The book in the basement stacks

by BRK

Eric reluctantly takes refuge from a storm in his college’s enormous and ancient library, and soon finds himself exploring parts of the stacks best left alone.

2,887 words Added Oct 2021 13k views 4.6 stars (15 votes)

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Eric swiped his university ID nervously, not looking at the tubby, placid-looking library guard manning the security desk like a drowsy bloodhound parked by the steps of an old southern veranda. He knew he was being ridiculous, but this place honestly gave him the willies. Library resources were something you got with a laptop and a good wifi connection. A vast and ancient building crammed with millions of physical books on actual paper, many of them probably filled with arcane knowledge that few had ever read, much less scanned and posted online, was on the verge of strange enough to be unsettling. He hurried into the cavernous main space, keeping himself from looking around furtively lest he catch the eye of anything intangible and inhuman that might dwell in the shadows of buildings far older than human memory.

Eric grimaced as he made a beeline for the open stairwell at the back that led down to the stacks, brushing a few large, wet drops from the sudden storm he was escaping off the loose shoulders of his heavy, dusky-red “Keep Calm and Screw One Direction” tee shirt as he went. He now wished he hadn’t spent the last week devouring every book in that series about the young mage at the school where the only thing more terrifying and deadly than the ominously huge and labyrinthine library was the actual, demon-filled labyrinth underneath it. It would’ve made visiting this place for the first time a little easier to cope with, at least.

The enormous, three-story open room with its front-facing, Gothic-peaked cathedral windows seemed oddly quiet, adding to Eric’s unease, and at the blocky, oak-paneled passageway leading to the stairs he paused and finally looked around, taking in the space he’d just passed through. His stomach twisted as he saw there was practically no one else here. No students sat at the lines of terminals opposite the circulation desk. No idlers browsed the periodicals or had newspapers spread out at the wide, heavy tables with their decades of varnish and wear. No undergrads frantically searched the reserve shelves for the required reading they’d put off finding until the day before the essay was due. Just the dozing guard he’d passed on the way in, and a middle-aged librarian at the main desk who looked straight out of The Far Side—pursed lips, horn-rimmed glasses, gray updo, the works.

Eric blinked in confusion, making another sweep of the huge, intimidating space as he adjusted the strap on the university-branded rucksack slung over his left shoulder, currently mostly empty apart from his laptop and sketchbook. This… didn’t make sense. No one was here, not to study, not even to escape the storm. He thought about leaving, but when he checked the windows he saw that the sky outside was now almost black; even as he watched the clouds opened up and a noisy deluge began assailing the world beyond, drowning the library in a muted half-darkness the ecru globe-like ceiling fixtures seemed ill-equipped to combat. Alone and ill-at-ease, he felt strangely conspicuous, and if there was one thing Eric hated it was being noticed.

Mousy, shortish (5’7” when he stood straight), and resolutely ordinary-looking with a thin nose, brown eyes, and flat cheekbones, Eric was happy to be unremarkable. At one point in his youth Eric had been freakishly taller than everyone in his second-grade class, and he’d been picked on so much for being weirdly sized he’d begged his mom to change schools. He’d never been more grateful than when he’d stayed the same height in the ensuring years while his male classmates grew taller and broader, and over time Eric settled happily into a life of being routinely ignored, especially in a crowd. Now, in this still and silent place, it felt unnervingly like he was the only soul left on Earth, and the vastness of the eerily-unpeopled main reading room seemed to single him out like a god’s finger pointing down at him from above.

He looked back at the circulation desk in time to see the owlish librarian glance up him sharply. Spooked, Eric took an involuntary step backward, then turned and bolted down the wide, walnut-finished stairs to the lower level. At the first landing he kept going, wanting to be as far from the Notre-Dame-sized reading room as he could be, and soon found himself several levels down with no more stairs to take.

The square, tiled space of the landing was garishly lit from a single, buzzing tube fluorescent, and Eric hastened to the only egress, a heavy-looking wooden door with a single, narrow window looking onto a large, shadowy space. A midnight-blue incised plaque next to it read “Level B9 Stacks” in white, utilitarian letters. Peering through, Eric thought it looked like it might be a restricted area—should he even be down here?—but the cold, chunky knob turned in his hand, and he opened the ponderous door with a slight squeak and entered what was apparently the lowest realm of the library’s venerable and impressive bookhoard.

