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Dave ST

IC: Maya - 'Literal Issues'

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Coffee in hand she was on her way. The drizzle of rain didn't get her too wet, but by the time she arrived at work her clothes were dry (thanks to her coat) but her hair was an absolute mess. She could have worn a hair wrap, but her sister borrowed it the last time she dropped of the kids. Scarf? Couldn't find it. Hat? Also AWOL, and she was pretty sure her cat was conspiring against her.

Her morning was absolute crap and didn't seem like it was getting any batter. At least her chai tea latte was perfect, just the right amount of honey. As she collected her thoughts, but before she even had the opportunity to set down her coat, Lorraine, the surliest, meanest, and most clueless old hag on the planet, slammed down a stack of books. They toppled over, slamming their heavy spines down upon Maya's shins as they toppled to the floor.

“Get these sorted and put away.” she wheezed, walking away without another word.

The books were strewn all at her feet. The titles read: A Degree in Anthropology: How's That Working Out For You?, Life Sucks: How Everything is Your Fault!, How to Not Accomplish Your Goals in Three Easy Steps! Surely... someone was messing was with her.

The radio the librarians kept on the desk played softly behind her as she winced through pursed lips and rubbed her shins. "Hey folks. Deb here, and you're listening to Dawn of the Deb, the only radio show that's got your back, all day, every day. Looks like Maya is having a rough one out there this morning. This one's for you sweetie. Life and How to Live It, by one of my favs, R.E.M.. Chin up, honey."

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"Seriously?" the assistant librarian growled indignantly under her breath as she glared in the direction of Lorraine's exit, silently counting to ten and closing her eyes.  She could feel the droplets of water trickling from her disheveled hair down the back of her neck, soaking her third-best blouse in a way that was likely to be uncomfortable for at least the next hour, her shins would be purple by tomorrow, and she hadn't even really gotten the day started yet. I need this job. I need this job. I need this job. I fucking hate this-

"Excuse me." 

It wasn't phrased as a request.

Her inner mantra interrupted by the brisk male voice, Maya's eyes flew open, and she forced a smile past the frustration lodged firmly in her clenched teeth.  His suit was dated, wire frame glasses slightly bent, tie poorly knotted, and briefcase in dire need of some leather conditioner; she guessed he wasn't a businessman, or at least not a successful one, and judging by the looks of him, he'd been caught in the rain.  Well, she thought with a hint of schadenfreude, at least I'm not the only one having a crappy day.

"Welcome to Yorkville library, sir. How may I help you today?" she asked, hoping she sounded more chipper than she felt.

"You can help me," he began, hefting his dripping briefcase up onto the counter and promptly sending rain dribbling indiscriminately onto the paperwork accumulated there as he opened it. "By finding these books. I tried doing a search for them online, but your website is completely useless." His bleary eyes scanned her, taking in her as-yet unkempt appearance, and he frowned with what she supposed was disapproval. "How long have you-"

"Three years, sir. I've worked here for three years," she managed, trying not to scream.  "If you have a list of titles, I would be happy to take it from you, but I'm going to have to ask that you remove your briefcase from the circulation desk, and keep it away from any books or periodicals." He started to protest, a red flush blooming under his collar and spreading slowly up into his face as he spluttered, but she cut him off with a curt wave of her hand.  "Otherwise, the library will have no choice but to hold you responsible for any loss of NYPL property due to water damage while you're visiting. Those fines cannot be waived during library forgiveness week."  She paused, glancing pointedly at the water pooling on the desk, then back up at him.  "Would you like to give me that list now, sir?"

By the time she had cleaned up the water, tracked down the half-dozen books on ancient Babylonian history and myth that he wanted, twisted her hair up with a rubber band from the desk, and gotten back to her chai latte, it no longer qualified as hot. Still, at least they had a microwave, and she hadn't seen the library manager since she'd practically thrown a stack of books with insulting titles at her.  Maybe the rest of the day would be easier.

A girl could hope, right?

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Each title slid into it's spot on the shelf.  Some appeared to have different titles than she remembered.  Maybe she was just stressed, or didn't get a good of a look as she thought she did, they did fall quickly to the floor after all.  Who knows, right?

