The last hour of John's shift bore down on him faster than he would have liked. He still hadn't thought of anything that he could possibly say to break the ice with his son let alone fix the situation. When the phone on his desk rang, he almost lept from his chair at the chance to break the self-made tension.
"Indiana state library," John said with his best helpful voice.
"Hey John, it's Chris," John began to rub his brow at the sound of Chris' voice. "I kind of need a favor."
John knew that this wasn't a good sign, over the last several months that Chris had been interning at the library, he had shown up late at least three times a week, and each time he would ask John for a favor. While John would have loved nothing more than to let Chris fend for himself, he knew that he had been late that morning and Chris didn't say a word. "Sure, what's up?" John sighed.
"My truck broke down, I'll catch out there as soon as I can. Can you cover me for a bit?"
"Sure, I was a bit late today, I'll close up shop. Just give me a call when you get here," John responded, knowing a few extra hours wouldn't be too much of a problem.
"Thanks, John! I owe you one," Chris sighed.
"No problem, good luck with the truck," John hung up the phone and shook his head. He doubted he would ever need a favor from Chris. Looking around the library, he wondered if there were any people still wondering the aisles or working at one of the upstairs computers. He opened the drawer at his desk and grabbed the master keys, figuring the best thing to do was to make his rounds to lock the doors and let people know that the library would be closing.
By the time he was satisfied that the library was empty, the sun had long set and all the windows looked as if they were painted black. John cut the main lights' leaving only a few forgotten desk lamps to illuminate the darkened rows of books. One by one John, turned off the lights and slowly the shadows overcame him. He had never been comfortable in the dark, and the unusual silence of the darkened library didn't do him any favors.
As he returned to his desk, the sound of a book shifting on the shelf to his left caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end. It was nothing more than a whisper in the dark, but it was enough to fill his heart with dread. Staring into the black alley created by the two shelves, John waited, as if hoping the sound would come again. Those few moments of silence, were all John's imagination needed to run wild. Everything inside of him cried out to run, before some horrible creature leaped from the shadows and gutted him like a fish, or drag him screaming into the darkness. So many possibilities, but still John waited.
Several seconds passed and as John was about to give up on his suspicions, new sounds rang out from the shadows. Loud sickening cracks mixed with the sound of leather stretching filled John's ears. One after the other a crack and a long stretch, until the source grew and towered above him.
John turned and ran, eyes fixated on the last lamps soft glow in the dark. Ignoring the searing pain from his feet, he fought for the light which seemed like a lifetime away. He silently hoped that it was his imagination, that he would reach his desk and feel foolish.
"Foooooound you," something sang from the darkness behind him.
John scrambled to the desk and ripped open the drawers looking for something, anything that could shine a brighter light than the faded glow of his desk lamp. A warm breeze kissed his cheek and before John could even turn a searing pain erupted from his back. He felt the ground beneath him fall away as he soared through the darkness. His body clipped several of the massive bookshelves before finally slamming hard onto the library floor. John groaned in pain.
Looking back John could barely tattered gray robes of his attacker before it shattered the desk lamp plunging them into darkness.
"We have been looking for you for a long time," It said. Its voice growled in the dark.
"What are you?" John could taste the metallic flavor of blood filling his mouth, and he could feel the warm liquid soaking through the back of his shirt.
"You know what we are," It whispered.
As John's eyes adjusted to the dark, he could see the creature staring down at him. "How?" he asked, wondering what could have led this creature to him.
It tilted its head back and sniffed the air deeply. It chuckled with delight and John swore he could see the rows of jagged teeth displayed on the creature's face as it leaned forward. "Don't you smell it? The hint of copper whispering in the air?"
John looked down at his foot in the darkness and clenched his jaw. "A wraith..." he whispered.
"Where are they?" it hissed.
"I don't kn..." Before John could finish his sentence, the wraith grabbed his foot and hurled him into the closest bookshelf, as if John were nothing but a toy. The heavy shelf didn't budge, a fact that John knew all too well.
"We will not ask again..." the wraith's said in its clotted voice.
"I don't know what you're looking for!" John shouted.
The wraith began mumbling to itself rhythmically and rocking back and forth in the shadows. John could barely make out its faint mumbles. "What are you saying?" He demanded. The black creature cocked its head and let out a sinister laugh and spoke the words in a low hiss. Words that sent chills down John's spine.
"A Song That Will Forever Play
Throughout the night and every day
A Song that drags you in its wake
Your Courage and Soul this Song will take
This Song of mine You'll Never Hear
Beware O Lord the Song of Fear,"
John knew the words to the story well, one of the many legends surrounding the Night Scrolls, the secret set of scrolls that he and Allison had found in the Tibetan mountains all those years ago. What they found weren't the secrets of the universe or ultimate knowledge, it was the story of a prison hidden behind an ancient language painted on even older parchment. The word overrated came to John's mind at the time, but now as he lay bleeding on the floor taking his last breaths he couldn't help but wonder was it really just a story?
"If you don't know where the scrolls are, then perhaps the little one will." Shadows began moving all around the darkened library and out of the corner of his eye, John saw hundreds of them moving through the dark.
John reached for his watch, the tool that he had used for the better part of a decade, knowing that all it would take was a quarter turn of the dial and he would make quick work of this murder of crows that circled him in the dark. But to his horror, his fingers rubbed against the bare skin of his wrist, and he realized his fate was sealed. John hung his head knowing that he would never leave the library that night but if he wanted to save his son from the same fate, he could not let them leave either. He mumbled something that couldn't be heard by even the closest wraith. "What was that?" the Wraith asked, canting his head to better hear the doomed human's words.
"You'll never touch my son." An emerald green light appeared from the depths of John's eyes, swirling and glowing from within. Slowly at first but with increasing speed, the dull green in John's eyes was replaced by a brilliant flame. The same light emanated from beneath him, suddenly engulfing John in emerald flames that ignited the books and shelves surrounding him. The wraiths recoiled from the intense heat and John could finally see them, holding up their claws to shield their black pearl eyes from his flames. John rose to his feet and the burning rags that were once his clothes fell to the floor as his skin began to melt away, painfully. He began to walk toward the sea of wraiths, which parted and hissed as his flaming green skeleton passed.
With each agonizing step, John's vision blurred until he could no longer see through the emerald flames, but he pressed forward relying solely on instinct— thousands of thoughts flashed through his brain. Allison's smile, the first time he laid eyes on James. Spectacular memories, all shielding his mind from his body's destruction. Reaching out with a boney hand, John grabbed the wraith, that had spoken to him, pulling him face to face. The cloth clutched in his fingers instantly caught flame, burning the creature alongside John, as the sea of wraiths searched frantically for a reprieve from the flaming green coffin, howling and hurling themselves at the locked doors and barred windows. Each of them refusing to accept their fiery fate but try as they might they, along with Mr. Grey, would never escape that night.ns220.127.116.11da2