Emmaline Carter sat behind the counter at the local library. She felt comfortable and alive in the fantasy world of others. Power pulsated through her among the bookshelves.

Her routine followed the same pattern every morning. She read the newspaper, drank coffee and then put books back on the shelf. No one ever came into the library in the morning.

The big, bold headline of the newspaper caught her attention.


The article went on to say how each murder provided no clues. All victims were murdered in their home and yet there were no indications of break-ins. Each victim suffered a different fate. One drowned, one stabbed, one shot and one strangled.

"Excuse me."

The eerie silence broken by a sudden voice and a sharp rapping on the counter echoed through the empty library. Emmaline jumped at the rude interruption and blinked up at the patron in surprise. The garishly painted face framed with short, blonde frizzy hair looked at the librarian in irritation.

"I'm in a hurry. My daughter here just told me she needs a book on circus clowns for school today."

Emmaline peered over the partition but could only see a fuzz of blonde hair across the top.

"How old is your daughter?"

"Nine. School starts in fifteen minutes so get a move on, will ya?"

Emmaline rolled her chair to the computer on the counter and quickly typed in circus clowns. Hopefully she could get rid of this rude woman in no time and get back to her coffee and newspaper. She typed and clicked and entered while the woman drummed bright red, long fingernails on the counter. Emaline sneaked a peek from under disapproving eyebrows and took in the woman's bulging breasts threatening to spill out of a low-cut tightly wrapped black glittery top.

"Here it is. We have a few on clowns in the Children's section." Emmaline rose from the chair and walked around the counter. She paused when confronted by the sight of the disheveled little girl. Her fine blonde hair matted wildly around a pale cherub face. Her blue eyes held sadness surrounded by redness and under lay with dark circles. A dark smudge shone on her cheek. Emmaline realized the dark smudge was a bruise as she walked past the duo toward the children's section of the library. The woman's strappy mile-high heels clacked sharply against the wooden floor as she followed the librarian. The white velour mini-skirt barely covered the mother's behind.

Emmaline stopped at a shelf and retrieved a thin book with several faces of clowns on the cover.

"Here is a very good book on clowns by Clara Brunswick. She is a renowned..."

The overbearing, underdressed woman grabbed the book and click-clacked back to the front with butt jiggling in crude abandonment. She slammed the book on the countertop and rummaged through a small leopard print purse.

Emmaline walked silently on rubber soled black nurses shoes back around the counter. The little girl had picked a movie from the children's bin at the front of the library and gazed at it with sad whimsy. The Mother stood with hands on hips and her foot tapping in impatience as she glared at Emaline, who took her time to situate herself behind the counter.

The librarian scanned the bar code of the library card and then the book, stuck the printout in the flap at the back of the book and handed it to the woman.

"It's due back on the seventeenth."

The mother snorted, walked to her daughter and grabbed the movie from the little girls hands, slung it in the bin and slapped her on the back of the head. Blonde hair flew and the child gave a short yelp.

"Get a move on, slowpoke, if you're late again, I won't be able help you this time."

Emmaline's disgust filled her mouth with sourness as she watched the pair leave. She glanced at the address still on the computer screen.


*        *        *



Tiffany Jones thought no more of the plain Jane librarian as she readied herself for bed. By a miracle her daughter had made it to school on time. She did not relish another visit from Social Services. A bunch of snooty, nosey women had visited last month and told her in haughty, condescending tones that one more day of missed school and Lynne would be taken from her. She packed gauzy, skimpy costumes and make-up in a small cloth bag. Tiffany Jones stripped nightly at a club called Kittens. As she haphazardly threw things in the overnight bag she thought about what would be worse, losing her daughter or losing her job. She brushed her teeth, pulled on an oversize t-shirt and climbed into bed. Reaching over to the bed stand, she set the alarm for six o'clock in the evening. Lynne always arrived home at four and knew never to wake her mother. Left on her own for twenty-two hours a day made the little girl withdrawn and fanciful. Tiffany paid the next-door neighbor to lie to Social Services and pretend to be the girl's babysitter.

Tiffany sighed, sunk deeper under the covers and promptly fell asleep.

She awoke slowly and felt a great suffocating weight on her stomach. Half asleep, Tiffany tried to turn over but her arms would not move. The realization that she was pinned down suddenly popped her eyes open to a comical and horrifying sight. A clown with painted white face and blood red grin from ear to ear stared down at her. He sat on top of her, pinning her arms with his knees and his behind straddling her pelvic region. She wriggled and struggled to free herself. She started to scream and a white-gloved hand planted itself firmly on her mouth.


The clown from hell pushed something in her mouth to the end of the airway, honked a horn and like magic, brought out an oversized suction syringe, the kind hospitals used on newborns to suck the liquid from their mouths and nose. The noonday sun streamed through the edges of the closed blinds and reflected black and white stripes throughout the room with sinister contrast. Tiffany rolled her head from side to side in panic, making whimpering sounds. He held her head still and sheer terror enveloped her as he inserted the end of the syringe into the balloon that had been placed in her mouth. She screamed gutturally through the closed airway and fought with kicking legs while the clown pumped up the balloon in her mouth. One squeeze and the balloon expanded, pushing against the walls of her throat and mouth.


Her eyes widened in terror as she silently pleaded and tears of hopelessness flowed down the side of her face toward the pillow. The clown beeped his horn and bounced up and down in glee without loosening his hostage. Things dimmed around her. She fought desperately to take air in but only succeeded in lodging the balloon deeper down her throat. Her lungs burned in airless agony. Tiffany felt the balloon grow inside her mouth as the dizziness and pressure behind her eyes exploded into flashes of light. Finally, blackness descended.

Lynne Jones discovered her mother's body only after the alarm clock continued to beep after several minutes. The nine-one-one tape recording played on the eleven o'clock news of a frightened, sobbing child, declaring, "I can't get Mommy to wake up".


*        *        *



Emmaline Carters' mother watched her only child gather her coat and purse from the hallway closet.

"Emmy, don't you have something a little more...dressy?" She gazed at her daughters' gray calf-length dress, with the white collar around the neck and belted at the waist with black. The small pixie face strained against tightly pulled back hair ending in a bun at the nape. The twenty-five-year-old Emmaline looked forty-five, perpetuated by attitude and dressing habits.

"Oh, Mama, there is nothing wrong with this dress. I'm a librarian and dress accordingly."

The Mother retrieved a short, white, fake fur coat from the closet and hastily pulled it on over her flamboyant blue sequined dress highlighted with white pearls that topped a low-cut v-neck. She quickly followed her daughter out the door, locked it with a turn of the key and they both walked to the black Buick parked at the curb.

"How can you not be excited? You're receiving a very prestigious award, Librarian of the Year." The Mother continued to mildly berate her daughter once in the car. "This celebration is just for you and you act and look like my mother, for Pete's sake."

"I just want to get this over with, Mama. You know how I hate socializing."

The Mother reached to the console between the seats and put the car in drive.

"I will never understand how I could have had a daughter like you, Emmy."

They arrived at the Holiday Inn banquet room number six and the fake-fur clad Marjorie Carter glanced around the half-empty room in confusion. Emaline felt apprehensive and relieved at the same time. She hated to be the center of attention and the less people that chattered and whispered behind their hands appealed to her sensitive nature. Maybe they would end this charade early or cancel it altogether and mail her the award. She would have preferred that method to a gathering of simpletons bragging on their job or kids or themselves.

A large, tall woman with short curly brown hair, poured into a tight, black form-fitting dress bounced toward them. She beamed as she outstretched a bangle-clad hand in greeting.

"Marjorie, Emmaline. I was so afraid our honoree wouldn't make it." They shook hands.

"I was thinking about it." Emmaline mumbled and let go of Mrs Novak's hand.

Carolyn Novak threw Emmaline a quizzical look. She had not voted for her to receive the award given out every year to the librarian who showed the most ingenuity. But six out of nine board members voted yes. Computers seemed to be replacing books at an alarming rate and Emmaline had initiated several programs that brought new life to the library. She deserved the award but Carolyn felt uneasy around this nineteenth century looking, nanny type woman. She had never seen her smile. Carolyn looked at the small, pale, mouse face stretched by the severely pulled back black hair and wondered how the beautiful, tall, blonde woman standing next to her could possibly be Emmaline's mother.

"Come this way, I will show you to your table."

They followed Carolyn through white-linen clad tables, each one decorated with a single rose and mostly empty of people.

"Here you go. The table of honor." Carolyn turned toward them, smiling.

"Are we early, Carolyn? Where are all the people?"

"Haven't you heard? My goodness, that's all they are talking about on the news. There's been another murder. People are scared to go out anymore after dark. They're afraid the murderer will be lurking in the bushes or in their house when they get home."

The three women pulled chairs out and sat.

"Who? When?" Marjorie asked.

Carolyn leaned forward like a conspirator. She loved being the first to impart information.

"Last night. Tiffany Jones. A stripper that lived on the east side of town. Suffocated in her own bed. Police are really tight-lipped about the whole thing. The news this morning showed her little girl being carted off to Children's Services. I feel so sorry for the child. She looked so lost and bewildered."

Emmaline sniffed. "Don't feel sorry for her, she's probably better off now."

Both women stared at her.

Carolyn broke the awkward silence.

"Well, if you will excuse me, I have guests to greet."

When Carolyn waddled out of earshot, Marjorie leaned toward her daughter and whispered angrily.

"What is wrong with you, Emmy? You're going to make people sorry they ever voted for you. For Pete's sake, you just don't talk about someone's murder like that."

"This award will help me promote myself at the library and that is the only reason I am accepting it. And when I feel my opinion is warranted, I will give it."

Marjorie just leaned back and shook her head.

"I'm going to get something to eat." She threw her napkin on the table in disgust and headed to a table filled with covered silver-plated trays at the side of the banquet room.

Emmaline cared not what her mother thought or anyone else for that matter. She made her own destiny. The beast within her shivered in agreement.


*        *        *



No one could miss the round, gold-plated plaque naming Emmaline Carter as Librarian of the Year in flourishing italic script. Emmaline had removed everything from the checkout counter so her prize could shine in everyone's eyes as they checked out books.

She busied herself setting up "Fun with Books" during a lull in the late afternoon. Her suggestion to sponsor a weekly reading session with children had been approved with little resistance. She finished placing books on the last low table and stepped back to admire her handiwork. She glanced at her watch and hurried back to the counter. The children would be arriving any minute now. For the hundredth time, she paused in front of the plaque, fondled it lovingly, and turned it toward a more favorable light.

Terry, a bouncy blonde cheerleader, came in and threw her schoolbooks on the counter. She worked in the library after school till closing, along with the widow Mrs Grayson.

"Sorry, I'm late, but a bunch of us stopped at Subway for something to eat."

Emmaline pursed her small, thin lips in agitation.

"Terry, you know your books do not belong there."

"Ok." She picked them up and sashayed to the back office.

Within minutes all the children arrived and sat four to a table. The weekly reading sessions had started with twenty children and were now down to twelve. Emmaline had desperately considered ways to rectify this problem because more than anything she did not want to fail the library. Today the children would be read a classic and be asked to draw pictures from the story. Several children had taken the crayons and were already scribbling on the pristine white sheets she had so meticulously laid out.

She clapped her hands and shouted. "Put those crayons down this instant!" A couple of children immediately threw their crayons down, while some others just blinked and stared at her. "Put them down! They are to be used later."

Satisfied when they all put their crayons down, Emmaline sat in a chair fronting the tables. She opened a book.

"All right, children, today we will be reading "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" written by Mark Twain whose real name was Samuel Clemens."

A groan emanated from a ten-year old, redheaded, freckled faced boy. Emmaline jerked her head up and shot Barry Novak an annoyed look.

"And what is wrong with Tom Sawyer, Barry?" Carolyn Novak's son loved to antagonize her.

"It's the same book we're reading in school now." Several other children nodded in agreement.

"Do you have another suggestion?"

"Yeah, read something about a wicked witch, then we can draw your picture." His chuckle was joined by a couple of other boys.

