know if indoor plumbing had been invented yet.
A light was coming. Soon I'd know something, if only what my fate was to be, what world I had to save, or who would end my life in a hurry.
An old man in a robe of some sort shuffled into the room. He raised his candle for a better look at me. Then he nodded, once.
What did he mean by that? I'd "do"? Just adequate? I forgot I'd been an unwilling conscript to whatever was happening, in my offense at being so underrated. I’d read al the books. I’d be darned good at this! Whatever this was.
He shuffled to the shelves and began searching, occasionally removing a book and studying it a moment, usually returning it to the shelf. Gradually he accumulated an armload, then shuffled back to me. He thrust the pile of books into my arms.
"Why? What do I do with them?" Even as I asked the question I was stowing the books in my giant handbag. Fortunately, I'd cleaned it out the previous day while searching for my cat, and there was space.
"This library will be destroyed soon."
I looked around, as though expecting to see the barbarian hordes coming already with torches.
“I don’t think I’ll make much of a warrior, but I’ll try.” I like libraries.
"No. You cannot stop it. You can only save these books. The ones that will make the most difference."
"What do I do with them?" With some relief I accepted that I was only an errand girl, not the savior of the world.
"Take them to the library, of course." He sounded surprised that I had to ask. "The largest library you can find. Put them on a shelf in the dimmest back corner. Keep them together."
"And then what?"
"Nothing." After a moment he took pity on me. "All libraries are connected. A librarian will come, and he will know what to do. You need do nothing more. Now go."
I wanted to ask about the bathroom, but the door behind me swung open once more, and he was urging me through it, back onto the busy sidewalk and the 21st Century. I gave one look back, and the door had vanished. My mind on other things already, I hurried the last few steps to the hairdresser's, called a greeting, and made it to the bathroom just in time.
After my haircut, I went to the main library, in its ancient building. It seemed the best place. I found a dim corner, and I left the books.
I wonder if I really did save the world.