Welcome to the Labyrinth

Chapter 1

Basil had only been in town for a few weeks and was told he wasn’t the most observant fellow, but even he knew that the Dagrun Library was something special to the people of Lindita. While most teenagers would be playing on their phones during the breaks between classes, those in Lindita always seemed to have a book in their hands. Crowds moved in and out of the towering library at nearly any time of day, chatting about one thing or another about what they had read or learned there. Which was why Basil was so excited to finally go.

His parents didn’t let him leave the house outside of school while boxes still filled his room, so Basil reluctantly unpacked and finished the job yesterday, finally letting him find out what all the hype was about.

When he asked some of his classmates about the library, their answers were often vague, as if the place itself had some sort of feeling that no one could explain. They had told Basil about the three librarians who lived in the building, each helpful and charming in their own way. Ji apparently knew the location of every book in the library, but would point you to his brother’s, Kalpana, direction when you gave an unclear description. The last one, Ezra, seemed to pop up whenever you needed him, whether for directions to the restroom or a specific section of the library.

Basil’s best friend, Mina, waited for him at the front door of the Dagrun Library, her hazel eyes sparkling with their usual mischievous twinkle. When she learned that Basil hadn’t been to the library yet, Mina told him she couldn’t wait to see the look on his face when he walked in. She also said that if he was lying to her, there would be hell to pay. “And hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” Mina quoted that day.

“Took you long enough,” Mina said, slapping him a high five after he made his way up to the tall, wooden doors.

“Did there have to be so many stairs?” Basil joked half-heartedly, trying to ignore the pain in his chest. He hadn’t done much exercise during the summer, preferring online and strategy games to repetitive swimming or running that got boring after two seconds. His flushed brown cheeks and resistant lungs were making him regret it.

Mina rolled her eyes and tucked a stray red hair behind her ear. “You got eight minutes on the mile; you’re not fooling anybody.”

“It’s not an A,” Basil muttered.

“It’s better than my D,” Mina retorted, swinging her legs while she sat on an iron railing. She sighed. “Why do I have to be so bad at running?”

“You’ve got A’s in everything else, Mina, don’t sell yourself short,” Basil said, then gestured to the doors. “So, are we going to go in or what?”

Her eyes brightened. “Right!” 

She grabbed his hand and practically dragged him along while Basil stumbled after her. Mina grabbed the brass handle and smiled her slightly off-putting, devious smile at him.

“Ready?” she asked and Basil nodded, pushing stray black hairs from his face.

Mina pulled open the door. “Welcome to the Library!”

When Basil stepped inside, it was as if he had entered another world infused with old pages and polished wood. The floor was made of sleek wooden planks, and Basil’s vision was filled with what seemed to be hundreds of dark wooden bookshelves stocked with books of any size or shape, all arranged like a miniature labyrinth. He could also see two spiraling staircases leading up to another level of the library lined with even more stories.

Mina skipped up to him with a grin. “What d’ya think?”

“It’s big,” Basil said, still staring at the gigantic sight in front of him.

“Well, duh, what else?”

“Really big,” Basil added, just to annoy her.

Mina punched him in the shoulder and scowled. “Shut up!”

“But then you’ll never know what I think…” Basil said in a soft, sing-song voice.

“So help me, there will be a funeral tomorrow,” Mina said.

“It’s really great, Mina,” Basil said finally. “I can see why you like it so much…it’s just it.”

Mina’s face softened as she gazed around the room, people weaving in and out of the maze of shelves. “Yeah.”

“Anyways, where do you want to go first?” Mina asked. “This starting area is mostly nonfiction texts, but there’s a kids’ room, teen fantasy, teen sci-fi-”

“Teen fantasy sounds nice. I’ve been looking for the third book in the Goldfyre series, but couldn’t find it in my old library.”

“You probably will here, then, but before we go, I should probably show you the directory,” Mina said. “Wouldn’t want you getting lost now, would we?”

Mina led Basil down the central aisle to a low wooden table that went up to Basil’s waist. However, atop the table was an assembled building mirroring the outside of the Dagrun Library.

Mina lifted off the roof of the building as well as the top two floors, putting them to the side. She pointed to where they were now on the first floor.

“We’re here,” Mina said, then traced her finger through the bookcases to the left side, where a set of wooden steps were placed on the 3-D map. Her other hand picked up the second floor while her finger went into it and directly to the right, where two tiny words were burned into the wood. Mina picked up a magnifying glass tied to the table and put it over the words.

Mina read them aloud, “Teen Fantasy. You got the route?”

“Yeah,” Basil replied, though he still felt unsure.

“Okay, I’m going to head to the bathroom, then,” Mina said, waving goodbye as she disappeared into the maze of bookcases.

