Tamara stood on the sidewalk staring at the building in front of her. She had lived in the ‘Gap all her life, and she had never seen it before. You would think a person wouldn’t miss a castle. And that’s what it was. The brown stone building even had a turret. With crenels, for crying out loud. Tamara knew that word because of Timmy. They had debated how to add them to one of their outposts-of-last-resort. That was the thought that finally drove her to walk up the path between the peonies and to the front door. The plaque to the right said: “Gloaming Gap Public Library”. How had she not known there was a library in town? Especially one that boasted such obvious defenses. She pulled on the heavy iron ring that served as a handle on the even heavier wooden door.
Inside, it felt how she had always imagined a library should feel, like even if Ash and his idiot band played at full volume, the dust and books would hush the sound. The ceiling was a dome of windows, and shafts of light streaked down to the worn carpet. It was one large circular room lined floor to ceiling with bookshelves. It even had one of those ladders on wheels to reach the high books. There were some tables and chairs set in nooks that should only be used by the most serious of people.
“I don’t have exactly what you are looking for, but this comes as close as I can get.”
Tamara jumped. She hadn’t seen the woman appear behind the counter across the room from her. She wasn’t sure the counter had been there when she walked in. She took a few steps forward, stopping in the very center of the room in a large swath of light just in case. She took a minute to study the woman. She looked like a librarian, tweed suit, bun, black horn-rimmed glasses and all. But she also looked like one for whom removing the glasses and hairpins would turn her into a knockout. Perfect beauty was always suspicious, especially in the ‘Gap, but Tamara wasn’t feeling vampire. The librarian just didn’t seem toothy enough, and Tamara wasn’t sure if she was really that pretty or just cared so little that her confidence made you assume she was gorgeous.
Finally Tamara stammered, “When did we get a library?”
“Oh, my dear, we have always been here. We appear for those who have need of our services. It is a handy defense in Gloaming Gap.” The voice was friendly, kind of high class with a hint of sardonic. It reminded Tamara of that old actress. Hepfire? Hepburn. Kathleen? Yeah, definitely, Kathleen.
“I have need of your services?”
The librarian arched her eyebrow, “Are we really going to play the game? You and I both understand how this town works better than that.” As she said this, she nudged a book in Tamara’s direction.
Without noticing her own movement, Tamara realized she was standing in front of the desk. She narrowed her eyes. “What’s your name?”
“Since we both know how ‘this town’ works,” Tamara made air quotes as she spoke, “I have a simple question. What are you?”
Ms. Overhill’s lips quirked in a quick upwards motion. “A witch.”
Tamara tried hard to hold on to the adult persona she had mustered. Witch was a new one. “Does that mean human?”
Ms. Overhill leaned forward on the desk. “More or less.”
“I see.” Tamara was now at a loss. Somehow she felt safer if she had something to say. Her eyes started to rove around the room. They fell on the book Ms. Overhill had offered. It was small, old. The cover looked like soft leather, flexible. There was an old-fashion thong and button closing. Tentatively, Tamara put her hand out and ran a finger over the smooth cover. It felt odd, more like touching a living person’s hand than a book. “This is for me.” She had meant it as a question, but it came out as a statement.
“This is what you need. This is what made the library visible to you. This is what will help you get what you desire,” Ms. Overhill replied as she also caressed the cover.
Tamara pulled her hand away and licked her lips. “I… I don’t desire anything.”
Ms. Overhill shook her head and tsked. “Tamara…”
Tamara looked down. To her feet, she whispered, “It’s impossible.”
That made Ms. Overhill chuckle. “As impossible as a building that appears out of nowhere? Tamara, the upside to the hell that is Gloaming Gap is that anything is possible. Just say it.”
Looking up into Ms. Overhill’s brown eyes for the first time and placing her hand back on the book, Tamara said, “I want Timmy back.”
Ms. Overhill smiled. “Now, that wasn’t so hard.” She put her hand over Tamara’s. “This book here, Tamara, this book is a journal. The woman who kept it was a powerful witch, one of the first in the ‘Gap. She knew many things.” Here, the librarian paused to look long into Tamara’s eyes. Quietly, she continued, “Yet even she did not know how to bring someone like Timmy back.” The hope in Tamara’s eyes died a little. “But she did have ideas. Do you know what you have to do if there isn’t a book that tells you want you need?”
“Write your own.” She slid the book across the counter to Tamara along with a library card. “As long as you have the card with you, the library will always be open to you.”
Tamara took the book and slowly stumbled across the room as she investigated the cover. Somehow she wasn’t ready to open it yet. She knew that must wait. As she yanked on the door, she turned back to Ms. Overhill and said, “One thing.”
“Don’t you think calling yourself a public library is a little disingenuous?” And the door slammed behind her.
– – –
Ms. Overhill went to the slit of a window to the right of the door and watched Tamara disappear around the next corner. She chuckled. “I think we did the right thing.”
Behind her at least a dozen pale figures had drifted down to floor level from the shelves, women in garb that told the story of fashion for several generations past. The one closest to Ms. Overhill was the brightest and the most opaque. “Let’s hope so. We took an awful risk opening ourselves up like that. Our enemies are constantly watching, waiting for an opportunity just like this.”
“If I am right about the girl, we won’t have to worry about our enemies for very much longer,” Ms. Overhill replied.
Another one of the ghosts said, “You best be right, DeeDee. Our magic depends on it.”