Music in the night

Music in the night

An odd story


Books seem to become more pleasing to the senses as they age. Ancient bindings and the smell of crumbling paper have a certain appeal that is difficult to recreate with modern materials. But this graceful aging carries a curse. The old books last lifetimes as long as they are not handled. We are allowed to watch their spines crack and pages wither over the course of centuries, settling to read the revised editions as the originals waste away before us.

I do not recall the time of year, only that it was at night. I was working in the town library, moving a well-worn collection into our archives to be preserved for future scholars. It was a time-consuming task that required patience and delicacy. Being younger than the other librarians, I had volunteered to attend to this task after closing.

The squeaky wheel on my cart was the only sound that accompanied my footsteps through the aisles. A few lights still burned at the entrance and at the archive doorway, leaving great swaths of dark space between each location. However, I could have walked through that place blindfolded I knew it so well.

Thus, I was quite alarmed when my cart hit something. I heard heavy steps move away from me, pages rustling. Clearing my throat, I announced myself.

“Excuse me, the library is closed for the night.”

There was the sound of coughing followed by heavy feet shuffling about.

“My mistake,” a sickly voice replied. “I was still looking for something.”

“Which book were you looking for? I could probably help you find it if you’d like.”

There was another cough as I heard the stranger move closer.

“That would be appreciated.” He had foul breath. “It is a book of songs, local author.”

I visualized the labyrinth of shelves. We were in the history section, which meant that poetry and music would be two aisles over, regional works would be among those. Glad for something to distract me from cataloging the archives, I turned toward the music shelves.

“Follow me.”

Behind me, I heard the slow, noisy steps echoing after me. It was the first time I knew of anyone staying after hours, but I supposed it was not all that strange. Books appealed to certain readers, and if one book was worth searching this long, it must be truly special to someone.

“It must be a good book.”

“Pardon?” The voice growled.

“The book you’re looking for. It must be a good read to spend this much time trying to find it.”

“I’ve not read it yet.” He paused, starting to cough again. “But I was told that the music was worthwhile.”

“An odd way to think about music,” I thought to myself. But I figured that people can feel differently about such things.

We had reached the shelf.

“It should be somewhere around here. I will fetch a candle if you’ll wait here.” I was interrupted by the sudden brilliance of a match blazing to life. In its flickering light, I noticed something about this patron of literature. His fingernails were overgrown and sharp like claws, and rather than anything of modern fashion, his massive, bent form was covered in a threadbare cloak that hid his face completely.

“It is very close.” He stated with a note of enthusiasm. The hood began sweeping along the shelves, almost brushing against the spines. The light began to flicker out. As the darkness claimed the aisle once more, I blinked, realizing that I had been staring at the unusual figure. Without the light, I began to panic. Squinting, I could still make out the shape pressed against the shelves. At first, I thought I was mistaken, but after a minute or two of the sound, the sound of sniffing was impossible to ignore.

“I’ll go get that candle.” I found myself speaking to fill the silence. With that, I hurried as fast as I could in the darkness to the light by the desk lamps. My hands shook as I opened the drawer with the candles, I begged them to hold steady as I lit the wick.

The stranger met me on the way to the book. A thick book bound in cracked, black leather clutched in his arms. He was shaking.

“I see you’ve found what you were looking for. Now if you’d tell me the title and your name you can take it.”

The figure did not move, just stood there shivering slightly.

“Sir, are you alright?” I asked.

“I cannot do those things.”

“Why not?”

“Please. I need it.”

“If you are stealing from the library, I will have to report it to the police. Don’t do anything rash.” I heard more composure in my voice than I felt in speaking. I was not ready for this. Nor was a ready for what I saw when he removed his hood.

He had no eyes, oddly enough my first thought was “how is he going to read?”. Instead of eyes there were mouths, tiny lipless mouths filled with pointy teeth. The same was true of its ears. His skin was a grayish hue, stretched against gaunt features. Instead of a nose were two slits that twitched with each breath. His proper mouth seemed to be normal, but as it was closed, that did not mean much. Short messy hair covered the top of his head.

I stood frozen, speechless.

“I need this book.” He repeated.

“What are you even going to do with it?” I managed to sputter.

The horror shook its head, replacing the hood. “I can give you something in exchange.”


“Something for your book.” I didn’t find the clarity to explain that the book belonged to the library and was not my own possession. “A song in exchange for this music.”

I sat, leaning against the bookshelf covering my eyes, shaking. The creature seemed to take this as an acceptance because soon the silent library was filled with strains of singing.

It was unlike anything I had heard, but I doubt I had heard any such singer. There were no words to the song, none that I recognized anyway. Nonetheless, it was wondrous. Impossible notes, in keys that didn’t exist. But instead of being entranced by the music, I was painfully aware of it. The song’s beauty had a darker refrain, something that seemed to whisper, screaming at times, that nothing mattered and that nothing ever would. Even as the song ended, I felt it echoing through the fibers of my soul, mocking me, as if my life were some sort pf joke.

I heard the heavy footsteps beginning to move away.

“What are you going to do with it?”

“You are right. I can’t read it.” There was a sigh of remorse. “With the right words, I can still taste them sometimes.”

I heard the door close, but I did not get up for at least an hour afterwards. The song still played for me in all its perverted glory.