Basil looked down at the map once more. “So through here, then a right, forward, then left, and then you reach the staircase,” Basil muttered as he traced the path. “Right, forward, left, staircase, right,” Basil repeated, before an odd pattern caught his eye. On each of the floors, there were certain alcoves in the maze where the bookcases formed a spiraling circle.

On the first floor, there was one alcove where Basil currently stood by the map, but on the second there were two: teen fantasy and teen science fiction on opposite sides of the floor. The third floor had three: kid’s fiction, kid’s nonfiction, and the event room. “That’s cool,” Basil said as he admired the architecture.

After repeating the directions one more time aloud, Basil headed into the maze. He reached the stairs with little effort and made his way to the Teen Fantasy alcove, surprised when he saw Mina already there, reading the third Goldfyre book: Bluemyst.

Mina looked up from the book and grinned. “Did you really remember the directions?”

“Did you really go to the bathroom?” Basil retorted.

“Touché, but you’re deflecting, which means no, you didn’t.”

“I did, I just confirmed it with the map again. Also, did you realize the cool design of this place?”

“You mean the spirals? Yeah, pretty much everyone does. It adds a cool kind of flair to the library and makes a great reading nook.”

She gestured around to the four others reading novels in the alcove.

“Also, I found the book,” Mina said and held out the Bluemyst novel. “We can check it out at the desk, but first I really do need to use the restroom.”

They both made their way down the stairs and Basil realized something, but Mina was already skipping away. He jogged after her, but she seemed to have disappeared.

“Mina…I don’t know where the check-out desk is,” Basil grumbled. He turned around and nearly slammed into another bookcase.

Basil looked around at the corridor he was in and gritted his teeth.

“Great! Now, I’m lost,” Basil muttered, still clutching the Bluemyst book in his right arm and holding Mina’s library card in his left.

“Do you need some help?” another voice said, making Basil flinch.

He turned around and saw the face of a friendly young man. He had red hair, left long and wild, as well as kind green eyes.

“My name is Ezra,” the man greeted. “I’m a librarian here.”

“Oh!” Basil said. “Yes, I would like some help. Do you know where the check-out desk is?”

“Of course, I’ll take you there.” Ezra began walking away and Basil was quick to move after him, not wanting to lose the man like he had Mina.

“Here we are,” Ezra said after a few moments. Basil stepped into an open row filled with self-checkout desks and a lone, well-kept counter manned by a person who looked like Ezra’s twin.

Ezra led Basil up to the counter, and while Basil would still call the man Ezra’s twin, it was very apparent that they were different in nature.

The man at the counter had his red hair cut short and gelled back and his emerald eyes were more calculating than kind. He wore a blue necktie and a black polo shirt, as opposed to the simple white t-shirt and jeans of Ezra.

“Ji!” Ezra said, “We have a newcomer looking to check out a book.”

“How does he have a library card, then?” Ji asked, narrowing his eyes. “You need to find the desk to get one.”

Basil flushed. “Uh, it’s my best friend, Mina’s, sir.”

“Oh! Mina!” Ezra said excitedly and even Ji’s stern mask seemed to soften at the name.

“You guys know her?” Basil asked, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“She has been a long patron of this library, and we tend to know most of the people in Lindita anyways,” Ji explained, taking the book and library card.

“Are you guys twins?” Basil asked as Ji scanned both of the items.

Ji and Ezra both glanced at each other. The former had a hint of a smirk, while Ezra shook his head.

“Triplets, actually,” Ji said, returning the book and card to Basil. “Our brother, Kalpana, is another librarian, but he usually sticks to the top two floors.”

“I knew you guys were all librarians, but I didn’t think you were related,” Basil said.

“Looks like you found them,” Mina said with a smile as she walked up to Basil. “Hey, guys.”

“It’s nice to see you again, Mina,” Ji said, inclining his head respectfully.

“Hi, Mina,” Ezra said with a casual wave.

Mina returned Ezra’s gesture before turning to Basil. “You finished checking out the book, but I’m guessing you got lost because Ezra’s here.”

Basil sighed. “You really enjoy embarrassing me, don’t you?”

“Best friend privileges. You could do the same if you ever manage to find anything on me.”

“Can I check your trash bin for bodies?”

“They’ve already been shipped to the dump, you’ll never find them now!”

“Both of you, keep your voices down,” Ji chastised.

“Sorry,” the kids whispered.

“Anyways, I think we need to head home,” Mina said.

“Have a good afternoon, you two,” Ezra said as they both headed for the exit.

When they both were outside, Basil asked, “When did you meet them? They seem to be good friends with you.”

Mina grimaced. “It’s a long story, and not a fun one either. They helped me in a rough spot, that’s it.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” Mina said with a small smile, heading to her own home a few houses down. “I’m fine, Basil.”