Inspecting the shelf, she paused to notice that the titles were not right.  There was no reason they shouldn't have been, she'd just replaced several of the titles herself not but twenty minutes ago.  The letters on the spines seemed to blur and her head felt like it was light.  She lost focus for only a moment but the letters, or at least a few of them seemed to blur away while others remained solid and legible.  B E H I N D  Y O U were what they spelled out...  she squinted, looking closer, wondering if what she was seeing was really what she was-

"Miss Flynn!"

She about jumped out of her shoes and garnered a few 'shhhh's' from patrons at a loud, but swiftly contained shock of fear, scream attempted to pass her lips.  She spun about to see a young boy in a bright orange jacket with the hood pulled up.  He held out a book at her in a green mittened hand.

"Could you read to us?"  She hadn't heard him approach, but that must have been because she was so engrossed in her work.  Young Kenny tried to hold it up higher for her, like elevating it would make her immediately agree.  "Miss Flynn?  Please?"

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Maybe it was the dismal weather, or her vicious harpy of a supervisor, or the creepy guy with the briefcase, or, hell, maybe just the caffeine in her twice-warmed chai latte, but something felt seriously jacked up about the day already.  Not only was she on edge, it felt uncomfortably like some sort of phantasmal, undefined dark forces were arraying against her- although, she had to admit, the scope of their sinister and unknowable cosmic plot was thus far more annoying than terrifying.  Still, low-key paranoia, with maybe some unaddressed depression thrown in for good measure, wasn't remotely helpful...  Especially when it starting altering what she was seeing and hearing through some weird, self-destructive and defeatist filters.  Probably her therapist would have something to say about externalizing, and she made a mental note to leave out the obviously unhealthy notion that book titles and a radio host were communicating messages exclusively to her.

Putting aside any further contemplation of her shitty day, or the dreary state of her mental health, Maya focused on one of the few real perks of her job.

"Sure," she replied to the somewhat overdressed young boy with a smile- a genuine one.  While she didn't know much about him, over the last year or so she'd pieced together that he had a difficult home life, one probably more complicated than was the norm for kids hanging out at the library voluntarily.  He always smelled faintly of kerosene, a scent that tugged at her memories of elementary school and gifts of second-hand clothing, and she knew that, whatever Kenny's story was, it wasn't as uncommon as people might hope.  She eyed the proffered book speculatively as he handed it to her.

"Coraline?  I don't know, Kenny, it might be a little-"

She was about to say "scary," until she realized how ridiculous the notion of supernatural fear was to kids in New York, kids with very real, mundane reasons to be frightened.

Pursing her lips thoughtfully, she sighed and nodded toward the stairs leading up to the children's section on the second floor.  "All right.  We'll try it, but if any of the younger children start to get too scared, we'll have to find something else, okay?"

"Okay, Miss Flynn!" Kenny exulted with a whoop of excitement that had the same patrons shushing again as he raced upstairs, heedless of the rules.  She'd have to remind him about running, she supposed, but...  For now, it was story time.

She wasn't one hundred percent sure what it was about spending time with the kids upstairs that made coping with the general lousiness of life so much easier.  The internet claimed that the second floor was absolutely, definitely haunted, either by a specific child ghost or some sort of phantasmal collective of multiple children's ghosts from years past, and to avoid it at all costs, but she'd never felt or seen anything unpleasant. (Barring Lorraine, of course.  Lorraine was always unpleasant.)  None of the kids had ever mentioned anything remotely paranormal, either.  It was a safe place for them, and to some extent, for her, too.  Maybe she didn't need to escape into a story for exactly the same reasons they did, but damn if it didn't help just the same.

 

 

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The children all booed and hissed at every mention of The Bedlam while Maya read every page with the loving enthusiasm of a natural story teller. They cheered on Coraline as she tricked Other Mother and the more the cheered and booed Maya's reading became more intense. They laughed, she laughed and they all shared in the magic of the story. And for a little while, Maya's life wasn't so bad.

With a wide smile her words came to a conclusion and the children cheered. Coraline had won, she learned her lesson, and lived happily ever after (one was left to suppose). There in the audience of happy children she could have sworn she saw strange movement from the corner of her eyes as she scanned the room. More children than she originally counted in the beginning. They always seemed to stand just outside her field of vision and when she turned to acknowledge them, like any good orator would, they seemed to no longer be there.

