A group of librarians in possession of a book that can make characters come to life decide to have a big Halloween party and in true literary fashion, everything goes wrong.
Not every detail of every plan goes accordingly. Even prompts to tell a story could take an unexpected direction as Katie was about to learn tonight. This young adult librarian could express countless words of joy for her love of Halloween–even if the holiday fell on a dreary Wednesday. Being in the middle of the week wasn’t going to diminish her determination to make this year the best Halloween ever, all with the help of an extraordinary book.
“Damn right,” Katie Haines confirmed as she walked down the library’s aisle of fantasy books while holding the aforementioned book. The gold lettering title, “Unbound Words,” provided a mystical sparkle that contrasted the book’s thick, black leather cover. “Now, describe me.”
Katie was an ideal candidate for reaching the books on the top shelf with her slightly above average height for a woman as she grabbed some books by Neil Gaiman. Her mouth was wide, with slightly protruding canines, and her eyes were an unusual shade of topaz. Her face gave the impression of a plotting fairy with her short haircut and a sprinkling of facial freckles, making her purple glitter fairy costume a perfect match.
“Not bad,” Katie complemented tonight’s narrator.
While holding the Unbound Words book, Katie opened the books she seized. A tornado of words and letters gushed out from the pages, popping out several fictional characters.
“Welcome to the Halloween Party of the Century!” Katie greeted with a dramatic flair. “We got food and drinks in the main lobby along with a DJ. There will be a murder mystery game later tonight, so be sure to put your name in the hat by the punch bowl if you want to play. Have fun!”
Katie made her way to the main lobby area, randomly dancing along the way. The 19,000 square foot library was able to pack a party. Earlier in the day, the staff got in trouble with the fire department for having too many people. Patrons came all over for the library’s extravagant character photo opportunity session, oblivious that the staff pulled the characters out from books.
Only the librarians knew the truth, and not even their families. When they found the Unbound Words book a few weeks ago, they swore never to discuss the magical book with outsiders. The staff was able to pass off the fictional characters as cosplayers without any problems. None of the characters could leave the library or harm real people. Though, one observation the staff made that they had no explanation for was that many of the characters would act uncharacteristically, like Dracula being a nice guy.
Katie returned to the lobby area, where the rest of the library staff gathered around the snack table. At the same time, Mad Hatter commanded the DJ booth. It was 9:30 pm, and the library was closed for the day, allowing the staff to have their private party. Katie stuffed her face with a piece of chocolate cake as the branch manager, Chuck Barkley, strolled up to her.
“I must admit, I’ve been rather impressed with how you’ve handled the unbound book,” Chuck praised. “Other than getting in trouble with the fire department for having too many people earlier today, there haven’t been any problems. Your creativity has kept everything in check and increased patron satisfaction.”
“Thanks, Chuck. Does that mean I’m getting a raise in the spring?”
Chuck laughed. “If the budget allows and nothing goes wrong.”
The kay phrase has been spoken.
“The what the what now?” Katie mumbled.
Whenever everything is going right, everything must go wrong. It’s a rule of storytelling.
“The narrator has a point,” Chuck agreed.
Katie whined. “But this is a party. Nothing has to go wrong.”
The music scratched to a stop.
“Let’s all get mad now!” the Mad Hatter laughed as he played a record backward.
All of the fictional characters covered their ears, but their effort was futile. The demonic noise had crawled into their ears. They began to laugh uncontrollably. Then, the laughter turned into madness as they all began to release their inner-crazy by destroying their surroundings, fighting each other, making loud noises, beating their chests, and so forth.
The librarians flipped over a table and ducked down behind.
“How do we get them to stop?” one of the librarians asked their group.
“If any of them touch the unbound book, they disappear,” another librarian, Amy, reminded everyone.
“But there’s too many of them,” Chuck remarked. “We need a way to kill them off at once.”
Katie glanced around the room. On the new arrives stand was a biography of American novelist George R. R. Martin. “How about we get a writer known for killing off characters.”
With Unbound Words in hand, Katie ducked and ran, narrowly avoiding food and furniture, as she grabbed the biography. She cracked open the book, and in a swirling storm of words, George R. R. Martin came to life. While Katie wasn’t a super-fan, she noticed something was off, like this fabrication wasn’t really him, and more like a stunt-double.
“Golly gee willikers, we got ourselves a mess here,” George spoke in a high-pitched voice.
Katie slapped her forehead. “Of course, the book decides to mess his character up completely.”
“Hey, there. Words can hurt people too, you know,” George sneered, reminiscent of Robin from the 1960s live-action Batman television series. “I might be different, but I can help.”
“Then, can you kill off all these characters?” Chuck said.
“Can I kill all these characters?” George mockingly laughed as he pulled out a tiny DOS computer the size of a smartphone from his pants pocket. He finger poked a paragraph’s worth of keys in a second with one hand while the other held the tiny machine. “Get a load of this.”
Dozens of white blobs erupted, taking the form of white-out white octopuses with baseball bat sized paintbrushes in each tentacle. The octopuses charged at the unruly fictional characters, brushing them out of existence. When the octopuses wiped away the last character, they turned on each other, cleaning themselves out.
“Thank you,” Katie said and then bopped the fake George on the head with the book, disintegrating him back into words.
“How are we going to clean all this up?” Amy grumbled.
Katie picked up a copy of Cinderella that had serendipitously managed to get tossed into the lobby. “That’s what Fairy Godmothers are for.”
This short story was vaguely inspired by the writing prompt: “There are some fictional characters you absolutely detest. You’ve even gone and made a list of them. Now all you have to do is hire the most ruthless killer of fictional characters you know; George R. R. Martin.” As you can tell, I basically had George save the day by killing a bunch of fictional characters to keep it in line with my universe.
I’m working on a book staring Katie and the Unbound Words book, which has her deal with an enormous problem the book causes. If you missed it, I wrote about Chuck in another short story, Moral Compass.
Thank you for your support and for reading this week’s short story!