It’s 1030 words.
The New Guardian
He wasn’t a reading man. The only book he had willingly picked up had been a gun owners manual he’d leafed through and then used as a door stop. He hadn’t been to a library in over thirty years, not since he was a kid in school and had a crush on Miss Aversham. He had liked her because she looked like she wasn’t afraid to wrestle with bears and because she looked cute with her hair tied in a bun and her glasses almost falling off her nose.
The memory of his broken heart when he saw her with a long haired man on a motor cycle, wearing a leather jacket made him smile. He had been devastated but there had been other, worse, heart breaks after her, severe heart breaks that had hardened his soul.
Now here he was, in a library again following a woman except this time he wasn’t in love with her. He was going to kill her, he just needed to find her first.
It was a big library, shelves after shelves filled with books of all sizes and shapes. He was fascinated and took his time. The woman could wait, she was probably hiding somewhere on the upper floors. He looked up and saw the stairs above him, squirrelling, round with thick oak handles. He took a book out of the shelves, a random book and read the first line in it.
“When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.” He looked at the cover, it was titled The Road by Cormac McCarthy. He shrugged his shoulders and put the book in his pocket. Then he continued towards the stairs. It took a little effort to run up the creaking stairs. He liked the sound effects. She was probably quite scared by now and he wanted her scared, it made it harder for her to think and that would make it easier for him to find her.
It wasn’t until he came to the third floor that he noticed something changing around him. He couldn’t put his fingers on it but it was as if the walls were moving closer towards him. He shook his head, smiled at himself and continued to walk the stairs.
Almost too late he realised he was walking in circles. The stairs led him between the floors in a manner that confused him and the illusion that the walls were coming closer persisted.
“Where are you?” he yelled into the library but the only answer he got was a low creak behind him. He turned around and saw the stairs collapse in on themselves and then spring back as if they were alive. The stairs had him trapped in a small circle, the books were coming closer and closer. It was no illusion.
He felt dread creep up on him, dread he hadn’t felt in a very long time. It was a welcomed sensation. He had chosen the profession because he didn’t care. It was refreshing to feel some kind of emotion. He wanted to laugh but the laughter was stuck in his throat. He ran up the stairs and then down again when the stairs changed. He was caught like a rat in a cage, running up and down, in circles.
He stopped and breathed, felt his sidearm and wondered if he should jump. It wasn’t far to the hallway corridor and he could make the jump but what would he do if the stairs changed just when he was about to jump?
He sighed, cursed his new found love of life and climbed up the rail. It wasn’t a long jump and he didn’t hesitate. The stairs didn’t move, not until he was save on the other side of the rail in the corridor hallway.
“Where are you?” he shouted into the corridor again but was greeted with a simple sigh of the stairs as they changed back to their original shape.
He didn’t see her until he had started to move down the corridor. She was standing on a platform that looked like it was floating in mid air. She was standing there untouchable, completely still.
He admired her. She didn’t seem scared even with him on his tail. He gathered it had something to do with the library. He aimed his gun at her.
“You still haven’t learned your lesson?” she asked him simply.
He felt the floor creaking under him. The corridor turned into stairs and the stairs moved until he was trapped in a little square floating high up in the ceiling below the cupola.
“I think maybe we will both get what we want” she said simply.
He laughed. Suddenly he laughed harder than he had in years. It wasn’t perfectly clear to him why he was laughing but the sensation came over him like a tidal wave and he couldn’t resist. He shook with laughter and had to lean on the rail for support.
“Why are you laughing?” she asked sternly and he laughed even harder but suddenly he became serious. He raised his gun again, swiftly he aimed and pulled the trigger.
There was no time for the woman to be surprised. She keeled over the rail and fell to the floor below with a loud thud.
He sat down on the floor, leaning against the rail that felt alive but didn’t give way.
“So am I worth keeping?” he asked no one in particular.
The floor underneath him started transforming again, he stood up, disgruntled. Slowly the floor moved towards the circle the woman had been standing in, slowly they united and transformed into stairs that combined with the side hallway allowed him to descend.
But he didn’t go downstairs. Instead he looked up towards the cupola above him. He raised his hands and threw the gun to the floor beneath him. It lay beside the body of the woman as dead as she was.
Then he walked into a side room, pulled the book out of his pocket, sat down in a comfortable chair and started reading.