Today was different. The first rays of sun fell on the wooden desk that stood on its four legs quietly, illuminating the red stains that were yet to be cleaned. They told a harrowing story of what had happened a few hours ago. In the entire illustrious history of this institution, it had never before bathed in the color of death.

But an unnamed, seemingly unthreatening figure culminated this sense of normalcy, and an attempt was now being made to bring back order. But can absence be filled with a facade of regularity?

As the clock struck nine, the gates were opened with the hope of the usual, for those who were marred by yesterday. That boy who wore a loose kurta daily with the perfectly oiled hair turned right and walked past two empty rows, only to find his usual spot still mourning the past. He looked at the velvet covers of the seats and after much contemplation, sat down on the chair he had made his own over the past few months.

He took in his surroundings slowly, the blood stain staring back at him from across the table. He ripped open his bag and found two thin books waiting to be chosen. No way, he was not going to read that. Not today. Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Never. The other one reflected to him the condition of his heart. ‘How can I be back here in the morning after everything?’ he thought as he looked at the title – Heart of Darkness.

The kurta clad young man had not known Him personally. They were ‘library buddies’, always used to sit across from each other. If one was late the other would save a seat. In the silent aisles of the library they managed to build a bond through gestures. He never even asked Him His name. What’s in a name, he had thought. But the sight of Him sitting there, wearing a collared T-shirt and jeans with a big pile of books became synonymous with the idea of library for him.

But today He will not show up. He’s gone, silenced for eternity by one of those who sat right here, probably reading books on criminology while monitoring their target. Who was he? Is he around today? He might be, it would give him a perfect alibi –is he smart enough to do that? But then, no criminal is stupid enough to revisit the crime scene.

The crowd thickens soon after. A lot more people today in the library than usual. He sees girls with fancy clothes and disturbingly strong perfumes peeking at the little red spots of my friend that now remain etched on the table. I hear them whisper about how He was murdered.

His head was bashed against the table – one blow and His brain popped out, someone seemed to suggest. I frowned at the imagery of those words.

Oh no, someone presented a counter-argument. It was a bullet shot. A perfect hit and His lifeless head fell on the table.

These were versions of the same story that would go on to become legends. Truth is never important – truth is never true!

Everything is merely a variant of the actual facts. The crime happened at night, minutes before the library was to close. The librarian, Mr. Chatterjee, left for the bathroom when the victim was the only person reading in the hall.. When he returned, he found the victim’s head against the table, his brains falling out of his skull.. There was no sign of a third who had committed the crime. In a matter of a few minutes, a life was lost.

The boysighed as he stood on his feet quietly, taking one last, sweeping look at the library. There were some who were focused on the books, too cowardly to acknowledge what had happened (he thought he was one of those) ; there were others who saw a death as something they ought to witness…a momentous event they would recite stories about to their grandchildren maybe. He looked at the slowly circling fans hung from the ceiling all along the aisles.

Feeling more angry than sad, he turned around and walked towards an indifferent Mr. Chatterjee.

Did the cops find the killer?” he blurted. “Why isn’t this place sealed today?”

Mr. Chatterjee looked uninterestedly at him. “What killer? What proof do you have?”

Sir, look at those blood stains!”

Prove that they are of a human.”

How can you deny that?”

Did you know him?” Mr. Chatterjee asked in annoyance.

Yes, He was my friend.”

What was his name?”

Silence.

Uh…I-I don’t know”, the boy muttered.

Mr. Chaterjee smirked. “Go away, son. Nothing happened here. Nothing like that can happen here. Don’t try to defame our library.” The boy was left speechless. Walking out of the library, he realized that truth was tampered with right here, in front of him. The institution had won, and his friend turned into an identity-less pawn. Moments before he stepped out, his eyes fell upon a book– Franz Kafka’s The Trial.

About The Author

Rachit Raj

Conjurer of words, ideas and stories and lover of books and movies

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