Prompted: Library Misadventures

The following piece is an installment in a new, experimental Arts and Entertainment series called Prompted. A biweekly column, Prompted features a writer’s reaction to a compelling, open-ended prompt that the section’s editors send out. This series means to give a platform for aspiring fiction writers to show off their ability to improvise, develop and play with an idea. Writers’ reactions are less than 500 words and can either resolve the initial scenario or expand it into a short story that will be updated weekly at newuniversity.org, in the Arts and Entertainment section of the website.

By Molly McHargue O’Donnell

A short story about how a precocious little girl’s library misadventure helped her make a new friend…

It wasn’t that I particularly disliked school, it was just that I didn’t quite fit in. This is the natural consequence for any new girl who is forced to move halfway across the country from sunny, southern California to the middle of Minnesota.

As horrible as it was for me, from what I could tell, my parents loved it, so I put on a brave face like a big girl and decided to stick it out. I am quite certain that I’m the kindest eight-year-old that I know.

Oddly enough, none of the other third graders had the same interests as me. When they were outside playing with balls and bugs, I was inside, with my head caught between the pages of a book, creating new realities, instead of enduring the one I was born into. I didn’t mind it. As an only child, I was used to being alone. Friends weren’t necessary for my happiness. Plus, all of the other kids were too bland and ignorant for me anyway.

One day, on a Wednesday, I found myself hidden away in the school library as usual. The sounds of recess were drowned out by the thick cement walls. I had almost finished reading every novel appropriate for my grade, so I was in search for a new, exciting title. I decided to venture to a part of the room I had never seen before, and that was when something under one of the bookshelves caught my eye.

Getting onto my hands and knees, I peered under the shelving unit to find a book that had fallen. I pulled it out, only to discover that it was encrusted in dust. I wiped the front cover clean with my sleeve, only to find that the huge, heavily decorated book was written in what seemed to be a different language. My eyes glanced over strange characters as I forcefully pried the ancient pages open. I flipped through it until I seemed to find a translation. I only understood the words “Eldrich God,” though I had no comprehension of its meaning, as I unknowingly muttered the words as I read.

Suddenly a bright light poured out of the pages, causing me to quickly drop the book and step away. Before my eyes, a cloud of smoke appeared and grew larger, engulfing the room and polluting my throat. I coughed violently and by the time I regained my composure, the smoke had cleared, revealing the most terrifying thing I had ever seen.

Standing twelve feet tall, with its head gently touching the ceiling, a large monster, who seemed to be a combination of a lobster and a squid, blinked its five eyes one at a time, a globule of drool sliding down its blue-grey chin.

“Nub.” It gurgled at me, blinking each of its eyes once more. It then proceeded to eat one of the shelves.

That was when I decided that Nub would be my new best friend. Mom will be so proud.