She looked innocent. Of course she did. My aunty often told me that once a woman is over 50 she becomes invisible. So how much more invisible is a little bent over old lady pulling one of those tartan shopping bags on wheels. Nobody ever thought anything of her. Nobody ever imagined what she might do.
So there we were that Thursday afternoon after school, Billy and me, just hanging out like outside the library. Not because we’re into reading or anything, just because it’s a nice shady spot in summer and there are steps and a wall to sit on, and nobody bothers you so long as you don’t make too much noise. And sometimes you can chat to some girl from another school…well, you know how it is.
Anyway, as I said, we were just hanging out and this old lady, all bent and bundled up, even though it was summer, came around the corner of the library building pulling this thing behind her. It looked kind of heavy and like something was pushing out the sides of the bag at the bottom.
She was struggling with the door while holding onto her bag, so Billy jumped up to help her. She sort of grunted and nodded at him but he said he couldn’t see her face because her head was so far back in the hood she was wearing. He said she had a funny smell too, but that’s not unusual with old people is it?
Anyway, a few minutes later there was like ‘boom’ and all the glass in the library windows shattered and the doors blew open. Then there was a huge sound like wings flapping and page after page from the library books flew out of the windows and through the doors. Strings of words slid off the pages and landed in the street where they shrivelled up. Others landed in the library garden and burrowed into the ground like so many worms. And then all the blank pages just took off like so many birds with white wings. Up and up they went into the sky which was so bright with the sun that you could hardly look.
And then there was another sound: ‘whoosh’ and would you believe it? The little old lady flew out of the doors on a something like a broomstick, although it looked more like one of those old-fashioned mops. She threw back her head and her hood blew down, long wild wispy hair went crazy around her head. ‘Free them, free the words!’ she screamed, cackling as she circled once around the library building then headed off over the cars and taxis down Victoria Street.
The library’s been closed for two months now. We still hang out there, but now we’re watching for the word worms to come up.
©2018 Chris Hall
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