Clearly a fragment, and, also clearly, going to be too long for a 1,500 word story. Also, the voice of this story is weird.
There had always been something more than a little strange about the library, and not just its nineteen-sixties World Fair-meets-Buckminster-Fuller architecture, all acute angles in a sort of star-like arrangement that looked like it had been drawn by a four-year-old with too much sugar in his system.
No, Catharede Library just seemed to emit a sense of “that place ain’t right:” the lights on at night, in windows that seemed to correspond to no known rooms (though that, too, could have been the architecture); the plants that would not live on the sunny side of the building, and the thick jungle of waxy black plants in its shade; the long shelves of books, whole sections of the stacks, that seemed to eat light bulbs, that (perhaps only because of the perpetual dimness) seemed to discourage browsing or, really, even coming near. Maybe it was just the Librarians – no, everyone knew that Librarians were a little strange, and even if the Catharede librarians seemed a little excessively strange, well, how could you really gauge strangeness?
Still, professors felt that visiting the Library was a requirement to passing their classes, and no amount of clever workarounds would fool them for long – no longer than the fifth week of sophomore year, as it turned out, at least for Kiara and several of her dorm-mates. At that point, their professors had, it seemed, conspired with each other and assigned readings from books on reserve, strange and rare books that couldn’t be found online, nor in an upperclassman’s room, nor in the town public library (which, while it had a pleasantly creepy look to its old-Victorian-house façade, was sunny and cheerful inside and full of nothing more ominous than a complete collection of the town’s newspapers, dating from 1811 to the current day).
So Kiara, and Carrot and Stick from the next room over (everyone had long since forgotten their real names, or pretended to, since they were Jon and John), and Jessica (Red Jessica, not Blueberry Jess or Greenfreak Jess), Amanda, Mike, and Ryan gathered after dinner, banding together for moral support, if not intellectual, and herded over to the library.
But where was the damn reserve desk? There were entrances on all three floors of the irregular building, so the sketchy notes from their professors (“Enter the library and, about 10 feet in, turn left,” and so on) did no good at all. What’s more, though the library didn’t close for another three hours, there was no-one to be found at any of the help desks. Maybe, John/Stick suggested, they just couldn’t get work-study students to work here, so they left the whole place unmanned after their required 9-to-5.
Ryan probably would have argued the point on sheer logistics and the untrustworthiness of humans in general and their fellow students in specific, but Amanda and Red-Jessica sidetracked them with an argument about the word “unmanned,” which Mike promptly took into the gutter.
At that point, Kiara, who really needed an A in History 201, realized that moral support was not going to find the reserves desk for her, and started looking.
The left-hand rule (put your left hand on a wall and follow that around the maze or, in this case, library) should have worked, even in a building as haphazardly laid out as the Library, but, as the voices of her friends faded into the distance even as they rose in argument, Kiara found herself wondering if, perhaps, different rules of geometry ruled in here. She was pretty sure she’d passed the same section of stacks – first the 800’s, then the 900’s – two or three times, and the same outdated magazines (or were they different outdated magazines? Glancing out of the corner of her eye, she’d thought she’d seen a picture of JFK on a Time magazine, but, when she turned to look at it face on, it had turned out to be Bill Clinton instead. And did any building really need that many stairways?
Finally, fed up with the endless 800-to-900 stacks, which were obviously just arranged in a horribly bad manner, Kiara modified her left-hand rule navigation long enough to cross through another bank of magazines to a staircase. As seemed to be the way in Catharede, despite the clear evidence of floors above and below the one she was on, this staircase only offered a way up; so up it was.
At the top of the stairs, she was offered the choice of yet more stacks (100-200), yet more magazines (a charcoal drawing of some old guy)