A bookstore can be a wonderful, welcoming place of both commerce and curiosity. That's the goal for Woody, an American recently transferred to England to run a branch of Texts. He wants a clean, orderly store and lots of sales to show his bosses when they arrive from the States for a pre-Christmas inspection. Not easy given the shop's location in a foggy strip mall.
And things keep going wrong. No matter how often the shelves are put in order before the doors are locked at night, when the staff returns in the morning, books are lying all over the floor, many damp and damaged beyond repair. The store's computers keep acting up-errors appear in brochures and ads and orders disappear completely. And even when the machines are turned off, they seem to glow with a spectral gray light.
The hit-and-run death of an employee in the store's parking lot marks a turning point. One employee accuses another of making sexual advances and they come to blows. Between one sentence and the next, one loses his ability to read. The security monitors display half-seen things crawling between the stacks that vanish before anyone can find them.
Desperate, Woody musters his staff for an overnight inventory. When the last customers reluctantly depart, leaving almost-visible trails of slime shining behind them, the doors are locked, sealing Woody and the others inside for a final orgy of shelving.
The damp, grey, silent things that have been lurking in the basement and hiding in the fog may move slowly, but they are inexorable. This bookstore is no haven. It is the doorway to a hell unlike any other.
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by Ramsey Campbell
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by Ramsey Campbell
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by on September 27, 2016
- Tom Doherty Associates, April 2006
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