This is a pretty nice city, Chicago. It's big, and because it's so big, you never see the same person twice. I sometimes curse that reality when I'm working on my latest project. Actually, it's less of a project and more of an investigation. An investigation of a peculiar thing that happens in the city library.
Let me explain.
About eight months ago, I'd say mid-November, I had been assigned a bit of a weird duty by my teachers. They requested that I start my research now for a paper that I was to turn in at the beginning of the next fall semester. I'm working on my PhD in Modern American Anthropology at Depaul University. They wanted a paper from me, to find the profile for the most average American possible, using statistics, culture, language, etc. It was an odd project, but I figured I could do it. I had the internet, and the library, and I had a list of volunteer interviewees that volunteered to be questioned for the human sciences majors, should I want to do a survey.
I haven't worked on that project for weeks.
Let me explain how it started.
Mid-November came around, and the school library had yielded as much information as it could give, which was not enough unfortunately. I decided to migrate all of my studies over to the much older, but much larger, city library. I packed up my laptop, wrote down the names of all of the larger reference books that I used, and began the trek to the train station to head over to the right side of town. I arrived at the library about 10:00 AM. As soon I walked into the main lobby, I was marauded by the screams and giggles of a visiting elementary school class. I tried to smile and push my way through the sea of tiny faces and brightly colored T-shirts over to the main staircase.
I trekked up the stairs to about the third floor before I left the staircase and headed over to the computer to look up the location of the books about which my paper was centered.
"Floor Nine - West Wing"
"Great...." I thought to myself sarcastically. "Six more floors to climb before I can begin. I'll be in great shape by the time I'm done with this paper." So I climbed and climbed and climbed...
Finally I reached my destination and took out four or five books, fired up my computer and began working.
I worked through about 3:30 PM before I began to get hungry. I leaned back from my chair, stretched my arms into the air, and then pushed my glasses up my nose. It was only then that I realized that there was another person in on the silent library floor along with me. A young girl, maybe 18 or 19 years old, was browsing through the books on the shelves across from me and the other work tables. I remember remarking to myself that either I was working very hard to not have noticed another human being enter the room, or she was just incredibly quiet, or more likely a mixture of the two. I thought nothing of it at the time and began packing up my things. As I was packing my things up, I noticed the girl come to a table and sit down with a peculiar looking book. I did not see where she got it from exactly, though I just assumed one of the shelves. It did not look like a book that is printed and bound and published in mass, but more like a simple notebook with lined pages and a flimsy paper back, like you would get at office depot or Staples. She was reading it very intently. I could see something written on the books front cover, but it was written in black and was hard to read against the dark blue paper cover. I decided not to intrude and continued packing and she continued to rip through the words on the pages with her eyes.
As I lifted the strap of my computer bag over my shoulder, the girl dropped the book onto the floor with a soft flapping of paper. Her eyes were fixed onto the opposite wall in a glazed over awe. I looked across the room to where she was looking, but saw nothing except more bookshelves. I could tell immediately that it was something that she had read that caused her to suddenly be dumbstruck. There was no indication of anything in her eyes. They were unmoving, unresponsive. She slowly rose from her seat, and silently moved across the room towards the stairs down to the main floor. I followed, with caution and a bit of curiosity. I looked back over my shoulder and saw the small notebook still lying on the ground. I was hungry and my bag was heavy, so I did not involve myself in preserving the libraries belongings and followed the girl down the stairs. Her eyes were completely dead and glazed over.
She did not make a sound through all nine floors of stairs. She walked slowly and silently, looking half-focused on the stairs, and half in deep thought about whatever it was the book had revealed to her. She went out the front door of the lobby. I was still following her a few feet behind. She pushed open the door and stepped out onto the sidewalk. I followed, keeping the door open, still intending to go to lunch and not have to endure any drama. Instead of walking left or right, the girl kept walking straight. She walked in between the bumpers of two parked cars, and right out into traffic. I panicked as she walked out into the street. I quickly ran to try and grab her shoulder before she wandered into the busy street but it was too late...
A large pickup-truck, horn blaring, plowed straight into her. The driver slammed on his brakes, but it was not enough. Her neck snapped left, then right, then her head slammed into the pavement. Blood splattered everywhere. The truck finally screeched to a halt. It had skidded so far that the girl's body was now just underneath the bed of the truck. The driver just sat in the driver's seat in shock, knuckles white, gripping the steering wheel, and him just staring at the splatters of blood all over the windshield.
