Annalise huffed, slamming another research book shut and laying it down on the desk she claimed in the corner of the university’s library. It was the middle of finals week and she couldn’t find any sources for her ten-page paper, which was due in two days. No pressure. She glanced at her phone again for the time, groaning when she saw it was already midnight.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she muttered to herself. She packed her things into her bag, put the books she didn’t want on a nearby library cart, then journeyed back into the shelves of books. She would search one more time and if she didn’t find anything, she would go back to her dorm.
She slowly walked towards the folklore section, looking around warily. The library seemed… odd. Different from before. The ceiling lights flickered on one by one as she walked underneath them, illuminating only parts of the shelves while the rest was cast in darkness.
She turned a corner, pausing when she saw a bookshelf in front of her, blocking off the path through the center of the library. She could have sworn that hadn’t been there before. She followed the rows down the corridor and made a right, only to come to more long rows of bookshelves on both sides. She glanced back uncertainly. Had she taken a wrong turn? She had never been to this part of the library before.
She glanced at a few of the books to make sure, only for her eyes to widen in surprise. “The Complete History of the Vampire War?” she questioned. “Art of War: Faerie Weapons and Tactics?” She picked the faerie one up, opening it to a random page then brought it closer to her face, her brows scrunching in confusion. It was illegible. The entire thing was written in some kind of scribbles. The pages suddenly glowed golden and she dropped the book in shock, backing away. When the light faded, she hesitantly picked it back up to discover that it was now in English!
She quickly stuffed the book back in its place, spinning around and walking back the way she came. This was too weird.
She slowed down, her attention caught by other books on her way back. How to Speak Dolphin, Dragonspeak 101, and The Nuances of Siren Calls. She turned another corner. The Call of CthulYOU: How to Tap into Your Inner Eldritch Horror For Fun and Profit and Budgeting for Dwarves.
She turned the last corner to go back to where she first got lost, only to stare in horror. The bookshelves were all in a row again, only leading in one direction. She pulled out her phone to call her roommate and she gasped as she looked at the time. It was still midnight. No time had passed at all! Even worse, she had no signal.
I’m going to die lost in a library, she thought, her shoulders slumping in defeat. She shook her head and stood up straight, walking down the hall. There had to be some way out.
There was no way out. She felt like she had been walking for hours, though her phone still said it was midnight. The shelves all looked the same. The only difference was the books in them, which only seemed to be getting weirder. She had gone down a set of stairs, but it only led to another labyrinth of books instead of an exit.
She perked up as she heard humming in the distance. A person! She wasn’t alone! She hurried towards the sound, down several rows, and grinned brightly when she finally saw another student perusing a book.
“Hey!” she called. She breathed heavily, her hands on her knees as she tried to catch her breath. “I’m sorry to bother you,” she apologized, straightening back up with a smile. It dimmed as she really took in the student, who just stared back at her. Just like the library itself, there was something off about this person. They didn’t look different from a normal human, but they watched her without blinking and their green eyes seemed to almost glow. They were thin, had short blonde hair, and wore black skinny jeans and a crimson red shirt.
“Do you need something?” the person asked politely, a small smirk twisting up the corner of their lip as they took in her obvious wariness.
Annalise cleared her throat and plastered a weak smile back onto her face, her hands gripping the bottom of her shirt so they wouldn’t shake. “Sorry again for bothering you. I-I was looking for a way out of the library. I got lost,” she stammered as their eyes sharpened.
“Poor dear. It is confusing, isn’t it? May I have your name?” they asked, offering their hand out, and their voice was so sweet it sounded mocking. Warning bells went off in Annalise’s head and she forced herself to not take a step back. She remembered her grandmother’s stories that were drilled into her head from a young age, stories about magical creatures like faeries and the tricks they played on unsuspecting humans. Those stories are what led her to become an English major.
“You may call me Anna,” Annalise replied.
The person grinned, their smile a bit too wide for their face and their teeth too pointy to be human. She had guessed right. “Clever girl. You may survive here yet. You may call me Falon.”
“I don’t wish to trouble you, but could you point me towards the way out?” Annalise asked formally, barely keeping her voice from trembling. If she did anything to upset this faerie, she could be cursed or killed or suffer through any kind of punishment it could think up.
“You won’t get out like that. I’ll take you. You interest me,” they said, then spun on their heels without waiting for her to reply and walked off. Annalise hurried after them. “I’m surprised you were able to make it here, mortal.”
