The library was quiet. I know what you’re thinking, libraries usually are quiet, but this was nearly midnight and I wasn’t supposed to be there. The bang I heard sounded very loud even though it probably wasn’t as loud as my impression of it was. I was glad I hadn’t turned on the reading light and had used my penlight to find the book. Footsteps approached the rare book reading room. I ducked under the table, hugging the book to my chest. The footsteps turned into feet, shod in sneakers.
“I know you are here, Jay.” I released the breath I hadn’t been conscious of holding. It was just Thomas. I got out from under the table.
“You scared the hell out of me, Thomas,” I put the book on the table. He frowned at it. He turned on the reading lamp and stared at the book.
“You’re really going to do it,” he said. “You are actually going to open that book at Midnight.” I don’t know why he sounded so surprised.
“I said I was,” I said. The town clock tower bonged out the quarter hour. It wasn’t long until midnight.
“Have you thought that I might be right and if you open that book, things could get worse?” He fidgeted with his jacket zipper, moving it up and down on the right-hand track of the zipper. I couldn’t help grinning.
“You could be wrong,” I said, “and things could get better.”
“I’m pretty sure I’m right.” He straightened up and released his zipper. “The world wars… ”
“Started before Great Grandmother is rumored to opened the book.” I pointed out. “She didn’t open it until 1917. World War one was almost over by then.”
“I’m not saying that things were hearts and flowers before she opened the book,” he sounded impatient. “But even you have to admit that things got a whole lot worse once she did.” I nodded.
“That’s true,” I said. ‘I never said it wasn’t. What I’m saying is that I think the book can help us to make things better. ”
“You’re delusional.” He said. “I think the whole world would be better off if we just destroyed that thing.” I felt the urge to grab the book and physically protect it from Thomas even though he made no move to touch it.
“What if it could tell us where she went?”
“What? You think it ate her?” He cocked an eyebrow at me. “Besides,” he continued. “What does it matter where she is? She disappeared a hundred years ago. She’s dead. She has to be.” He was right about that. She would be over a hundred and thirty years old. She was dead.
“I promised,” I said. “You were there. Grandfather made me promise to try to open the book at midnight of May 25, 2017.”
“I know.” He sat down next to me at the table. “You don’t have to do this. He wouldn’t know if you broke that promise.”
“I would know,” I said. I raised my hand as he opened his mouth to say something. “You’re right. There are hundreds of reasons why I shouldn’t open the book, but I made that promise and I have to keep it.”
“You were a kid,” he said, banging his fist on the table. The sound made me jump. “He had no right to make you make that promise.”
“Keep it down,” I said. “This is a library.” He looked around.
“There’s nobody here,” he said. “We shouldn’t be here. We could be arrested for breaking and entering.” That was nice of him. I was the one who broke and entered. He just followed me. I reached for the book in front of me on the table. The town clock started to chime midnight. It was time.
“I need to open it,” I said. “I should just get it over with.” He put his hand on mine, holding it down.
“No,” he said. “I can’t let you do that.”
“I have to,” I said, shaking his hand off. He grabbed my left hand. I used my right hand to lift the cover. The book was open.
“Damn it,” he said and let go of my left hand. I moved the cover over to fully open the book. I’m not sure what I expected, but the sudden whoosh of air wasn’t it.
“Close it!” I was stunned to see the young woman crouched on the table. “Close it now!” Thomas reacted faster than I did, slamming the book shut. “Good,” she said. “It can’t be opened again for another hundred years. What year is it now?”
“2017,” I managed to say just as Thomas asked, “Who are you?”