“Thank you so much, Miss Flynn,” one of the parents, Coleen Richards, said with a wide smile as she approached Maya. She was one of the more well off patrons of the Library, well traveled, well educated, and surprisingly, a very caring mother. She was a rare breed of parent who didn't think Baby Mozart was actually a thing and if you wanted your child intelligent and well adjusted all you had to do was teach them, love them, and... this was the kicker, be a parent. “These children positively adore you. Every time you read I can see in their eyes where ever it is you've taken this week. Oh!” She seemed to remember something and smiled. “I've been to thank you for all the work you do with these kids and I thought maybe...,” she handed Maya a thin envelope. “There's an art gala coming up in a few weeks, and it features a lot work from mythological and... how to put it... fantastically inspired artists. I thought it might be something you'd be interested in attending. Very exclusive, so I asked my husband to get an extra ticket for you. Please tell me you'll try to make it?”

She looked at the envelope. It read 'Maya Flynn' in a very carefully penned calligraphy. An uneasiness fell over her as she watched the letters move and shift... 'Yes, I'd love to. Thank you so much.' Confused she squinted and shook her head, only to see the letters shift again... 'Say it.'

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This is not normal, Maya told herself in disbelief as she read, and reread, the envelope.  It wasn't the first time that day that she'd been forced to question what her own eyes were telling her, and she wasn't happy about the potential reasons. Once, maybe twice could be written off as coincidence, but...  There is something wrong with me. Glancing up at Mrs. Richards, confusion writ plain upon her face, she half-expected to see the other woman's features shift and change as well, revealing a button-eyed Other Coleen behind a human mask.

Naturally, they didn't.  This did nothing to alleviate the bewilderment of an assistant librarian having a very unsettling day.  

"Yes," she heard herself say, as if from a great distance. "I'd love to. Thank you so much."  While her brain was busily compiling a list of possible ailments, trying to rationalize the seemingly bizarre events she'd experienced in only a few hours, attempting to adequately describe the level of discomfort she was feeling as a few still-damp curls slithered lazily along the nape of her neck, and adding a reminder to call and request an earlier appointment with her therapist, her mouth was apparently quite content to carry on without her supervision.

Wait... what?

 

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The day droned on... books, Lorraine... Lorraine making books unpleasant.

Thankfully the weirdness had passed, aside from the occasional strange song on the radio that seemed to be dedicated to exactly what was currently going on with her day.  Maya went about her day, and it was long after hours by the time she was done.  The library was dark, spacious, but dark.  Shadows crept along the floors as in silver pools and the air was filled with shimmering motes of dust that floated lazily as Maya slid the last few books she had into place on the shelves.

"Are... sure... the... one?" A low whisper rose up in a hushed echo.  "Shhh... it'll hear us, you dummy!"

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Maya froze, fingertips still resting on the spine of some obnoxious romance novel with an annoyingly handsome, shirtless man standing next to a wolf on the cover. The library was quiet, save for the muted sound of the radio at the circulation desk. She waited for a few moments, motionless, straining to hear... what?

Nothing. Silence.

Unless a patron had stayed behind after closing, there was no one in the building except her, and she'd done the requisite sweep of the bathrooms, study areas, and stacks, both upstairs and down. No matter what kind of messed-up day she'd had, and would be talking about in therapy for the next couple of weeks, it was over.

She relaxed, shaking her head at her own over-reaction, and exhaled in a quiet laugh as she pushed the empty cart back toward the desk. “Girl,” she told herself, “you have got to take a vacation.”

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"Oooo, I like vacatio-." Came an obvious reply echoing from all sides in the great hall of the library.

"Shhh!" Was the not so subtle reply that echoed in tandem with its counterpart.

"Bu-"

"Shhh!"

"How-"

"Zip it!"

"Why, if-"

"Ugh, you're giving me ulcers."

Creeping beyond the shadows of long forgotten lore and spines filled with the imaginations and dreams of generations past, beyond the trickles of moonlight that faintly  danced with the motes of dust that partook in their own aerial gala each and every evening, and beyond the hushed memories and or under the tall shelves of 'anything is possible' Maya Flynn was not alone.

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The chill that rippled down Maya's spine had claws. It was an alien, chitinous thing that sent icy pinpricks skittering across her skin in a frigid wave of dread, leaving her staring dry-mouthed and wide-eyed into the shadows between the rows of shelves.

Someone was in the building with her.

Someone was in the building with her, and they knew she was there.

Unbidden, a flood of stories- murder mysteries, crime thrillers, and tabloid trash (because, hey, you've got to read something while standing in the checkout line at Fairway)- all came rushing to the forefront of her mind at once in a horrific deluge of bad endings. She could only imagine what Lorraine would say to the police when they woke her up in the morning, or what her mother would say to the vaguely sympathetic journalist during her interview on the 6 o'clock news.

Swallowing hard, Maya realized that the voices had gone silent. Were they moving out there somewhere, creeping up from the darkness?

...Or, perhaps more frightening, were they simply watching, observing her before making their move?

She shivered again, her blouse clinging to skin that, despite having been out of the rain for hours, was suddenly damp again with a thin film of cold sweat. Maybe she just couldn't hear them over the sound of the jackhammer currently threatening to burst through her ribs.

With trembling hands, her fingers all but numb with fear, the assistant librarian at Yorkville Public Library slowly, deliberately pulled a copy of the tall, rather weighty Atlas Of The World from the nearby reference shelf. If they rushed her...

If they rushed her, she decided, struggling to stay calm instead of succumbing to the urge to scream hysterically, she might be able to use the cart to slow them down, and if not, Oxford Press knew how to make some seriously hefty books of maps. Cautiously, carefully, and as quietly as possible in the event she wasn't actively being observed, Maya crept step by agonized step toward the relative safety of the desk. Her phone, her keys, and the alarm button were all there, tantalizingly within reach, and beyond that, the glass door to the foyer...


 

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"Fan-tastic...," came a voice from the shadows, clearer now, a lot clearer.  It sounded a lot like Danny DeVito, if Danny DeVito was from Jersey... which he was, so it sounded exactly like that. "She knows we're here now, y'big dummy."

"Sorry," replied a slow, sullen voice saturated with innocence.

"Whelp... nothing to be done now.  C'mon.  Let's go say hello... but, let me do the talking.  At least she seems reasonable..."

The library was suddenly very, very quiet.  Maya turned this way and that, trying to locate movement in the darkness.  She heard a pitter-patter of something moving swiftly, but unless she was about to be accosted by eleven year olds she doubted that was the real threat.  Then the thumping sound of something's feet hitting the floor, like bigfoot running barefoot through the library.  The sounds, the echoed and reverbed from shelf to shelf, wall to wall, hiding and obscuring the real location of the mysterious voices.

Gripping her big book of bodily harm tightly she waited, creeping ever so slowly backwards, to the door, the desk... to the alarm.  She bumped something, something that was not a desk, not a table.  She knew the library like the back of her hand, and there was supposed to be nothing in her path... she turned slowly only to see a shirt and messy coveralls.  Her head slowly rose upwards until she finally saw neck, then face in the dim moonlight.  It was about six and a half feet tall, a big, happy smile, and massive tusks that rose from it's lower jaw, accented by a massive pair spiraling horns near it's pointed ears.

It smiled wide at her.  It's large tooth filled maw spread into something that resembled an 'overzealous, worst year book picture ever' grin.  It raised it's hand, palm open and wiggled it's fingers emphatically.  "Helloooo!" It said in the most menacingly jovial way her brain could comprehend.

 

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Maya blinked.

For what seemed like hours, the wheels of her mind simply rotated purposelessly, like an empty groove at the end of a record spinning listlessly on a turntable... if reality was the panic-stricken DJ, pounding desperately on the door of the locked sound booth labeled "Consciousness" in an effort to shift the needle and get the party moving again. Incapable of doing anything else, she just stared up at it- him?- in the dim glow of the aging emergency lights that stuttered and flickered sporadically along the walls. In those few, but seemingly interminable seconds, the parts of her brain that observed and processed information carried on, dispassionately making note of the smell of something sweet and syrupy- orange soda- commingled with what might have been oil, and the scents of leather and old paper that lingered, ever-present, in the air. They also created two warring factions, each side sending conflicting visual information up for interpretation: either the figure in front of her was an impossibility, with fangs, tusks, and massive horns, or it was an indigent with bizarre hair and lamentable oral hygiene.

