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R . C .
Matt was on his way to the school library, eyes aware. He walked up the flight of stairs to the second floor, tiptoed over to the open double-doors; he was ready for anything. He extended his head out into the open, smelt the air, and looked left, then right.
It was late at night, and the silence of the open corridor was ominous and terrifying. The lockers stood like eternal guards, watching over the small pieces of paper and pencil shavings left to die on the ugly carpeted ground. Matt wondered that if the lockers could move, would they shuffle over to the small leavings of the students and put them in their small metal bellies to protect them, and give them warmth.
A pencil rolled past where he was and Matt withdrew his head with incredible speed. It was a black Ticonderoga, number two. It was neatly sharpened, but there were no shavings or imperfections left on the frame. The pencil kept its pace, rolled to the end of the hall and rounded the corner.
That’s not normal. Matt thought.
Before the pencil could make another pass, Matt leaped into the hallway, turned in the opposite direction of the Ticonderoga and sprinted on his toes to the library.
It was a long hallway, filled with too many openings to keep a tab on, and as soon as Matt thought he was out of the range of the pencil he slipped into a dark corner. No sooner than he did a battalion of various assortments of pens lumbered by.
Matt was beginning to feel worried. He wondered just how in the hell the things were moving of their own accord, true, but what really scared him was that it felt like they were organized. Someone must be controlling them.
They were going in the same direction as the first pencil, perhaps after another person of the same mission as Matt. Perhaps that person had been caught and was about to be--
No time for sympathy. Matt peered out of the corner, saw all was safe, and continued his journey to the hall of books. He went slower than before--the pens were thick, stupid, and mundane after all -- and found no more trouble in the hallway. As the doors passed and the carpet rolled underneath, Matt couldn’t help but think that he wasn’t being as secretive as he thought. It felt like every small crevice and opening was filled with eyes that just stared at him, waiting for him to make a mistake.
Then he stood before the main door to the library. Several posters were on the front, some reading things like, Hang in There, or, Support Your School Library, and covered in images of kittens, puppies, books, backpacks, and anything or everything you could think of. There were so many that Matt couldn’t see beyond them through the glass panes.
He was about to pull out his lock picking equipment when he noticed something strange about the door: It was already open by just a crack.
Now Matt’s guard rose, and loud bells rang in his head. They were expecting him, he knew it, but that didn’t change his mission. To fail would be reprisal to the worst kind of fate.
Matt opened the door, slid inside, and shut the door behind him. It was dark in the library, so very dark. Matt could only see the first shelves of books, and he was lucky to get even that, for the sunroof above let little of the crescent moon’s light in.
He had come to the library thousands of times before, but there was too much of a chance that conflict would occur. A quick escape route was needed. Matt silently cursed himself for not carefully planning like some of his friends had told him to.
His goal was at the far end of the library, and Matt gave himself a moment to ponder, Why oh sweet jingly Jesus! WHY did they have to make the reception desk so far away? And why is the desk BACK THERE in the first place!?
He chalked it up to the school’s malevolent planning.
Matt sulked after finding a less-than-decent route, and started down the row of books in non-fiction. Some of the books stood out farther than others, and he got a glimpse of Martin Luther King Jr., Teddy Roosevelt, JFK, George Washington, Lincoln, Booth, Hitler, and others of more or less note.
The non-fiction section changed to the arts, the arts to religion, and religion to fiction. Fiction was then broken into several sections of science-fiction, fantasy fiction, old fiction, folk-fiction, and Matt shuddered briefly when he came upon Vampire-Fiction; there were quite too many new age Vampiristic novels of the angsty-teenager kind, but Dracula was nowhere to be found.
(Shed a tear.)
Matt went through every single category that stood in his way with rising apprehension, and as he came upon the desk his fears came to a peak. It looked like a monster. A big, wooden, monster.
It was made of a wood that might have been mixed up in the wood processing plant, and what became a desk might have been meant to be used for a coffin, Matt thought. It was dark, varnished into the darkest brown he’d ever seen, and the way the moonlight bounced off of it from above scared him in a way that nothing else could.
Most fears, like of the boogieman are just abstract, but the desk was eternal, and oh so very real.
