"This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental."
It was a brisk Seattle afternoon. The dead trees that dotted the unkept pathways whistled with the wind as I walked through the desolate streets by the old urban dwellings. It wasn’t too far from the ocean, but that part of the city was actually quite lived-in compared to here. Everyone moved out of the residential area after some panic about serial murders or climate change or something, but the foolish people remained. It was summer now; the sky hadn’t figured that out yet. Even if you’re not looking up, there’s a good chance there are clouds up there, covering up the sun.
There was an abandoned library down the road from here, that was my destination. I heard some rumors about odd goings-on there, and it was the site of a famous series of murders that everyone heard about on the news, the ones that caused people to leave.
They called them the Pentagram Killings.
Police were able to pinpoint the 5th murder’s location before it even happened because of a pattern they found. When you map them out, the crime scenes formed a perfect star that spread across the city. That’s how the murders got their name. Anyway, it was probably just a coincidence, and the police were too inept to put a stop to it when it was going on. From what I hear, the Church was involved somehow, but I doubt they could do anything either. Such is the way with these sorts of things.
I decided to attend the library for a number of reasons. For one, I wanted to figure out what the other students meant by “odd goings-on”. It seemed like an odd way to avoid explaining anything. A bunch of kids about my age, which would be seventeen, all went down there to see if it’d make a good hideout or something, I didn’t understand such strange behavior.
One of them disappeared.
It wasn’t when they visited, of course. That would make their location too obvious. It was about a week after. Supposedly he was the only one who went inside the building, but that seemed like rubbish. Those ruffians probably couldn’t resist piling their bodies through the doorway and running amok inside, stealing whatever they could find. The other kids made it out to be some kind of haunting, that the building itself claimed their friend’s life. It was stupid.
A curse, a fickle thing, a magic that lingers and festers in a particular place.
I knew they weren’t real, of course, that would be inane to believe. It isn’t that I don’t believe in the supernatural, I can’t claim to know whether ghosts or ghouls really exist if I can’t see them, it’s just that people give too much weight to the taboo and unexplainable. It’s very possible that these curses might be created by the willingness of humanity to leave certain things untouched, a self-perpetuating cycle that only obscures more of the truth.
The second reason was much more straightforward. I wanted to get photos for the club I was a part of; the photography club. We decided that each member should take at least a hundred pictures across all of summer, something silly and arbitrary, but something to aspire to nonetheless. The abandoned library was something that I’m sure nobody else would think of, especially since they’re all afraid of visiting after the disappearance.
As I approached the building, I saw a silhouette standing on the sidewalk outside. It was a small figure, but one I unfortunately recognized. The girl was Brooklyn Schultz, someone I knew quite well. She was the head of the photography club, someone who at least I perceived as quite bizarre. She had a fascination with the uncanny and supernatural that was unrivaled by everyone else, to the point where it was practically bullet-point number one on her reputation. She turned to face me as the sound of my footsteps entered her ears.
“Ash? What are you doing here?”
I should explain. My name is Ashton Phillips, I live in the Seattle area and attend high school there during the fall, winter, and spring. My main hobby is photography, which is for some reason a unique trait in the photography club. I’m often sent on errands by the club members to take pictures of weird things, like whales and homeless people. I never quite understood why, but the others always enjoy seeing what I take photos of. Most of the club members are people I’ve known since middle school, but Brooklyn was slightly different. She created the club to see if any of its members were interested in weird rumors, and this library was one of them. We never visited during the year because our club supervisor said we weren’t allowed to, but now there isn’t anyone stopping us.
“I’m coming to take a few pictures, and you?” What I said wasn’t an outright lie, but it wasn’t the entire truth. I knew that. I’ve always had a problem with keeping too much information to myself, it tends to frustrate those around me.
“Oh, I’m trying to see what the ghosts are doing.”
That’s right, I should probably explain that too. Brooklyn talks a lot about these ghosts for some reason. From what I know, they seem to congregate around areas that she finds interesting. You’d think she’d grow out of this by now, but whatever.
“You know exactly what I’m talking about. The ghosts leave their footprints around places where spiritual activity is high, that’s probably because there are so many of them there.”
“Look, I don’t know what exactly you’re talking about, but if you’ve already taken your pictures here, I suggest you leave. The teachers say this place is dangerous and they’re probably right.”
“But if I leave, I won’t be able to see the ghosts anymore.”
“What ghosts? I know all of that’s made up, you don’t have to keep talking like that.”
“Come over here, I can show you.”
“Alright, fine,” I walked over to Brooklyn and she handed me her camera. “What do you want me to do?”
“Take a picture.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because that’s how you can see the ghosts.”
I pointed the camera at the building’s door and pressed the button atop the camera. With a snap, the device proceeded to print a picture. It was one of those old cameras that could print-on-demand, the photos weren’t very big, though. I have no idea why Brooklyn would have something so useless in a day and age where cellphones could take better quality pictures, but it was a unique novelty.
The photo printed had some kind of grainy filter over it, or it seemed that way. Lines of black ink stretched across the picture, it almost looked like it was melting away. There was nothing out of the ordinary with the picture, except a faint glow around the door’s handle.
“There it is! That’s the ghost!”
“What do you mean? This is probably just a printing defect. I bet it’d be in a completely different place if you just retook the photo.”
“Well then, try it again.”
“Really? This thing’s gonna run out of film eventually, right?”
“Just do it, I don’t care.”
I snapped another photo, and the same small distortion remained.
“Wait, what?” I said. “This really is in the photo.”
“I told you, it’s a footprint from the ghosts.”
“So you’re telling me this place really is haunted?”
“You bet! I’m sure you’ll find lots of ghosts inside!”
“Why haven’t you gone inside yet then?”
“Because it’s scary, and the ghosts might haunt me in my sleep if I disturb them.”
“Don’t be such a coward, I’m sure they won’t hurt a nice young girl like you.”
“Shut up, why don’t you go inside if I’m just being a coward.”
“Fine, I will. Do you want me to bring in your camera and take pictures?”
“Of course I do!” She handed me the camera “Be careful with that, it’s an antique!”
“I will, don’t worry.” I put my own camera in its bag and hung Brooklyn’s around my neck.
As I stepped up to the library’s front door, the air around me seemed to cool, as though it was frozen stiff by what lay within. The door opened with a resounding crrreeeeeaaak as a thin layer of dust fell atop my head. Why was there so much dust here? Weren’t those other kids messing about just a few weeks ago? I pushed on regardless.
The library’s interior was designed to have an entryway corridor with a shelf of free books on the right side and the bathrooms on the left. There was another library with a room like this on the rural side of Washington that I visited once with my friend, but the similarities ended there. A set of glass double doors gated me off from the main space. Were they locked? I put my hands on the handles and pushed lightly as the doors swung open. It was an automatic door. I’m surprised they keep the power flowing to this place considering it’s been out of use for a long time. I stepped into the main library space and smelled something off. I couldn’t quite understand why, but there was a sinister, oppressive atmosphere to this place. It was as though my body screamed to run while I ignored my intuition.
All of the shelves were mostly empty, the only books seemed to be in the “on-hold” shelves. That seemed odd to me, why would they clear out the rest of the library and not take the books out of hold? Anyhow, I instinctively walked up the hold shelf closest to the main space of the library and pulled out one of the books. The cover had an odd, smooth texture and lacked any kind of text or imagery. I opened it to the first page. The abandoned library was dark, but the text was readable.
“I walked into the building and saw a corpse hanging from the ceiling. Shocked, I immediately left. I went back home and slept; it was evening. The next day, I woke up and returned. I pulled the body down, knife in hand, and removed the canvas. Across that canvas sprawled the dead man’s story, but I didn’t bother reading it. There were more important things to do. He didn’t shed blood, I assumed he had been dead for a long time. I toiled. I toiled. I toiled. Day one. Day two. Day three. Day four. My hands were raw and bruised from work, but eventually, my craft was done. Satisfied, I placed my finished work on the shelf and walked up to the final stage. My body was weak from starvation and thirst. I tied my end and hung there as the darkness finally claimed me. I was dead.”
I had paged through the entire book, where only a single page remained. What was this? The pages were all so thick and they had the same texture as the cover. Was this book made of… Human skin?
I gulped in a deep breath and turned the page once more. I dropped the terrifying thing to the ground and threw myself back against another shelf as it stared back at me. The inside of the book’s cover bore a face, stretched out flat and eyeless. What the hell? Who… Who would do something like this? I put my hand to my mouth as I felt vomit build up in my neck. I held on to the metal cage that surrounded me as I crawled my way out of the library to safety.
Once I left the shelves, however, my eyes were drawn to something, hanging on a rope from the ceiling. My eyes widened as I fell backward to the floor. Someone else was dead. How many people died here? I was going to die. That was the feeling of dread from before, I was going to die, wasn’t I?
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