The three volunteers who wrap the holds at the library became obsolete, but they wouldn’t leave. With the advent of the new receipt printers, which had the capability to print sticky labels the librarians could just smack onto the materials patrons had put on reserve, the need for Wrappers—for “Rubber-Banders,” as they liked to call themselves—waned. They were pointless in a matter of days.
The library manager told his young librarians to just let them be.
“Yeah,” he said softly at his desk in the work room, with the librarians crowded around him. They watched the volunteers sit in silence at their table three desks away. They sat transfixed by nothing. “Just let them be. Let them sit. They’ll leave when they get bored. Or they’ll die here, and we’ll clean up their bones.” He stared into the youngest librarian’s eyes. “This is the natural life cycle for many of you.”
He offered the three volunteers shelving opportunities like the rest of the volunteers—like the rest of the obsolete library people, but one of them shoved a full library cart into him.
In time, the three volunteers who wrapped the holds at the library started reading texts from the obscure and forgotten section in the deepest corners of the ancient building. They were librarians themselves, once, before their backs gave out and the arthritis seeped into their bones. While they delicately placed slips of paper denoting the patron’s library card number on the fragile, stained spines of books and such, they liked to talk about their families. They liked to gossip about and judge the new librarians quietly, then louder as they moved closer to the end of their wrapping and their hands grew raw from rubber bands snapping against their flesh. They spoke as if drunk on the sting.
“They don’t have any idea what it was like when we worked here,” they would say. “The babies. The little library fetuses with their computers and their radio frequency identification tags. We remember the before, which will be much like the after.”
It was a Tuesday when the library manager arrived early to get things ready for the day ahead at 8:30 in the morning. In the workroom, he found the three volunteers seated at their table, holding hands above a tome older, at least, than the library’s massive renovations in 1989. Probably much older, since the cover appeared to be made from the skin of a human criminal and that had fallen out of fashion by ’89. The manager asked them what they were doing. They spoke back to him as a triumvirate.
“We were bored,” they said, “and we will not be bones yet.” The room began to swirl around them.
The library manager went about his opening procedures after putting in a call to the system’s other managers about the room swirling, which he hadn’t seen before. They told him to let the volunteers do what they do, because “volunteers make us blossom.” When the librarians arrived, he told them to just let the volunteers be. One of the librarians pulled out a blade and tried to stab the eldest volunteer. It broke against her diamond skin.
By noon, sickly magicks hung in the air. It stuck thick to the walls and the lungs of the patrons, most of whom passed out.
“We’ll clear their fines when they wake up,” the manager said. “Just—” Rubber bands snapped around his throat and he was thrown out onto the library floor and through shelves.
The new receipt printers exploded. The walls melted away to reveal the old stone, etched with runes and flyers for library programs long forgotten. Like when they tried to have cooking classes and the old building sustained fire damage, necessitating the commission of a massive renovation. Pictures of the volunteers’ dead coworkers smiled through the pictures of the current librarians.
The current librarians huddled by the new self-checkout kiosk.
The three volunteers who wrapped holds floated as one in the rotted rafters of the building. “We will peel the paint off this century and reveal the old one.”
Patrons scurried out the door, their bodies peeling into nothing as they did. The current librarians stepped away from the self-checkout kiosk, which peeled away into a Windows 95 computer.
“This will only happen again,” the current librarians said, their bodies peeling out of existence.
“So will this.”
Their new, aged bodies peeled away to reveal their old pink-fleshed and wrinkleless bodies. They separated and drifted softly to the carpeted floor. They inhaled the fibers. They inhaled the asbestos. They inhaled home.
Nick Perilli is a writer and library person living in Philadelphia with loved ones who have yet to watch Gremlins 2 with him. Work of his can be found in Maudlin House, Ghost Parachute, Empyreome and elsewhere. He tweets @nicoloperilli and spared no expense on his cheap website: nickperilli.com