Book Worm

      

              Shots were fired. Gottlieb ran for cover. He looked over the balcony only to drop back to the ground and crawl to safety inside the badly damaged building. Bullets pierced the glass, which fell like cascading waterfalls all around him. He heard shouts from below. He was surrounded with nowhere to go.

               Looking to his right, Gottlieb spotted a recess in the cold marble walls. He hid in the shadows and pulled out his small sidearm, hoping not to have to use it.

               Feet pounded up the polished stone steps as a squad of soldiers hurried up to the second-floor landing. They spread out in a sweeping fashion, guns and flashlights panning this way and that, illuminating the cathedral-esque room with an eerie glow.

               A beam passed slightly above his head and he held his breath. As the soldier moved on, Gottlieb made a slight gasp. The flashlight of the soldier nearest him stood rigid and slowly moved toward the outburst. It came closer; ten feet, five feet, four, three, two . . .

              

               “Lucy! Lucy, look!” Dominic exclaimed, running into the two-story library in their home. He held a most unpleasant-looking picture of a house.

“Go away, Dominic! How many times have I told you not to disturb me while I’m reading? Go take your heinous painting and make it look nice.” Her five-year old little brother was undeterred and climbed into her lap, telling her about all the details in his picture.

But Lucy wasn’t done yet either. “Dominic, if you don’t go away, the Book Worm is going to get you!” It always worked, every single time. Dominic was deathly afraid of worms . . . and sometimes books.

Dominic screamed and ran, leaving his eyesore of a picture flapping behind him. Lucy was about to turn back to her book when she heard a slight rustling of pages. She looked down at her book. It was on the page she had left it. She looked at Dominic’s drawing. It was lying still on the floor. She began to walk in between the endless aisles of bookshelves, but everything was still.

She heard a loud, heavy slam as the huge oak doors to the library were shut with astonishing force. It couldn’t have been Dominic and her parents weren’t supposed to be back until 10:00. She checked her watch: 8:13 PM; it was about time for Dominic to go to bed. She reached for the doorknob; locked.

“Okay, Dominic, very funny,” Lucy yelled. “Let me out.” No answer. “Let me out!” Silence. “DOMINIC!!!” No sounds came through from the other side. Lucy was worrying now. She heard the rustling again and looked around her. The sound continued, but from where it came, she knew not. She began to walk back and forth between the corridors the bookshelves made as she had been before.

The rustling continued. The lights began to flicker. Then they went out. She could hear Dominic crying upstairs. This definitely wasn’t him playing tricks on her. A lamp in the northwest corner came back on, but that was it. She silently moved toward it as the rustling grew louder and louder. She looked around. Only a ten or twenty-foot radius was illuminated, but it was just enough to see that the books nearest the light were shaking violently.

Then everything was completely silent. Not so much as the slightest rustle or whimper from Dominic. Lucy searched frantically around the room for a sign of security or something, but nothing else happened. The one light stayed on and the noises stayed stopped. The only thing Lucy could hear was the frantic and irregular beat of her own heart.

Crash! The pages from hundreds of books fluttered violently around the room, blinding Lucy to whatever had caused the disturbance. Before the paper could settle, an ugly, huge wormlike creature ripped through them and attacked her. Lucy ducked and ran into the darkness, toward the door, the giant annelid following close behind.

Somehow she found the door and pulled on it, but it was still locked. She looked at her watch, but it was only 8:45. She screamed just before everything faded into darkness.

She woke up an hour later to a small rustling and the pages from the ruined books scattered everywhere, ruined. She crept quietly around the room, looking for something she could use as a weapon. She found an iron candlestick on a lonely, dusty chairside table and hefted it, keeping her eyes wary watching for the Book Worm.

She checked the time again: 9:51; ten minutes until Mum and Daddy get back. As soon as she looked up, the rustling began to get louder.

This time the crash came from behind and Lucy screamed. She swung the candlestick with all her might at the slimy creature. A solid crunch resulting in a hideous shriek gave Lucy some time to flee toward the door, screaming all the way. She heard a muffled, “Lucy!” Her father was home!

“Daddy!” she cried. “Help me! I’m trapped!”

“I’ll be right there, sweetie!”

It was an agonizing minute and a half as Lucy hid from the Book Worm. She heard a slam on the door as her father attempted to break into the library. The Book Worm returned and Lucy struck back at it, just as her father burst through the door, his shotgun in hand.

“Run, Lucy!” But the Book Worm already had her. Lucy’s father ran toward the posterior of the creature and unloaded a round. A terrifying screech echoed throughout the large library as the oversized insect let go of Lucy. He took another shot at its head, but the creature was undeterred. With sticky blood flying every which way, he shot again and again, yet no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t subdue the gelatinous bibliophile.

Lucy’s father aimed again, a direct shot for the horrendous creature’s eyes. Click. The revolver was empty. He cursed and furiously threw the .44 where he had previously been aiming. The Book Worm made an unnatural shriek, knocking over a bookshelf in its recoil.

Lucy’s father hastily picked up his daughter and fled from the room and into the long hallway. The Book Worm squealed again, but Lucy was safe.

Her father ran outside to the external garage and returned a few moments later with a large blowtorch and a hose extension.

“What are you doing, Bruce?” Lucy’s mother queried, gripping her husband’s arm with white knuckles and eying him with a pale face.

He did not respond, but returned her gaze for a moment and then headed off down the hall. Lucy noticed that the worm was still screeching, begging for the fight to end.

Her father reached the end of the hall and turned toward his family for no more than a second, nodded, and plunged into the library, blowtorch blazing.

Lucy couldn’t help but scream, “No! Daddy, don’t!” She began to sob.

Suddenly, the Book Worm’s outbursts became more intense, higher in pitch, and more frequent. Lucy could just barely hear the sound of the flames over its horrible racket.

Then, just as instantaneously as the screaming had increased, it ceased. All that could be heard was the sound of flames being doused and the fire alarms squealing. She could feel her father smiling, knowing that his family was safe and sound. Lucy ran to her father and embraced him. Everything was alright. She was safe.

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