Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Man in the Stacks

It’s Saturday afternoon, and at last I have news to report. I’ve spent most of the past week in the stacks of Butler Library, hoping to spot the person who stashed an electric blanket and a cheesecake underneath one of the desks. It’s not exactly how I would have chosen to spend my time. The Butler stacks—twelve vast floors of narrow aisles teeming with ancient books—are dark and often deserted. And the absence of windows means there’s never any sunlight to spoil gloom. At the end of each long aisle is a timer that activates a single dim bulb. Underestimate the time you need to find the book you’re after, and the timer will run out while you’re still yards from the switch. In an instant, you’ll find yourself alone in the dark, remembering why the stacks were chosen as the setting for the famous first scene of the film "Ghostbusters".

While I love a good library, I’ve never been a fan of the dark, and I usually try to avoid the stacks. But I had a hunch I needed to find the person who’d been using the electric blanket. And if I’ve learned nothing else from Kiki Strike over the years, I’ve learned to trust my hunches. So, last Sunday afternoon, I returned to the stacks. I found the blanket missing and an empty cheesecake box. But instead of abandoning my stakeout, I chose a desk nearby and proceeded to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait.

Of course I had to leave the library to attend classes and deal with matters of personal hygiene. But most of my time was spent hunched over that desk in the darkest part of the stacks, with only a tiny flashlight to break through the blackness. By yesterday, though, I hadn’t witnessed anything more interesting than a kissing couple and a frat boy weeping over a copy of Pride and Prejudice. I started to wonder if I was wasting my time. The maple syrup smell had returned to Manhattan, and the Irregulars were expecting an explanation.

Fortunately, I wasn’t at a loss for entertainment. I had come across a book on the history of Columbia University lying on a chair not far from where I had discovered the electric blanket. Around midnight, I was halfway through a chapter on the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum that once stood on the land where the university was later built, when my eyelids began to droop with fatigue. I rested my head on the open book and promptly passed out. Several hours later, I woke with a start. My flashlight’s bulb had burnt out, and a massive figure was looming over me. It was dressed in a black, hooded raincoat that reeked of mold and dust. I could see very little in the darkness, but a glint of metal led me to believe it was wearing goggles of some sort.

“You’re drooling on my book.’’ The voice was deep—undoubtedly male. I felt a hand yank the book out from under me.

I fell from my chair, but I’m pleased to report that I didn’t scream. Without pausing to think, I groped for the timer, but when the weak light flickered on in the aisle, there was no one there. I was alone in the stacks.


Blogger Jin Ai said...

lol this comment is about two years old....but is this like a separate (fictional) story plot, like the Paris adventure? ._. I'm confused.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Book Girl said...

No way would I spent the night in a library. Not that I don't like to read, but I am not a big fan of Ghostbusters.

12:18 PM  

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