I’m The Head Librarian, Actually

Before I begin to tell you everything that’s happened, I think it is important to ask yourself whether you think a madwoman would be able to hold the position of head librarian at Echo Bay’s prestigious Eldertide Polytechnic University for 19 consecutive years? Do you think something like that would be possible? It’s a rather difficult job to manage such a vast collection of reference materials–to ensure that they’ve been organized and categorized and reshelved correctly and logically once they’ve been borrowed and returned. It really does take a lot of skill.

I’m sure that you’re aware that our university is home to the nation’s third largest marine biology, nautical engineering and maritime history reference library? Of course you are. Everyone knows that. You can’t be unhinged and also be responsible for the standard titles in fiction and non-fiction, the classics and new releases, an extensive backlog of microfiche, newsreels, a wide collection of digital media as well as hundreds of scholarly journals. These are things that students have come to expect from a university. They are paying tens of thousands of dollars that they’ve borrowed in student loans for an education! That’s money that they will work for the next fifty or sixty years to repay! Did you know that our university is the university with the second largest collection of restricted-access books, scrolls, clay tablets and ancient one-of-a-kind texts on the occult? Well, that you probably didn’t know and I’m not supposed to talk about that, so why don’t you do us both a favor and just forget I’ve mentioned it…

I ask you, would they trust a lunatic with such a large responsibility? No, I don’t imagine that they would.

I’ve seen the mentally unstable–suffering from various forms of psychosis and neuroses, the drug addicts and drunks–you’ve seen them too. You know you have. They’re spending all day talking endlessly about kraken, mermaids and boat-eating giant squids. They think they’re talking to someone else, but there’s nobody there. They’re just sitting by themselves on a bench down by the wharf. Sure they’ll realize they’re not talking to anyone eventually…then if they have even half a whit, they’ll go find some sucker who will take pity on them–a skipper or deckboss…someone who’ll let them scrape barnacles off the side of their barge for a couple twenties. Most of those fishermen know they’ve pulled in quite the haul so they can afford to take pity on some poor nitwit. Get them to do the jobs nobody wants to do for pocket change.

Maybe those imbeciles will get really lucky and some blowboater will have them scrub down the deck of their fancy new sailboat for a crisp hundred dollar bill–or polish the chrome railings and whatnot. I tell you, that’s what the crazies do around here…they hang out around the docks, hoping to make enough money to buy themselves a handle of Gordon’s Gin–the plastic one for $15–just so they can pass out on the beach under the stars and get bitten by sand fleas all night long. I see it every day. It’s just what the nutjobs do.

Cuckoo-birds aren’t head librarians–they’re not even regular librarians–and certainly not at the leading university in a two hundred mile radius for marine biology, fishery management, and coastal environmental studies. No sir, they are not. And that’s just to name a few of the more popular fields of study here at the university. We have many, many programs for those intelligent, hardworking and qualified students who have spent their lives fascinated by sea exploration and sea related fields of study and I’m proud to be a part of such an important organization. I’m proud to say that from the year I began, I’ve helped each and every one of our graduates at some point discover that there’s more to see within the sea than we initially see…or maybe if I haven’t, I’ve at least told them where to go to find some book or other that they’re looking to find…unless it’s one of those books from the access-restricted collection of occult texts that we keep secretly locked in the sub-basement. I’ll kindly remind you again to forget about those. They’re off limits.

Now, I’m humble so I don’t brag. I’m not telling you that I’ve been in charge of all of the college’s books for nearly two decades because I expect you to be astonished. I wasn’t fed my Master’s degree in Library Science on a silver spoon by my rich parents. I grew up very poor like so many of you. I come from meager beginnings. My family had nothing, like most families still here in Echo Bay. That’s right. I grew up here.

We aren’t expected to do anything particularly astonishing growing up amongst the fishers and the crabbers on these prolific shores. The town is known only for its propagative fisheries–for crustacean trapping and shellfish. We’re seafood people of modest stock. I never knew I was destined to such grandeur as the title of a university’s head librarian! And for 19 continuous years! This is a quiet coastal town that some will tell you has unique charms, beauty and history. Those things are lies. The only thing here is fish and everything smells just like you’d expect. The only industries here are the fisheries. The whole town stinks like the rotten breath of Poseidon and everyone you meet smells like they’ve bathed in the mouth of a bloated whale carcass that’s washed ashore at the height of summer.

