Alice sat down behind the information desk, exhausted at the end of a full day. In the early afternoon, a school class had come on a field trip to the library, and Alice was the only one available to give them a tour and read to them. Then after school let out, one of the local scout troops had come for some merit badge… something. Somehow it felt like she was catching up on everything else for the rest of the day. But now it was 8 pm, the library was closed, and the doors were locked. She slumped back in the chair, tempted to fall asleep right at the computer.
She looked down at a paper next to the keyboard. She had nearly forgotten about her research on local history. The sticky note had the names of the books Matt Robinson had brought in.
There was something strange about Matt. When he had come in the library that morning, he had been dressed in an outfit that Alice would have described as being appropriate for a mountain-man, and he was accompanied by a young kid of ten or eleven. His attitude had been very direct and determined, though she had assumed that he was a foreigner. He acted like he’d never seen the inside of a library before, and was very conscious of everything happening around him.
But when he returned in the afternoon, he was alone, in ordinary clothes, acting unsure and shy. He was also a bit jumpy and nervous. It was as if he was a completely different person. She was glad she had asked him his name, because she wanted to Google him. Not because she was suspicious of him. But because – what was the wording he had used? Well, I’m just curious…
Research was Alice’s favorite past-time. She wasn’t well-versed in any particular field, but she loved to dive into a subject and learn all she could about it. So when Matt had come in looking for any information he could find about the origin and myths of the town, she had taken it on as a personal research project. Funny, she thought to herself, I thought he said this morning that he had never been to Nigel. But this afternoon he made it sound like he had grown up here.
Now she wished she had spoken to him longer. All she had learned was his name, the fact that he lived with his uncle Eric, and that he was in school, taking the summer off. They had talked for about a half hour, but she had neglected to ask him about his background.
She got on the computer. A search for “Matt Robinson” didn’t help. Too common a name. She tried Eric Robinson. Again, too common. But then she realized that if he was local, he might be in a local directory.
She was right. Eric Robinson lived at #20 Wikiup Way. She wasn’t sure where Wikiup Way was, so she went to Google Maps.
That was definitely the right Eric Robinson. He lived only a block from the library. She zoomed the map out to see the distance from the library to her grandma’s house.
Realizing she was getting distracted, she almost left the page, but in her momentary curiosity she clicked on Satellite View. Nigel was a rather dry town. Almost everything within a few miles of the library was yellowing already, with a few scattered spots of green where the more conscious people watered regularly.
Backing out a little further, Alice discovered a streak of bright green on the outskirts of the town. She followed it on the map, zooming out further to get a fuller view. Whoever had planted the line of trees had been very meticulous about getting the trees in a very particular pattern.
When she got the screen to a position where she could see the whole pattern laid out, she stared at the screen, impressed with its detail. It was not as precise as a corn maze, but whoever had planted the trees had, over a one or two mile radius of otherwise empty fields, sketched a large symbol. Or was it a letter? Yes. It had to be a letter. It looks like a cross between an F and…
She grabbed the sticky note that she had written the book titles on. Gratefully, she had copied it down, too. She held it up next to the screen. Sure enough – it was the symbol on the side of Matthew Robinson’s book.
Matt sat at the kitchen table, completely wrapped up in his great grandmother’s book. He had heard stories about her, though he couldn’t remember where from. He had also heard that she did a bit of traveling, but he had never heard where or why. He had assumed she had traveled with her husband doing the same type of work as Uncle Eric. But her book made it sound like her traveling was part of her education.
He knew he should start the book from the beginning, but after opening to the middle and beginning to read, he couldn’t stop. It was the strangest and most interesting biography he had ever read, though he now doubted that it was a true biography. Was there such thing fantasized non-fiction?
He read on, ignoring the fact that he had no idea who the people were or what was really going on.
Taraben opened the door slowly. “I’m sorry to have to do it this way, my dear. I was given little choice.”
Erica squinted to see into the darkness beyond the door. A very small green light flickered and waved, dancing like a flame being carried across a room. It grew slowly until Erica realized that it was actually coming closer.
“Come…” The voice sounded like that of a dying man, but deeper and more piercing. “My servant awaits.”
Erica could hardly make out the words, as garbled and whispery as they were. She looked at Taraben, who’s face was lowered and pale. The flickering light gave him the appearance of being terribly sick. Cautiously, realizing there really was no other choice, she moved toward the flickering light.
As she walked, the light no longer seemed to get closer, and it wasn’t until she had been walking for a few minutes that she realized that what she had assumed to be a small light only a short distance away was actually a very large light. It seemed to flicker because it was shining directly into a face that turned slowly back and forth, like a slow nod.
But the face was neither pleasant, nor human. Only the eyes could be – “
If it hadn’t been a rather creepy part of the book, perhaps Matt wouldn’t have noticed a very subtle motion from the far end of the kitchen. He looked up, and his face drained of color.
His ghost was back.
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