A couple of weeks ago, author Chuck Wendig posted his Friday writing challenge called “Roll for Your Title.” I tried to do it and failed miserably (remember the “Remote Control Hive Mind”? Ugh.) However, my friend Shaunna gave it a shot, just for fun. She doesn’t have a blog and I love her story so I’m posting it here for you to enjoy! Leave her comments! She needs encouragement (I’m trying to convince her to start a blog of her own). Now I present…
The Apocalypse Library
A lone sleeping law student, Wendy, lifted her head from her arms and squinted toward the purple light blazing through the library windows. The dark brown hulk of the Old Caragut extension bridge was barely visible through the water streaming down the window pane.
Despite the imposing light, her eyes widened as her mentor, Professor Demsey, suddenly sat opposite her. His face, like the window behind him, seemed to be covered in grave, cascad- ing tears, though his expression was strangely resigned.
“Wendy, listen closely to me.” His voice, barely an audible whisper, beckoned Wendy to lean closer. “On the second floor, there is a book entitled, Historical Casenotes in Natural Law. I need you to bring it here quickly.”
“Historical Casenotes in Natural Law,” she repeated to herself as she walked to the first floor elevator. The light did not come on when she pressed the button, so she turned to the spiral staircase a few feet away. Halfway up the staircase, she felt the stairs shudder in response to a loud rumbling outside. She could see her table beyond the quivering abandoned stacks. The professor was gone.
Curious about the secretive urgency, Wendy walked halfway to the dark circulation desk be- fore noticing the “CLOSED” sign. Figures. She changed direction, passing the lifeless com- puter terminals, toward the card catalog room with its dust and neglected creaky door.
In the titles catalog, a carefully hand-printed manila card, probably written at the dawn of time, she thought rolling her eyes, pointed her toward the last row of stacks. As she turned the last corner, she glanced out the window. She froze.
The ever hopeful Old Caragut bridge was no longer permanently raised for boat traffic long extinct. Its iron trusses, barely exposed above the frothing river were torn and twisted like fingers clawing accusingly up out of the churning water toward an unnatural yellowish-pur- ple sky.
Blinking away tears, she hefted the volume, hugging it into her chest. Back at the table, Wendy’s heart skipped a beat as the professor suddenly appeared again across from her.
“Turn to the center binding of the book. You’ll have to find it from the top edge,” he directed. She looked at the top of the binding. By counting each page grouping methodically from the outside in, she found the place where the page groupings met in the middle. “Got it?” He whispered. She nodded. He continued talking, but a metallic, grinding roar outside over- came the professor’s already quiet voice.
“What?” Wendy’s heart pounded in her ears along with the tumult, heat began rising inside her. She strained to read his lips as they continued moving without sound.
“Pull the binding string out?” Wendy called over the noise to make sure she’d understood. Break the book? she thought incredulously. A crackling sound split the already thunderous air as the windows behind the professor began to crack and bow.
The floor beneath her lifted and lurched. Wendy’s chair toppled landing her butt first on the unsteady floor with the open book hugged tightly to her. The professor motioned for her to follow him toward the emergency stairwell. To her annoyance, he made no effort to help her up. “So much for chivalry,” she muttered, scurrying after him.
Inside the stairwell, the tremors ceased and the noise was muffled. In the dim red glow of emergency lighting, she followed him up and up always half a flight behind. She entered the landing outside the sixth floor, barely able to keep her breath.
“Stop!” she panted, arriving at the stairs just below him. “Where are we going?”
“Can you hear me better in here?” His ghostly whisper came more clearly now, but still just audible. She nodded. “Nice to know I designed something right.” he said to himself, taking a satisfied look at the steady stairwell protecting them.
Seeing the seventh floor exit sign through his left temple, she realized why he hadn’t helped her up from the floor. She reached a trembling hand slowly through his transparent face.
“Wendy, you are the last person left of my world and the first, the creator, of yours. I’m almost gone,” he gestured to his immaterial self. The dim lights flickered. She was still clutching the book. Is this really the last thing left from the world? Am I?
“You don’t have to understand it right this second,” his fading voice continued. “If I had more time, we could study the world’s repetitive rebirth together.” He sighed wistfully. “It’s all in the book you are holding. For now, just believe that it’s possible.”
Under his encouraging eyes, she sat on the stair, found the spot again, and bent the pages back as far as they could go. She exhaled and zipped out the thin gold string. “Now what?”
“Press the binding open,” he coaxed. Inside, she saw a small, but sturdy pebble, shimmery and glowing.
The red emergency light in the hall died, bathing them in darkness, except for an increasing glow from the tiny orb before them. A peaceful stillness filled the air.
“Hold the rock and imagine your world. The historical casenotes will guide you. First, read them all to understand how the natural laws apply. Reread them until you are inspired, ready to build. And, Wendy?” She looked up at his reassuring smile. “Make it exquisite.”
The tiny light illuminated the book’s Table of Contents. She saw thousands of names. First, Henrich Tongin – refraction, reflection, and further down, Spero Wondernsonn – unity, music. Name after name were each followed by a one or two word summary of their achievements.
The sphere’s light continued to slowly expand, as parts of Professor Demsey diminished and disappeared. When the final stitch of her mentor had vanished, Wendy watched his legacy appear. The binding resealed and the words describing his casenote contents boldly wrote themselves across the page: Reginald Demsey – industry, innovation.
She pondered – what two words would follow her name? Resolutely, she turned to page one and began.