She felt her face redden with anger. She hated smart aleck Barry, but she tolerated him because his mother Carolyn was director of the county libraries. The straw that broke the camel's back reflected in the boy's insidious grin.

Emmaline stood and placed the book in the seat of the chair.

"Wait here, children."

She walked stiffly with short, angry strides to the counter. Terry immediately dropped her feet from the resting place on the counter, fumbled to hide the magazine under some books and sat at attention. Emmaline ignored her this time and continued to the back office. She picked up the phone and dialed Carolyn's number
"Mrs Novak, this is Emmaline Carter from the Mohawk Library. I'm afraid your son Barry will not be allowed to attend any more reading sessions."

"What?! Why?"

"He continues to be disrespectful to me and disrupts the other children."

"Really, Miss Carter, he is a ten-year old boy. Just ignore him."

"I find that impossible. He is mean and vindictive and I won't have him here anymore."

There was a pause on the other end of the telephone.

"Miss Carter, have you forgotten? I'm your boss. I can fire you."

"Not without a majority vote."

"I assure you, a majority vote will not be hard to get."

Emmaline gripped the phone until her knuckles turned white. White-hot anger strangled any words of retort.

Mrs Novak sighed. "All right, I will come get Barry and have a talk with him. But I think you are blowing this way out of proportion. Maybe this reading thing with children wasn't such a good idea."

Emmaline slammed the wireless telephone on the table and felt the first brick tumble from the foundation of her carefully planned life.

She returned to the unusually quiet children. Barry sat in the back grinning from ear to ear. She picked up the book thankful for the quiet and a lizard scampered from the chair to her skirt. She screamed and twirled and slapped unsuccessfully at the quick, elusive thing scurrying all around her clothes. The children laughed and tittered as they watched Miss Carter jumping and screaming and slapping her clothes so hard that black strands of hair loosened from their strict confines.

Terry came to the rescue and scooped the tiny, bright green lizard from Emmaline's blouse. She cradled the frightened reptile in her cupped hands.

"It's just a little garden lizard, Miss Carter. It won't hurt you."

Emmaline had one hand around her fear-constricted throat while the other rested on her hip. "Just take it away."

She turned and glared at Barry, the grin still on his face.

"Your mother is coming to pick you up." She bent to retrieve the book from the floor. "Now I will read from Tom Sawyer and you will listen."

Carolyn arrived within a few minutes and Barry jumped from his seat when he spotted her. He ran up to his mother, breathless from excitement, and exclaimed hurriedly, "Mom, a lizard got on Miss Carter! Boy, was she scared. You should've seen it. She was turning 'round and 'round and slapping herself all over." He laughed, remembering the sight of the small, hateful woman's hilarious gyrations.

Carolyn smiled at her son. "Go find a book, Barry, while I talk to Miss Carter."

As the librarian and the boy passed each other, Barry stuck out his tongue, knowing his mother couldn't see his misdeed.

"Miss Carter, what exactly is going on here?'

"Your son seems bent on antagonizing me and the other children every minute he is here. He doesn't get involved with the reading. He reads comic books or plays with toys he brings with him, even though I've sent letters to all parents that they are to bring nothing with them except a snack. I'm trying to instill a desire in children that will make them want to read. I can't do that with such destructive shenanigans."

"All right, I will take Barry out of the program." Carolyn glanced over Emmaline's shoulder at the two empty tables. "But I must warn you, you lose anymore children and I will consider asking the board to terminate this little reading session of yours."

"Mom, I got a book. Can we go now?"

Emmaline's nerves jerked at the sound of Barry's voice right behind her.

"Of course, darling. Let's see what you have." Carolyn took the book from her son and barely glanced at it before handing it to the librarian. "Would you be so kind, Miss Carter?"

Emmaline checked the book out for the Novak's in silence. She quickly noticed the topic of the book before handing it back to Barry. Lancelot And The Dragons.


