The girl waited until every trace of reptilian hunger had left before stepping out of her area of protection and muttering a few words under her breath. The pentagram disappeared and she walked back to find the oddly assorted creatures still clustered in the pool of light around her desk.
“Back to your shelves now. The creature is gone.”
The tiggywinkle shook her spiny head. “Isn’t ma’am” she declared. “Is hiding. In Erotica.”
“Are you sure?”
“We is. And please ma’am you gots to banish it before sunrise or it will stay. It eats tiggywinkles.”
The Librarian patted her spikes then sighed. This wasn’t going to be some bewildered dragon pulled from its own reality, it was going to be darker and nastier, and stronger.
“You people stay here and keep very quiet please.”
They all nodded and the girl rooted in her handbag. She came up with one object that she shoved into the pocket of her neat, beige cardigan. Then she squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and headed for Erotica.
Passing Romance she was surprised to be accosted by a gentle hand on her shoulder. The Heroine stood at her side, misty and insubstantial, But a vision of beauty and desirability nonetheless.
“Can I help?” the beauty asked humbly.
“It may be that you can, if you are brave.”
“I am the Heroine, of course I’m brave. Now if you were asking for clever…”
The Librarian huffed out a little laugh and muttered a word under her breath. The Heroine became real living flesh, became the entity known as Beauty. She smiled, and the ephemeral beauty and her prosaic earthbound sister shared a moment of purely female communication.
“Do you know what to do?” the Librarian asked.
“Oh yes. And I know what will happen to me.”
“I’m sorry for that.”
“You need not be. I am not really alive. Shall we?”
The Librarian swallowed a lump in her throat and nodded wordlessly.
Beauty walked quietly, some ten paces ahead of the little Librarian, and her allure was such that it completely hid her quiet sister beneath trailing clouds of glory. They had almost reached Erotica when a male voice accosted them.
The bearer of beauty stopped but made no reply.
“Who walks?” The voice grew angry, but Beauty merely chuckled. It was a sound that appealed to the needs of all creatures, and the Librarian could feel the breeze that ran through the stacks as each book took an indrawn breath.
Then there came the sound of footfalls, big heavy footfalls, and a man stepped out from between the shelves of erotic literature. He was a distillation of everything that genre demands in a male. He was as beautiful as an Arctic snowstorm, with a body that looked as if it had been chiselled from marble then animated by demonic forces, and the face of a fallen angel. He looked as if to be the object of his desires would be both agony and fulfilment. And every female in every book in the library wanted him.
He walked towards the beauty with a twisted smile on his perfect lips.
“What have we here?” he sneered, although his nakedness left very little doubt of his interest.
The beauty smiled, and deepened the dimple at the corner of her rose pink lips.
“What would you have me be?” she asked softly but her voice flowed around the library like molten honey, it soothed and it cheered and it stirred deep longings all without effort or stress.
The man shook his noble head as if the voice hurt something buried deep within him, but he kept coming, stepping with slow deliberate grace. Beauty seemed to be welcoming him, but the Librarian noticed that she was backing away, backing without moving a hand or a foot. This meant the girl had to creep backwards too, so as to remain within the aura of loveliness and sexual availability that kept her hidden from the eyes of whatever was inside the man’s skin. As they moved away from the Erotica stacks, the simulacrum weakened, and there began to be flashes of that which hid beneath the masculine glory that was stalking its prey with a sneer on his perfectly sculpted lips and a cruel look in his eyes.
At first it was just a flicker, a glimpse of grey scales beneath the golden skin, a flash of a horned head, a suggestion of a barbed penis. But as they inched away from the place where the illusion had been formed the creature’s grip on itself grew weaker. Normally one such as this would have noticed the slippage in its garment of falsehood, but Beauty drew it so far into her toils that it had no eyes or ears for anything but pink skin, golden curls, and a song to put the sirens to shame. As his eyes grew less and less human and more and more fixated on the tender flesh before it, the Librarian crept closer and closer, until she was right behind the beauty, so close she almost thought she could feel the texture of that perfect skin.
She brushed such thoughts aside and concentrated on the oncoming creature. He was almost within touching distance now, and she would have but one chance. Dropping the illusion of humanity altogether, the creature that stood before Beauty with saliva dripping from its fangs was like nothing anyone could imagine whilst taking cues from each child’s fear of the dark and every adult’s worst nightmare. It reached out a clawed and cicatrised hand to grasp Beauty by the rounded flesh of her upper arm. The smell of burning flesh was choking but Beauty neither flinched nor uttered a sound. The Librarian reached a hand into the pocket of her neat little cardigan and closed her fist around the object hiding in the beige wool. The monster bent his head, and breathed in the faint scent of crushed roses that came from Beauty’s very skin. As his demonic countenance came closer, even Beauty shrank a little, but her courage kept her in place. Just as the pointed metallic teeth were about to fasten themselves in her shoulder, the Librarian’s small freckled hand came over that shoulder. She held what looked like a small knobbly stick with which she tapped the monster on its beak of a nose. It looked at her and she placed the end of the stick right between its hircine eyes. There was no dramatic invocation, and nor did she mutter any arcane words beneath her breath. She just sighed and said.
For an instant, the creature resisted her, then there was a bang and an overwhelming stench of rotten eggs as it disappeared, leaving a sense of hunger and reluctance behind it.
Beauty stood with her head bowed, there was a black, burned mark about her arm, where a six-fingered hand had grasped her and she rubbed it reflexively.
“I hope,” she said with a brave attempt at humour, “that he didn’t bring his brother.”
The Librarian smiled her rare smile.
“No. It came alone. Fortunately. And the gateway is now closed.”
“Good.” Beauty briefly rested her cheek against that of her plain sister before seeming to dissolve like ice in a warm bath. In the end, nothing was left but a voice. A voice that whispered,“farewell…”
Then even that was gone, leaving the stacks empty and echoing with small movements as the books dared to breathe again.
The Librarian put her wand back in her pocket and went to reassure the small ones that their place of sanctuary was now safe.