None of this mattered, of course, because none of the sensory information being meticulously gathered and processed was actually being interpreted as she stood there for the briefest of instants, for countless aeons, blind, deaf, and dumb to the world.

And then, the needle shifted. The track changed, and the spinning disk once again caught up with the present moment. The discordant, raspy shriek of a scratched record was nearly audible as reality came suddenly and sharply into focus for the unfortunate young woman, followed by a discordant shriek that was audible. The sound of Maya's terrified scream echoed throughout both floors of the library, reverberating off the walls and empty hallways as it rose in both volume and pitch. Sheer terror mixed with a New Yorker's survival instinct propelled her forward, the massive tome sweeping upward as she swung both hands toward the figure's head. She didn't wait for the sensation of impact, but, wide-eyed, released the leather-bound compilation of maps to fly on its own as she turned, planted a foot and (still screaming) launched herself toward the desk.

If I survive this, Lorraine is gonna have to start working the closing shift.

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"Ow," was all the massive 'creature' offered up in a tone so lazy Maya might had taken offense to they he'd ignored her assault like it was nothing... were she not running away and screaming for her life.

"Oh, for crying out loud Seth!  Are you frickin' serious!?"  The second voice shouted with that thick DiVito/Jersey accent.  "I told you, let me do the talking!  Now you freaked her out!"

May made it to the desk where the silent alarm was.  Her hand slid under the counter and found nothing.  There was no switch, no button.  It was supposed to be here.  Right here!  Cursing in a panic she looked around, maybe she had the wrong the desk in her hurry to escape?  No.  It was gone from under the entire reception area... the alarm button was...

"Gone?"  Said the second voice.  "Yeah, it ain't there is it?  Look, calm down lady... you're gonna give yourself a panic attack and between you and me?  I ain't CPR certified in the State of New York..." She still couldn't see the second one, but 'Seth' the creature was giggling at her misfortune at not finding the panic button.  He took three massive, thunderous steps towards her and she screamed and was off like a shot.

Maya slammed into the library's main doors, unable to brake her speed in her panic.  She gripped the handles tight and pulled on them.  Nothing.  She unlocked them, pulled again, then pushed... still nothing.  The doors were jammed!  They rattled and creaked but refused to open!  "Oh, yeah!  The button is mysteriously gone from under the desk, but wait!  The doors must still work, right?!  Wrong-O!  C'mon lady... are you serious right now?  You realize if you were a white girl in a towel right, the serial killer would have already killed you by now, right?  Man you humans are so pig headed..."

Seth lumbered around the corner, his massive size blocked her from escape.  She was trapped.  He continued to move closer, slowing his pace with his hands raised up like he was dealing with a dog he didn't want to bite him.  "Good, lady."  He said softly, with a hint of a mental disorder.  Maya offered another scream as a reply.

"Lady, seriously!  Could you stop with all the screaming!?  I mean really, I have sensitive ears, and poor Seth here has a heart condition... can we keep the drama to a minimum, please?"  The voice was close... really close.  May frantically looked around until a tug at her shirt brought her attention to the floor where she was greeted by a... rabbit?  A three foot tall bipedal rabbit... bit it was definitely a rabbit.  A look of confusion and dread mingled itself all over her expression.  The rabbit narrowed his eyes.  "Lady, I swear, if you're thinking about punting me, we're gonna have a problem because I'm in no mood right now."

 

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The scream caught in Maya's throat, escaping only in erratic whimpers and panicked, juddering breaths; her whole body shook visibly as she pressed her back against the doors, rattling them with every terrified spasm. This couldn't be happening. It couldn't. Monsters weren't real- not like these, anyway. Monsters were people, people who lured kids into dark places, who enjoyed hurting and abusing, who were so broken inside they were compelled to destroy beautiful, innocent things. She could almost feel her grasp on reality slipping as she stared at the two figures before her, even as her mind clawed desperately at its fraying edges.