Still, you’ll find that we’re more or less unpretentious people. We don’t brag much, but maybe we should do a bit more than we do. The town itself is awful but we have one of the best maritime polytechnical universities anywhere in the entire country, and that’s something we should be proud to say. I might be biased, but the university employs a great support staff. Most of the professors also do their jobs most of the time. It’s common knowledge that we’ve taught some of the leading marine technologists, aquatic environmental scientists and maritime law and policy makers from here to New Bismuth and Harlow’s Cove. I bet even someone like you knew about that already.

Our graduates are making big names for themselves even as far away as Clarion and Hedonis. So, I assure you that the crazy people aren’t found here at Eldertide Polytechnic. No place near it. Only reasonable people here…and they certainly wouldn’t let a psychopath be the head of the university’s library staff–Why, I’ve just told you, haven’t you been listening? The lunatics are out near the docks like they’ve always been, gibbering away their drunken theories of sunken pirate ships, lost treasures and superstitious legends about the sirens that supposedly make their home out on Mermaid Roost.

When those wackadoos are done running their mouths for the day they’re outside sleeping rough. They’re exposed to the elements, spending all night cold and wet under the stars on Hidden Haven Beach. They’ve got their heads on jagged rocks instead of pillows out there, laying on beds made of cigarette butts and broken liquor bottles. That’s where all the noodleheads around here sleep at night. They’re all camped out there on that nasty beach with the rest of their kind: the vagrants, and derelicts, the dropouts, skateboarders and unwed mothers, tattoo artists and the illiterates too. Hidden Haven is the trashiest beach we’ve got in Echo Bay and levelheaded, decent people who can read stay away from there.

I heard from a reliable source that when intelligent people even think they might want to visit that beach “just to see” they should just go to a rehab instead. There’s a nice one out in Harlow’s Cove, I hear. It’ll save them some time because the only reason anyone with any sort of logic would think thoughts like that is someone slipped them drugs or they got talked into drinking some of that Tidepool Tonic by a Whalehead. All it takes is you accidentally taking edible marijuanas or trying some of that Seafoam Slurry just one time and you’ll never be the same again. After that, you’re addicted now. Quit your job and become a Webby. That beach is crawling with that Enclave scum too. Used to be that cult ran the whole town, but there’s only 74 or 75 of them left–Greenmouths–easy to spot. Belong in the gutter if you ask me. That’s the type of corrupted skelm a place like Hidden Haven belongs to…but I digress…

Set a single toe in that beach’s sand and you might as well throw your whole life in the trash because people out there bring no value to society. You’ll find yourself turning tricks so a pimp can give you some heroin or worse–a pint of Celestia–faster than you can say “lickety-split.” Happens just that fast. Can’t take a step on that beach without tripping over a box of dirty needles full of methamphetamines is what I’ve heard. You listen to me. I work in education so I know what I’m talking about.

Hidden Haven isn’t the only beach you don’t visit in Echo Bay. You don’t go to Twilight Cove, either…not if you don’t want to die horribly with your skin pulled off and your insides fed to something’s pet.

They’ll call me crazy because nobody goes through the pass that leads down to Twilight Cove. Not anybody born and raised here in Echo Bay and not tourists either–but I’ve done it. I did it just last night. The path between those cliffs is too rough and stony for tourists and the Bay people are too superstitious–afraid of the Xaigonians to take the walk down to that beach. Twilight Cove’s not for the Bay People…that’s their territory. If you grew up in The Bay you grew up being told that the Xaigonians are down on that beach and they don’t take kindly to trespassers, especially not ones that can only breathe plain old regular air with normal human lungs. The Bay people say that if you go down between those cliffs you better have a damn good reason and something shiny to offer those webbed-footed freaks, because if you don’t and you’re dumb enough to go out on that particular stretch of beach you won’t be seen nor heard from ever again. It ain’t an expressly forbidden place to go–there’s no laws against it. Nobody’s gonna stop you. Nobody stopped me. You just ask anyone who’s spent their lives around these parts though. Ask them and they’ll tell you why you’ve got to stay away…