Level B9, Eric found, was musty, warm, and badly lit. Countless near-black bookshelves marched away from him into what seemed in the gloom to be an unguessable distance, all looming well over Eric’s head, little white cards marked with handwritten ranges of inscrutable call numbers standing out small and high against the cases’ dark wooden ends. He took a deep breath. This was a little better than the huge, vaulted-ceilinged main room he’d left behind back up on the ground floor, he thought, but as he advanced down the narrow main aisle between the cases he couldn’t help thinking that at least in a large open space you could see the things that could see you. He adjusted his strap again, feeling a prickle of sweat at his temple from the warmth of the underlevel and the exertion of running down the stairs, and soldiered on, sure he could half-hear, half-feel the vibrations of rolling thunder from the real world far above.

Before long, Eric noticed that one of the side-aisles between the cases some ways ahead seemed to be emanating a low bluish glow, faint but noticeable in the pervasive dimness around him. Intrigued, Eric made for it. It almost looked like the light from a computer screen, and he wondered if someone, maybe a staff member, had left a laptop open on one of the shelves in the midst of some obscure research endeavor. When he got to the row in question, though, he couldn’t find anything to account for the glow—no electronics, no rakishly handsome mages conjuring lightspheres to light their passage, just two tall cases on either side holding shelf upon shelf of irregularly-sized, black-spined hardback tomes that looked like they’d been bound and shelved here while his distant ancestors were still busy eradicating the Neanderthals.

At least the names of the books were, reassuringly, in English rather than in some forgotten ur-speak or the lost language of the Fae, but he as he read them he almost wished they weren’t. These books all had creepily suggestive titles like The Liability of Allure and Carnal Misfortune; and the spines carried only the titles in bold, plain letters, with no sign of any authors, publishers, or call numbers, as though the books in this special cache eschewed any identifying characteristics or metadata beyond their slightly twisted subject matter. As he read the titles he became more and more aware of how they all seemed to relate to sexual attraction in some way, and Eric started feeling both self-conscious and faintly aroused, as though his body were collecting his slight brushes with the contents of these strange books as he passed.

For reasons he didn’t understand he let his bookbag slide off his shoulder and set it on the tile near the end of the case. It just felt right to be unencumbered. He walked on, loosening his shoulders as he went.

At the center of the row his eyes fell on a tall, two-finger-thick book with the title Unwanted Gifts almost filling the long, leathery black spine. He stared at the book, feeling strangely drawn to it. Another distant roll of thunder seeped through the underground space, sounding oddly like the chuckling of a planet-sized imp watching the foibles of mankind with malicious amusement. He reached up his hand, striking his finger along the heavy, embossed lettering. A strange tingle like a static charge rippled through him. Then suddenly the book leapt out of the shelf and into his hand, and he clamped onto it automatically and without conscious volition, gripping it with almost painful fierceness like he was holding onto a lifeline to keep from falling into an endless abyss.

The thin sizzle of energy he’d felt in first touching the book was now like a lightning strike. All his muscles seized and responded like they were absorbing the rush of living fire coursing through him. Eric stumbled backward and into the solid bookcase behind him, still keeping an unwilling, vise-like grip on the book, and looked down at himself in alarm as his muscles seemed to glow through his heavy tee shirt and jeans with the same low, uncanny emanation he’d seen from the central aisle, as blue as algal bioluminescence on a midnight beach.

Eric tried to roar, to scream, but nothing came out of him but the brightening rays flooding through the thick weave of his clothing from his swelling, energy-filled muscles. He stared aghast as his pectorals pushed outward against his shirt, micron by micron. His arms were accreting muscle, too, with the same agonizing slowness, the double-thewed shape of biceps emerging on his mundanely round arms for the first time ever, and he could feel the fabric of his tee shifting against his steadily broadening shoulders. His legs were swelling incrementally as well, his thighs ever so slightly thicker with each deafening, ribcage-rattling heartbeat. Against his will he became aware of how attractive and exciting these gains were to him, and his annoyingly-bigger-than-average cock, already at the first stages of chubbing up from the strange sense of arousal he’d started feeling on entering this row, now inflated to half-hard and tried to keep going despite the constraints of his pants and underwear—only it wasn’t just excitement that was affecting him down there, as the blue emanation was shining through the denim of his crotch, too, and his junk was inflating bit by bit, second by second, even as it struggled to get hard. His balls seemed heavier, too. Even his face and hair felt strange, as if subtle, incremental changes were happening up there as well, and he was actually ludicrously glad he couldn’t see exactly what they were.