I still hear it.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

10 Etsy Father's Day Gifts Under $40 To Support Your Dad And Small Businesses

Stores may still be closed, but the internet is still wide open. So, while you're already shopping online check out Etsy for your Father's Day needs and support small creators.

As June approaches, Father's Day is coming up quickly with it. While they may not ask for much, it's always a nice gesture to give your dad something special to share your appreciation. Although, at the same time, it might be difficult to find the perfect gift either for their humor or that will be practical.

On a normal occasion, it's simple to find a gift for your father figures in stores, but for the times we're currently in our access has become very limited. Small and independent businesses need help now more than ever, so what better time than now to support them? If you're still stuck on what to give for Father's Day, look to this list for some inspiration that won't hurt your wallet too much.

Keep Reading... Show less

The worlds of beauty and fashion often collide, whether for good or bad. In both, underrepresentation has always been, and remains to be, a major unresolved issue. After the recent killing of George Floyd, many people are rightfully enraged, compounded by the fact his death in police custody wasn't an isolated incident.

Police brutality against Black people is not new, and isn't going away till we start dedicating resources to fighting it. Many of us, as individuals, have only begun in the last week scratching the surface of what it means to educate ourselves on race, historical race relations, and how to be an ally to the Black community.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Feel A Lil' Better: Because You Can Still Connect While Disconnecting From Social Media

Your weekly wellness boost from Odyssey.

No matter how good (or bad) you'd describe your health, one thing is for sure: a little boost is ALWAYS a good idea. Whether that's reading a new, motivating book, or listening to a song that speaks to your soul, there are plenty of resources to help your health thrive on any given day.

I don't know if you've heard, but there's a lot going on right now, particularly in relation to George Floyd's death, Black Lives Matter, and public protest of racial injustice in the United States. While we can all agree that this deserves conversations, change, and actionable good, social media arguments with Great Aunt Linda are not where social change begins and ends. Spending too much time scrolling through your phone has never been healthy, but now it's even more addicting — what does that one person from my hometown say about this? How can I further education within discussions? Am I posting enough?

Keep Reading... Show less

I don't know about you, but reading is at the top of my to-do list this summer... especially with all the social distancing I'll still be doing. If, like me, you're hoping to pick up a romantic page-turner (or a couple dozen), here are 23 romance novels by Black authors you'll absolutely LOVE reading.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

12 Ways To Help The #BlackLivesMatter Movement If You CAN'T Protest

We can all do better. Join the fight against racial injustice.

The current state of the world has created the perfect storm for change in America. But with change there is always risk. Although protests have sprung up all across America, COVID-19 is still a very real risk. Luckily, you can help bring about change from the comfort of your own home. And no, I don't mean just by posting a black square on social media.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

True Self-Care Is HARD, That Face Mask Isn't Actually Going To Solve Your Problems

There's a line between self-care and self-destruction.

Anyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the past few years has seen something somewhere about self-care whether it was on Facebook, Twitter, or their Instagram feed. Oftentimes it's pictures of celebrities or influencers sipping green smoothies or slathering on mud masks with #selfcare. It's posts like these that made me realize that "self-care" has become the ultimate buzz word, soaring in popularity but in the process, it's lost most of its original meaning. It's time to set the record straight and reclaim the term.

Although self-care has been around for quite some time, within the past few years it's been misconstrued and commodified as our capitalist society tends to do with things it thinks can be profited off. Self-care is now being peddled as something that can be bought and sold on the shelf at Target rather than something that takes real work to achieve. This fake self-care movement is not only enabling people to over-indulge themselves, but it has created a crutch for people to avoid the responsibility of taking true care of themselves. Instead of doing the work that needs to be done, many people fall into the trap of rewarding themselves for doing nothing at all — this can quickly become an unhealthy coping mechanism, especially with corporations cheering us on (to buy their next product). Long, hard day at work? Just grab your third iced coffee of the day! Fight with your SO? Buy that 50-dollar face mask, it'll make you feel better! This is how self-care becomes self-sabotage and self-destructive.

Keep Reading... Show less

Minorities are consistently under-represented in our day-to-day lives, notably in the world of fashion. It's likely you're looking for a way to support black artists. Whether that's the case or you're just a fashion-lover in general, these brands aren't just some of the best black-owned fashion brands — they're some of the most innovative brands of our time, period.

From luxury staples to fun accessories and loungewear, these brands aren't just stunning names you should definitely be following on Instagram, each honors the founder's roots in unique ways with the power of storytelling through artistic expression that manifests in pieces we can't wait to wear.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

10 Home Items You Need For Stress Relief, On The Days You 'Literally Cannot'

Fill your home with peaceful, calming coping mechanisms.

I'd like to think that 2020 is teaching us a lot. Or will teach us a lot. Or will be a story we tell at parties one day. Ultimately, this year has been — and is probably going to continue to be — a bit of a mess.

At the beginning of the year, Australia was on fire and we mourned the death of Kobe Bryant. Then, coronavirus (COVID-19) took our spring and shut us in our homes, inciting panic over public health and sparking political upheaval at every decision made by local and federal officials alike. Now, a week after George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a nationwide conversation is reignited with protests regarding racial injustice in the United States. There is an enormous amount of tension, hurt, and change that is upon the American people.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments