Ill Omens & New Beginnings
rating: +11+x

You put the book back on the shelf and sigh, the dark bags weighing heavily under your eyes. You're too tired to keep reading tonight. Besides, your headlamp batteries aren't cheap, don't want to burn through them too quickly.

You’ve been going nonstop for two days now. Friends come by to voice their concerns, you just try to play it off as simply wanting to get some projects done sooner rather than later. But the result of your faux dedication was the sheer exhaustion you were currently feeling. Maybe this wasn't as good of an idea as you had initially thought. The uncomfortable truth was you had been willfully trying to avoid falling asleep for the last few days, far too anxious to feel comfortable drifting off.

You’ve been a patron of the Library for years, coming and going as you please. And for as long as you had been around, the Library had been a rather peaceful place. A little bit of friendly chaos every now and then, but nothing dangerous. However, something was… off lately. Though no one you talked to had any idea of what might be going on. It was a hard feeling to ignore, like a static charge in the air. As if the Library itself was holding its breath, waiting to see what would happen next. Lights were shut off at inconvenient times. Reading rooms and doors to common areas were found to be inexplicably locked at random intervals, as if to corral patrons to main sections of the Library.

The staff were noticeably more restless than before. They were out in greater numbers, wandering the vast shelves. Pages started snatching people up as they walked by, hoisting them up with their powerful, lithe arms and staring at them with an intense focus before gently setting them back down. Continuing to leap from shelf to shelf as if nothing had occurred. Docents began conducting raids. Barging into camps and common areas demolishing them in a futile, frantic attempt to search for something, before they too simply wandered back off into the recess of the Library.

It scared a lot of people. Some decided to leave for their own worlds for a while, most others decided to hunker down in their camps- silently waiting for the moment to pass. Whatever it was that was causing this, prompting them to behave like this- couldn’t be good.

You’ve been walking toward the spot you could've sworn your bed was. In your half awake stupor you almost charge right into a Docent making its way down the hall. You step aside, half expecting the lanturn wielding staff member to turn on you. But to the contrary, it doesn't even acknowledge your existence. It continues onward, taping a notice to the side of a nearby shelf before briskly walking off, the light of its lanturn fading into the dark. You decide to take a look at the paper.

To all patrons,

As always, we encourage all the studious and curious minds that grace the halls of the Library to share in the vast knowledge available. You’ve been welcome to come and go with the use of the various Ways connected to the Library. However, tampering with the Ways will not be tolerated. For the wellbeing of the Library and your fellow patrons, please report any suspicious behavior or sightings to the staff immediately.

Thank you, and please continue to enjoy your stay.

You rub your weary eyes, contemplating what it was you just read. How does one tamper with a Way? They exist, you open it, and go through to where you're headed. It's not like it's something you can physically interact with. The idea of tampering with Ways sends a shiver down your spine. You're too tired to put much more thought into it right now. Gently folding the note into your back pocket, you keep walking back to your camp.

Morning offers no solace as you continue your daily routine. The familiar hallways and rooms seemed to have lost their luster, the joy and comfort they once offered no longer as potent. Whether that was due to your own fear or the Library itself reacting to recent events, you couldn't tell. You walk down the hall, coming across a curious sight.

Smack dab in the middle of the hallway, there was a perfectly round indent in the left wall. You gawk at the size of the hole, its glassy smooth texture practically glistening in the light. Who or what could’ve cut a chunk out the wall like this? Running your fingers over it, you recoil at the intense heat emanating from the stone. There's no smoke, no heat in the air. No signs that whatever caused this happened recently, yet there it remained. Like the warmth emanating off a fresh wound. You walk a little faster, leaving the puzzling sight of destruction behind.

You wander your way out to the main hall and notice a Page handing out flyers to a group of wanderers. It seems to notice your presence and leaps over to you pulling another flyer from… well, somewhere. It doesn't have a bag so you’re not sure where the paper came from. It seems appreciative when you take the paper and it jumps away, presumably to continue handing out its papers.

