electricity

When everything flickered off, just an hour after we’d stepped into the library, I knew we were in for a very long day. Now and again, the whole electrical system fails, it throws the whole library into the dark, the systems are useless. I’m just glad today is bright and sunny, else this place would have been dark. Usually, when the system fails and when electricity no longer reach us, we close the library for the day. It’s too dark most of the time and people can’t find what they’re looking for.

I’m from the generation where things were slowly beginning to change. I know how to look for a book’s index card, I know how to locate that book from that card but a lot of the younger folks who come here only know how to look for things through the computer. When the system first failed while I was working here in my first months, the boss had been talking about how we could replace the card system with the scanner system.

I don’t know how I managed to persuade him to keep both, just in case. When someone takes out a book, we scan it into the system but we also have them sign the little card we take from the book and stamp it with the required return date. That way, if the system does go blank the way it has today, folks can still take books out. We have the sticker with the code bar we scan both on the spine of the book and on the double of the card we pull from the book. So folks take it out, we stamp it and when the system comes back on, we scan those and input the proper dates. It’s the only way, really.

The place had been mostly empty when everything clicked shut. I heard one of the boys stumble down his stool in the far back where he’d been placing books. The back gets dark, the windows don’t really go that far. The front area of the library is filled with bright light though it’ll only be there for a few hours, after that we’ll mostly be in the dark so I know people won’t stay around long. I’ve put up the sign to warn them that we have no electricity, thus no computers.

“Why is it so dark suddenly?” There comes Agni, rubbing one of his shoulders lightly. I assume he’s the one who fell from his stool.

“Are you all right?” He nods and sits at the desk for a few moments.

“Just hit my shoulder on the shelves when I tripped. I was startled when everything went dark, what happened?”

I motion for him to step closer, he does and lifts his shirt lightly. I can see the hint of a bruise there but I know it’ll be gone before too long, I’m not too worried. “System has failed, something downstairs has decided to stop working, it happens every few months. I keep on telling the boss he needs to have the whole system rewired but he refuses to, says it’ll be too expensive. It gets bad when it happens in winter since it also controls the heat. No electricity, no heat.”

I shake my head and I gently pat his other shoulder. I know he’ll be all right, at least. “I called the usual guy on the only phone that keeps on working even during a blackout. He’ll be here tomorrow morning. How about you go and check to make sure your brother isn’t stuck somewhere?”

His eyes widen in realization and he before he can take off running, I gently snag his wrist and from beneath the counter I locate our trusty flashlight. “Be careful.”

I know there are no real dangers in the library but still, it does get dark in the back and they were both out there when the lights went off. Mira could very well be lost. It can almost be impossible to find your way towards the front without light. It’s near impossible to see any light from back there so I know how it goes. I’m sure Agni will find his brother without too much of an issue.

People who come into the library only to be told that there is no electricity turn back. One or two come but go when the light changes and the front of the place is almost as dark as the back. Agni and Mira came back in one piece almost half an hour after I’d sent one to find the other. The place is pretty much empty as afternoon begins to settle. I send the boys off to get the battery powered lights from the closets so we can get a bit of light out here in the front at the very least.

I think I’l be asking Eoghan if it’s possible to get some solar powered lights. I could set them in the front windows in the morning and they’d be a bit of light in the dark when it settles. I wish this place had emergency lights but we don’t even have that much. At least we have a sprinkler system but I don’t think it’d do us much good in the long run. I shouldn’t complain about this place but I can’t help it.

I love books but this is pushing it. This place is not even half safe, I’m constantly worried that the shelves might tumble if they’re handle a bit roughly or if someone leans against their base. There’s no light when it’s dark, the electric system is flaky and I’m pretty sure that could be the cause of fire eventually. It hurts, the idea that this place could burn down and while I hate to think this way, it might be the only way to get anyone to see how unsafe it is.

If only the guy who owns the building would sell it to someone else. It’s not that much hard work, or at least I imagine it shouldn’t be. Though I guess it might be more work than I know but the guy doesn’t even like to read. Why have the building filled with books if he hates them? It makes no sense.

The twins set out the little lamps, lighting a slight path from the door to the desk and all around the desk area. We can at least mostly see where we’re going. The stained glass windows are absolutely beautiful and I don’t recall ever seeing anything quite this beautiful before but when the sun isn’t shining directly into them, the place is in near dark automatically.

“I won’t send you two out to set the books back where they belong. We now all know how dark this place is and it’s dangerous as it is. Unless you two absolutely want to. You could go home, I wouldn’t hold it against either one of you.”

They exchange a look, a silent discussion and Mira shakes his head with a smile. “Well, Agni could hold onto the flashlight while I put the books back or I could hold it while he puts the books back. We might not get them all done but at least we’d get some of them set up where they should be.”

I guess that could be a plan. I nod somewhat. “If that’s what you two want to do, I won’t stop you, just be careful. If any of the books come from the upper shelves, leave them be until we have enough light to see where we’re going, okay? Take one of the lamps from here and leave it on the book carrier so it can be moved around more easily.”

It’s wonderful that these two are willing to stay. I can imagine that plenty other teenagers would not have had to be told twice that they could leave since I was dark, they would have left. I’m glad they’re staying.

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