The Library #3
After taking what he felt might have been a contender for one of the longest pisses of his life, Johnny washed his face in the sink. The cold water did a pretty good job of settling his nerves, and his settled nerves did a pretty good job of making him feel like a fool.
He sighed into his reflection and gave himself a mocking smirk. He reached in his pocket and pulled out his cell phone, spying a stall, he sat down on the closed toilet seat and started checking his messages.
He texted Ivan, “This place suuuuuux!” He hit send, leaned his head back, and gave another good quality exhale through his comforting smirk. Then, the chirp followed by the vibratory trill of his phone receiving a reply. The beep and buzz echoed through the tile bathroom like a bell in a cavernous church, the sound scaring him to the point his heart skipped a beat. He frantically rubbed his thumb up the side of the phone desperately trying to get to the volume, but not wanting to go too far. He found it and pressed it, holding it down until it quietly vibrated and then even the vibrating was stopped. The room was again silent. Then, he heard the creak of the restroom door. He quickly pulled his feet up onto the toilet and with his free hand, reached out and grabbed the stall door and slowly pulled it toward him, not wanting to lock it and make a sound. He teetered there, balanced on the top of the toilet, feet on the lid, cell phone gripped in one hand and the other holding the stall door shut.
Outside the stall, he could hear a woman breathing, almost like she was gasping for air through a veil of water, the labored, gargled breathing being drawn closer on the clop of wooden heels slowly clicking across the tile floor. Looking down, below his arm holding the door shut he could see his shoes barely perched on the porcelain lid, he could see his phone in his other dangling hand, with the notification from Ivan, “How so?”. He could see the shadow the breathing woman cast, closer and closer under the stall door until with another set of wooden clops she stopped. He could see the breathing woman’s wood-heeled, puritan shoes. They were polished black to the point where he could make out his reflection, not the details, just the clouded shape of his face. A shape that in detail he would hardly recognize through its frozen distorted look of fear.
The breathing stopped.
A pale hand with long, well-manicured nails slowly crept around the bottom of the bathroom stall door, Johnny’s eyes sprung even wider, staring at the hand’s deliberate movement in horror. The hand jostled the door, but Johnny pushed his weight into it, his shoes silently slipping across the toilet seat.
The hand stopped moving. Above the shoes, the shadow grew darker and tighter and Johnny knew that it was her body, moving her head to the floor, coming closer, so that she could see beneath.
Johnny’s heart stopped again as another trill cut through the bathroom stalls, this time, a pleasant mellow classical tune that quickly faded out, but still, Johnny felt the sound must have taken years from his life. The pale, nailed hand quickly slipped away from the bottom of the stall and the puritan shoes retreated with several clogging taps.
He could hear her answer her phone. “Hello,” she said in a pleasant but professional tone. “Really? And we will have her tonight?” A long pause as the mumbled gargles of the person on the other end of the line became even more unintelligible to Johnny through the echo chamber-like bathroom. “I see, Yes, I’ll be right there, just have to stop off and pick something up.” She said, again very pleasantly and normally, without a gurgle, without a wheeze. With a goodbye, Johnny could hear her hand up the phone. He heard what he assumed to be a rustling of her purse, then a washing of her hands, and then a swift, seemingly normal departure from the restroom.
Johnny slowly let his butt back down onto the seat of the toilet and simultaneously lowered his feet to the tile silently and extended his back. Again, he sighed.
After what felt like hours, that Johnny thought was probably minutes, that in reality were merely second, Johnny costively pulled the stall door open and stepped out into the bathroom. He collected himself and approached the door. He slowly pulled the compression hinged door open and peered out into the hallway. All was clear, better than that, all was clear and at the end of the hall he had just come down he saw a glowing green sign with an arrow that gloriously read, “Exit”.
He pushed the door all the way open and as he felt the resistance at the end of the hall he felt the panic again, please no sound, but no sound came. “Oh christ, think good a doorstop” he said aloud followed by him immediately smacking his open palm over his mouth and looking back down the hall to see if his noises had alerted anybody. The coast was clear.
Johnny quietly kicked the doorstop down with a low “klok” sound and, leaving the bathroom door open so as not to cause any noise problems, started making his way down the call.
He tried to move at a normal, natural pace, both to not draw attention to himself as well as to help steady his nerves and heartbeat that was currently pounding in his ears. The hall was silent, just the heartbeat in his ears and the buzzing of the institutional lighting, and then, as he was about halfway down the hall, the sound again, “klok”.
Johnny slowly turned around to see that the doorstop had flicked up and the door was slowly closing on its resistant springs, and behind it a black shadow encompassed the wall. The tiles from the floor and the walls faded into the shadow, the grout lines melded with the blackness. Behind, and about midway up, in the black, a reflective pair of mirrored eyes stared directly at him.
Next on Of Eons and Stars: The Sundowners #2
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