52: Something Nasty In the Library

As Mike runs into the office something strange happens to The Boss.

She was starting to feel like she'd been dangling upside down for a long time. A really long time. She was starting to wonder if everyone in the library and the outside world (it's been years since she's even remembered there was such a disordered, noisy, bookless place) had forgotten about her.

And then the blood started to throb through her brain, beating like a drum, like a whole pit of percussionists, like a bin-bag of pots and pans being thrown down the stairs. Her gums and eyeballs started to throb. Her skirt, brushing against her chin, seemed to be throbbing too, although that wasn't possible.

These migraines are enough to make the library itself tremble, The Boss thought, and then the sentences in her head scattered and made themselves into a picture that looked like a heap of broken twigs and umbrella spokes, and was frightening.

The Boss closed her thrumming eyes and let her legs go limp just as Mike opened the stationery cupboard door.

She collapses into his arms, and he catches her, but she doesn't know anything about it.

'Linda,' Mike says, 'get the First Aid Box, The Boss has...'

Linda hesitates at the door. 'I'm not allowed to do First Aid on The Boss,' she says, 'it's a rank thing. It's about line-management structure, and council hierarchy. It's in the Staff Manual.'

Mike sinks to the carpet on his knees, half in and half out of the cupboard. He pulls The Boss' skirt over her legs and doesn't look.

'She's fainted!' he says, 'she needs some First Aid.'

'What she needs,' Linda says, 'is a cup of tea and some Fresh Air.'

Mike opens his mouth to argue, but The Boss twitches in his lap. She flutters her eyes open.

'There's something nasty in the library,' she slurs, 'Games and Puzzles.'

The Boss closes her eyes again. Mike taps her face gently. He doesn't quite dare a slap. How old is The Boss anyway? She could be twenty-nine, or eighty. There's something strange about her face, like the skin has been creased up and ironed out again hundreds of times, for hundreds and hundreds of years. He doesn't quite want to touch her, but she is a woman, and she is ill, and Mike is a Gentleman.

'What's she talking about?' Linda says, 'lets get her downstairs to the Staff Room.'

'Hide the Evidence!' The Boss screeches, eyes still closed. 'Dishonour! Shame! The tax-payer!'

Mike looks at Linda, and shrugs. 'Maybe a cup of tea would help,' he says, and shakes his head, 'we've all had a hard day.'

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