“Where is here?” she asked hesitantly, watching their face closely for any signs of anger.
“It’s a library for beings other than humans. I suppose the best way to explain it to you is that it exists in a realm parallel to yours. Mortals aren’t welcome here and there are wards against them. You must have been touched by magic before to get past them,” Falon mused.
“Oh,” Annalise breathed, unable to think of anything else to say. She had so many questions to ask, but she had a feeling they wouldn’t be well-received. Instead, she skimmed more book titles, recognizing most of the creatures they were about.
“All of these beings exist?” Annalise finally gave in and asked. “Vampires and dragons and mermaids?”
“Yes,” Falon replied but didn’t explain further.
“Is this whole realm for these beings or is it just the library?” she questioned next.
Falon laughed, glancing back at her amused. “This is just for the library. We live in your world, hidden from your sight.”
“How? I mean, how are you not noticed?”
Falon slowed down to walk beside her. “Glamours, mostly. Spells to hide our appearances. Some also live in remote areas,” they said with a shrug, a hint of amusement still on their face like they were indulging a child’s questions.
Embarrassed, Annalise stopped asking and just walked by Falon’s side in silence. The faerie didn’t speak again, turning them down several halls in a path that didn’t follow any rhyme or reason to Annalise. She really hoped they were actually leading her out.
Annalise tensed as they came out of the bookshelves to pass through a large seating area where several not-students meandered, reading books or talking. When they passed by, they would pause and turn to glare at her.
Several of the beings were grouped together where Falon was leading her so she decided to go around them, heading towards the circle of empty chairs off to the side.
“Don’t go through there,” Falon advised, tugging her back by the hood of her hoodie, looking even more amused when she looked back at them with wide-eyes. “That’s a faerie ring.”
“Of chairs?” Annalise asked aghast, looking at the circle in a new light.
“We make do with what we have,” Falon explained, grinning down at her. She shuffled past the creatures, feeling their stares on her back long after the pair had gone back into the bookshelves at the other end of the room.
Annalise kept her head down as a man walked past them when they were further in the maze of bookshelves. Darkness seemed to radiate off of him and he was so tall he had to duck down to avoid hitting the ceiling. He stared at her as the two walked by, just like the others.
“Good job,” Falon complimented once they turned another corner. “That’s exactly what you should have done. Pretend we’re not there, don’t acknowledge us, and if you do, do it politely. You’re smarter than most mortals.” Annalise just chuckled nervously, still trying to calm her racing heart.
They descended down two sets of stairs at the back of the library, and Falon gestured to the double doors with a glowing red EXIT sign above them. It must have been a back entrance like her own library had.
“Here we are,” Falon voiced. “Safe and sound.” They moved to the side for her to go through but she hesitated, glancing at the door back into the library. Was this the only time she would ever see this place? She didn’t know how she felt about that.
Falon cleared their throat, bringing her attention back to them. They watched her expectantly, waiting for her to leave. Annalise panicked, suddenly remembering another thing her grandmother told her. The faerie had helped her. Without giving them something, she would still owe Falon an unspecified favor if they ever decided to come to collect.
“I want to give you this,” Annalise said, taking off her shiny star-shaped necklace dotted with fake diamonds. It must have cost twenty-five dollars at the store and she didn’t have any special attachment to it, but Anna loved it because it shined in the sunlight. It would do perfectly.
The faerie looked surprised but held out their hand, letting Anna drop it into their palm. “A gift?” Falon asked, their tone curious. Anna remembered some Fae didn’t like outright gifts as repayment for their deeds. It insulted them. Anna had to choose her words carefully.
“As a token of appreciation for your assistance,” Anna replied lightly. “I hope you have a pleasant rest of your evening.”
Falon grinned wide, gesturing her forward. She went through the open double doors, only looking back once she was through. She regretted it immediately.
“Keep those wits about you, child. You’ll need them. Those who have left our realm are never the same again,” Falon warned. Antlers twisted out of their skull and their tanned skin was tinged green with leaves decorating the contours of their body like scales. The doors suddenly slammed shut without being touched, making Annalise jump.
She looked around, her jaw dropping when she realized she was in the front entrance of her dorm, which was on the other side of the campus from the library. She looked back to the library’s double doors, only to find them gone, the regular glass door to the dorm in their place.
Her professor would just have to accept sources from online, she thought, going up to her dorm and resolving to put this terrifying night out of her mind.
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