This story was written for my patrons on Patreon.
Lauren gathered the scrap of paper with the carefully penned poem up along with the rest of her notes, sifted through the stack and tossed it in to the garbage unread. Again. It was the third time this week. Kim knew she didn’t mean it maliciously, but it
still stung. Lauren struggled to get the zipper of her bag closed, then hefted it on to her back, checked her space at the over sized desk on the top floor of the university library for any forgotten items, and left after depositing her collection of empty coffee cups in a nearby trashcan. Kim followed a few steps behind Lauren, pretending for those few moments that they were just friends, having just finished helping eac
h other study for an economics final – or maybe it was chemistry? Kim been distracted – until the elevator dinged. That was where the fantasy ended. The doors slid open and Lauren stepped inside, next to it, blissfully unaware of her companion. Most people don’t notice the Guardians, the sentries that keep order for
those who are on the earth past their expiration date. Bone and hollow eyes watched Kim from underneath a dark feathered hood, passively observing her yet conveying all the things that would befall her should she attempted to leave her portion of the library. People seem to think that ghosts only haunt particular locations because they have some vendetta against those who continue to inhabit them. The truth is, they aren’t allowed to leave. The doors slid closed and Kim hefted a sigh. Then abruptly turned on her heel and began to run.
She tore through the library, forcing herself through every bookshelf, reading materials of all genres flying off the shelves behind her, dumping themselves on the floor and flinging themselves in to the air with an unearthly screech. She could feel the Guardian panic, the electric sensation of it grabbing at her, trying to force her to stop. Instead, she gathered the panic and fear and shoved it through herself, in to everything she touched, in to every ounce of air she made whip through the stagnant halls, played it off the vibration of the confused screams of students and threw it back in the direction of the Guardian. Its confusion, louder and more forceful, mixed with the rest and she saw her chance. With one last exhausting effort of will she melted herself in to the confusion. Then she latched on to one source of panic, the one nearest to the staircase. The boy was fast, and just moments after she latched on to him he had flung open the stairwell door and was already halfway down the first flight. She let herself get dragged behind him until he came bursting out in to sunlight. It was mess of humanity outside but in the crowd she could see Lauren’s face, eyes wide, as the crowd roiled around her trying to figure out what was going on. There wasn’t much time. Kim could feel the anger of the Guardian as it realized that she was no longer inside the building. She focused hard on forcing herself in to something more constant, more solid, like she had practiced so many times. There was a painful pop and she felt heavy. Then someone ran in to her. Her eyes snapped open and someone yelled “Sorry!” For a moment she was flooded with all kinds of sensations, ones she had forgotten existed. Then she remembered Lauren. Kim found her again in the crowd and made her way as quickly as she could to her, took a deep breath and tapped her on the shoulder. Lauren spun, surprised.
“Hi” Stammered Kim. “I’m Kim, I’m uh, in your economics class,” God she hoped that it wasn’t chemistry. “What’s going on?” She asked innocently.
Lauren turned back to the library, eyes still wide.
“I don’t know, I had just gotten downstairs and I heard the screaming. But there’s no alarm so I don’t think anyone has a gun?”
Kim looked past Lauren’s shoulder and saw the Guardian in the doorway, stalking through the crowd of students towards her. Time was running out.
“Do you know what happened?” Lauren was asking her.
“Uh, I, no. I don’t. I just needed to give you this.” Kim said and shoved a piece of notebook paper she had willed in to existence in to Lauren’s hand. Lauren looked confused, then her eyes went wide again, this time in horror as the Guardian reached them and she looked straight at it for the one moment it existed on all planes of reality. She screamed and reeled back, eyes screwed shut against its image. When she opened them again she was alone in the middle of the crowd, clutching a piece of blank notebook paper.