33: A Number all of His Own

This chapter is the first part of a two parter submitted by regular Sh contributor Duncan Cheshire. Sh reminds borrowers not to play like this at home.

The air of the computer room vibrates with the crashing drums of the music emanating from below, and with John's screaming. His hands clamped around Mike's throat, John squeezes and squeezes, his palms pressing against the sinews and muscles protecting the ridged windpipe. He screams all the while, screaming about the rise of computers, about the slide into obsolescence of the library system, about borrowers being able to search the catalogue online without asking him, about this insufferable tit of a man, with his ctrl-alt-del t-shirt who burned a book before his very eyes! A Shakespeare at that!


A number all to himself.

John hasn't read any Shakespeare since his school days, but any author with their own Dewey Decimal number must be someone special.

Redoubling his efforts, John puts all of his strength into righting one of the many wrongs that had been committed against the library.

Mike's vision begins to blur, or vibrate, he couldn't tell anymore. He knows John is unable to control himself around technology, or any talk about the internet replacing libraries, or any damage being done to a book. Mike knows John grits his teeth if someone folds a page or cracks the spine of a book, let alone burns one. But Mike did it anyway! He'd shown them. He'd shown the librarians that there was no way to avoid what was coming. The future is here, demanding your attention like a boorish employer: you cannot hide from it.

Mike's head throbs slowly, every vein and artery trying to work and force blood back to his heart past the constricting hands at his throat. He flexes his neck but doesn't know how much longer he can hold out. He tries to claw at John's face, or pull his hands from his throat, but John is too strong.

Something flickers to his left. Shakespeare's Sonnets, burning quietly.

Mike stops trying to poke John in the eye and reaches over with his right hand, picking up the burning book. The fire scorches his skin, but he doesn't care. He slaps the flaming cover into the side of John's face and holds it there. John bucks and shies, throwing himself backwards to get away from the fire.

Mike coughs, rolls onto his front and begins crawling towards the door.

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