Matt took one step forward. Then one more. Two steps. Three steps. Four, five, six. And he was there. He checked his watch. 11:40, it read. Just in time. Matt reached into his backpack, pulled out the book and brought it up to a slot:
He raised it up to the small rectangular hole and was about to slide it in when--
A pencil flew out of the hole and knocked the book soaring out of his hands. He and the pencil watched the book’s path through the air; it tumbled, shuffled, the air riffled its pages in glee, and then the book landed in the Librarian’s hands.
“Mr. Caraway!” Matt shouted. His fists clenched and his arms shook.
“Yes,” Mr. Caraway said. “Me.” He glided over to Matt was, snapped his fingers, and a battalion of pens and pencils restrained him to the desk. They shifted like one organism, and the thought of the animate writing utensils nauseated Matt.
Mr. Caraway stroked the book much like one might stroke a white-manned cat. “Did you really think it would be that easy?”
When Matt said nothing, Mr. Caraway continued:
“Did you think that I would just let you waltz right in here and turn in the book the day it is due, outside of school hours no less! You must know me better than that!”
“What you’re doing is wrong!” Matt yelled. “Wrong!” His scowl didn’t affect Mr. Caraway in the least; the man even seemed to like it.
“Come now, Matthew, I don’t spend my time preying upon imbeciles like you for no reason.” On cue, a pencil leaped out of his pocket and into his free hand. “Just look at them will you? Such tiny intelligence is heartwarming to a man of my stature, and it should be “awesome” for a boy your age.”
“They’re evil!” Matt said. “Just like you!”
“Evil?” Mr. Caraway said astounded. “Why, they are the utmost opposite of evil. They are loyal.”
Matt tried to break free from the bonds but couldn’t; there were just too many. Mr. Caraway saw this and chuckled. He set down the book on a table across from the desk, and the pencil slid onto it from his hand.
Mr. Caraway now gave his full attention to Matt. “Why do you students always do this to me? You know what the punishment is for this, don’t you? Every day -- and night, for that matter -- students walk in here like you own the place, and you--”
Mr. Caraway went on a disinterested tirade, saying all that could be done and would be done for these transgressions, and that he knew Matthew could do better.
Matthew, meanwhile, was busy loosening his legs. He knew that Mr. Caraway was pretentious (who didn’t?) and it could be minutes before he stopped his speech and finally did something about Matt.
The invisible race took minutes, Matt slowly dragging his legs farther and farther away from the chain of writing implements, Mr. Caraway finishing his nearly endless speech, until finally a pencil snapped in two, letting Matt’s smart leg, the right one, free. He grinned.
“Why are you smiling, young Matthew?” Mr. Caraway noticed a brief glance downward from Matt and realized what was about to happen too late.
Matt shook his leg free of the desk and rammed it into the fork of Mr. Caraway’s legs.
The librarian’s screech of pain alerted the utensils for just a second, and in that second Matt broke free and ran to the book. Grabbing it, he saw the various pens and pencils converging on the groaning Mr. Caraway and decided to escape for then, and return after they scattered.
Matt was about halfway through fiction and running when he heard a shout from the reception desk:
“GET THAT BOY!” Mr. Caraway spat. The sound of pencils rolling and pens clicking their metal tip out roared like an audience at the roman Coliseum.
Now in Religion, Matt stopped to listen to a whistling through the air. Not quite a natural sound. It wasn’t flapping, or buzzing . . .
But . . .
Matt’s thinking was interrupted when three paper airplanes soared over the shelves above and began diving towards him, mechanical pencils riding in the fold between college-ruled wings.
As he ran, they fired upon him in tiny clicks, and each click signified a pain in his back, neck, leg; everything they could aim at was pricked with a bit of pencil lead.
The air raid continued until near the front entrance, where Matt flew over the chairs in his way and out the door. He slammed it shut and crushed two of the planes. With nowhere else to go, it seemed like the last plane turned and returned to its master.
