Click. Click. Tacit Gnoll’s streets were empty much of the time, save for a stray bird or squirrel scrounging for what scraps of food were around, but today, the light footsteps of a visitor echoed through streets and alleyways which, by all means, never echoed. Though the few permanent residents rarely left their rooms, the radio was all-seeing; the radio told them all they needed to know, the radio was the star of the show. The visitor was new, the visitor was tall and thin and pale; the visitor was a human.
Listening to the monotone voice of her own radio, the librarian finished shelving the books her last clients had left strewn about the redwood tables and soft couches, gingerly placing them so as not to tear their delicate pages. Each and every one was by a different, unknown author, describing vivid recollections of their lives- bound by leather and trimmed with gold, they were likely some of the fanciest possessions in town, aside from her dress and maybe the candles that never seemed to fully melt. Quinn placed a kettle on her small, portable stove, and waited for the tea to come to a boil, sitting at her desk all the while.
Life was nice. But, indeed, people were such trifling creatures- instead of exploring, they often went to the place where they could learn where to avoid, and that, after the town’s entrance, was the humble library, where knowledge was held within experience, the stories that followed it around making for quite a show. The woman laughed at the thought of anyone actually remembering this dull place, when she heard the rumored footsteps making their way towards the door- such brisk, light things they were, probably attempting to make themselves unknown.
Figures. The other residents were quite...unwelcoming, unlike her. Ah, she welcomed people wholeheartedly- what is a traveler but a new addition to your story, a new page, a new character with feelings and a past and maybe a future, if they live to change and develop. Brushing long, turquoise hair- she took to dying it with the leather dye, just for fun- she listened for the soft, cheerful chime of the doorbell, and when it came, she pretended to look up from her book in surprise, smiling and welcoming the newcomer while offering them some tea.
Quinn allowed them to speak of their confusion and fear about the town, as she did with all travellers. They were a track star, on their way to a full-ride athletic scholarship, and while they were out jogging to keep up their endurance, they blacked out and woke up on the border of the town without knowing how they got there. A familiar beginning- it was an overused plot hook, yes, but it worked well enough to get her invested. Make her a bit more genuinely welcoming towards them.
She said little, only yes and no and ‘oh, wow’ whenever something exciting came up in his story, but soon went back to work organizing the shelves, instructing him to take his time reading and to not be too loud- it was a library, after all- and a part of her, a small, buried part of her, hoped that he would leave without asking about her or about the books. Humans were curious, but humans were just as likely to keep things to themselves. Alas, the fool speaks their mind, and doesn’t even do it in a fearful manner like the others- their eyes are wide in anger, and they stand up, pointing at the pages of a book bound by blue and red leather with a shaky hand.
“Miss, what the hell is your problem?! The end of the one about that baseball player mentioned a librarian, and I thought that was weird, but this one quotes this town by name!” They shouted, staring her down with an icy glare that reminded her of a detective she once knew...well, she still does. Her worst enemies, after all, are the ones she keeps closest to her. “You some sorta serial killer who traps people in books to die!? What the hell?!?”
Oh, that angered her. She could feel her body cracking at the seams, and silently thanked herself for wearing a sweater over her normal dress today, as streams of dark ink ran down her arms. Few got this particular treatment, much less teenagers, but she was certainly in a mood today; Quinn merely grinned, a wild grin, and walked closer, picking up the book and looking at it before snapping it shut and slipping it back into the hole on the bookshelf.
“Dear, dear. I think you’re looking too much into this.” She spoke, her voice so sweet and calm, as she turned away, hoping to lull him into a false security many knew and took without thinking. “Seriously. Me, being able to trap a star slugger in a book- do I look that strong? Do I look that strong? Tell me, truthfully...do I look that strong?”
“Do I look strong?”
“I- get away from me-”
“Tell me, mister James. Do I look strong?”
Now, there was palpable fear in the athlete’s dull brown eyes, and she reveled in it, for it was real and it was caused by her, and the sadistic part of her thought it was such a beautiful thing, to bring out the hidden depths in people. It made for a good climax to their stories. She knew their name, she knew their past- she always has and she always will, now. After all, a god of writing, of ink and pen and paper, of books and documents of all kind, certainly can access the information that’s been recorded in such formats; their name was James Rivera, a young athlete from Canada hoping to make it big in America. A narcissistic person to the common person, but truly someone who cares for their friends and family and doesn’t mean ill intent on anyone, well, except her now, of course.
“Do I look strong, James?”
The cracks in her skin grew larger, and her fingers began to drip the opaque black ink, staining the carpet to match the rest of the library. Quinn grinned again, now wild and dripping with the ink, running down her face and legs and hair- liquidy arms hovered behind her, clawed hands stretching their fingers, as if they had been confined and disused for a long, long time. James backed up against the bookshelf, their sweaty hands grasping desperately at the wood, but alas, in this story, the ‘villain’ wins.
The arms lunged for their neck, and held them in place, with a firm grip that was gentle enough to allow them to breathe. Having them struggle to breathe would hinder her goals, not to mention, be annoying as all hell. She laughed sweetly again when hovering off the inky floor, gently placing one of her own real, tangible fingers on their chest- and shoving it right through as it became nothing more than ink, staining his clothes. She didn’t want them dead, after all; oh, the body could die, yes, but the mind and spirit were far more interesting and resilient. Picking up a plain, leather-bound book she had sitting nearby, she removed her hand and allowed the ink to run down it, dripping onto the pages. It dried, and slowly, surely, began to form words on the title page.
‘Achilles’ Downfall, James K. Rivera.’ Lovely. She would have to read it later, when it finished. Or didn’t. After all, she didn’t have any control over whether or not the minds were still functional in the bodies of books, if they were aware of their predicament or ended up dying after all.
Picking up the body, which was still breathing but was nothing more than a shell, Quinn yawned and made her way out of the library, whose wooden storefront had a very clear handprint on it where she often supported herself after these bouts of energy and power. She silently thanked whatever was above for the rain, knowing it would wash away the ink, and set the athlete down a decent distance away. On her way back, she smiled and mused to herself, hearing the kettle blow its whistle all the way from there.
“Hopefully Basil enjoys this. I think he was getting low on ingredients…”