A serene yet dark mood hung ominously in the library's atmosphere; the scent of musty paper and ink filling the air, mixing with the aroma of damp autumn leaves. Each inhale was like a crisp bite of bittersweet nostalgia with the promise of an impending, unforgiving mood.
Heavily laden bookshelves lined the walls, their contents as old as the earth itself. The grand room was steeped in history and tradition, with dark mahogany desks and aged leather furniture evenly placed about the space. An iconic maze of paths crisscrossed the floor, connecting the various aisles and alcoves, separated by perfectly arranged bookcases.
Despite it being Saturday, a small gathering of students was scattered throughout the room. The place was a hotspot for avid learners or those who simply enjoyed the aesthetics, taking advantage of the quiet, outmoded sanctuary.
Most of the students sat by themselves, their expressions one of concentration as they were diligently immersed in their studies. Two or three ambled the walkways, lazily browsing bookshelves. Some stared out the window, entranced by the scenery, and a few, like me, were scanning their surroundings from their dark corners, taking in every detail.
Not a single sound was to be heard from those who sat quietly in their seats, pens poised over their papers. The silence was only disturbed by the soft pattering of rain against the windows and the occasional creaking of wooden chairs under the students' weight as they pored over ancient texts- unaware of the world beyond theirs.
A lock of dark hair fell into my eyes, and I raked it back as I focused on the steady rhythm of the rain, appreciating its hypnotic melody. The peaceful tranquility of the room was a welcomed respite from the chaos in my mind.
With nothing else to do, I made another perusal of the familiar, gloomy expanse.
The antiquated building spoke of an old-world charm. Its aged wood gave off a distinct aroma of the past- a sense of time standing still. Dust wasn't the only thing floating within its walls; intellectual rigorousness and passion were too, emanating from the very books themselves. It was a perfect backdrop for the Sapient Scholars Society's inaugural meeting, which was set to begin in just a few minutes.
Mystery and secrecy had long since replaced the initial purpose of Oxford's renowned library. There was a time when this massive room of archives was used to inspire students with the wonders of knowledge. But over a century had passed, and since begun serving another purpose. One with dark and sinister undertones.
Adjusting in my chair to get more comfortable, my eyes darted from the old clock that sat above a stone hearth- which was currently lit with a cozy fire- to the window overlooking the courtyard beside me. The rain had become more intense, drowning out the sound of the clock's ticking and the scribbles of pens against paper.
The long hand on the clock slowly crept along, currently marking the time as four-fifty-seven. Anticipation was building. I could sense it in the atmosphere from the other students who were also counting down the minutes, though for different reasons than mine. I didn't know who among them was also being added to the Society, but I knew they chose five students in the final throes of obtaining their Master's at the start of every year. Always the highest-ranking student from one of the five major studies: Literature, History, Psychology, Biology, and Mathematics.
My fingers thrummed against the surface of the desk, my knee bouncing as I thought about my major. Literature. My interest in the subject was Critical Theory, specifically the interpretation of an author's message. Out of every poem, play, and story I've read, Oscar Wilde was one of my favorites; his message from A Picture of Dorian Gray resonated deeply with me. According to some of his lesser-known stories- the ones he kept in journals- he was an alumni of the Society.
During my studies, I read rumored entries about the Sapient Scholars Society told by famous literary authors, such as George Orwell, Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, and some even as early as Charles Dickens.
Not told, warned, my thoughts corrected, as they all made it sound like a cult of sorts.
My thoughts took an abrupt turn, going back to last year. Erik Larson had been the Literature initiate, ranking top in his class. I'd befriended him, trying to learn if the Society was real or not. He was a private guy to begin with, paranoid beyond reason, so gleaning information hadn't quite worked out, and I began questioning its existence... until last night, when the truth was delivered to me in the form of an ominous note that appeared under my door.
I dragged a hand down my face, my skin snagging on the slight stubble on my chin as I recalled the message. All it said was to be here tonight. I almost threw it away, thinking it was some study group invite, but the crest at the bottom with three snakes gave me pause, knowing the S.S.S. stood for the Sapient Scholars Society.
Logic told me to ignore the invite, but curiosity was quite the seductress, and I was a weak man when it came to my urges.
I waited for the shame to settle over me for not even fighting the alluring call. But mysteries and secrets were things I thrived on, which was why I had such an interest in literature. Nothing got my blood going like solving hidden meanings.
While I rolled up the sleeves of the white dress shirt underneath my black Hanes sweater, I cast a sweeping glance over the library again. My eyes clashed with another student's from inside the recess of a dark alcove where a female student with short brunette hair lurked. She'd been tapping her pen against her notebook with a nervous tick, yet stopped when our eyes locked.
A flush stained her pale cheeks at being caught staring, and she bit down on her lower lip as she averted her gaze.
Indecent thoughts filled my head, making heat soar up my spine.
Okay, so maybe one other thing invigorated my blood. But what college adult wasn't drawn to the prospect of bare skin and soft moans? Sex was a pleasure no soul could deny, a contentment that rivaled ecstasy, and I certainly wasn't going to reject that experience when it presented itself.