Matt rested. He fell to his knees, than to his back, and he wondered just what was happening. Earlier today it had seemed so easy; just sneak in, put it back, and sneak back out again, and nobody would ever know. But now he had an entire office supply store chasing after him, and whatever things he hadn’t seen yet he expected to soon -- staplers, staple-guns, or anything else Mr. Caraway thought would be interesting to animate.
Matt stood and began walking down the hall, down the opposite way of where he came. Sweat trickled down his neck and glistened like small diamonds, their glamorous sheen sparkling as tricky as the moonlight. His palms clenched, unclenched, and clenched again while he thought, a habit he had enjoyed since early freshman year that he hadn’t been able to stop. It was kind of like biting fingernails or cleaning out the gunk in between teeth with a toothpick; there was no real reason for it, but people end up doing it anyways.
The end of the hall came soon, and Matt rounded it without breaking stride, or thought. A plan was already being encircled within his mind, and any distraction would've broken the delicate webbing of thought. Then he stopped, for it was done. Matt turned right around and headed towards Physics.
Physics was Matt’s favorite class; he always had fun during it because of all the hands-on experimenting they did, like building a small remote-controlled car out of spare materials the teacher, Mr. Johnson, had. Matt had done especially well on this project of motion and energy, and Mr. Johnson had gloated to other teachers about his prowess with the subject. However, Matt’s math teacher had disagreed, saying that Matthew was not skilled at all in mathematics, and this motion was continued by several others that shared Matthew throughout the eight periods.
Mr. Johnson confided in Matt about the subject:
“Excuse me, Matt.” He had said one day a few weeks ago. “I see you’re doing very well in this class.”
Matt, who was working on another project, something to do with nuts, bolts and cogs, had merely grunted a response.
“Matt, you’re doing well in this class.”
“Yeah?” Matt said, annoyed. He liked Mr. Johnson a lot, for a teacher, but Matt didn’t like being interrupted from his work.
“You’re doing well in this class,” Mr. Johnson repeated, “But not in Math. Or Spanish. Or History. Why is that -- why is it that you can get a one-hundred percent in my class, and sixties and seventies in the others?”
Matt chuckled. “Because I actually like this class.” He twisted a copper wire around a metal shaft, and rubbed his hands together. Mr. Johnson was opening his mouth to speak but Matt didn’t notice. “Here, check this out, it’s really cool.”
He grabbed another wire, touched it to the wire he just wrapped, and a series of cogs started revolving slowly around. Mr. Johnson had looked around, seeing the sub-par operations of other students.
The middle-aged Physics teacher turned again to Matt and said with complete honesty, “Yes, Matthew, that is very cool. Amazing, in fact.”
As Matt walked into Mr. Johnson’s room he shook his head from these thoughts, but with a smile. His shoes clapped on the linoleum tiles, and he let his body slow down and rest.
Mr. Caraway was obviously planning his next move, what with the lack of enemy patrols, so Matt began planning his. There was a project he was working on the side, something that wasn’t for school but for his amusement, and it might help him.
Matt slid into his assigned lab seat, opened a cabinet door, pulled out the R.C. car, and admired all the augmentations he had made on it. There was a small motor, one just a mite bigger than the original that had been passed to the students, and far more efficient. A stronger axle, in turn, vastly improved the four wheels, and suspension springs were attached at the rear two. Also, Matt had built better sensors on the controller, and even from a mile away he could operate the machine instantaneously. These modifications were followed by several others too intricate to recite, but the most loving thing that Matthew had added was a workable horn. Its roar was so small that when Matt pressed its operating button it was little more than a squeak; it was the final touch.
He placed the machine delicately onto the surface of his desk, and made sure that the charge gage was full.
Then he picked up the controller, and pressed lightly forward on the two control sticks. The R.C. rolled slowly in the direction and when Matt pushed back and the car followed. He smiled, and set it on the ground, where it came up to his calf in height. It was heavy too, almost thirty pounds, but Matt thought that was just right. A few more movements on the controller and responses from the R.C. assured him that it would work.
Yes, it would work. It would have to.
Mr. Caraway was in the library. He scratched his cheek and ordered two pens, a Bick and Harding, to stand sentry at the entrance. The two began rolling as fast as they could, and their quick response warmed his crooked heart. He knew Matt couldn’t be far; it was only a matter of time before the young man tried something else, and having such loyal followers would make the whole thing much, much, easier.
