From the moment I stepped off the elevator into the area studies floor at P.— Library, I knew something was amiss.
To the untrained eye the scene looked normal enough: students studied dilligently at tables and in lounge chairs, the silence of the floor occasionally pierced by the beep of mechanized moving shelves. And yet something seemed…off.
You must understand – when you spend as much time around library books as I do, you start to form an inexplicable connection to them. The book collection becomes part and parcel of your soul. You sense when a book is added or removed. You read not only their contents but their distress. And you know when something is not right.
I brushed past silent statues hunched over their notebooks and walked toward the dimly lit Russia shelves.
On either side of me, identical stacks loomed above like grim Soviet-era apartment blocks. Shuddering, I immediately regretted making that analogy. The air felt thick and strange and changed. At last I stopped in front of stacks DK508-509 and DK510. Putin Corner. I could tell the source of the disturbance rested within. With a quick press of a triangular move shelves button, I parted the two monoliths. I stepped inside the opening, hairs rising on the back of my neck.
I looked across the shelves and found nothing unusual. The books on Russian foreign policy were undisturbed. The solemn face of Lenin, split across four volumes, looked down at me from the ninth shelf up. The thick untranslated KGB archives book weighed down the shelf to my left; colorful Россия переворачивает страницу beckoned to me from the right shelf. But I wasn’t there to choose a new read. As I kneeled by the bottom shelf of DK509 – home of the Putin biographies – I found what I was searching for.
The first telling sign was the booklet’s unbound cover. Typically, prior to shelving a new booklet or pamphlet, library staff binds it in a hard cover so it will stand on its own. This booklet lacked both a hard cover and ID stickers.
The second tell: the sticky note attached to the inside cover.
When I read the note, I almost gasped aloud.
It seems my old friend K.M., hungry for revenge after his defeat in the Game of Dignity, has left me a little gift. Perhaps still to ashamed to confront me in person, he slipped into P.— Library and planted this booklet where I would find it, in the process disturbing the order of academia with his base Putvedev romance fanfiction.
Yes. Four stories, forty-five pages, Putin-Medvedev romance.
The gift of holiday horror.
With trembling hands I stuffed the booklet into my backpack. Forgive my lapse in judgment, but I could not leave the fanfic on the shelf. Order had to be restored; and the booklet was meant for my eyes only.
As I left the area studies floor, I could feel the air clear up around me. But the hum of the holiday horror followed me on the trip back to my residence hall.
Leaning against The Senility of Vladimir P. on my desk, it hums to me still. I try not to look at K.M.’s ghastly gift, focused instead on my Russian practice-final and writing this post. (Multitasking, you know?) Nevertheless my thoughts return to the booklet, this alien object, and what I must do with it –
Read it shred it review it share it stave it hide it save try it –
In any case, I must confront it…