They’ll tell you there’s a whole race of people that aren’t quite people hiding out in that cove. They’ve been out there for centuries–and the world don’t know about them–that’s just the way they want it to stay too. They’ve been out there staying unseen since before the town was a town–before this state was even a state. They’re Fishpeople, that’s what they are. It isn’t just webbed fingers and toes, they say from far off something about their skin just doesn’t look quite right–looks a bit shinier than skin should look–they say you don’t want to get anywhere near them to see what’s off about their skin up close, but if you’re foolish enough to try you’ll see it ain’t skin at all. It’s a whole mess of scales.

When I was a little girl my mother (who also grew up here) told me the people hiding in Twilight Cove had gills and if they caught you walking out on their beach, they’d drag you down beneath the whitecaps and into the black waves. The waves are always black out there–day and night–nobody knows why. Once they’ve pulled you under, they’ll take you to their hidden shining city in the coral caves. She said the Xaigonians breed crabs–grow them even bigger than dogs–and they’ll peel off your skin the same way a fisherman uses a boning knife just so their mean and nasty pets don’t have to work so hard to get their claws inside–jab you in the spaces between your muscles and get at your good parts–get at your meat. That’s all The Bay people are to the Xaigonians–meat. If you don’t want to be meat, you’ve got to bring them some treasure. They’ll take gold, silver, diamonds–gems of all kinds actually…

But for your sake if they catch you out there, whatever treasure you’re bringing them had better be real…otherwise…you’re meat.

When they find him–no–if they find him–they’ll say I’m mad, of course they will, because nobody in their right mind goes down to that beach.

”Hello, I’m Bradley Wilcott, Eldertide Polytech’s University’s New President,”

I heard the stories all my life and you think someone like me, head librarian at Eldertide Polytech, for 19 goddamn years who grew up in this sea-side fish-stinking town ought to know better than to go out there. You’d have to be stupid or crazy to go out there. Especially not at night.

”And you’re Darlene? Ms. Darlene Fischer? The head librarian? According to your file, you’ve been here for a very long time. I do wish we were meeting under more pleasant circumstances.”

But I’m not stupid and I’m not crazy either–I was perfectly sound-minded and sober when I made my way to his goddamn house. The street was poorly lit and that was good. I was only a little worried that I might be seen making my way up the sidewalk by one of the neighbors. So, naturally, I knew if I was mentally disturbed, I would have kept everything on, but I wasn’t that way so I had to take it off. That way if anyone saw me through their windows, they would just see a naked woman in the street. They’d know I was being rational and wise. They’d know I was just out for a sensible stroll in the dark.

”As you know, the board of trustees has appointed me to this position because they felt that my predecessor extended very little oversight to the budget spending of quite a few departments.”

I’m not a department head. I’m the head librarian.

”You’re in charge of the purchase of the university’s books, are you not?”

Well, naturally…

I took off my blouse and bra first, then my skirt and panties. The air felt sweet and unseasonably cool as it caressed my exposed breasts. This breeze of course very naturally caused my sane and rational nipples to harden ever-so slightly in just the way that I had hoped and planned for. The way that deliberate and logical nipples are meant to react in accordance to a breath of cool night air. The house–my destination–was just up ahead. Every window was dark and the driveway was empty.

It appeared as though I would arrive at the most practical and prudent time for a levelheaded woman like myself to arrive–precisely when I intended to–at a time when there was nobody home.

I tucked my discarded clothes into a storm drain that opened up beneath a curb on the side of the road. Afterward, I cut diagonally from the sidewalk and through a yard with a large Victorian home standing like a sentry in the center of the lot growing heavily with a number of oak trees that were old and thick. Many lights were on inside, but I didn’t worry because I knew that anyone who might look out would only see a fully rational and not-insane naked woman on a typical late-night walk beneath the shadowy canopy of branches that densely covered the property.