No! They're just vagrants! Just a couple of weird homeless guys, a big biker dude and a- an- an albino with dwarfism, it insisted, frantically trying to make sense of a nonsensical situation, to rationalize, to figure out how to create a plausible scenario to which she could react. In this case, she was obviously being confronted by a pair of drug addicts, or maybe mental patients, but who knew what they wanted from her, and because she was panicking she'd just missed the alarm button, and the doors-

Her eyes, however, dispassionately related a different story, one her rational, reasonable, mundane mind was trying so very hard to refute:

An ogre and a talking rabbit had invaded her library, and trapped her inside.

She wanted so badly to squeeze those eyes shut, to block out the insanity and wait for reality to reassert itself, but she was too afraid to look away.

"Please," the assistant librarian, who definitely did not get paid enough for this and who was (in her estimation) far too young to die, begged tearfully as she tried in vain to melt backwards through the doors, her words scarcely more than a choked whisper. "P-please don't hurt me."

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"Us, hurt you!?"  The rabbit proclaimed, his arms outstretched wide.  "Lady, you're the one throwing books and hitting poor Seth in the face, and screaming and yelling, and carrying on like a maniac!  What is wrong with you?  How could you do that to poor Seth, I mean look at this mug?" In a single leap the rabbit hopped from the floor to a display table and off of it spanning a great distance to land on Seth's shoulder, and slowly arc his hand down in front of Seth's face, like Vanna White drawing attention to a turned letter.  Seth smiled a crooked smile, his tusks fully exposed as his lips parted to reveal a grin and giant as his physique.

"I mean, honestly, you people are so uppity.  Lady, you're not even awake!  Where were you planning on going?"  The rabbit motioned with his arm, directing her vision to where Maya was resting, her head resting comfortably on her arm.  The book she was reading had fallen over, masking her face from soft reading lights glowing overhead.

"Dreaming." Seth said softly.  His monstrous features seemed misplaced as an expression of compassion washed over his features as he gazed upon the sleeping Maya.  "The Darkness.  We can't come to your world."

"D-dreaming?" Maya stammered, still scared out of her mind.

"Something like that," the rabbit said.  He hopped down from Seth's shoulders and approached her, his hands up like he meant no harm.  "I mean, we're not invading your steamy Tom Hiddleston fantasies, or nothing.  I dunno what it is about that guy that drives you women nuts... but last week, you and him in Spain... ugh, nice choice.  Very romantic sunset."

"Help." Seth nudged the rabbit.

"Right... right, as to why we're here.  Something big is about to happen in your world, lady.  Something real big, and it affects us too.  Problem is, we can't do anything about it, so we need you and others like you to do all the leg work for us... if you don't... well, one day... there just won't be any dreams left to dream."

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"I'm... dreaming." Maya repeated dazedly as something clicked into place in her brain, and the battle between her eyes and her logical mind ended in a reluctant truce. It was, after all, the only possible scenario in which she wasn't a raving lunatic. She realized too that it was actually quiet in the library, without either the normal city noises bleeding in from outside, or the omnipresent voice of Deb, who was apparently filling in for literally every other DJ at the station today. "Okay, that... that makes sense, I guess," she continued, staring at her sleeping self for a moment while her body's alert system ratcheted down from DEFCON 1 and her explosively racing heartbeat slowly returned to normal pulmonary function. How would her dreaming mind perceive her actual face? Would she even be able to see it, or would it be horribly distorted? As much as she wanted to lift the book that was obscuring her other self's appearance, to see what "she" looked like, something gave her pause. This dream was already going in a weird direction, and seeing her actual self while sleeping in a dream felt like it would be crossing some boundary, violating a taboo or something.

"So, then, where did you guys come from? I mean, yeah," she gestured vaguely toward the two, "Alice Through The Looking-Glass, and maybe Shrek since we had it on repeat for a while, but it's been a minute since either of those has come across the desk." Then again, sure, talking animals and helpful monsters are pretty much a staple of fairy tales and folklore, and so is the whole 'hero's journey' idea. Man, Jill is gonna have to book me for an extra session for this. A pair of tiny furrows appeared between her brows as she frowned, tentatively moving away from the door and addressing the pair of interlopers into her head-space more directly. Somehow, knowing that this was only happening because she was asleep didn't diminish the level of wiggins they were giving her. "And what's this 'something big' in 'my world' that I'm supposed to somehow help you with? You just said this was a dream."

