This is a story about another story that I had forgotten for a long time, and with good reason. It takes place when I was a junior in high school and also sort of when I was nine. It’s a little disturbing and quite insane, but so was most of high school.
Where I grew up (New Orleans), sending your kid to private school was really popular because the public school system was a bit of a joke. These private schools, they made you do what were called “service-hours” where you had to complete X amount of community service before the end of the year or you wouldn’t pass.
Say what you will about the practice, but all that community service looked good on a college application and the system was fairly easy to game. By my junior year I had it pretty much figured out and applied to volunteer at the public library as soon as they posted the sign-up sheet. See, not only was the library a plush gig, but it was also indoors (which meant air conditioning) and super close to my house (which meant I could sleep that much later on the weekends when I was scheduled to volunteer).
Since then, I had been spending every other Saturday shelving books at the massive cathedral-like building which, aside from a few rows of obsolete PCs, hadn’t been updated since the 1950s. Though, things didn’t get really interesting until I arrived at the library early one morning and Beth, who was the librarian in charge of the volunteers, told me to head on up to the attic and give Julie a hand.
“Julie?” I asked, almost to myself.
Beth gave me a distrustful look. “Yes, Julie. She’s a student volunteer like you and she’s a girl. Think you can handle that?” she asked.
I tried to conceal my shame as I nodded. “Of course,” I said.
Beth furrowed her brow at me and I hurried out of there before I could embarrass myself any further. I made my way to the rear of the building and slowly climbed the two flights of stairs leading up to the attic. The library was creepy enough with its high shadowy ceilings and persistent silence, but compared to the attic, the rest of the place might as well have been Disneyland.
It was basically one long triangular room that ran the length of the building and was lit by a series of suspended light bulbs that always seemed to flicker no matter how often you changed them. Years worth of the library’s overflow had been boxed and stored here and the clutter filled either side of the room in equally excessive measure to the point where the entire space had been reduced to one long corridor of dusty boxes and old furniture.
I didn’t see anyone when I first reached the attic, but I stepped inside and the floor beneath me emitted a loud creak. An attractive blond girl suddenly stuck her head out from behind a stack of boxes roughly halfway down the corridor and glared at me. She looked startled.