With that thought, determination grew within me. I placed my palms on the desk, about to stand up and approach her, when the clock struck five, reminding me of my business here.
A low, discordant chime echoed throughout the library from the ancient clock's chords, and all but four of the students assembled rose out of their chairs, aiming for the heavy wooden doors. The Librarian didn't even glance my way as she ushered everyone through them, following them out.
I glanced over at the alcove where the cute girl with pale skin and shoulder-length hair was, delighted to find her still seated. The small smile she wore told me she was pleased with the fact that I was still here, too.
A fleeting thought crossed my mind, wondering what her major was. Hopefully, Psychology. Those girls tended to have a hidden kinky side to them. That, and I liked mind games.
The doors slammed shut with a resounding thud, which seemed amplified in the library's hollow silence. I wasn't sure what was supposed to happen next, and it seemed neither did anyone else as they all remained in their seats, glancing at each other with hesitant eyes.
Three boys, two girls, five majors. All who'd be inducted into the Sapient Scholars Society- if we passed the initiation trial, that was. A test I had a feeling I was the only one who was privy to.
As if sharing the same thoughts, we all stood to meet, and I took a good look at the other four students as I made my way towards them. A guy with short, mused, curly blonde hair and glasses was closest to me. His wool sweater was half-tucked into his trousers, and his blue eyes were alight with excitement. Poor guy. If only he knew.
Next was a tall girl with dark skin and long, raven hair that fell to her waist. She was dressed in a hounds-tooth coat and distressed black jeans, and her eyes were as rich as the mahogany. A serious expression rested upon her face, giving me the impression she was a serious student.
A flash of gold caught my eye, and I glanced down at a medallion on her neck, noticing symbols of some kind etched into it. The Historian, no doubt.
The last of the five was a guy with a head of thick, black hair and a short beard. He wore a tweed jacket over a white shirt and ruddy-colored pants; his lanky form seemed to drown in his clothes. I instantly pegged him as the Mathematician, which made the other guy the Biologist.
Our circle tightened as we all met in the center of the library, and my attention was once again drawn to the petite brunette sitting in the alcove. Her suede black skirt hugged her hips as she walked; black tights covered her legs as if they were a second skin and disappeared into leather ankle boots. The fitted, olive green turtleneck sweater she had on was a nice contrast to her pale skin, matching the shade of her irises.
She was staring at me, a small smirk playing on her lips like she knew something the rest of us didn't.
"So I take it you all got invitations, too?" The other girl asked, flashing the notecard for emphasis.
"Yeah, any idea what it's about?" Glasses murmured, staring down at his invite as if the answer would be revealed to him.
"A secret Society," I supplied, deciding what the hell, they were about to find out anyway.
"How do you know if it's a secret?" The cute brunette pixie questioned, raising an eyebrow at me and folding her arms.
I leaned closer like we were sharing a secret of our own. "Because I read." I said, pointing to the triple 's' within the crest, and smiled at her unimpressed expression, though amusement danced in her eyes.
"Why invite us?" Beardy asked with a frown. Or I suspected he was frowning, hard to tell with the beard.
I shrugged, unsure of how much I wanted to reveal to them. Trust was a fickle thing, and besides, it was a secret society. I doubted the people who sent the invites would be happy to hear I got a whiff of their club years ago. "Maybe we're the best in the school?"
A thought seemed to click in Pixie's eyes, and her face lit up with realization.
"What are your majors?" She asked the group, but her sights were fixed on me.
Skipping introductions and diving straight into the good stuff? A woman after my own heart.
I shoved my hands into my front pockets, portraying an air of nonchalance and confidence. "I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours," I said, my voice low and smooth.
A soft snort escaped her and she shook her head like she couldn't believe that I'd be bold enough to shamelessly flirt with her so openly. The action made her short hair brush against her shoulders. "Psychology."
"Hmm." Feeling smug about my deduction, I nodded and my gaze raked over her, letting my attraction be known. "Literature," I murmured as I met her eyes again. She blushed, her cheeks becoming the color of a rose petal.
I loved it when girls blushed. It was sweet and innocent, two things I sensed she wasn't.
"Alright, well, that wasn't awkward," the other girl muttered, sounding annoyed. "Hi, I'm Charlotte," she said, turning to the guy with glasses. "I major in History."
A grin tugged at the corner of my mouth, but I smoothed it away as I waited for him to respond.
"Miles, Biology," he replied quickly as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, confirming my assessment yet again.
The lanky bearded guy went next. "Ibrahim, genius Mathematician."
I fought the urge to arch a brow at that unnecessary detail he thought to include.
Charlotte turned to me, her nose crinkled as if repulsed. But the pitch in her tone betrayed her true emotions; the sound too high, and too dismissive to sound real. "And you?"
"Thomas," I purred, looking at the little Pixie, waiting for her to go next.
She pursed her lips as if considering the consequences of being acquainted with me. I was tempted to point out that we were about the join a secret organization together, but a look passed over her face that said she'd come to that conclusion on her own. "Sawyer."
