You always believed in nothing. No Godhead, no great divide between the living and dead.
You are already dead, you think.
The humid air sticks to the back of your knees and clings to your shorts.You walk toward the library with your backpack and take a sip of your giant sized soda.
You hear the clip clop clip of the mounted police officer and you feel safe walking in this high metropolis of humanity known as Houston.
Your class assignment for your humanities course is due, and you are nervous you won't finish in time. You play candy crush on your phone or re-arrange your music as you walk past the iron gates of the Julia Ideson Library.
You check your phone and the time is five till 12.
You walk upstairs past the fresco mural to the reading room on the second floor. You take your books out of your backpack and start to read but can’t concentrate.
You wiggle your feet under the table and slip off your tennis shoes. It is quiet and still. Almost relaxing. There is no one around except one guard standing in the atrium.
You heard someone in your class talk about the library being haunted and truthfully, that was one reason you came. You didn’t believe in that sort of thing but you are curious. You hear and smell nothing but rotten old books. You don’t understand bibliophiles, you have seen an episode of hoarders where a couple had so many books they had nowhere to sleep. It was ridiculous. Or, maybe, You do understand them. You long to touch them, you collect them and they pile high on your bed and you worry that will be me one day, on Hoarders, buried under a pile of books.
You are bored and press record on your phone and wait patiently for inhuman sounds. Well, maybe you shouldn’t say inhuman, maybe just otherworldly. Yeah right, you think.
As you bend down to pick up a pencil you have dropped, a few more people wander in.
Two of them look like students, but one of them, a man, wears a business suit and carries a stack of books and sits down at your table on the opposite end.
“Morning,” he says.
“Morning,” you reply.
You can’t help but notice he seems as though he has been crying and his face is splotchy and you feel a sort of tenderness for this stranger sitting beside you.
He looks down at his books and begins to read and you notice that the sun has receded and some clouds have made the room seem darker, somewhat oppressive.
You try to study as well but something is breaking your concentration. That smell.
It’s not a rotting smell, rather a smell like something burning or something that was burned long ago.
You stand up and push your chair in and wander around the room, pretending to look at books, but really you are investigating the smell.
At the far side of the room you find what looks like a bookmark, and you pick it up.
It has the most beautiful faded design of English roses, and there is a lipstick stain on the other side.
“To Cora-Always and forever “
You know it is wrong but you pick it up and slide it into your pocket and walk back and continue reading.
The smoke smell is gone and you look at your phone again and it is 5 till 12.
That's odd, you think.
You know you have been here at least half an hour or more.
You gather your books and put them back into your backpack and head down the stairs.
Later as you are sitting at your desk, you pull the bookmark back out of your pocket and hold it up to the light. The English roses are gone, and instead you see it is a remembrance from some kind of memorial, some ancient ephemera, a painting with oak trees and statuary. It frightens you and you try to flush it away in the toilet. You go and rest for awhile on the couch and take out your phone and you remember that you recorded sounds in the library. You remember the conversation with the man who was crying. You press play and you hear nothing but the shuffling of books and chairs. Nothing but the sound of someone coughing.
You fall asleep and dream you pick the most beautiful rose from the garden and enter the party where the guests are all wearing costumes and are enjoying a lovely evening.
A woman wearing a parasol, her hair pinned up like a Geisha walks toward you.
“Hello, so glad you could make it. My Name is Cora.”
You mingle with the guests and feel your old life slipping away as a new one is just Beginning.