The Library

Lara crept silently through the Rochester’s twisting corridors. A gust of wind seeped through a cracked window, and the breeze tickled her cheeks. Though the hour had yet to strike eight, she could still get detention if she was caught wondering the halls. Students were only allowed to be in one of two places after dark: the dining hall or their dormitories. Happily, neither teacher nor student stirred the vacant, icy passages which, despite their forlorn state, still resonated with the spirit of Christmas. Reefs of Holly and ornaments of every color adorned each archway, pleasuring the eyes of the school’s inhabitants, and Lara was no exception. Christmas was her favorite time of the year…at least it used to be when she wasn’t stranded at Rochester for the entire holiday simply because her parents were visiting her cousin in France.  

The dinner bell chimed in her ears; the dining hall was only one corridor turn to the right. She could hear the faint whispers of Christmas carols and boisterous laughter emanating from the around the corner. The sweet aroma of peppermint and cinnamon lingered within the air, causing her stomach to rumble. Her mouth watered at the thought of meat pies and dessert puddings lining the long wooden tables. She should be at the feast chatting with or at least listening to her schoolmates chat about plans for the upcoming holiday. The Art of conversation never came easily to Lara. She always chalked it up to the side-effect of being an only child; it was great at age ten, but at fourteen, it left her socially anorexic.

Besides, sometimes dinner held its own special distraction. Rather trying to overcome her shyness, Lara busied herself trying to hide the shade of red her cheeks turned every time she stole a glance at Aiden, an older boy who always alone sat at the far right table. Every angle of his face seemed chiseled from stone. The ivory hue of his skin sharply contrasted with his hazel eyes that shined as dark as the ebony tresses of his hair. Those eyes which while holding no promise of warmth, spoke whispers of their hidden depths. Indeed, individually his features were alarming, precarious even, but placed together they created a picture which, she couldn’t deny, was all the more pleasing to any teenage girl.

Yet, instead of enjoying the eye-candy at dinner, Lara found herself alone as she trudged reluctantly to the library in hopes of finishing her history essay. Though the assignment was due by the week’s end, she had yet to even begin. In truth, Lara had been so wrapped up in her other studies to even start the necessary research. Her lessons were much more difficult than she had anticipated. The professors were strict, and the classes taxing. And despite the fact that she had begged to go to this school, she didn’t really belong. The byproduct of new money, Lara’s lifestyle wasn’t as refined as the other posh girls. Her shoes were too well-worn, her school-bag last season, and she didn’t know the first thing about horseback riding – the favorite hobby of most of the girls in her common room.

As she descended the winding staircase, Lara listened keenly for the scuffle of heavy steps colliding against the marble floor in the event that a teacher might be near — or worse, the headmaster, as she made her way to the school’s library. She could have studied in her dorm, but then she’d have to subject herself to the girls’ teasing. Besides, she hoped that perhaps she might catch a glimpse of Aiden – the boy who kept his nose buried in the pages of the great philosophers: Aristotle, Cicero and the like.

Sometimes, he skipped dinner, preferring the solitude of books to the company of others. A wonderful mess of dark curls and sharp cheekbones, she had been bewitched by Aiden from the very start of the New Year. Lara longed to talk to him, had engaged in a few bittersweet moments of interaction. Unfortunately every second in his presence was fleeting at best, and she lacked the courage to approach him for any prolonged period of time. Given his love of books, the library might be the only place she could him alone, away from the prying eyes of the other girls.

After a near miss with the school’s caretaker, she arrived at the double archway that marked the entrance of the grand library. Lara twisted the knob carefully, cringing as the door opened with a sharp creak. The room inside was dark and desolate, in stark contrast to its appearance during the daylight hours. The dim flicker of the lamplight cast shadows everywhere. Shelves of books towered over her like giants. The smell of aging parchment hovered within the air. Free-floating clouds of dust seized her lungs, forcing pressure to build within her chest. She coughed violently to clear her throat, her eyes searching frantically for any signs of life. But Lara found nothing, not even Miss Viola, the ‘inside voices only’ librarian.

