The library, open twenty-four hours a day. Four o’clock in the morning. I’d dozed off at some point before midnight, but now light filtered through the trees outside like thin, peach fingers.
I awoke with a start. Printed lecture slides clung to the side of my sweat-wet face. I stretched, yawned, and chipped with a fingernail at the crusts that had developed along the ridges of my eyelids. Peeling the papers from it, I swung my head lazily. I was alone in the library. Save, of course, for the voices.
‘I heard he killed a man,’ a woman’s voice whispered.
I frowned, and stood. I rearranged my hair, reflected in the screen of my battery-dead laptop, and strained my sense of hearing.
‘No… He was a German spy during the war.’
A man’s voice. American. I followed the sound of these whisperings, deep into the ‘20th Century Fiction’ zone of the Crystal Maze that is our university library. The murmurs emanated from a particular blue rectangle in the shelf. I pulled it out, and set it on its back. The Great Gatsby. I’ve never read The Great Gatsby, but I know that there’s a terrible film by the same name coming out in a few days.
‘He’s related to the Kaiser,’ a page whispered. I opened the book. A slender, pale arm emerged, topped, quite sensibly, with a delicate hand. It grabbed my shirt and pulled me in.
‘It’s so good to finally meet you.’ A woman gleamed falsely. One of the arms to which she was attached was still gripping my shirt. I glanced at her hand and she let go. ‘I am sorry, I was just so surprised to see you.’
I looked around. I wasn’t in the library. A huge house overlooked the scene, its windows like a fleet of burning floodlights. Hundreds of people swirled around like a Van Gogh painting of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Laughter was the hottest sound, but there were gasps and shouts and fragments of chatter. The woman who’d pulled me into this vast garden party was adjusting her dress, smiling widely. ‘It truly is so very nice to meet you,’ she beamed.
I blinked. When my eyelids parted, I found myself in a speeding car, which was biting forwards like a golden shark. A woman was at the wheel. Before I could offer a noise of quizzical jeopardy, she yanked the wheel to the side and we ripped into the course of another car. I realised that she was swerving to avoid a woman who’d run into the road, but my driver lost her nerve at the last moment and pulled the wheel back. Instinctively I reached out, but the vehicle shuddered as if struck down the chassis by a lightning bolt, and I knew it was too late. I closed my eyes, and opened them.
I was lying on my back, staring up at the sky through a veil of yellow leaves. The surface on which I rested was soft. I let my hand droop, and I touched water. I was about to sit up when a figure emerged at my side. I raised a hand, and he raised his. There was a thunderclap, and I woke up in the library, standing over a copy of The Great Gatsby. I threw it back into place, gathered my things, and headed for the bus stop.
On the way, a group of drunken students laughed at me and threw a soggy kebab at my knees.
MORE THIS WAY - Unbelievable Uni Confessions By Uni Students Who Are Students At Uni