“Excuse me.” René flinched, as a woman approached the counter. He had been so engrossed in his book that the voice seemed like a furious jerk that ripped him out of a closed space, his head hitting the floor. She was a short little thing, holding a thick tome twice as big as her arm.
“Yes, ma’am,” he rasped and then coughed. He could feel hair in his throat. He was glad it wasn’t the taste of blood or flesh. Well, yesterday was a full moon, after all. It could’ve gotten much worse.
René hated full moons. “How can I help you?”
“I wanted to return this,” she said as she lay the book on the counter. “And I need the next volume. Can you get it for me?”
“Yeah, let me just check the catalogue,” René smiled at the lady, laid the book on the bundle of returned books behind the counter, and proceeded to type on the computer furiously. He had to stop for a second to scratch an itch on his neck. He always had to be careful after a full moon, as his nails would sometimes stay sharper and he would often injure himself. He glanced at the woman who eyed him with her lips apart, probably connecting two and two together. René paid it no mind, however – his species had been fully accepted and acknowledged by society for quite some time now. Still, people would often gape at him for a couple days after his transformation.
After a while, the search window went blank. “Well that’s weird,” he muttered. “I don’t have the volume in my catalogue. Although I’m sure they have it. I’ve read it myself. If you’ll give me five minutes, I’ll go look for it.” It must be them.
“Oh, okay,” she said, looking startled. René noticed that she hadn’t stopped looking at him since back when he first saw her do it. Did she forget what she was here for? I’m not good-looking enough for her to just forget herself like that. He went out from behind the counter and made his way down the hallway of books.
The library had an old-timey feel to it. The floors and walls were mostly wooden, though the large windows had a distinctly modern feel to them. Still, the rows of bookcases were long and tall enough to get lost in this labyrinth. René knew his way around, but he always felt uneasy whenever he had to go in there. He could never shake off the feeling that he was being watched. He knew there was plenty of things in this library that he could never even begin to grasp. He knew the other staff knew a lot more than they told him, and that there was a purpose to refraining that knowledge to him. But what is it?
He was sure it had something to do with his condition. Did they send him on errands here so that they could monitor his behavior? Maybe they wanted to gather data about his private life? Or maybe they were trying to find the right moment to steal his DNA in some eugenics experiment? René felt a shiver run down his spine. He tried to shake off those thoughts as he approached the proper shelf.
After looking at it for a couple of minutes, his heart sank. It’s gone. Disappeared, without a trace.
I knew it. It’s a setup. They’d come for him, he knew. He ran down the row of bookshelves, to face the woman from the counter, the one that lured him out. And then he lost his balance. He tried to grab on to a bookshelf to support himself, but instead a row of books fell out, falling under his feet, which caused him to trip. René landed on his head, stars appeared in front of his eyes, the sound became muffled. He lay there in a daze until he heard a familiar voice.
“René,” the tone was urgent, even though the voice barely more audible than a whisper. René instantly recognized it – it was Cliff. “Oh man, what did you get yourself into this time?”
“They’re after me again, Cliff,” René said as his lip started trembling uncontrollably.
“What? No, no, it’s okay, calm down now,” said Cliff as he reached out his hand to help René up. His head was still spinning, but after a reassuring hug from his only trusted friend, everything slowly went back to normal.
“Thanks, buddy. I really lost it there for a second.”
“Hey, no problem.” Cliff smiled. “So what happened?”
René told him in detail about what had happened to him. Cliff explained that they had to replace their supply of that book, so it was temporarily removed from the catalog. Relieved, René returned to his post behind the counter, unaware of the watchful eyes above him.