“Is anyone here,” her voice anxiously squeaked, as she slowly browsed through the stacks, moving from subject to subject, book to book. She didn’t know why she had asked, knowing full well that, should the librarian or anyone else catch her, she would be sent back to her dorm and her essay would go unfinished.

Using the small step ladder nearby, Lara reached up to pluck Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution of France, but her arm was just too short to reach it. Placing all her weight on the tips of her toes, Lara leaned forward just enough to for her fingers to stroke at the edge of the book’s binding until her ankle gave way and she fell headlong to the floor.

After a brief second of disorientation, she regained her footing- cursing her lack of grace. Her cheeks flushed a deep shade of scarlet, even though there was no one there to see her. Still, she could hear her mother’s chiding voice, reminding her that being clumsy was unbefitting of a young lady. She dusted off her jacket, tucked her button-down shirt back into her skirt, and attempted to smooth the frayed hairs that were now loose from her auburn braids.

“Brilliant,” Lara muttered to herself. “Absolutely brilliant.” Thankful to be alone, she trudged toward a table in the south corner in hopes that, if the librarian returned, she wouldn’t be discovered.

“…N…S-P…” As she walked, Lara heard the sound of muffled voices. But she couldn’t understand the conversation. Swinging her head in both directions, she surveyed the room to find the source of the noise, but to no avail.

Lara delved deeper into the library, wandering aimlessly towards the stacks in the back of the room. Whether her actions were motivated by curiosity or the desperate need to escape her essay, she wasn’t sure. The bitter wind rattled against the windows. The floor creaked beneath the weight of her steps. Thick cobwebs obscured her path; despite her attempts to wipe them away, the silky thread scratched at her face and hair. The intensity of the shadows grew, engulfing the walls.

Squinting her eyes, she saw the dim glow of a single desk lamp at the far corner. She squinted, trying to make out the blurs in the distance. Gradually, the silhouettes changed before her eyes; flashes of black and blonde reached her gaze, two students, but she couldn’t see their faces.

“You promised to keep it a secret,” she heard the gruff sounds of a hushed voice, a familiar voice, she thought.

“Don’t get your knickers tied in knots. Everything’s fine.” a gentler voice responded. This time the words resounded with more clarity, but the voice wasn’t familiar like she thought. Hidden inside the voice was unnatural darkness, unlike anything she had ever heard — as if it wasn’t even human.

“Look, I haven’t told anyone. I swear.”

She knew she needed to get a teacher, but before she could move, a loud crash reverberated off the walls, causing a small gasp to escape Lara’s lips, as her knees nearly buckled out of fright. The weak light of the lamp vanished and blackness consumed the room. Lara’s eyes strained to adjust to the dark. She stood momentarily immobile, petrified.

She shouldn’t be here, she told herself. It was wrong to meddle, undignified even – that’s what her mother would say. She should turn back but she didn’t. As though being pulled by an unknown force, her legs continued to move forward. Tip-toeing ever so slightly, she crept closer toward the figures, keeping her small body against the bookshelves.

Just as she reached the edge of the bookshelves, and peaked her head around the corner, she heard a desperate cry and froze. “Please, no…”

The pleas were immediately silenced, replaced instead by stifled groans of agony. The guttural sounds of a person struggling for breath curdled the blood within her veins, but the dark still made it difficult to see.


It was that voice again, an inhuman voice; a silver streak of light erupted from a flashlight, illuminating the small space surrounding the two figures. As the light spread against the darkness, Lara felt the blood drain from her face.

A boy, younger than her it seemed, lay sprawled on the ground. A scarlet river flowed from a deep gash that reached from his collarbone to his jaw, soaking the boy’s blazer – turning its brilliant shade of blue into a dirty brown. Immediately, her hands rose to her mouth, suppressing the scream that clawed its way up her throat and threatened to escape.

Try as she might, she couldn’t turn away from the sight before her. Purple bruises punctuated the boy’s jawline which looked twisted in an unnatural angle. The boy bobbed his head repeatedly, gasping for air. He was trying to scream but to no avail. His mouth opened; his lips moved, but the only sound which could be heard was a sinister laugh. It was only then that her mind, clouded as it was with fear, could process the identity of the other student, the one who held the flashlight – Aiden.

Her pupils opened wide at the realization that it was Aiden holding the knife. The vicious glare that haunted his expression revealed his pleasant appearance for the charade that it was, a thin covering for the monster lurking within. Tears pricked the corners of her eyes, falling down her freckled cheek. Her chest heaved in unsteady cycles. Her mind went blank and all thoughts of getting a teacher vanished.

Aiden moved closer to his victim, at a pace which seemed to defy explanation, looking very much like a spider spinning his web around a fly. Lara’s mouth cracked ever so slightly in an attempt to call out for help, but the words wouldn’t come. The paralyzing effect spread throughout her body, rendering her helpless. She didn’t know what to do; her feet felt glued to the floor.  She felt death’s cold breath on the back of her neck as though she, herself, was staring into the abyss.

Her eyes darted back and forth, scanning the room for the nearest exit. But she was too far back in the stacks to make a break for the door – assuming her body remembered how to move at all. Summoning up the courage from a source unknown, Lara managed to move her right foot forward. Yet, her muscles quivered and she fell again; this time the sound echoed much louder. The pain of colliding against the hard stone hardly registered as the dread of being caught was much greater. Pushing a gulp deeper down her throat, she slowly raised her head, hoping desperately that her presence had gone unnoticed. She hoped in vain. With a sharp turn of his head, Aiden’s vision collided with her own. The rich hazel of his eyes was tainted by a deep crimson shade. In the moment their eyes met, Lara’s heart stopped…


Her head slammed against the marble surface of the school’s walls. The impact of the collision twisted her limbs and tore at her flesh. The rigid stone scraped roughly against her spine.

“Ahhh,” she gasped, twisting within her attacker’s glance. Aiden’s grip around her throat tightened. His nails dug into her neck. She tried to scream, but couldn’t. Her lungs burned at the loss of oxygen.

“No, pl-eas-e st-op.” she choked against the sobs building in her throat, barely managing to push the words beyond the threshold of her lips.

A deep, malevolent laugh remained her only response; its guttural sound slashed against the deafening silence of the abandoned corridor. “If you breathe a word of this…” He leaned closer. His breath tickled her ear.

“I- I-w-on-t, I swear.” She pleaded.

“It will be our little secret.”

Secret – secret – secret… The word echoed within the hollows of her memory, and darkness took her.


Lara’s eyes fluttered open. The harsh white of the bed sheets blinded her. The stale air of the hospital wing seized her lungs. She woke to find herself confined to a bed, surrounded by her family along with Jeremiah Walker, the headmaster. She could hear her parents arguing her with the nurse at the far corner of the room.

“Where am I?” Lara muttered, her raspy voice scraped the air like sandpaper.

“The hospital. You were found in the corridor outside the library,” came the gruff voice of a man who smoked too many cigarettes. She turned her head to the headmaster as he peered at her with suspicion written in his grey eyes. “Do you remembered what happened?”

Lara shook her head, too afraid to tell him the truth.

“Lara, there was incident at the library.” The school nurse tried to tell her, her tone was hesitant and worry was etched across her withered features.

“An incident?” Lara prodded.

“A boy is dead.” The headmaster interjected. “What were you doing at outside the library after hours?”

Lara met his gaze before quickly turning away. She didn’t know how to answer him. She couldn’t tell him the truth. “I was studying for a history essay, sir…” She let her sentence trail off, swallowing the bile that rose in her throat.

“Mrs. Danvers,” he spoke quietly. His voice changed, becoming gentler. “Is there something else?” The headmaster’s eyes twinkled in confusion as though he were searching the very essence of her soul, awaiting her response. The air froze in her lungs as his question clouded her mind.

Lara didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t tell him what she had seen that night. She had stared into true evil and it had stared back, threatening to swallow her whole. There was only one option. With a deep breath, Lara did something she had never done before – she lied.

“No sir, nothing.”

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