I did another writing prompt, and wrote a lot more this time. I'm actually very interested in the world that was created during the little writing session I had on Tuesday night, and I'm curious as to what y'all think as well :) Let me know in the comments!
Prompt #2: “Smoke hung so thick in the library’s rafters that she could read words in it.”
Smoke hung so thick in the library’s rafters that she could read words in it. She thought it might be Twain or Dickens, but one could never be sure without close inspection. I guess I should inspect it, then, she thought, pushing her glasses back on the bridge of her nose. It is my job. She glanced from side to side, taking in the empty aisles and the bookshelves lined row upon row in every direction out from where she stood. The place was closed, of course, but she checked anyway.
She seemed to remember a time when she had enjoyed libraries.
The smoke continued to curl and stretch as if reaching for something. Probably the nearest romance novel. She absolutely hated when it got a hold of one of those. She stepped across the empty space that separated two blocks of bookshelves and into the aisle below the smoke. A quick glance confirmed her fears—the sign at the start of the section read in bold letters: ROMANCE. She sighed and squinted up at the swath of black cloud above her little blonde head, wondering how she had ever gotten into this mess.
The naked eye could only reveal so much about the content of a particular cloud, though you could usually draw generalities by the shape and thickness of each mass. She made a few notes on the legal pad she always carried with her—even though she had a Deconstructor, she always tried to make a few general notes by hand first. More than once she had been interrupted while trying to Deconstruct a cloud, so she didn’t want to take the chance that she would get zero information out of this visit. She had wasted too many resources attempting to get access to the place to have to hightail it out with nothing to show for it.
Definitely Twain, she wrote, eyeing the opaque mass with a critical eye. She felt a little zing of pride in herself at having being able to recognize that fact from such a distance. Being the youngest Partner in the entire firm was definitely hard sometimes. That was one of the reasons she hadn’t gotten a new mentor when Sally had died. She didn’t have to worry about anyone looking over her shoulder anymore.
Sorry, Sally, she prayed to the silence of the night. Sorry that I don’t miss you.
She continued to make notes. Twain, for sure. The patterns give it away. She adjusted her glasses and then frowned. But no Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, she added. Twain’s early travel literature. She had never seen a cloud grab that before. Usually they went after the pulpy stuff. She scanned along the length of the cloud, taking it in again. No, this one wasn’t trying to grab the romance novels around it. It was actually...moving away from them?
She made a face and then another note.
She watched the cloud's movement for a minute, noting that the seemingly random twisting and curling she had seen earlier was actually a very slow, careful movement down the rows of bookshelves. “Hmm,” she mumbled, making a note about the rate of movement, and then turned and hustled in the direction the cloud had apparently come from. She moved up the rows and saw the different section titles, noting each one as she passed it. ROMANCE, WESTERN, SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, HISTORY.
TRAVEL. She stopped there, fingering the spines of the books as she passed, looking for any title that caught her attention. It was modern stuff, for the most part. Travelogues, obviously, guides for sight-seeing at various locations. She saw Peter Stark’s Astoria, a historical travelogue of a trip across the continent to the pacific ocean retold from old letters. She had read that once, a long time ago, but it only jumped out to her because she had enjoyed it. She didn’t think it had anything to do with the cloud.
She looked for a few more moments before huffing and coming to a stop at the end of a shelf containing several books on the Hawaiian Islands. It wasn’t here. Where was it, then? She sighed and continued up the line, looking at the various sections. She was beginning to grow worried. She had never found a cloud quite like this before, and she wanted to make sure she had the right book before she tried to Deconstruct it. She was about to give up when she found it.
Perfect. That made sense. Using all the skills she had gained from her four years as a junior librarian, she quickly scanned through the books and found the one she wanted. She didn’t know it before this moment, but she was sure now that this was the book the cloud had manifested from. The Innocents Abroad. She silently cursed the library worker who had thought to put the book here—it very obviously belonged in the travel section. Small town libraries are the worst. She thumbed through the book as fast as she could and slipped it into her satchel. When she brought her hand back out, she had the Deconstructor. Time to finish this. She stepped out into the main aisle and looked down the length of the library.
It was gone.
The smoke had disappeared. She froze for a moment, flabbergasted. Where had it gone? The rafters were clear, the ambient buzz of Twain’s words were gone from her head. She hadn’t even realized they had been there until now. Did the cloud deconstruct on its own? That had never happened before. She cursed aloud, and cringed a little at the volume of the profanity echoing through the empty library.
And then she ran.
The Deconstructor hummed to life in her hand, and she was comforted by the warmth of it, despite the cold spike of fear that had lodged itself in her heart. The reverse side of the signs bombarded her vision in rapid succession. TRAVEL, HISTORY, FANTASY, SCIENCE FICTION, WESTERN, ROMANCE.
And then she was at the front of the library, and the cloud was nowhere in sight. The lobby was empty, not only of people, but of any trace of the cloud. This doesn’t happen. This can’t be happening to me. And then, before she could stop herself, she thought, I wish Sally were here.
Her knuckles went white as she gripped the Deconstructor. The only other thing she could guess was that it had exited the building somehow. But that didn’t usually happen either. None of this should be happening right now. She had been a Partner for six months, and she’d seen plenty of clouds. This one wasn’t acting like any of them. She stepped to the window and looked out at the amber-lit main street of the small town, and what she saw made her freeze again.
She had found the cloud. It was twice as big as she remembered it being. And there was what looked like a person in it. That had never... She stopped herself from thinking it.
What was the cloud doing? Why was it acting like this? She stood there for a moment, frozen with indecision as much as with fear. What am I doing? she berated herself. This is literally my job. I have to go out there and figure this out. She walked over to the front door of the library and pushed her way out into the night. The person in the cloud turned towards her.
And then she looked into the face of Mark Twain.