I ran over to the girl, trying to pull her out to try and see if she was alive. I was able to grab her hand. I pulled, but then realized that her arm was broken. Her elbow was shattered and her forearm and upper-arm had been dislocated, and now it was just a bloody tube with fragments of bone floating around inside it and bits of gravel sticking to it. Revolted, I bent way down and peered under the car. Her neck had been rotated and snapped. He chin was sitting on the back of her shoulder as she lay stomach down. I could very clearly see her face. Her skull had been all but completely crushed. There was blood dripping from her nose and it was pouring out of her mouth, but her eyes still had the same exact expression in them. Glazed over, looking at nothing, staring out into space.
It was a bit strange, that I thought she was still alive for just a second. Just for a second, that notion that she hadn't been harmed by the accident crossed my mind. Sure, her brain was ground into the tarmac by a truck tire, and sure the blood soaked every piece of my clothing, so much that I had to throw every piece of it away, but her face had not changed. The dead-eyed look that had come over her, way up on the ninth floor of the building, was still plastered onto her face. Now it was never to be removed again. I just stared at her face for a second.
I stood up at the sound of sirens. The police had come and were blocking off the area where the accident had happened. I told them everything I have told you. They took notes, but did not seem particularly interested in the book. I was shaken up. Really shaken up. I was no longer hungry. I decided to just go home. The library closed for the day.
It was tough to sleep that night. I just wanted to go upstairs and find that book. Nothing plagued my mind more than what was in that book. That book had killed her. Either up on the ninth floor, or down in the street, I could not positively decide which in my mind. What I had witnessed, whatever it was, had me convinced that the book was responsible for a life that day. I was both ravenously curious, and deathly scared of what was in that book. If I did go up the ninth floor, should I read it? Could I even find it? Had the police taken it? Was it still sitting on the floor where that girl had dropped it? These things I did not know.
The Library did not open for days.
I've been looking for this book for over a week now. I have scoured every single shelf on the ninth, eighth and now the seventh floor. I have asked the librarians about any such book. None had seen it. I asked all of the janitors, none had seen any book like it. I even asked a policeman who visited me to ask about anything else I had to say. He said no such book had been taken into the station for evidence.
The case had been closed and deemed an accident. The driver was acquitted, seeing as how he had almost no time to stop, and probably could not have done anything anyway.
I keep thinking to myself, I have to continue my research. Looking for this book is ridiculous. There is no point in it. Even if I do find it, the chances of the book being the cause of her death are slim. She must've had mental problems, or maybe it really was just an accident. Maybe it was something completely different that she had just remembered that caused her to be so distracted that she walked straight into traffic, or perhaps the thing she remembered made her so depressed that she just had to end it. The book is unlikely to be the reason she died, right? Even with these rationalizations, there were still some things that did not add up. If the librarians didn't do anything with the book, nor the janitors, nor the police, then who? There was very little time for anyone to go up the stairs after the girl and I went down, and if someone did happen to go all the way up to the ninth floor, they would have to go over to that particular table, among dozens, to be able to find it. It was very inconspicuous after all.
I think I may need to see a therapist. This thing is haunting me. I need to put it behind me. I'm not getting any work done.
I think it may be happening again. Somehow, someone else found the book, I think. It's been three weeks since then. I have an office the library lends to heavy researchers (when I found that out I was very pleased). It has a computer, and plenty of space. There are a dozen just like this one, next to mine up here on the fifth floor. I've been getting a lot of work done with this office. It's been over a month since the incident with the girl. I was thinking about it less and less every day, until now. As I'm writing this, I'm glancing up every few seconds out of the window in the office over to a table in the library. Sitting on this table is a kid. A boy, maybe sixteen or seventeen, is sitting there reading the book. I know that it's the exact same book. It has to be. I watched him bend down inside on of the isles and pick it up. I know what I have to do now if he drops it, like the girl did. I MUST grab it. I'm considering going out there right now and getting it from him, but I want to see if it puts him into a trance like the girl.
He's been reading it much longer than the girl had, but just as intently.
The kid dropped it. He looked up now, just as the girl had, but now he's looking right at me. I can tell, he's looking right at me. There's no mistaking it. I rose from my chair, and he hopped off the top of the table, his eyes still dead focused on me. I opened the door to my office and walked out into the library. The kid is still staring, unblinking and intent. He began walking towards me, but now has just walked around the table.
