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A Hell of a Holiday

fantasy by Oonah V. Joslin

Geoff worked in the bowels of the library.

Each day, he frequented places that nobody ever saw. Down there amongst the rolling shelves of old stock, accessions and archives, he spent his days un-shelving, re-shelving, stock taking, making room, and dealing with odd requests for inter-library loans. Nobody knew the shelves better.

The first time it happened, he’d been looking for travel guides – the local sort that listed public footpaths, rights of way, bridle paths and featured ancient monuments and folklore.

He came across The Celtic Connection quite by accident, in the travel section, but soon found himself fascinated by the story of a witch named Kate O’Brien who had been tried by water for claiming she could talk to the little folk. Trial by water involved being bound hand and foot and plunged into a deep pool or river several times. If you survived your guilt was proven. If you drowned, you were innocent. Since they couldn’t get Kate to drown, they burned her.

As he read, the room dimmed and when Geoff came to himself, he was in a glade in a forested place, surrounded by very small but fully grown people.

“Where am I?” he said.

“You’re still in the library, eegit,” said one of them.

“Not another moron, Sean?”

“Agh, sure do we iver get anythin’ else?” said Sean. “Right, you’re entitled to t’ree trips. It was Kate’s idea. Anybody who’d sit down and read her story, she said, and we’d not disappoint the girl, now would we, lads?”

The company agreed on this point.

“Any questions? No? Good.”

And Poof!—they disappeared, just like that, and Geoff was sitting on the floor, between the shelves. He swore himself off alcohol for a month.

A couple of days later, he found himself back in the travel section, leafing through a book on Spain, when he suddenly found himself in the narrow streets of Malaga, walking toward red stone crenulated walls, past small tapas bars, in the bright sunshine of a perfect spring day.

Wait a minute, he thought, this is exactly the place I was just reading about. This is the picture, from that book.

This was surely the work of the little folk.

The next thought that struck him was that he didn’t have the faintest notion how he was supposed to get back. He felt quite foolish clicking his heels together but it didn’t work, anyway. Then he realised that in the book the picture had been taken from the corner of this street, looking up. He descended towards the corner and at once found himself back among the shelves with My Malaga by Herbert G. Holme in his hand. He shut the book and looked at his watch. He had indeed been gone for twenty minutes – the length of time it took to walk down that street.

Determined to make the next time count, Geoff did a bit of research. He’d have to read enough of the book to visit several places at one go, as well as finding a good place to have dinner. Suitable attired, he spent all morning reading and when he stood up there was the Plaza de la Merced, a beautiful square surrounded by 19th century buildings and ringed with trees. At one corner was the house where Pablo Picasso was born, now the Picasso Casa Natal Museum.

All around the square there were many restaurants; Geoff knew he’d get a good meal. If only he’d read more last time—not to worry; he knew all about Malaga now. He reckoned it would take him several days to explore all the historical sites alone.

In the middle of the square, stood the obelisk to General Jose Maria de Torrijos y Uriarte, who had participated in the insurrection of 1817. The general had returned to Malaga, but was captured and Fernando VII had ordered his execution. He was shot on the beach of San Andres and buried under the obelisk in—

In a wink, Geoff found himself standing upon the sand, surrounded by riflemen.

He was back in the library as soon as the shots rang out. “Damned little people – can’t be trusted!” he said. He shook his fist, shouting now. “Can’t be trusted!”

He scooped up the nearest book, determined to have another go at it.

#

Everybody supposed that Geoff had gone on holiday. He had left a bit suddenly, though, and it was not like Geoff to leave a book discarded upon the floor between the shelves.

“From the wrong section, too,” remarked Dorren, from Periodicals. “I mean Dante’s Inferno isn’t travel, is it?”

Copyright 2009 by Oonah V. Joslin

Oonah V. Joslin lives in Northumberland, United Kingdom. She blogs about writing at Oonahverse.

[Return to the July 2009 stories]

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9 Responses

  1. […] A Hell of a Holiday […]

  2. Really enjoyed that one, Oonha. I was drawn in with the opening line “Geoff worked in the bowels of the library.”

  3. Fine story, Oonah. Those little guys’ll get you every time.

    –dj

  4. Oonah, what a perfect lead off story. Funny and fun.

  5. Hi Oonah! So glad I stumbled upon your story. Loved it! 🙂

  6. […] A Hell of a Holiday […]

  7. This is excellent, Oonah! And with an ending to die for.

  8. Great story! Thank you!

  9. AAaaargh! Unfair! The wee folk hate us, and that’s all there is to it. And to have a sense of humor while they do it adds insult to injury. I loved this one. I loved Geoff, but if I had been him I would have never touched another book after the first trip.

    Nan

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