C. A. Young

Aled felt along the edge of the lacquered wood for any sort of groove or gap large enough for a fingertip to press inside.  His hope was that some small opening might contain a button or a trigger.  That trigger might release the bookcase and allow it to slide away to reveal whatever secret door they’d used to put him here.  It had to be the bookcase.  None of the other furniture in this room was large enough to conceal a door, and he’d been over the floor three times with his bare hands.  He’d done the ceiling as well.

“Let’s go to Shanghai,” Jane had said.  “No one will know us in Shanghai.  We’ll get away clean.”

There was no switch.  Aled’s palms were sweating and began to stick to the gleaming black finish of the bookcase.  He pulled a book off of the shelf and let it drop to the polished red maple floor.  Maybe it was just like a film.  Pull the right book and you pull a lever.  Pull the lever and the door appears.  Giddy, Aled dropped a second book and a third.  He cleared the first shelf with both hands and then scrubbed his brow with his forearm.  The air felt thick and close around him.

The second shelf went faster; his hands were accustomed now to the work and motion of moving books, of pulling them from the shelf or shoving them to the floor in a heap.  The third shelf was low enough Aled had to kneel to empty it, and the fourth shelf was nearly flush with the floor.

Empty, the bookcase wobbled.

Panicked now, Aled stood and grabbed it by its sides.  He shoved it to the left and it toppled easily, smashing through a glass table on its way to the floor.  He stumbled backwards, tripped a little over the scatter of books when he saw the wall behind.

It was pale, pristine, and blank.

First published:May, 2009
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