A flash. A brightness in the void. All around the library came the sound of tinnitus. A constant whine as if an explosion had rocked the building. As if the glass should fall in, the plaster should crack on the walls, as if the dust should be shaken from the top of the shelves to dance in the afternoon sun.
I was aware of myself again. I had a sense of me. A brief moment in time as the library adjusted, but building around me solidified. I was awoken by a sound no one else seemed to have heard.
Brenda screamed. She had been at the circulation desk. Kiera had been talking to a parent about readers for her child to prepare for kindergarten. Chris had been at the reference desk upstairs helping an old man with his password. The Director had been in his office, reviewing the budget for the next month. All of them made their way to the reference desk as Brenda let out one giant scream followed by short breaths.
The Director reached her first. He came to Brenda and put a hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay?" he said.
Brenda glanced at his hand. He removed it. She took a step back as Kiera walked from children's.
"What happened?" Kiera said.
"Something," The Director said.
"Nothing," Brenda said. She wrung her hands and swallowed bile. "I'm okay."
Chris walked down the steps. The patron he had been helping followed. Chris surveyed the scene. The Director nodded to him. Chris nodded back and turned around. "Let's go work on that password some more, Mr. Clark."
"Are you okay?" The Director said to Brenda.
"Just a start. My imagination," Brenda said.
I felt her lie. I felt everything in the library affected by the flash. It centered around Brenda. A nuclear fallout glow around her radiating in a gentle wave. Inside her, where she grasped her shirt, was a hole that held flat dark.
I checked The Director and Kiera. The Director maintained the steady hum of life I felt from everyone in the library. A steady thump of a heartbeat. The in and out wheeze of breath. Gurgling and sloshing and dividing and using energy life. In The Director it felt off, though. As if a single flute player in an orchestra had fallen off the beat just enough for a well trained ear to hear. I expected The Director's body, my body, to feel wrong, either by his nature or by my own assumptions. On his hand where he had touched Brenda's shoulder was a bit of the glow. A small shine on the palmed fingers he rubbed against his pant leg. An unconscious movement.
"If you're sure," Kiera said. She glanced at The Director for confirmation.
The Director said, "When Freddy arrives, why don't you go home for the day?"
"I could do that," Brenda said.
"Only if you feel like it."
"That might be okay." Brenda's hand circled her chest around that blank spot. It was smaller now, filling in little by little. Right after the flash it had been the size of a baseball. Now it was golf ball sized. The glow was fading as well, the brightness of it a dull shine across the library. I heard Brenda thinking, "It's gone." Clear words, not intention or base emotion besides a deep sadness from her. Whatever had happened, it had started with something in Brenda she knew about.
"What's gone?" I said and startled myself with my own words. My incorporeal form had become my default. I scanned the building and saw no reactions to my words.
Then something said, "Me."
To Be Continued…