I lurked from tree to tree, skipping through the darkness as naturally as possible, only stopping once to rest for a moment beneath the largest of the ancient gnarled oaks. I had been carrying a rope in my hands, but it was in a mangled knot and it seemed more practical to wrap it into a coil around my arm and I’m a practical woman so that’s what I did. Then I very smartly slung the loop of rope over one of my shoulders and returned from the shadows of the trees in that yard to the sidewalk where I continued to nonchalantly make my way through the dark.

”I just have a few questions about some of the purchases you’ve made in the last few years. I’m hoping you could help me understand some of these expenses.”

Okayyyy…

”I’m seeing here that you spent–”

I don’t spend anything. The books belong to the library.

”Okayyyy, the library spent $13,000 on a volume titled ‘Twilight Testament: Unveiling the Esoteric’–can you explain that Ms. Fischer?”

Certainly. That particular book was written by Friar Lucian Benedict. He was a powerful sorcerer. Burned at the stake for heresy in, um–1263, I think.

”…And for what reason did you–I’m sorry–for what reason did the library spend $13,000 on this book?”

Naturally that’s what a book like that would cost if it were the only copy that exists.

”I see…”

Moving naked through the black of night, I knew that anyone who might peer out at the desolate emptiness of the cul-de-sac would pay me, a naked woman simply walking, no mind–wait!–I’d forgotten to take off my shoes! How could a cognitively prudent head librarian for nearly 20 years like myself forget to take off my shoes? A clear-headed, sane woman on a naked nighttime stroll, but wearing shoes? No. Absolutely not. I panicked and ripped them off as quickly as possible…I tucked my socks cleverly inside them and abandoned my footwear in a mailbox as I passed. The danger of being discovered having passed, I breathed a sigh of relief and I continued on my way.

”And Darlene–may I call you Darlene?–what’s this charge for $9700 for something called, ‘Chthonic Codex: Communing With The Eldritch’ can you explain that?”

Umm…

”What about $3750 for something called ‘The Alchemy of Night and Unveiling Infernal Secrets’–why–why are you making these purchases?”

Well, you see…

”I’ve actually been going through your purchase history and there’s almost $1.6 million dollars of misappropriated funds here, Ms. Fischer–and I’ve only gone back 10 years so far. There’s 9 more years of this library’s–your library’s–purchase receipts to go through.”

Misappropriated? No. Those texts were acquired for the occult library.

”I’m sorry–the what?”

The occult library.

”Where are these books, Ms. Fischer? In order to recover these funds, the university is going to have to liquidate some–if not, all–of this collection. Hopefully I can find a buyer so we have a way to recuperate these losses.”

Losses? These are treasures. Artifacts. I’m not going to let you sell them or even tell you where I keep the occult library.

”Whether you tell me or not, you’re facing very serious legal action, Ms. Fischer. Do you understand that?”

The occult library access is restricted. End of discussion.

Mr. Wilcott was not married. He lived in the house alone and he came home at midnight, which as a sensible woman, I found to be a very unsensible hour. I waited for him inside of his bedroom for two hours. Two full hours, I stood in the dark, arms bent up near my head in my best impression of a hideous modern style lamp. I tried to hold my breath, but I only lasted about a minute doing that. I didn’t try to hold my breath again and that was a very sane decision because only a boneheaded lunatic would try not to breathe for two full hours.

When I arrived, I found a trellis at the side of his front porch that was heavily overgrown with rosebushes and climbed up from the ground floor to the windows of the home’s second story. The roses that crawled up along the trellis were protecting the house from humble intruders like myself with a profusion of thorns. After letting myself inside through an unlocked window I discovered that my arms, my legs, my breasts and my hands were covered in nicks and scratches and scrapes. And for two hours he inconsiderately left me in the corner of his bedroom in the dark, waiting patiently to kidnap him.

”This is a maritime polytechnic university Ms. Fischer. We don’t need an occult library. We should not have an occult library and you therefore should not have purchased any texts for an occult library. When I show these numbers to the board of trustees you’re looking at some serious jail time.”

Jail time?

”This is embezzlement. Do you understand that? You’re done here, Ms. Fischer.”

I’m the Head–I’m Head Librarian–19 years! I’ve been in charge of this library for 19 years!

”Well, I’m very sorry, Ms. Fischer–but not anymore…you’re fired.”

