“Hello? Hello?” I called out.
I was greeted with silence.
I heard a light snigger, from the back. I went back but there was no one there.
I called out again.
Nothing. If there was anyone there, they didn’t hear me.
Or didn’t care.
I pushed each of the shelves that were bolted to the walls but there was no give. Some books fell down and I peered into the gaps they left behind. I stuck my arm into the gaps but I felt nothing but brick. I kicked the shelves and the books but nothing. I took out my cell phone to call the police. Silence. No bars, a dead zone.
I called out again. I started to panic. “Can anyone hear me? I’m trapped. Can someone get me out”
“Yes, eventually” said a voice..
I turned around. By the counter stood a young man. He wore a trimmed beard, brown turtle neck sweater and a pair of flared Levi’s. He looked like a pleasant liberal cliché.
“Thank God for this” I said. “I swore someone was playing a trick on me”
The man smiled.
“How’s that?” he asked
“Well…” I said, “You won’t believe this and I feel like a real goof-ball saying this but as soon as I was about to leave, those two shelves there just behind me, closed in on me, blocking my way. The thing is, I have to go now, I’ve friends to meet across the road at the Earwax Café…”
A lie. I had no friends in Chicago. I had no friends in Priest River neither.
The young man crossed his arms and blinked like his eyes stung. He didn’t reply.
“Well, I was wondering if you could let me out” I asked, filling the awkward gap where the young man’s reply should have been.
“Yes, I can let you out “ he said.
“Great! Thanks” I replied. I stood there expecting him to move somewhere or walk somewhere or do something but he didn’t. He just stood where he was, smiling at me. I started to feel a little cold. The temperature dropped somewhat yet a film of sweat formed on my back and my forehead.
“Could I leave now?” I asked. “I have to really leave now”
“I’m afraid you can’t” he said.
I freaked a little.
“Listen here mister, I have to fucking go now and you let me out of here. You’re holding me against my will. That’s a crime the last time I looked”
I lunged at him, aiming to grab his lapels but as soon as I grabbed them, he vanished. My fists held nothing but frustration and clammy air. Cold sweat oozed from every pore. My heart beat a crescendo, I could even hear it. Heartbeats freak me out at the best of times but this one, boy. I turned around.
There he was again, but now standing where the gap in the shelves used to be. He lowered his head, staring at me with his cold blue eyes. He was still smiling an assassin’s smile.
“What the fuck is going here, who the fuck are you?”
He cleared his throat.
“We don’t like being ignored and we’ve had enough” he said.
“I don’t understand, who doesn’t like being ignored?” I asked
He raised his hands and moved them from side to side.
“Us, my friend. The books. We are tired of being ignored. We sit there, day after day, week after week, year after…you get the picture. People come in and browse. They glance at us, that’s a match one. Get plucked off a shelf, match two…”
He started to walk around, circling me.
“…flick through us, match three. Take us to the counter and buy us, well, that’s a lottery win”
I decided I had enough.
“I don’t know who you are but you are not a book you freak. Just get me the fuck out of here” I grabbed him. He didn’t vanish this time. He felt solid, real. I started to laugh.
“I know what this is” I laughed. He smiled. “This is some TV show. You’re a magician. You’re like David Copperfield” I laughed again. He mimicked my laughter. I thought I rumbled him. Any second now, the shelves would roll back to reveal a television crew and a round of applause from the staff-in-hiding and bystanders. I’d feel a bit foolish for a second or so but I’d also feel really relieved. I grabbed his lapels and we both laughed like hyenas but he floated off into the air, waiving at me as he looked down at me, gliding upwards until he stopped hovering a foot from the ceiling.
“My friend” he chuckled. “You believe what you will to help you get through this”