By Dani Black
Sometimes, he remembers.
There was this man, long ago. Marv is not sure of who he was anymore. Some nights he thinks he sees him in the mirror, right in front of him. Taunting, haunting him. Some other nights, it seems like he's screaming.
Marv doesn't remember everything, just some moments, names, faces. It is like a puzzle, that man's life, and he only has half of the pieces. Some of them make sense; others don't. He remembers a child looking through a window, wondering what would it be like to run outside, to keep running until the house was not in sight, until the world he knew was so far away he didn't have to face it anymore. He also remembers the man, so many years later, wondering the same. If he could escape from hell.
The Library seems so quiet, sometimes. As if it was only the old, empty building that people see during the day. As if it didn't hold so many souls, so many horrors and wonders. As if Marv were there alone.
He isn't. He knows that. Even when they're not screaming, even when they don't call him and whisper sweet words, the books are watching. Marv remembers there was a time when he couldn't believe that. When he didn't want to.
That was so long ago.
There was this man, once. Marv remembers his face, round and warm and alive, he remembers a nose and blue eyes and maybe something else. Hair. Lips. He was human, once, he was just a kid and then he grew up and -and there was She, the one he swore to save. And now there's this. The Library.
He thinks he knew, then. He thinks he knew he couldn't help her, save her. But he had to try. You were such a fool, Marv.
He rests against the wall. He wishes he could close his eyes, get some sleep -he knows he used to do that. But now he needs to be awake, forever, now he needs to wander around and watch the books because they could be hungry, they could scape. He has to keep them, guard them. Make them quiet, too, until dawn comes again.
Marv met her when she was eighteen. She said she wanted to be a star, someday, sing in Broadway or go to Hollywood, maybe. Meanwhile, she worked as a waitress and wore a skirt so short he thought he'd be able to see everything, if he wanted. She was nice, he reckons. So nice, and smelled so good -he remembers vanilla and some fruit, doesn't know which one.
He told her she didn't know what she wanted. You're just a kid, Marv said; you don't have any idea of the way the world works. Out there, he hissed, Hollywood and Broadway are a nightmare. Just like everything else.
Marv was drunk, that day. Tried to leave the café without paying; she stopped him. Told him to chill out, I know exactly what's going to be like, he thinks she said, or maybe that was later. Either way, she was right. She knew.
Her name was Sylvie. Or maybe not, maybe she changed it so she sounded a little more interesting, special. Maybe she changed it the way she couldn't change the world. Marv knew he would fall for her even before it happened, somehow. It only took three dates.
He bought her dinner a few times, and she laughed at all the right jokes and answered every question and said exactly what he wanted to hear. She could've been acting, he thought, but he didn't care. Not then, not now, either. If it was an act, it had been a good one.
They could have been happy, he thinks. Maybe. They could have had something, but then there was the accident.
The car ran over her so slowly in his eyes. It was like a movie, Marv thought, like he could watch it from afar, as if it didn't hurt, as if it didn't matter. Sylvie screamed, and Marv screamed, and the world seemed to collapse for a moment. He couldn't walk, couldn't run, couldn't stop screaming, and she was laying on the floor, something dark and warm dripping out of her body. He wanted to tell her to get up, come on, Sylvie, get out of here. She didn't move.
And, just like that, it was over. Sylvie, their story, the dream. They could have been happy, he thinks even now, when he remember what that means.
There is a Library, somebody told him. Far away, going south and west, there is this Library where you could find anything. Marv thinks it was a woman, who said this, an old woman drinking and swearing and trying to drown her life, just like him. He asked if that exists, why don't you go find it. She said I've done it. Back when I was young. Look at how it turned out.
But it was worth a try. Why not.
And, true, there is the Library. Just going to the old Jenkins' farm, keep walking for like five minutes. You'll see it.
People in the village didn't want to talk about it. The Library. They didn't want to tell him how to get there, at first. There are things men cannot play with, someone said. There are things that are just too big for us. Marv didn't listen.
It's my last chance.
There are nights when he wonders if he would've stayed, and what would have happened. There are nights when he wonders if the Library was calling him, waiting for him. It doesn't really matter, though. Not now.
It was dark when he arrived. The Library looked like an old castle, a perfect location for a black-and-white horror film, he thought. The gates were closed, but a mere push was enough to open them. And there was nothing between him and the books, the one that could save Sylvie, bring her back.
Some nights, even now, Marv thinks there are things lurking in the shadows. Things without name, without form, things he doesn't want to know. That first night, the man who entered the Library thought the same. Something is watching me.
He remembers that feeling. He also remembers the smell -dust and time and something dark, powerful, alive- and the cold and the noises. For there were noises, in the Library, even then. Footsteps caused by no one, whispered words he didn't catch. He should have ran. He would have run.
But then he heard her voice.
It couldn't be, he thought. It couldn't be, because she was dead, because why now, why here. I've come this far just to get to hear you again, see you and touch you and what are you doing here, Sylvie, he wanted to ask. He didn't. He listened instead.
It was her voice, just as he remembered. Just as he remembers now, so sweet and a little bit amused, as if there was something funny everywhere. In death, even. It was her voice, and she was telling him something -Marv couldn't quite make out the words, but he could imagine. Help me, he thought she said. Help me, save me, Marv. It is too dark here.
He entered the Library, breathed deeply. There were shelves full of books everywhere, old tomes covered in dust, yellowing slowly. It could be any of these, he thought, it could be anywhere. Maybe it doesn't even exist, a little part of his mind reminded him. Maybe it is not even real.
Sylvie, he said aloud. Sylvie, please. If you're there. Tell me.
He didn't expect it to work, he didn't expect her to talk to him, guide him, but it was still disappointing. There was silence, in the Library -and he didn't realize until later how strange that was.
Then, there was a sigh. Somewhere at the end of the room. A faint sigh, and Marv followed it, because it was his only clue.
Sometimes, he wonders if he could have walked away, had he not found the book.
It was hidden between some others, but the sound was coming from there. It caught his eye -it was newer, cleaner, nicer than the others- and he took it without really thinking. He didn't even read the cover -he now knows what it says, but it doesn't make things different-; he just opened it. And that was it.
There were worms.
They came from everywhere, from nowhere, they appeared on the pages of the book and crawled up his arms, leaving a humid, slimy track. They bit, ate, they assaulted him and Marv could feel his flesh being torn apart, could feel the skin dissappearing and everything was painful, everything was so real and so utterly impossible at the same time. It was like being in a dream -a nightmare- and, for a second, he thought he saw Sylvie just in front of him, waving sadly and closing her eyes. He tried to do the same, blink and run away from all that. He couldn't.
Sometimes, he still remembers what it was like. Being alive, feeling the pain. Hurting so much he wanted to die; he fell to the floor, and suddenly there were no worms, no Sylvie, nothing. Just the book, closing itself, and Marv.
From then on, there's been just them.