Sawyer? Unusual name, but it suited her.
It was on the tip of my tongue to make a literary reference to her name that'd surely charm the panties off her when suddenly all the lights went out.
Our heads swung left and right, trying to make out shadows in the darkness. The only source of illumination came from the orange flickering blaze of the fireplace, casting shadows on the walls from the furniture and bookshelves that adorned the room.
The windows offered no natural light, and I glanced outside, realizing the sky had darkened significantly as a storm rolled in. The overcast tinted the campus in a murky gray hue.
"Wait, we're still in here!" Charlotte called out in a panic, pressing in closer to the group.
The only response was the sound of rain beating down on the building, and the random pop and hiss from the crackling firewood.
"I think they're trying to scare us," Ibrahim said with a snort, trying to sound dismissive, but a quiver in his voice gave him away.
"It's working," Charlotte grumbled, inching even closer to the group until she was practically in the middle.
"I don't have cell service," Swayer said, and I glanced over just as she turned on the flashlight on her iPhone.
We all scrambled for our devices, discovering none of us had service either.
"Probably static from the storm interfering with the electromagnetic waves," Miles surmised, pushing his glasses up his nose, the blue light from his phone reflecting off them. They didn't look out of place, and I deduced he did it as a nervous habit.
"We should move closer to the fire, where there's more light," Sawyer suggested and started over toward it when an audible click came from somewhere in the room, and all of us went still.
That sound was unmistakable, one I'd recognize anywhere, which meant- someone else was in the room.
Charlotte squealed in alarm and nearly jumped into Ibrahim's arms. "What was that!?"
"Probably nothing," Ibrahim offered, trying to calm her, but even he didn't seem to believe his lie.
"Sounded like a latch," I said, earning a curious look from Swayer.
"A latch?" Miles questioned and pointed at the entrance. "But the doors are over there. The noise seemed to emanate from-"
Before he could finish, a loud groan echoed throughout the library- the sound of a heavy door on old rusty hinges.
We all faced the direction of the noise to the still-burning hearth as it slowly crept open to reveal a hidden chamber. In synchrony, we all shuffled away from it.
"Oh, nuh-uh, I didn't sign up for this," Charlotte said, frantically shaking her head. Sawyer reached over to grab her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
Five figures in long dark robes emerged from the shadowy doorframe, each holding a candle stick, the flame flickering from a breeze I couldn't feel. Hoods hid their identities, but their shapes indicated at least one was a woman.
For an agonizingly long beat, they stood in silence, watching us from beneath their hoods. I couldn't make out their gazes, but I could feel their judgment as they observed us. Or maybe I was imagining it.
As if the situation wasn't creepy enough, a light flashed from outside, briskly basking the room in white. It was promptly followed by a deep rumble of thunder; the sound disorienting as it reverberated in the aged library, making the ambiance even more eerie, and my palms began to sweat.
One of the hooded figures stepped forward, and after another brief interlude of quiet, he finally spoke.
"History, Biology, Psychology, Mathematics, and Literature. The Five Pillars of Knowledge." The voice was deep and gravelly. It held us in an oppressive vice, commanding our absolute attention. "Chosen Five, you've each been carefully selected to become a part of our cause, keepers of the truth; an organization that transcends the world through the wisdom of the universe for the betterment of society. Should you choose to join, then you must commit wholeheartedly to our mission, remain loyal to our Fellowhood, and swear an oath of silence to protect its secrets no matter the cost or face the consequences. Do you accept this sacred responsibility?"
I swallowed, disbelieving that this was happening. I'd been driving myself mad for years trying to uncover the truth about this society, and now it was here- staring me in the face in the shape of hooded figures, and extending an offer to be a member.
Charlotte exhaled a breathy laugh. "Is this for real?"
"Charlotte." It was more a warning than a name, as Sawyer gave her a look that said this wasn't a joke.
She then glanced at me with an urging expression, prompting me to make the call. She was either designating me as the leader or had read me as if I were an open book, sensing I was familiar with the club.
Hopefully, it was the former.
I met the others' gazes, giving them the chance to leave now, or forever be bound to this followership. They all regarded me back as if awaiting my verdict, their faces reflecting trust and reliance, putting their faith in me to guide them correctly.
I wanted to laugh. They shouldn't recklessly place their free will in another's hands, especially a strangers. I'd never let another decide my fate for me.
But I didn't laugh. None of this was funny. It was as serious as a heart attack, and I refused to feel responsible or guilty for whatever befell them.
With no objections or refusals from anyone, I redirected my focus to the man who'd spoken, suppressing my long-awaited anticipation. "Yes, we accept the sacred responsibility of joining your cause."
The leader nodded in approval at my answer and lifted his candle toward the secret entrance. "Very well. Then your inauguration to the Sapient Scholars Society can begin."
About the Creator
I never believed the sky is the limit, therefore my passions are expansive. My interest in writing stemmed from poetry but my heart lead me to Sci-Fi Fantasy. Consequently, my stories are plot-driven with splashes of evocative elements.