Friday, December 31, 2010

Darker than the Dark

As we approach the new year, I wonder where this ghost will ring in 2011.

Dark of winter, no lights on yet. The librarian wanders in, coffee in hand, and places his backpack on the wide wooden bench. Still early, very early -- had to leave home at 5:30 because of the storm clean up. No one else in yet and he is happy. Enough time to drink that nice hot coffee. He walks up to the circulation desk, sipping carefully, turning on the computer. The blue light glows; early morning creeps in.

Thinking about winter, cold, life, the librarian turns his head to catch a ray of sunlight. It bounces off against the back wall, near the globe, and in the weak white beam he sees a shape darker than the shadows in the unlit room, darker than the back wall. The shape moves toward the spiral staircase, pauses, continues. An optical illusion, says the librarian to himself, but looks again. The shape remains, deciding where to go.

It flutters past the portrait of Mrs. Van Dam Schuyler Stuyvesant. It stops near an old leather elephant perched on a card catalogue. It slides up the trunk and sits on the back. Hovering, hovering, now fading, now brightening, now darker in the shadows. Quietly, the librarian takes a step toward the back wall. The shape freezes. The elephant waits. A long, soft whoosh floats through the room, circling the walls, leaving through the glazed window. A child cries. The sun is up. The old elephant waits.