|Part I: Chapter 1
||[Nov. 1st, 2006|01:04 pm]
Casey shivered suddenly in the cold air of the deep blue evening sky, a chill five times colder than the night’s gusty wind running through her neck and arms without warning. She glanced around instinctively, then shook her head and pulled her down vest tightly around her shoulders—the feeling had been weird, but it was gone. Probably just a side effect of the equally bizarre fifty mile-per-hour winds blowing around campus.
Casey paused at the top of the steps to the Culiver Library, forcing her numb hands into her stuffed bookbag to find her keys, so she could swipe her student ID card to get into the building. Late at night, they locked the doors to the library so people from the town of Culiver couldn’t get in.
As she unearthed her keys and ID, she glanced up above her. The building’s fairly recent additions sprawled on either side of the main tower, which loomed over the campus hilltop in all its gothic splendor, off white marble glowing softly, lit by the streetlamps lining the sidewalk leading up to it. It had been two years since Casey had been accepted to this school, two years since she’d left home, and two years since she’d been essentially independent--her parents far away on a different coast, practically a different country. Well, she thought, any place off campus, even the surrounding town, may as well have been a different world than Culiver Hall.
A sudden howl and accompanying powerful gust caused her stumble a bit on the step and shook her out of her reverie. She swiped her card in the reader next to the big door and pulled it open, letting herself be engulfed by the still, hot air of the library interior. She breathed in that rich smell--of old books and yellowed paper, of the generations of students who had sat among these walls, this marble. She was one of them. Finally one of them.
For 10:30 on a Tuesday night the library was particularly crowded. The circulation desk was manned by a grumpy looking senior, toussled hair hanging in a surly way around his eyes. He glanced up as she walked in, taking off her scarf--she’d already begun to sweat, it was so hot--and shook his head, giving her a pitying look. And a second later, walking into the main room, she knew why: nearly every seat, every computer, was taken, filled by a desperate-looking, sleep-deprived high schooler.
Frustrated, Casey wandered the halls, looking for any empty seat. The few she found were quickly filled by the backpacks and purses of particularly selfish students. She sighed, finally stopping on the second floor near one of the stacks of books about birds. She needed to finish this paper--and she needed quiet. Her roommate and all of her friends stopping into her dorm room was simply not going to be the right atmosphere. Clearly all of the school was having this issue tonight... and her roommate might have been the only one who wasn’t at the library.
Outside, she heard the sudden crash of thunder. Inside, unpaced rattlings of raindrops echoed on the rooftop of the second story. She should have known that those gusts would portent rain. She hadn’t brought an umbrella.
She sunk down, leaning against the end of the stack, feeling defeated and tired, and almost prepared to start working there on the floor--until she saw the staircase.
It was only partly visible--dark and steep--through an unmarked door in one of the marble walls near her. Curious, she stood, looking into the door. Only a staircase: she couldn’t see the top. Well, it was open...
She glanced around, then, hoping that the stairs led to an extra--perhaps quiet-only?--study room, jogged up the stairs.
A musty smell grew as she climbed the steep stairs, their marble interrestingly not sagging in the center--they must not be used much, she thought idly. And the temperature grew lower: she’d stopped sweating and was now feeling chilled again.
She emerged into a dark room. One light, a sconce on the far wall, dimly illuminated a large, circular room--a tower, she realized. The tower of the library. She hadn’t known there was even a way to get up here.
Around the walls were four tables, of old wood. She ran her hand across one as she slowly entered. They felt rough and pitted. She could just make out lamps on each of the tables. She tried one as she walked by, feeling for a switch, but found nothing. She walked over to the sconce, hoping there would be a master switch of some kind.
Sure enough, there was a tiny, old-looking switch just to the right of the sconce, which, she noticed, had a spider’s web decorating its spindly light bulbs. She flicked up the little switch. Nothing. Were there even windows in this room?
So much for that, she thought, and crossed the room to return down the stairs. She was starting to feel a bit creeped out by this room: spider webs, no light...
She whirled around, just feet from the exit, as a bolt of lightning screamed outside, and the room lit up with the bright white flash of an angry autumn storm. So there were windows--six tall and pointed ones, in fact, equally spaced around the cylindrous room, except for the far wall, opposite the door, where Casey’s eyes were immediately drawn: for on the wall was a huge, nearly eight foot tall, middle-aged man, wearing a suit, a frowning grimace, and a dark brow over heavily lidded eyes--and he was staring straight at Casey.