I Hope This Never Happens

She walked through the cavernous home of the past. She glanced on the walls and made notes of the last names of people that had obviously meant something to someone at some point. This must have been an important place once, she thought.

Her heels clicked against the unyielding tile and echoed through the building where no living person inhabited. Anxiety tugged at her soul and her breathing increased. So many times she had heard tales of predators chasing after unsuspecting victims through confusing labyrinths such as this. She knew that it was probably a mistake, but she could not resist the urge to speak.

“Hello?” Her voice bounced through the oddly crafted halls and joined the percussion only made by the sting of her stilettos against tiles. “Is anyone there?”

“I’ll be right with you,” an aged voice sprang from a direction she couldn’t immediately place. She wondered if she could hide behind something or maybe something on the walls was removable and could be used as a weapon.

“Take your time,” she replied shakily. She ran a hand against the dusty walls and stopped when a glint caught her eye. She spied a set of numbers etched on a metal plate. After observing it for a moment she wondered what it meant.

“What names are you by?” the voice called out. She softly chuckled at the unintentional game of Marco Polo she had started. After shifting the dust from the wall she read the name aloud and waited until she heard a shuffle of movement.

“Disgusting,” she muttered as she clapped her hands together to rid herself of the filth on her palm.

“Sorry about the wait,” a man said as he slowly approached her. He was much older than she anticipated or perhaps it was the pure white of his beard that drew attention to the long lines on his face. She thought about how easy it would be to remove those, but decided it would be impolite to mention that to a complete stranger.

“That’s okay,” she replied. “I didn’t even know anyone was here.”

“Here?” the man chuckled, lightness in his eyes. “This was once a place where people would congregate to pay their respects. Some would only stay a few minutes while others would spend hours.”

“Why would anyone want to spend time in such a dreadful place?” She stopped and slapped her hand to her mouth. She swallowed hard and recollected her thoughts. “I’m sorry. I just meant-“

“Exactly what you said,” he replied with a laugh. “I’m not bothered by it. In fact, I do have some pictures to prove it if you’d like to see them.”

She nodded emphatically and waited for him to share. To her surprise, he turned and started to shuffle away.

“Wait!” She all but shouted. “I thought you were going to show me the pictures! Did you leave your computer somewhere? I have one here if you’d like to use it.”

“They’re old printed pictures. I don’t have them on a computer.” His smile widened and his crows feet became more pronounced.

She cocked her head to the side before shrugging and following him to a corner in the catacombs. A worn and beyond repair wooden door sat next to the door frame. He sheepishly turned to her and explained that no one visited anymore so a door was pretty much useless.

He led her into a room covered in stacks of something that looked like fragile cloth. He tossed something heavy to the ground and it landed with a resounding smack. She could hear the echo travel from the room and dance into the open space. She watched him shift things on his desk and finally he handed her a square of material with a picture etched on it.

The man had not lied. The building was apparently a frequent hotspot in the past. Children and adults reached to the walls and pulled out the name plates. She shivered slightly at the ghost town it had become.

“This is paper, isn’t it?” She ran her fingers over the glossy surface.

“It’s one type of paper,” he said with a nod. “There are about fourty different types of paper in this room.” He gestured at a bound stack of the material on his desk. She leaned forward and looked at the words.

“Gulliver’s Travels?” She exclaimed. “I’ve read this before. On my computer.”

His smile slid into a slight frown and she could see tears forming in his eyes. He swallowed with difficulty and as he spoke his voice broke. “This is one of the last copies in existence.”

Her phone buzzed and she yanked it from her pocket. She sighed. “I have to leave for an appointment. Would it be possible for me to visit again tomorrow?”

“Sure,” he replied. “Thank you. It has been very lonely in here for the last few years. I look forward to your return.”

She stepped out of the building and glanced back at the mausoleum. As she slid into her car and sped off to her meeting, happiness and excitement surged through her. In 24 hours she would return to the building called “the Public Library”.

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