When he came into the room, I wondered what he’d been doing out and about while I patiently–sensibly–waited for his return? Probably, he was out destroying some other people’s lives. Good, upstanding and reasonable people’s lives. He thoroughly explained to me how he intended to ruin mine just hours before. It seemed to be something he enjoyed and I was certain he’d ruin everything he was allowed to ruin if given the chance. I waited for him for so long that even my rational and logical blood acted practically with the time it was given; everywhere that the trellis thorns cut me while I climbed, the blood had quite astutely dried. Just another indicator that what I was about to do was not absurd–even my blood was behaving level-headedly.

If one can’t trust one’s own blood, then whoms blood can one trust?

I wasn’t worried that he would see me when he turned on the light to undress and climb into bed. If he did, it wouldn’t matter much, for what could be more natural than a naked woman in the darkened corner of your private room? I wasn’t worried when I made my way down the road and into his house. Why should I worry now? As it turned out he never had a chance to ponder the existence of a naked woman standing so naturally and logically in the corner of his room pretending to be a lamp. I had chosen a very practical corner to stand in while I waited for him to arrive. I loosened a length of the rope between my clenched fists as he entered through the doorway with his back to me and before his hand even reached for the light switch, my arms were over his head, wrapping the cord around his neck from behind.

They’ll say I’ve lost it. They’ll say I’ve lost my mind…but that’s not the case at all.

I had to knock him unconscious with the butt end of my knife when I got him to the car because he very foolishly tried to fight me when I took him for the ride.

I parked at the mouth of the pass and dragged him down between those cliffs and when the waterline was low, I was stable and lucid and completely sane as I tied that bastard down to the heaviest rocks I could find at the water’s edge; arms and legs all splayed out so he couldn’t sit up or swim away when the tide came back in.

If someone was to find him (but I’m fairly certain no one will) I don’t think there will be any evidence left to tie what happened to him here back to me. I’ve been naked this whole time. Less evidence that way. That was very clever of me, indeed. I don’t think he’s told anyone about his little investigation yet either. If he has shared what he’s found, there’s something in the library, a book called: “The Obsidian Grimoire: Lost Spells of Power” to make them all forget. Ironically, I’ll have to look up the page because I can’t remember which one it is…

They probably won’t find him and even if they do it won’t matter, because the crabs will find him first. Don’t have to be the great big ones my momma told me the Xaigonian people keep either. The regular old little ones will do just fine. They can even take their time and eat him slow because nobody goes down to Twilight Cove unless they’re batshit crazy.

Except for me. I’m the exception.

The light of the moon was the only illumination on the pass between the jutting edges of the high rock formations that towered over each of my shoulders last night. It sparkled on the water in the distance like a thousand diamonds scattered across black velvet; a forbidden treasure that called to me and led me down and down and down to the living darkness of the water’s edge. My breathing was steady, matching the rhythm of the ebbing and flowing shoreline as it rolled toward me over and over only to pull back into the black and be sucked away. The waves rolled in and the waves rolled out and unconsciously I matched each of my inhales and exhales to the beat of the tide like one might attempt to match their breathing to that of a sleeping lover. The act was unintentional–the hand of destiny serendipitously guiding me along the correct path. Tonight this ebony shore was my lover and together we would take this man’s life–not in the way that garden-variety sociopaths might take a man’s life with the sole desire of watching him die. Tonight, the sea and I would be two cogent and rational beings in love who are also coincidentally both murderers who kill together in harmony. Together we would drown my new nemesis for the sake of love. My love. My love for the forbidden knowledge of the occult.

It wasn’t being done in the name of chaos and irrationality. We were doing it methodically, reasonably and sensibly. Don’t you see? Don’t you understand it now? The sea loved me so much that it needed to kill Bradley Wilcott for me to prove that love was real.

