Seaside Public Library
This month for my Between the Covers article I am pleased to present a brief excerpt of a short story written by local author Melissa Eskue Ousley. Melissa is an award-winning author living on the Oregon coast with her family, a neurotic dog, and a piranha. Among other awards Melissa has received, her debut novel, “Sign of the Throne,” won a 2014 Reader’s Favorite International Book Award and a 2014 Eric Hoffer Book Award. Her suspense novel, “Pitcher Plant,” was published in May of 2017 and is set in Seaside. When she’s not writing, she can be found walking along the beach, poking dead things with a stick.
I am presenting this short story as a tie-in to the upcoming fundraiser for Libraries ROCC and the Library Foundation, a joint fundraiser to support children’s library services across Clatsop County. The fundraiser will be held on Saturday March 31 at the Seaside Convention Center.
Now, without further ado, here is an excerpt from the story titled “Ghost in the Stacks.”
‘Ghost in the Stacks’
Rebecca had heard the rumors about the library being haunted, but she never believed the stories. Edna Williams, a librarian obsessed with superstitions, once told Rebecca she’d heard strange noises coming from the non-fiction section. She had described it as a low rumble that didn’t sound quite human. Rebecca figured it was probably Bill Hawkins, fast asleep in an armchair. The man snored loud enough to wake the dead. Besides, Mrs. Williams was afraid of just about everything —she jumped at the sound of wind whistling as winter storms rattled the library’s old windows.
Beth Richardson said she saw an odd shadow lurking in historical fiction. “It was shaped like a person, but all black,” Beth told Rebecca. “It felt like it was looking right at me, but then it faded. I never got a clear look at it, but it gave me goosebumps.” Beth didn’t scare easily — she worked on the after-school program for teens—but she looked pale as she shared her story. Rebecca wasn’t sure what to think about that.
Michael Levin, who managed acquisitions, believed the ghost could be one of the library’s former directors, Thomasina Gladwell, who had died in 1936. Ms. Gladwell had served as the town’s first librarian, when the library was built in 1905.
Rebecca had never experienced anything weird in her three years working at the library. She usually worked the final shift of the day, ushering out patrons at eight in the evening. She was often the last person to leave, after shutting down computers, tidying shelves, and turning off the lights. If the library was haunted, wouldn’t she have seen or heard something? She hadn’t though, and she’d grown to love that quiet time when she had the building to herself. Walking through the library at night felt like visiting a sanctuary. It gave Rebecca a sense of peace.
That was why Rebecca was more startled than scared when she heard a clatter near the back of the library. She had just turned off the lights and was headed toward the front door when it happened. Curious, she turned on the lights again, and sauntered over to the fiction section. There, scattered on the floor, were three books. Rebecca stared for a moment, confused. She had just walked all the aisles, making sure everything had been put back in place, re-shelving stray books set on reading tables by patrons. If there had been books left on the floor, Rebecca would have spotted them.
She shrugged and then scooped up the books so she could return them to their places on the shelves. The odd thing was, these books didn’t even belong in the aisle where she’d found them. The first, “A Dirty Job,” by Christopher Moore, should have been shelved two stacks down from where she stood. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood, belonged four aisles to the left. The third book, “Little Fires Everywhere,” by Celeste Ng, should have been filed three stacks to the right. How weird, Rebecca thought. The books couldn’t have simply fallen off the shelves, unless they’d been shelved incorrectly in the first place. Well, that happened sometimes.
After putting the books back on the shelves, Rebecca walked toward the front door again. She checked the clock above the circulation desk — nearly 8:30. It was getting late, and Rebecca’s golden retriever, Pumpkin, would be hungry by now. She picked up her pace, wanting to get home.
Just as she reached the door, she heard another crash coming from the stacks. “What is going on?” she murmured. Intrigued, she turned around and walked back to the fiction section. She wasn’t surprised to see two books lying on the floor in aisle G, but she was shocked to find that one of them was Celeste Ng’s, a book Rebecca had shelved not five minutes before. The other was Magic Hour, by Susan Isaacs, and lay half on top of the first book. Shaking her head, Rebecca picked up the books and shelved them in alphabetical order, Isaacs then Ng. She started to wonder if the library was indeed haunted. If so, she decided, the ghost had a knack for being annoying.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Melissa’s story, check this article again next month for more from Melissa’s spooky library story and save the date March 31 to attend the author extravaganza and little library auction at the Seaside Convention center. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are available for sale at the Astoria Public Library, Beach Books, Seaside Public Library, and the Warrenton Public Library. Attendees will have a chance to bid to have a name or character placed in the short stories. I hope to see you there.