The Director opened the old crate. He removed the straw. Too much, maybe, but the monks were thorough. He pulled out the three books and lay them side by side on the table.
The covers absorbed the fluorescent light. The leather felt warm. The Director could imagine the animal that provided the leather screaming as the hide had been removed. He wondered if it had a name. Did the monks give names to the creatures they cared for? Or did they take them from their mothers and age them until the time for binding came?
An idle thought.
Each book had a golden wax seal. One for the snake. One for the rabbit. One blank, the surface almost reflective.
Brenda walked into the back room of the library. She held a stack of books in her arms. The Director wheeled a cart over to her. He saw her flinch away. No matter. He would not touch her until he had to. "Here. Let me help," he said. He took half the books from her. He arranged them on the cart, nonfiction on one side and fiction on the other.
"Thanks," Brenda said. "New books?"
"Yes. Some reference books," The Director said.
"Want me to catalog them?"
"No. But thank you. I'll take care of them myself."
"Lots of packing. Kiera would say they overdid it. The environment, you know."
"I assume so. But you can never be too careful. They are handmade volumes."
The Director flinched at the word. "What?"
"Are they for genealogy?"
"No. Just reference."
Brenda gazed at him, those big doe eyes studying. The Director thought he saw something else there. Not her watching, but listening. What was the dumpy circulation librarian listening to? What went on in her head besides echoes? Did she scream in there? The lack of thought must be deafening. He could stop all that. Later. Maybe he would make his own books.
He said, "How is it out there?"
"Fine. Kids are out of school. Freddy's running late, but I have it," she said.
"Okay. We want to have a good day, right?" Keep her off balance and away from the books. He did not like the way she watched them, listening.
"I have it," she said.
"Good. Thank you, Brenda. You do such a good job." Sometimes all people needed to be pacified was to be told they were doing a good job.
She smiled a tight little smile, said thanks, and went back through the door. The Director watched her go. He gathered the three new editions to the library. Walking down the back stairs, he used his key to enter the library basement. He flicked the switch on the wall and the lights came on with a slight hum.
In one corner, a small cage glowed. The computer servers sat humming in there. Wires ran from the cage and up into the ceiling and walls. A long electrical box was fixed to the wall next to the cage. Along the walls of the large room, half the size of the library, lived the books in storage. Extra copies of best sellers, valuable books of local authors, and others forgotten and covered in dust.
The Director passed the equipment and the bags of salt and sand bags. He walked the three new books to the back corner. There he lay them on the floor at each point of a large triangle painted in red. The paint glowed under the stark fluorescent lights.
Three cages sat along the back wall. In one lay a snake, curled and watching. In another was a rabbit, huddled far away from the snake in a corner. He fed them and cleaned their cages. Once the third cage was occupied and the time was right, he could begin. He had not named these animals. Once he began, names would not matter. Hell would fall.
To Be Continued…