Already horrified at all these developments, Eric became aware that on top of everything else his upper back was starting to slide upwards against the books of the case he’d fallen back against, slowly but faster than the other changes. No! Eric growled inwardly, still unable to make a sound. He looked down at himself and registered the appearance of the gray of his athletic socks in the steadily increasing gap between the hems of his jeans and his white NB 550s. The bottom of his untucked tee was creeping upwards as well, and a moment later a sliver of pink appeared, looking pale and exposed between the muted red of his tee and the deep blue of his jeans. The height gain in his legs seemed general, his thighs and calves and even his ankles getting a millimeter here and there, but the expansion under his shirt seemed disconcertingly focused in his abs. Almost without being able to help it he reached his free hand under the shirt and felt up a subtle but firm eight-pack, and the rush of pleasure that coursed through him just from touching his own flat belly made his lengthening, widening cock struggle mightily against its confines in an all-out attempt to bring about the insanely-hard erection it knew it must achieve.

Eric’s hand pushed further upward under the rising shirt, sliding briefly over the two-inch-thick pecs he hadn’t had a moment ago, and he shuddered as his thumb brushed over a blunt, pebbled nipple, his straining cock pushing out a quantity of juice into his soft, snug boxer-briefs. Quickly he drew his hand away, afraid of losing control and cumming with a silence-shattering cry of pleasure (as he was, embarrassingly, wont to do), and as he slid his hand down he was only half aware of his fingers sliding over five compact rows of faint, hard abs instead of four.

The thought of blowing his load loudly and uncontrollably right there in the middle of the stacks made him aware again of where he was and the context of what was happening to him. He looked down at the heavy book he was still gripping in his right hand. There was a flow between him and the book, like everything he was still experiencing was about the connection between it and him. He had to break that connection. He tried making his hand let go, but it wouldn’t listen. Fuck!

His shoulder blades shoved up another inch against the spines behind him, and his tee was starting to feel unfamiliarly tight over his chest. Fuck, he thought again. This has to end now. The distant thunder rolled again, sounding less natural and more sinister than ever.

Gritting his teeth, he made another effort to let go. No dice. Sweat dotted his forehead, and his skin felt flushed. He had to be able to do this. Reaching over with his other hand, he used all his newly boosted strength to physically pry his fingers free of their clamp-like grip. Finally, after a minute of struggling, his hold abruptly loosened and the book dropped to the floor with a loud, echoing slap.

Eric leaned against the bookcase, panting, as the glowing blue light he’d been emitting snuffed out, leaving him momentarily blinded in the gloom. He didn’t have to be able to see, though, to know. He was different. It felt good, too, which was disturbing in itself, like his very sensuality and body-awareness had been heightened along with everything else.

Maybe that would go away.

Maybe all of it would go away.

The far-off thunder rolled again, now unmistakably laughter, and Eric stiffened.

His vision returned enough to see the narrow, shadowed gap where his book had been leering at him from the opposite case. At first it looked like it was a shelf lower than it had been, but Eric knew that it was his perspective that had changed, not the bookcase.

Suddenly, Eric could not get out of there fast enough. Ignoring his too-short, straining clothes, ignoring the obvious three-quarters erection that was still struggling to become a truly huge, impossible-to-miss erection, he snatched up his bookbag and ran. Seemingly in no time he was back at the narrow-windowed wooden door leading to the stairwell, and he pushed it open and headed up the steps like angry rottweilers were chasing him.

The door closed behind him with a heavy, metallic clang, and Eric froze. He whipped around on the stairs to see that the wooden door to the stacks was now gone. In its place was a secure, padlocked metal fire door with BOILER ROOM neatly stenciled on it in small, black letters.

Eric backed up the stairs for a few steps, eyes fixed on the traitorous door. Then he turned and ran blindly up all eight flights to the ground level. When he burst into the main reading room, he stopped again.

The place was full and noisy now. The terminals were all taken, at least five people had books and newspapers spread out at the heavy tables, students were pacing the reserves looking anxious. A whole staff was behind the counter now, stacking the return carts and processing a line of people checking out their selections.

As if sensing a unicorn in their midst, more and more eyes swiveled his way while he stood there, shocked and increasingly awkward as he remembered his too-small clothes and augmented body. Delight and interest crossed every face. Two girls in the reserves started whispering animatedly with each other, not taking their eyes off him. One of the staff members sorting books onto return carts stopped what he was doing and openly leered, even letting his tongue out to lick his lips as eye eyed Eric up and down. An awed-looking hunk near the newspapers lifted his phone to take a picture, then others did the same. Soon dozens of phones were aimed his way.

Swallowing audibly, Eric very deliberately pulled his bookbag over his shoulder, and, pretending he didn’t notice its increased heft (well beyond a laptop and a sketchbook), he broke into a run and fled straight out of the library, past the staring guard and out into the pleasant, brilliantly sunny afternoon.

2,887 words Added Oct 2021 13k views 4.6 stars (15 votes)

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