A crumpling sound alerted him to the front, and he saw with mesmerizing puzzlement that the two paper planes Matt crushed were moving. Mr. Caraway moved closer to see, and saw that two spindly fibers were running from each of the planes, where they continued into one of the rows of books. He followed the trail with growing amusement, thinking it was one of Matthew’s tricks, but at the end were several pencils, and the white strings were attached to them. He realized with amazement that the utensils were recovering their fallen comrades.
Mr. Caraway flung his hand into his back pocket and pulled out a little blue book to make notes in. “Capable . . . of . . . emotions,” He said while scratching a pen on the pad. “Must . . . study . . . further.”
After he was done, he set the pen down on the ground and it rolled away happily. Mr. Caraway kept his pad out, unfolded, and he waited to see where the pencils would take their friends.
“Friends?” Mr. Caraway asked himself. “Yes, of course. Friends.”
Gripping the controller even tighter, Matt walked alongside the rolling R.C. car. With grim humor he noticed that the slight trilling noise its motor made sounded like the laughing of a calculator, and wondered if Mr. Caraway had made any of those yet. He doubted it, but Matt kept his guard all the same.
Following this thought, he began to fear any mishaps with the small LCD screen on his controller. He had checked that it worked, twice even, but his thoughts just couldn’t let it go. With the flip of a switch the tiny window came to life. It was blue at first, but soon melted into a black and white version of the hall he was walking in. On the screen, it came forward, and Matt knew that it would work
Him and the R.C. came to the library doors and stopped. This was it, if the pens and pencils attacked the car it was over, and Matt would have to run for it again. But if he got caught, he didn’t think Mr. Caraway would talk for very long this time.
Matt opened the door just enough to glare inside, and sure enough there were hundreds of pens in wait. He froze, but they didn’t move; he took the advantage, pushed the heavy car inside, and slid the door shut.
The LCD showed him the utensils then, converging on his pet project and flowing toward it as a tsunami of altered tools. They surrounded the car in an organic crescent, sized it up, and flowed back into the open library. Before Matt could breathe a sigh of relief, one pencil remained. It was pink, covered in multiple patterns and designs, and if Matt didn’t know any better then he would say the pencil had taken a liking to the R.C. Matt throttled the car an inch and it rolled back. He did it again, and the pencil kept a regular distance by rolling.
“Get out of my way.” Matt grumbled. He rolled the car faster, but the thing kept its pace, so he pushed the car even faster. They went through the first row of books, and then a second, but the pencil kept going. The LCD started blurring with the speed, but Matt wouldn’t let up: He was going to smash this pencil!
Then Mr. Caraway walked in front of the speeding car and was rammed onto the ground.
“What in God’s name?” Mr. Caraway said while picking himself up off of the ground. He examined the thing that had just bowled him over. It looked like a car, but it was like an artist had been trying to render a very simple version of one, had somewhat succeeded, and this was the end product.
With a loud squeak, the thing rolled around him and flew down the aisle.
“Matthew,” Mr. Caraway simmered. He whistled, and to his call several utensils came to him. “Go after that car!”
They complied with pertinence.
Matt entered the library, focusing both on the screen and on his surroundings. His R.C. was doing exactly as he had planned: Now that it was labeled as ‘dangerous,’ all the utensils were focused on it as one mind, almost like a bee-hive, but even stranger. The car was headed towards the left side of the gigantic room, so Matt hugged the wall to the right.
The books passed by. It was a river of words, of letters, of ink, a wave of such volume and depth that Mr. Caraway’s creations could never come close in size, not even if he worked on creating them every single nanosecond of his life. The stories were entire worlds, places of never ending universes that outlast our own, and explore into the depths of the mind that no one dare does aloud. Matt paused for a moment, overwhelmed.
It was hard, controlling the car while walking, so while the R.C. was going at high speeds, Matthew was going slower than old women at antique shops. He eventually made three rounds of the library with R.C. by the time he reached the end, and saw the reception.
It was still far away, but the R.C. was almost there again. Matt found a hiding place to operate from, behind a small fortress of beanbags, and began to lead the car towards the front again.
“Blast it!” Mr. Caraway shrieked. “Get that damned car!”
The pens had been working as hard as they could, but they were just too slow; the pencils were fast enough, but as soon as they pulled beside the car they were crushed underneath its deadly wheels. The paper airplane battalion had already been compromised, with the final one still in repairs, and the morale of the troops were dropping fast.
A lone Jackson neared the car, ignoring other pens slouching behind, and prepared for boarding. Mr. Caraway cheered him on. All of a sudden the car slid to a halt, breaking the poor pencil, and sped towards the teacher. Mr. Caraway broke left and dodged the car, but wouldn’t be fooled.
“All of you--” He waved over the pencils. “Continue chasing the vehicle. But you--” Mr. Caraway’s other hand passed over the pens. “You follow me.”
The pens, twitchy with exhaustion, rolled with stolidity after the grinning librarian.
The R.C. was working, and Matt was making his move. He forced his back down and sprinted towards the reception, hoping against hope that he would be quick enough. Fifty feet, then forty, then thirty-five, Matt was nearly there, just a little farther --
“Matthew!” Exclaimed a familiar voice. “How good of you to come to me!”
His heart dropped with his steps, and dissolved in his stomach as Mr. Caraway walked into his path with a group of ink-filled demons.
“Just let me put it back!” Shouted Matt while stopping. “What the hell do you have to gain -- why are you doing this?” He kicked his foot into a bookcase, and it shook menacingly.
“Stop your whining you insolent child.” Mr. Caraway said. “Your impertinent stomping is just making me angrier.”
“But why? WHY!”
“You lead me through the library and back, in my own territory, and you ask me why?” He chuckled. “Fine, I’ll tell you.”
He picked up a pen and examined it. “I enjoy it. I love seeing you and others melt into small children in front of me, and plead for mercy. How I laugh, when all your bravery and bravado turns into cowardice and shame! When all hope is lost, and I rise as the victor, I laugh! I LAUGH!
Mr. Caraway screamed, laughed, and snapped the pen between his cold, wretched fingers. Then the hollowing bottled down into harsh giggles, like an old car breaking its starter, and the librarian wiped tears from his face.
“Ah,” He said. “That was a good bout, wasn’t it? They do say that the best medicine is laughter.”
“There’s no medicine for insanity, Caraway.” Matt said.
Mr. Caraway shook his head. “What, and you think I’m insane? I’m not crazy, Matthew, I’m not. I assure you on this fact.
“But enough about me,” Mr. Caraway continued. “What about you?” His eyes slithered over the controller in Matt’s hands. “What is that, dear Matthew? Is that the device that controls the vehicle, the same one that’s been harassing me and my minions?”
Matt didn’t respond.
“I see that I am right.” Caraway nodded. “Well, give it to me.”
“What? No!” Matt turned his body away from him.
“Give it to me Matthew!” Mr. Caraway reached with his long, spindly arms, and snatched it away with ease.
The LCD screen glowed onto the librarian’s face, and it transformed him into profile of a madman. But Mr. Caraway didn’t notice this; he only watched the screen shift and move.
“It’s not too hard to control.” Matt said suddenly. His oblique sentence seemed out of place, but at the same time felt right. His eyes were strange to Mr. Caraway, confusing in how they didn’t show any emotion through their gaze. “I made it that way, so that I could show my friends. It’s almost like a game controller, and works just like a car game, so almost everyone can play with it.” Matt paused. “Maybe even you, Caraway.”
“What do you mean, Matthew?” He said with a cocked eyebrow.
Matt ignored him, “Except I added two things.” Matt held up a hand in a v-for-victory sign. “The first --” Matt let one finger fall. “Was the LCD screen. Because the range for it is so far, if we lost sight of it we could track it using this. One of my friends, you might know him, Jacob said--”
“I know fair Jacob; he’s almost as much of a troublemaker as you.”
“-- that we could do espionage, and I thought, ‘man, what if it went somewhere and was captured?’ So I added the second thing.” Raising his middle finger next to the first, he said, “The red button.”
“Red button?” Mr. Caraway said.
“Yeah, the red button. It’s probably the coolest thing ever.”
“What does it do Matthew?”
“Nothing special, it just causes the R.C. to self destruct.” Matt grinned. “And not too long after it’s activated.”
Mr. Caraway’s composer lost as he turned a pale color that was duller than the moonlight. “You pressed it?”
Far off an explosion came to be, and millions of papers filled the air above. Entire shelves came crashing down in great booms of thunder, and they fell apart with a splintery crack. Neither of them could see it, but hundreds if not thousands of pens and pencils were crushed not too distant from Matt and Caraway, all of them with indifferent splendor.
The emergency sprinklers sprang open simultaneously in a great pour that drenched the two, and caused something in Mr. Caraway to drop the controller. Matt though, was taking his turn to laugh maniacally, and just let the librarian soak all of the distress up.
Too much, in fact.
Mr. Caraway smiled, walked over to him, and patted him with a spongy smack on the shoulder. “I’m sorry about this Matthew, I really am.”
He squeezed his hands around Matt’s moist neck, and wrung him back and forth. Mr. Caraway gripped tighter, relishing the soft touch of a young neck and sound of sorrowful gargling of the choking boy. Spittle -- along with sprinkler water -- collected on his hands, but Mr. Caraway allowed it for now; he would tend to it with his neckerchief soon. In the light of the LCD screen, Matthew’s complexion darkened from a red to a deep blue, and his struggle grew more frantic, with him kicking from side to side and up to down. The feet searched for his weak point, but could not reach it now that Mr. Caraway knew his trickiness. Matt flopped like a landed bass then, air almost exhausted, but the librarian just wouldn’t let him go. It couldn’t be too long now.
The sprinklers stopped when it was done, and Mr. Caraway set the corpse -- no longer Matthew -- gently on the ground. He pulled a cloth out of his front pocket and wiped the wetness off his hands.
The corpse stared up at him with its fish eyes and purple throat, accusingly, knowingly.
“No, no. Don’t blame me you putrid thing.” Mr. Caraway said. “I warned you of the consequences and yet you continued. Farewell.”
With a turn of the body and snap of the fingers, Mr. Caraway ordered the body to be removed; pens sluggishly followed the directive. He began to leave, but stopped and caught the attention of the pens.
“Ah, one moment.” Mr. Caraway stepped over his creations, swooped down to the dead boy and snatched the book, it being slightly damp. “Can’t leave without that, sorry.”
The librarian left for home. He drove carefully -- knowingly -- because after the duty was done then the pens would find their ways back to where they belonged, and all evidence would be covered by crookery belonging to him or Matthew. He wondered, though, how the pens disposed of it. Mr. Caraway dismissed it and pulled into his driveway.
“John?” His wife called when he went inside. “Is that you?”
Mr. Caraway smiled to himself and returned, “Yes, dear, I’m back.” He set his coat on the rack and went to the living room where his wife awaited. Going to her he stooped to kiss, and he came up to sit down on his favorite armchair.
He frowned while sitting, and pulled the book out of his back pocket. Mr. Caraway laid it next to the others.
“How many does that make?” His wife asked. Of course she didn’t know about where the book came from, couldn't know, but the explanation John had given her years before had left his memory.
“Eleven.” John said at last.
John began reading from his favorite hardback, and it wasn’t long until he started chuckling.
“What is it John?” His wife asked.
“Nothing, dear.” He said. “Nothing.”
I would like to formally apologize to CJ3967 for lying to him. In a comment on my article “Revenge Part One” he told me that he’d have trouble getting the dark qualities of the work past his parents, and in response I told him that I was working on something light at the moment and it would be no problem. This was supposed to be that piece.
Obviously that was false advertising, but to my defense I saw the ending coming no more than you did, and if anyone should be angry it should be me.
But the flow of this story from me is more interesting I think than where it came from, that place being boring. I originally set out to write a story called, “Library Ninjas.” Go on, laugh, you deserve it. I kept the name until the current title R.C., which is misleading and meant to be so; It makes the shock at the end even more enjoyable.
Until next time,