I could taste the clean salt that hung in the air as I dragged him over all those jagged rocks, ignoring the sting of their sharp edges as they sliced into my bare and bloody feet. I made furtive glances behind me with every ten or twelve steps and felt no pain as I carefully but quickly made my way down between the cliffs. Any suffering I might have felt was overridden by the pleasure I found watching his head bounce roughly across those same rocks. The constant bludgeoning would keep him knocked out cold. The flow from the back of his head looked black beneath the starless sky, not red, and left smears as it mixed with the black of the footprints I left behind with each step I took along the path. I dragged him with one end of a rope tied around his ankles and the bulk of it wrapped around my waist a half a dozen times. The opposite segment of the rope was tucked down between the coils that circled my waist, and pressed against my bare skin so that the end of it hung out past my hips. I tied a bag to the length that remained. I fetched it from my trunk when I dragged him from my car. The hilt of my knife protruded past where the top of the bag was cinched tightly closed. It hung low and heavy against my leg, bouncing rhythmically against my thigh.

They’ll call me a madwoman because I went down to Twilight Cove beneath a dark and starless sky, dragging behind me a man that I intended to tie to the rocks at low tide. They’ll say that I did this all while Echo Bay slept because irrationally my internal voice dictated I must watch him die–but don’t you see the truth of it all? Everything they’ll say about me is a lie.

They’ll say I’m insane because the only thing I felt was pleasure as I watched the current roll back in and the water slowly rise up over his eyes…because I laughed to myself when he regained consciousness at the perfect moment and those eyes fluttered open with little bubbles coming out from behind the eyelids, and floating up to the surface of the water. They’ll say I’m insane because I came out here, my waist wrapped in a rope that I unraveled and using a knife, cut that rope into lengths so that I could tie this lunatic of a man down by each of his limbs. They’ll call me certifiable because I gloated over him, my bare feet bleeding and my body completely naked against the ocean breeze and bare breasted against the moonlight as I watched him drown. They’ll say I’m deranged because on a starless night, I trekked into territory well known to belong to the Xaigonians to do this to a man who definitely deserved what fate had in store for him…but I’m none of those things. I’m completely sane.

When I saw the first Fishperson come up and out of the waves, clawing his webbed fingers through the sand and pushing his hands into the ground to stand upright on his flipper-shaped feet, I didn’t feel any fear. I knew that even though my nakedness rendered me easier to flay and feed to his giant pet crabs beneath the waves, Xaigon and his Fishpeople had an unspoken expectation for anyone and everyone who traipsed uninvited into Twilight Cove. This place is theirs and everyone in Echo Bay knows that. We don’t come to this place where we don’t belong. If we do they expect us to have a gleaming gift to give them. Each of them. Twilight Cove belongs to the race that lurks beneath the opaque waters there and it has belonged to them since the time before men learned to walk upright. If you’re on their beach when they come up out of the murky depths, they’ll either drag you down through the viscous pitch dark water to their shining city beneath the black waves…or they won’t. It only depends on whether you came to the beach intending to meet their expectations.

A moment later, another one is rising up through the white foam that swirls atop the surface of the inky dark sea. And another one. And another. And another.

I’m not crazy. I’m not insane. I’m the head librarian of the prestigious Eldertide Polytechnic University and I have been for the last 19 years and I will be for 19 more and longer still after that. I’ve read everything about this place. Some of it’s in my collection with restricted-access and some of it isn’t. I came out here as an outsider intending to meet their expectations but I didn’t have any pockets to stow away my shiny gifts, so I put them in the bag I tied around my waist.

The bag was big. The bag was full. I knew what was out here. I knew what they would expect. This is the perfect place to bring a body because anyone who comes here without gifts for each and every one of them coming up and out from their city in the coral caves below won’t be seen again. There must have been a hundred of that strange aquatic race climbing out of the water. I watched them rise up to the surface that rippled with reflections of the moon. People don’t come here and if they do, they die. They might bring a gift and think they’re wise, but one gift is not enough. You need to share with the whole class. I’m reasonable and pragmatic and my well of resources is deep. The bag I brought with me was very, very big and there were plenty of gifts inside to go around. They’ll say what I did out in Twilight Cove last night was crazy, but it wasn’t. They’ll say that I’m unhinged or deranged because I dragged that man out there to watch him die, but I’m not. Eldertide Polytechnic University wouldn’t have trusted me to be the head librarian for 19 fucking years if I wasn’t perfectly and completely rational and sane…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *