They close the doors at nine, after the last reader has gone home. The librarian checks the locks and turns out the light, and leaves her desk lamp on. For the stories. They like to be able to see at night, when they come out to play.
She told me that. She tells all of us children the same stories about the books on her shelves, but none of the others believed her.
I do, though. I do, or I wouldn’t be hiding behind the shelves at the back of the library, tucked behind the dictionaries where she can’t see me. I hear her heels click on the floor as she checks the windows, the doors one last time, then the light flicks off and she’s gone.
And I’m still here. Locked inside with all the stories for the rest of the night.
At first it’s very quiet, so quiet that I can hear my own heartbeat, hear my own breath. Nothing happens, and I begin to fear that the others were right, that she was lying to us.
Then the first dragon slips from between the books, gliding across the room to settle on a reading desk. My breath jumps, my heartbeat rising. His scales are gold and green, his eyes fire and soot. A knight appears among the shelves, his armor battle-stained and dented. He takes off his helmet, leans his sword against the wall, and runs his fingers along the books. As if to wake the others still sleeping.
They come out one by one. Headless men, ghosts and ghouls, even a unicorn. A faerie settles on the desk next to me, blinking at me with sleepy eyes as if she thinks I don’t really belong here.
She’s wrong, of course. This is the only place I really do belong.