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"And, dreams are places, kid.  Our doors are locked, as are yours.  You don't think of it that way because your human mind is all garbled up with the banal things like logic and reasoning... like trying to guess where you've seen us from instead of simply accepting that we are, what we are."  The rabbit-man approached her, now that she seemed to be calming considerably.  He motioned for her to walk with him.  He took a few steps and when she followed (still completely weirded out) he continued.  "We're not figments, or your minds way of putting masks on a finer point it'd like you to remember.  Frankly, we don't have time to get into Pookas and Trolls right now, that's later."

"Lady, you seem like a sweet kid," his tone was something of pure fatherly empathy.  In just those few words she felt like she could have trusted him implicitly with anything... except he still looked like a rabbit.  "And I really hate having to dump this on you, and trust me, you sure as hell ain't gonna believe a word of it if pookas and trolls are too much for your mind, but here goes..."

Seth chimed up before the rabbit had a chance to continue.  "World's dying.  Not just ours, but yours.  People don't dream anymore.  People don't believe in magic, so magic dies.  People don't believe in dreams, so dreams die.  Dark world, no joy.  No love.  No laughter or kindness."

"W-what he's trying to say, kid... is, uh... there's something out there, something mean and dark, and ugly.  It'd slowly, one smartphone and one corporate cubical at a time, killing all the love and laughter in the world,"  the pooka sorrowfully hopped up on a chair, then a table and was finally eye level with the young librarian.  "Crime, school shootings, Trump, police brutality, rioting, Justin Beiber fans... the world hasn't gone mad, kid.  It's infected.  Infected by an entity that causes and spreads absolute chaos until all that's left is a downward spiral into Oblivion.  We need you to find a way to stop it, or it will lead to war and anarchy, and there will be nothing left, eventually.  As far as I know the prophesy said find the Mason and the Souless One, which I'm guessing is a last name and Souless One could only mean a Ginger, right?  Ghosts can't be Chosen, as far as I know.  Find the others, and we'll talk again, I swear it."

"Time." Seth said softly, reminding the pooka.

"Right, well, good luck lady, have fun, don't die oh and uh... that old heffer sometimes steals money from your wallet when you fall asleep in here at night reading.  See?  Knowing dream people has advantages."  He smiled (could rabbits smile?) and raised his hand, snapping the 'fingers' on his paw.  "You can wake up now."

Maya lurched up from her nap, like she'd awoken form a fall right before she'd struck the ground... or someone else struck the ground... someone fell out a window, but it wasn't a window... it was... a dream?  Like all dreams the memory of it swiftly because to fade.  Enough of it remained to make her believe that something wasn't not okay with either her life, or her coffee... because she saw the entity that tore an unknown man in half and consumed in the folds of it's darkness... she saw a woman fall to her death.

Where did she know her from?

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Disoriented and confused, Maya fumbled for something to write with, tipping over an ancient owl-shaped mug full of brittle pencils and dried-out markers in her haste. Her hand fell on a green felt-tip pen with the cap still intact, and she jabbed the point repeatedly on the back of an old receipt until the ink reluctantly started to flow again. The result was legible, but only just- it didn't matter if the information was coherent, just that she needed to get it all down. She could always figure out what to do with it later.

Mason
A name? Job? Org?

Soulless
Ginger? What?

Woman + Window-  Accident ---Obits
Man + Shadow = WTF

Pooka
Rabbit
Troll  -Seth

Chosen ???

Dreams & doors

She jammed the scrap of paper into the front pocket of her purse and left it there, and for the next 45 minutes, as she finished tidying up and getting everything ready for that sticky-fingered slag in the morning, Maya let the entire experience just sort of... go, like leaving the radio on in the background while focusing on other things. She didn't have time to really sit down and process anything just yet, and despite just having awakened from a nap, she felt completely exhausted. There were no other interruptions, no strangeness that didn't already exist in New York. When the young assistant librarian finally locked up, the utter disinterest of the city that never sleeps was almost a relief.

 

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