“What was in the book?” I half-shouted to him. His face grimaced. He began walking steadily backwards, away from me, towards the other side of the library. I began walking towards him.
“What was in the book?!” I shouted this time. He flinched and looked very annoyed. He was now grinding his teeth.
“WHAT WAS IN THE BOOK?” I shouted even louder. I was now passing the table he had left the book on. I went over to grab the book, but before I could, he flipped around and started into a dead run. He ran like the hounds of hell were at his heels. I was watching him. It wasn't five seconds before he reached the opposite wall, there was a very large window there. Running at an impressive pace, he dove through the window. The glass shattered, and he fell out.
I screamed. I didn't know what to do. It was the second time this had happened. I ran over to the broken window without the book. I looked down. There, the boy was face down in a parking space. His legs were twisted into horrific positions. His body was five floors down, but I could still see that he was alive, for the time being. He was moving, but bleeding badly. He must've been in extreme pain. He was squirming, and both of his legs were broken, perhaps one of his arms were too, I couldn't tell.
I went back to that table. The book was not there. I smashed my hand onto the table in frustration and sadness. I sat down in a chair, and gazed into my office in thought until the police came to question me again. They did. The same cops. I told them what I have told you. They seemed not to believe me very much this time. There were witnesses for the first accident, but not for this one. There are no surveillance cameras in libraries. There was a law a few years back banning them. They did not want the government monitoring what it's people were reading. They could not honestly believe that a kid just jumped out of a window because of this same “book”. I couldn't blame them either. It boggled my mind for months. It still is, as I sit here in holding at the state house. I am on trial for the death of this kid.
I'm currently waiting for the physiologist to come to give me an evaluation.
The physiologist came in, sat down and put his briefcase on the table.
“Good afternoon Mr. Baker.”
“I've been quite anxious to speak with you. I've studied your case quite thoroughly.” he spoke very kindly.
“Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but you claim that both the boy who fell out of the window, and the girl who was hit by the car a few months ago, both of whom you were near when they died, were reading some sort of notebook when they died.”
“Yes,” I explained for the thousandth time since I had been there.
“Describe this notebook to me.” He said as he opened up his briefcase.
“Well...It's small, thin, has a dark blue, paper cover, and it has something written on th-...” The doctor had removed a few of his papers, and sitting there, in his briefcase, was the notebook. The very same notebook.
“Yes?” He said as he gazed at me in curiosity. He saw that I was looking at the notebook, wide-eyed and apprehensive. He saw it too.
“Hmm...what is this?” He held it up and opened it. I could see that on the front was written the word “FLYPAPER”.
I began to breath very heavily. I pushed my chair away from the examination room table. I sat there, against the wall, looking only at that notebook, which had plagued my thoughts and killed two people already. The doctor read the book intently for about a minute.
Slowly he rose from his chair without saying a word, and without an expression on his face. I could see only a single tear running down his face.
He turned around and opened the door to the room. Just outside the door was an officer who was guarding the room. The doctor reached down, slipped the gun out of the officer's holster, put it in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. Blood showered over my entire body.
I didn't even notice it.
There was the book. Still sitting on the table.
I grabbed the book and ran for it.
I hopped over the doctor's body and spun around the cop like an olympian. I sprinted down the hallway and found an open janitors closet. I ran in, shut the door, and flipped on the light.
There I was with the book.
I opened it, and then BAM.
A cop had opened the door and smacked me in the back of the head with a nightstick. I blacked out.
I woke up in a hospital, cuffed to my bed, still covered in blood.
The cops testified to the fact that the Doctor had killed himself and not me. I told them about the book, and how I was in the closet to read it. The cop hit me to keep me from escaping.
They said there was no book in the closet.
Here I sit. In this cell. Here I will sit for two and a half years for the unintentional manslaughter of three people, with anti-psychosis medication. No I am not in prison, but in an institution. The handlers here do not treat many people well, including me. I tell them all day, every day that I am not crazy. They beat some people. They force feed some people. They completely neglect some people. They have to force me to take my medication. Every day.
I found the notebook in my cell.
I have not read it.
Two of the most horrible handlers have found the notebook as well.
I gave it to them.
They no longer bother me, nor neglect any of the other patients.
Everyday I think about the book. It always feels like it's just daring me to read it. I always feel the temptation. I'm always curious about what's written in the book. What's in the book?
The notebook always finds its way back to me.
I know better than to read it. I know better. I've seen what happens when one reads the book, but I just want to know. I just want to know what it says. I just want to know.