You Were Here

It’s quiet, and because Lindsay’s only one of three workers in the warehouse, she doesn’t have to wear a mask. Though she probably should, to protect herself from the dust and musty smell that comes off the used books. The smell didn’t bother her, as it felt old, familiar, and comforting. Lindsay prefers the graveyard shift where she can plug in her headphones and listen to The Clash or The Best of Alternative 2000s full blast while stacking books. She’s been working at the used bookstore warehouse for the last year and enjoys the simplicity of manual labor.

She takes a pile from the gaylord shipments, puts them on her cart, and categorizes them alphabetically on large metal bookshelves like a librarian. The movement back and forth gets her steps in for the day.

The squeak of the wheel on her book cart echoes through the warehouse, and she cranks her music louder. The rows of bookshelves seem endless in front of her, like a vast desert horizon. The next song on her playlist is Neighborhood #1 by Arcade Fire. She shimmies to the beat. She curves around the corner to the S row. She delights in some of the titles she picks up from the stack: A Lesbian’s Guide to Loneliness, How to Live with a Huge Penis, and The Best Things to Scream Into. When Lindsay sees one of these titles, she takes a little snap on her phone so she can giggle to herself on her breaks.

Reaching for a book from the cart, she glances at a red hardcover. The weight of the leatherbound copy feels substantial in her hand. The edges of the pages are painted gold. This book is decadent. Probably a collector’s item, probably expensive. You Were Here is embossed on the front cover. Is that like a warning? Lindsay shrugs and looks for the spot where this book will sit until it’s purchased.

Something falls to the ground. A note? A bookmark? Many times, shelvers, like Lindsay, find keepsakes in these old books. Rather than throw them away, the workers tuck the memorabilia into the pages, little prizes for the new owners.

Lindsay crouches down to grab the fallen artifact. Her earbuds fall out of her ears and gently tap the ground. She reaches down and slides her hand against the floor, grabbing the edge of the paper. She stands up and lifts the item under the fluorescent lights.

It’s a photograph of a girl in a pink prom dress. She holds a large red corsage up to her chest showing off her perfect smile. It’s quite sweet, and her hair is in that classic Farrah Fawcett style. She seems really happy. Lindsay briefly thinks about her own prom, the shiny purple spaghetti strapped dress, and her short, cropped red hair, grinning wide even though her new braces hurt. She tucks her much longer hair now behind her ears and smiles in reverie at her own memory.

The light flickers up above and Lindsay sees a shadow appear in the background of the photograph. Was that there before? Had she been so enamored by the pretty girl that she hadn’t paid attention? Lindsay shakes her head, and the darkness appears closer to the girl. A cool chill runs down Lindsay’s arms. Probably just exhaustion. Too many long nights, and that’s why she’s seeing things that aren’t actually there. Lindsay rubs her eyes with her free hand and sees the black shadow appear right behind the girl. Huh? What’s going on?

A large metal door slams. Lindsay shudders. Across the aisle in the B row, Lindsay thinks she sees a dark figure.

“Hello?” Lindsay says.

Her hands tremble. Electricity runs through her body. She tries to shake it off—there’s nothing there.

To prove it, she glances again at the photograph. But now the dark outline has taken up the entire image. Green eyes wide and glowing are staring at her. Lindsay drops the photograph. A warm breath pants on her neck.

She freezes, and then gathering her courage, she looks behind her. No one’s there.

Just chill, just chill, just chill out Lindsay.

She turns back to the bookshelf. She screams.


***

It’s a busy morning and the day shift workers bustle through the warehouse. Holly strolls down the aisles—rows and rows of books. Turning the corner to aisle S, she bends down to pick up a leatherbound red book with gold accents. Holly sees a piece of paper on the floor and picks it up.

A photograph of a girl in the early 2000s stares back at her. The date reads June 12th, 2001 in the bottom right corner, in blurred red font. A girl in a purple spaghetti strap dress and short red hair beams into the camera. Full braces on all her teeth. It’s pretty adorable. A strange sense of familiarity comes over Holly. The girl resembles someone she knows—at least, she thinks, but she’s not sure. A shadow appears in the background of the photo, however before Holly can see the figure, she slides the photograph into the front of the red leather book. The heavy pages sealing in the image, protecting it from harm. It will be a fun discovery for the new owner. Holly looks at the title and reads, You Were Here. What an ominous title. Must be a good ghost story or thriller. Holly pushes the cart out of the S row and the wheel squeaks, leaving the aisle floor bare and empty.

Written by Laura Anne Harris, Vancouver, Washington – United States

Feature Photo by Todd Lee Millstein


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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Pat Milone says:

    You Were Here: gripping, well crafted short story. Thanks for sharing it. –

    Like

    1. Melissa Harmon says:

      This tale would find a comfortable home in the early 2000’s tv show “Are you afraid of the dark”. A nod to simple stories that allows the reader’s mind to imagine both the origin story and the next victim.

      Like

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