Basil kicked his shoes under the bench in the doorway and rolled onto the couch, reading the blurb on the back of the Bluemyst book:

“Quara and her dragon, Euranta, have discovered the location of the fourth jewel within the Grootvapor Swamp, home to the mysterious Bluemyst tribe. Some of the tribe welcomes them, but others don’t seem so agreeable. When the duo and their friends find a hidden tunnel network deep below the Bluemyst camp filled with captive dragons, they learn that the tribe may not be all that they seem…”

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Basil groaned and got up from the couch.

“I’m coming!” Basil said as he unlocked the door. Mina stared back at him, fidgeting with her clothes.

“What’s got you so nervous?” Basil asked.

“The library’s closing!” Mina blurted out, her arms splayed out as if to emphasize the point.

“Yeah? Isn’t that normal?” Sure, the lights had always been on when Basil looked, but he doubted that the library closing was a sign of alarm.

“No, it’s not! The library only closes once a year, and that happened over a month ago!” Mina looked seriously distressed. “Even then, the doors were never locked!”

“If they’re never locked, then that means we can ask the librarians what all the fuss is about,” Basil said.

Mina winced and rubbed her arm. “Yeah, but nobody goes in when the lights are off.”

“What? Some kind of ghost story?” Basil joked.

“Let me just show you,” Mina said and pulled Basil towards her house.

Within a few minutes, they entered her room. It was moderately tidy with some books and papers spread out haphazardly over her desk along with a few candy wrappers and an empty water bottle. The walls were painted a pale blue, and a dark brown shelf sat in the corner next to her dresser. The shelf had all sorts of small knick knacks on the front and top, but behind those items were a collection of books.

Mina pulled out three novels in the middle shelf, revealing a thin, peeling paperback with the faded title, “Unknown History of the Dagrun Library”.

“It was hidden behind the staff desk and wasn’t registered in the catalogue,” Mina said.

“So you stole it?”

“Shh, no, I borrowed it. I’m going to give it back. I just wanted to copy it at school first.”

“Doesn’t that damage the book?”

Mina waved it off. “That doesn’t matter. What matters is the stories in here.”

She fingered through the book before showing it to Basil. There was a picture of a kid, maybe nine years old, with a dark blue baseball cap and an orange shirt.

“Uther Mayson,” Mina said, “went missing fifty years ago here in Lindita on a night the Dagrun Library was closed. Several of his friends said that he ‘wanted to go read a book’.”

She flipped to another page, this time depicting a middle-aged woman wearing a polka-dotted dress and white gloves like you would see in an old movie.

“Erica Blaise was a newcomer in town meeting with her sister, Jessamine Blaise. She checked out a book and returned it when the library had its lights off, then she was found mauled in the forest.”

“Okay, this is getting creepy now,” Basil said.

“One more thing!” Mina seemed to be getting more excited the more she shared, her hazel eyes gleaming and a wide grin on her face.

Finally, Mina flipped to the back of the book. The photo was in black and white with a yellowish tint. A small signature at the bottom read, “Dagrun Library, 1887.” In the photo were three figures, each in different clothes but all identical.

“You’re kidding,” Basil whispered.

Mina nodded. “That’s the librarians, also known as the Dagrard family.”

“Okay, maybe we shouldn’t go into the creepy disappearance library with an immortal host of librarians,” Basil said nervously.

“No! This means we have to go!” Mina exclaimed. “We could find out what happened to the others. Besides, the librarians wouldn’t hurt us, I promise!”

“Maybe not, but still a woman got mauled to death! What kind of stuff is even in there?”

“Books!” Mina said, then froze. “Oh my goodness, books.”

“What do you mean books?” Basil asked.

“Stories, characters, books! The Library can make them come to life, like in Night at the Museum!”

“Oh, no. No, no, no, no,” Basil said, wagging his finger at her. “That’s crazy talk. Awesome talk,” Basil admitted, “but crazy talk.”

“You mean like immortal librarians or magically mauled women?” Mina retorted.

“The photo’s kind of fuzzy, maybe they are just related to the current librarians. And the woman could have been attacked; she was found in the woods, for goodness sake!” Basil said.

“Then there’s nothing to fear. It was your idea, Basil,” Mina said, crossing her arms.

Basil threw his hands up. “Ugh! You’re so stubborn. Can’t you see this is a bad idea? I was an idiot because I didn’t know about any of this, but you did!”

“I’m going to go, no matter what,” Mina declared, then focused her gaze on Basil. “What I want to know is if you are going to help so we have twice the chance, or you are going to leave me to die.”

Basil stayed silent for a few moments.

“I’ll go,” Basil said.

What neither of them noticed were the hazel eyes watching them from outside the room.

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