The paper is a similar warning to the one you picked up last night. But this one has a picture at the bottom. It shows a bookshelf with an unusual hole in the center. The books and wood have been warped outwards at an impossible degree. Yet there doesn't seem to be any damage present. It's as if something forced its way through the existing space to make that hole. You happen across several varieties of those fliers, each showing a different scene of warping and damage across the Library. By the time you go to sleep for the night, you must’ve found 13 unique warning letters.

What little sleep you had been able to get had been cut short by the sudden rush of activity from the staff. Flashes of lanterns flittering past the books and the stomp of feet against wood and polished stone roused you rather quickly. Couldn’t they be a little more considerate and keep the noise down? They were in a library after all. The Pages were flinging themselves from shelf to shelf while the Docents seemed to be around every corner. Sensing that things won't calm down for some time you decide to go for a walk.

You find yourself meandering through the shelves, enjoying the silence you had been craving. The stress of recent days seemed to wash away among the books. The thought of balling up your jacket and sleeping right where you were was rather tempting. But you would have no such luck. Interrupted by a flash of grey from between the shelves, you peak out into the dimly lit aisle to see an unfamiliar figure- draped in a tattered, dirty grey cloak. Their movement slows to a stop as you can see them heaving for air, they stick out a hand as if to reach out and grab something that wasn't there .

At first, you're stuck staring at this lunatic in the grey cloak, wondering why they’re acting so weird. Panic begins to set in as you realize they may be running from whatever is tampering with the Ways. Gathering up your courage, you start to run over to help the stranger. Then you start to feel the changes around you. The slight gust of wind that begins to rattle the books on the nearby shelves. Shimmers forming in the air, like ripples across water as the area around you begins to warp and distort.

There's a pang of light-headedness as a weight begins tugging on your very being, sapping the strength from your body. A pale, silver light begins to form in front of the stranger. What was that? You’ve seen plenty of portals, but nothing that felt like this. And you’ve used your fair share of Ways in your day, but it's always a simple thing. You Knock and go through. That's not what you were seeing however. This is something else, something much more profound. This feels more like the world itself is slowly and deliberately being torn open. Forcing something that was never meant to be into existence. A twinge of fear runs through your mind as you realize this is the person the Library has been looking for.

You try to stop them, to chase after them in an attempt to prevent them from doing anymore damage to the Library. The severe quivering in your legs sends you collapsing to the ground. Building pressure as the world stretches and tears makes you scream, though no words ever leave your lips. Every breath burns your lungs as the light of the portal grows ever more intense. A high pitch squeal continues to rise as the energy from the portal continues to disfigure the world around you.

With an audible ‘WHUMPF’ the portal closed in on itself, letting the world go still. The squeal dwindled into a slight ringing that hung in the air as the ambient energy dispersed. The walkway slowly fading back into darkness as any sign the stranger was there disappears.

The march of the staff closing in brought you back to clarity as you glanced around, the stranger who had opened the Way was nowhere to be seen. You don't dare move from your hiding spot as you watch the docents swarm and investigate the spot. Not that you could, you’re still too weak to stand. They seem puzzled, rather unhappy about the lack of clues and eventually wander off again. You’d have to agree with their attitude. Whoever that was,no, ‘Whatever’ that was, that…couldn't have been natural. It scared you more than anything you had experienced before. The thought crosses your mind of what the implications could be for the Library if things like these are allowed to continue.

Once the feeling in your legs comes back,you slowly walk over to the spot where the light had been and wave your hand around. The air is cold but feels charged with energy. The only way you can think to describe what you're feeling is like a torn page that had been taped together- an imperfect mesh. As if touching it too hard would cause the world to rip open once again. The quivering in your stomach dulls a bit, but you still feel sick.

You take one last look around, half expecting something to burst out of the nothingness, before you head back to your sleeping area. Despite how tired you are, you doubt you'll be getting any sleep tonight.

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