The dull whine and thud of gunfire was constant now, puffs of concrete spraying his face as bullets impacted the wall beside him. He ducked back around the corner, eyeing up the building they were protecting. A fucking Library of all things. Someone up high must have a hell of a sense of humour. Tony was still sprawled where he had dumped him, moaning softly. Dark blood oozing out between the fingers clamped across his midriff. The blood was liverish, and he knew Tony wouldn't last much longer. The rest of the squad were dead, apart from Mike, who even now was trying to open the doors of the damned building they were supposed to protect. Shit had been pear shaped from the very beginning.
He'd been nonplussed when Major Arnold had called him aside to send his squad to this sector. It was supposed to be a neutral zone, full of non combatants, an easy job… He spat the dust from his mouth and grimaced, moving his arm carefully. He'd been nicked by shrapnel, nothing serious, but it still stung. His mental review of the men who had died under his command made him feel ill. He cursed the day Major Arnold had shown him that strange tattoo and sworn him to secrecy. Fucking blackmail is what it was. He'd been young and done something stupid, and now ten years later his men had paid the price with their lives.
"Sarge!" Mike's call broke his reverie and he doubled over to him. A quick glance at Tony's glassy eyes had convinced him there was no need to drag the poor fucking bastard any further.
Mike had the old building open, the gothic architecture looming like a mausoleum above them. Ironic as hell, it would probably be their tomb. The thick padlock that had held the chains around the door handles was discarded on the dusty carved stone steps, the heavy brass bound doors now slightly ajar. Mike pushed his wire rim glasses up his nose nervously. Poor kid was a communications specialist, more used to having his ass behind a computer than being out here in the field. Fuck knows why they had sent him along this time. Least he'd managed the padlock ok, must be something to be said for having a misspent youth.
He pushed the door open, the barrel of his M249 leading the way. He'd been given specific orders not to enter the building under any circumstances, but fuck that, they were being massacred. Mike pushed the doors closed behind them, there was nothing to bar them with, so he jammed his own gun between the handles.
The building was huge, the atrium where they had entered marble floored with high arched ceilings. He crossed the slick dustless white veined tiles, his boots squeaking as he walked. Beyond tall dark wood shelves disappeared into the gloom, stretching further than what he could see. The building hadn't looked so vast from the outside, but he hadn't been looking too hard. When you're being shot to hell you tend to focus on the obvious threat, not the architecture.
Mike jogged over to join him, the skinny red haired kid was sweating like he'd run a marathon. Nerves eh, when he got back he was gonna chew someone out about sending the desk jockey along for the ride. He hardly looked old enough to be enlisted, but then they all looked like babies to him now. Twenty years ago that had been him. Twenty long fucking years and he'd only made Sergeant. That was the price of being a mouthy bastard though. A low swell of music spun him on his heel, gun trained down one of the long shelf lined aisles. ~Bada bada bada boom boom boom, damn that's familiar~ beside him Mike mumbled something.
"Say again solider?"
Mike blushed to the roots of his hair and mumbled slightly louder "Tchaikovsky's overture 1812, opus. 49 Sarge."
The sign above the aisle was 700's, he stepped warily, finger pressed against the trigger. The music swelled, reaching a crescendo as he passed the numbered shelves, their depths disappearing into the eternal gloom. Mike coughed nervously and he shot him a shut the fuck up glance before treading further on. He reached the shelf he thought the music was coming from, 785 Chamber Music. Some bastard has a sick sense of humour.
He signalled Mike to stay where he was, and carefully edged himself along the end shelf, peering around the corner. What. The. Fuck? The aisle was empty of life, the long narrow reading desk down the middle simply not big enough to hide anyone. But that wasn't what had stopped him in his tracks. On the table was a book, a manuscript to be exact, and it was glowing, eldritch light flowing out of the open pages. He rounded the corner, gun forgotten in his hands, walking towards the source of the music. The paper was old, a hand written score flowing across the page. The sight of the archaic crabbed scrawl left him shaking slightly.
"Sarge?" Mike's voice was strained, tremulous.
"What is it solider?" Best to remind him they were still on duty here. Give him something to cling to. Give himself something to cling to too. Frankly this place was starting to weird him out badly.
"I can hear someone coming Sarge."
He double timed back to where he'd left the kid. They walked as silently as they could down the carpet runner that spanned the polished wood floors under the shelving. There shouldn't be anyone in here, the area had been evacuated for months, and the doors had been chained shut. His gut curled and his neck prickled, this place gave him the worst of bad feelings. The flooring switched back to the polished marble and he looked over at the main doors. They were still firmly wedged shut, Mike's gun jammed hard between the long U shaped brass handles. That was some consolation at least.
A furtive scuffling sound swung his gun in the opposite direction, back towards the towering shelves. It was coming from the 100's, on the other side of the atrium. Hitching the strap on his gun more comfortably he motioned Mike to follow him as rear guard. The squeak of his boots sounded horribly loud in the near silence, and the scuffling halted like someone had thrown a switch. Goddamn, I'm starting to think we should have taken our chances outside.
He jogged the rest of the way, halting as he hit the carpet. He stood listening for long moments. The scuffle resumed, though it sounded more like dragging footsteps now. Careful to stay silent he paced down the shelves, Philosophy, Metaphysics, Ontology… The sounds were coming from further down. A glance behind him revealed Mike was pale under his smattering of freckles. His hands shaking on the handgun he was holding. What's got the kid so spooked?
130 Paranormal phenomena, the sounds were coming from down that stack of shelving. Fuck, seriously? He gritted his teeth, swallowing down the fear clutching at him. No time for that, has to be some rational explanation, no such thing as fucking ghosts after all. Nothing a bullet couldn't fix. He turned to look at Mike and cursed, stepping backwards rapidly. Where the skinny assed kid had been standing moments before there was now a tall menacing figure made of darkness. It was like it had sucked all the gloom into itself. No features were visible, just long clawed arms, and an unnaturally long body. All made of inky blackness.
"Sorry Sarge." Even its voice was inky, dark and powerful. "You should have listened to them. Nobody who gets into The Library is allowed to leave again."
"Et tu Mike?" he muttered before he turned and took off between the shelving at a dead sprint. Fucked if he was going to get eaten by the ghost of books not yet written. He wasn't a member of the strangest cult in existence for nothing…