*        *        *



Barry's parents thought he had gone to sleep hours ago. He found his flashlight, made a tent under the comforter and read about the adventures of Lancelot. He knew his parents were at the other end of the hall and would not notice the dim glimmer of light coming from underneath his door. The pictures of dragons interested him the most. He imagined himself in the realm of dragons, fighting them off with a magical golden sword, much like Lancelot's. He turned the pages eagerly, looking at the scaly-skinned red-eyed beasts blowing fire through their nostrils. He heard an indistinguishable noise that immediately prompted him into action from years of experience. He turned off the flashlight and lay down, closing his eyes tightly. He expected one of his parents to pop their head in and retreat once they saw him sound asleep. He waited. A whoosh of hot, steamy, foul-smelling air blew across his face followed by a low, guttural growl.

He quickly opened his eyes. The beast's snout snorted steam, much like a bull, only inches from his face. He jumped up and cowered on his hunches against the headboard, not believing what he saw. His heart pounded with terror and his mouth gaped open, trying to find a voice. The dragon raised its head and opened its mouth. Sharp long teeth reflected silver under the moonlight. A roar issued forth as fire flew from the dragons throat and ignited the curtains. Adrenaline coursed through the boy and he scampered off his bed to the far corner of his room. He pushed his back tightly against the wall and sat, a look of disbelief frozen on his face.


Flames danced up the curtains. His voice still would not come. He whimpered between short panting breaths. The dragon turned toward the boy and rose up, sliding its head along the ceiling. Barry believed he stared into a pit of all that was evil through the dragons red glowing eyes. His whole body shook and he closed his eyes, resigned to his fate. A heavy clunk of something hitting the floor forced his eyes open. The dragon swung it's horned head toward the huge second intruder, a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The dinosaur had to bend at the neck to fit into Barry's room, and stomped toward the dragon. In one swift move it snapped off the dragon's head with its own sharp-toothed mouth. Barry watched in bone chilling horror as blood spew to the ceiling from the dragon's headless torso before slumping to the floor. Horrible crunching, chewing sounds came from the dinosaur and Barry issued forth a high pierced shriek.



*        *        *



The three Novak's stood beside a fire truck, blankets thrown over their shoulders, and watched their home of ten years quickly burn to the ground. Carolyn knelt in front of her son and took him by the shoulders. His wide dark eyes and trembling lips worried her. His whole body still shook from the terrifying remembrance of the unbelievable scene that had taken place in his room

"Barry, darling, were you reading with a lighter or matches?" She knew of his late night penchant for reading under his blankets. The shrill scream brought Barry's parents rushing to his room. They encountered a crackling fire licking across the wall and the bedpost. Barry huddled in a corner hugging his knees, tears streaming from his wide-opened eyes. Carolyn thought the tears were brought on by guilt.

"No, Mom." Not able to form thoughts into words about what really happened, he burst into heart-wrenching sobs.

Needless to say, his bullying days were over. Carolyn gathered him into her arms tightly and tried to still the little boys shaking.



*        *        *



Marjorie stood in the doorway of her daughter's moonlit room and spoke in a whimsical, sad tone.

"Emmy, Emmy, Emmy. Where did I go wrong? I let you have your fun, but the murder of a child? That will not do." She gazed upon the girl lying on the bed atop the covers. Blood saturated the comforter where a head should have been. The torso lay straight and still with red liquid oozing from the jagged stump of a neck
A sudden burp rumbled from Marjorie's throat and out her mouth. She covered her smiling lips in mock embarrassment. "Oh, you always did disagree with me." She laughed and turned away.

Marjorie hummed as she gathered her coat, purse and keys. She glanced at the book that lay under her keys and sighed. The book's title read in bold, T-Rex, King of the Dinosaurs. Her daughter had made the mistake of allowing the beast within to gain control through petty anger, jealousy and feelings of revenge. It gained its power by feeding on the aberrations of mankind though Emmaline's own distorted view of how things should be. Marjorie knew this day would come, but felt great relief instead of sadness. She vowed that the dinosaur would be her last projection of the beast. She felt the evil thing shrink and ripple through the dark side of her soul in feeble protest.

She left the book and everything else behind and quietly drove down the deserted, dimly lit street. Darkness enveloped the black Buick as it rolled into oblivion.



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