A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing
by Kristen Bealer
Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane sat side-by-side in the school library. Jane stared out a nearby window, sketchbook in hand, as she idly scratched out the occasional doodle or caricature. Daria, with several books on folklore on the table in front of her, was taking careful notes and frowning.
"This is pointless," she complained in a whisper. "I've probably read every urban legend ever told, but I still haven't found anything on what purpose they serve. What do they do other than frighten the gullible?"
"They're educational," Jane whispered back. "Do you know how many new stalking tips I've picked up by listening to you this past week? I'm still trying to decide which celebrity to practice number thirty-seven on."
Daria only shook her head, opened another book, and turned her notebook to a new page.
The words "But, baaabe," invaded the silence of the library and caused Daria to press down too hard, breaking her pencil lead. The voice whined, "I was just talking to her!"
"Do you think I'm stupid!" An even shriller voice caused the remaining lead to tear a small hole in the page. "You were drooling all over her!"
"I was hungry, babe! She was holding a piece of pizza!"
"Yeah, right. That wasn't the only piece you were thinking about!"
Daria glanced around the library. The librarian picked a perfect time to go on break. Fine. I'll handle this myself. She slowly closed her notebook, stood up, and walked over to the arguing couple.
"Brittany? Kevin? You two are pretty brave to be in here, aren't you?"
They stared blankly at her. "What do you mean?" Brittany asked.
"The ghost," she replied.
Kevin's eyes widened. "Tommy Sherman is here?" he exclaimed. "Where?"
"No, Kevin, the library ghost. Haven't you ever heard about her?"
More blank stares answered her.
"It began many years ago, with a girl who spent most of her time here in this very library."
"Aww, this is a story about a brain?" Kevin's attention span visibly began to fade.
Thinking quickly, Daria added, "A girl who wanted to be popular." Seeing that she had their interest again, she continued. "She wanted to be just like the jocks and the cheerleaders and the other popular people, but she didn't know how. So she spent all of her time in this library, trying to study popularity."
"Study popularity? But how would studying make you more popular?"
"Well, Brittany, you know how strange brains are."
"Anyway, the girl went from book to book, reading as many as she could in her quest. She became smarter and smarter, and therefore the popular people spent even less time around her, making her even more unpopular than before."
"That's so sad!" Brittany froze in mid-hair twirl as her eyes widened.
"Yes. Very sad. So finally, an old librarian heard about her persistent—er, I mean, not-giving-up—search and told her that there was a special book that could unlock all of the secrets of popularity.
"The girl asked the librarian to let her see the book, but the librarian said that the book was too dangerous to ever let anyone read. She told the girl that the book was cursed, and anyone who read it would have really bad luck all their life.
"But the girl didn't care. She wanted to be popular more than anything in the world. So she begged and pleaded for the librarian to let her read the book. At last, the librarian brought the girl to a dusty shelf in the library and pointed to a book just within reach.
"The librarian warned the girl one last time against reading the book, but the girl ignored her. She reached her hand way, way up, and grabbed the book. The librarian ran away, afraid, as the girl opened the book and began to read.
"She read every single secret in the book. She learned how to make her hair bouncy, how to make her voice high and squeaky, and how to push all the smart thoughts out of her head. Thanks to that book, the girl knew that she would be the most popular person in the whole world.
"But she should have listened to the librarian. Because the book was, in fact, cursed."
Kevin stared at Daria. "What happened to the girl?" he asked.
Daria didn't blink. "When she tried to put the book back on the shelf a whole pile of books fell on her head and killed her. Her ghost still lives here."
"Wow," Brittany sighed.
Kevin laughed nervously. "Aw, that's silly. I've never heard of this library being haunted!"
"Well, the ghost doesn't haunt everyone. She was so angry that she never got to be popular that she spends all of her time making bad things happen to the popular people who come in."
"What kinds of things?" Brittany asked.
"Don't you remember the first time you guys came into this library?" Daria replied.
Kevin and Brittany gasped at the same time. "The roof!" Kevin cried. "It fell on our heads!"
"That's right, Kevin. But the roof didn't cave in until after I left. She only wanted the roof to fall on you two."
"But that means the ghost already got us!" Brittany squeaked. "Lightning only strikes once and stuff, right?"
"Babe, don't be silly. We're inside. Lightning only hits stuff outside. So we're safer inside!" Kevin grinned at his spectacular command of logic, but the grin disappeared as a shower of paperback books rained down on him and Brittany.
"The ghost!" Brittany squealed.
Kevin was already halfway to the door.
Daria watched the pair flee the building, barely stopping to open the door. She turned, and then smirked as she looked through the book shelf that they had been standing in front of. A pair of gray boots, standing on a ladder, confirmed her suspicions.
"Nice touch," she said.
Jane stepped from behind the shelf. "I prefer stories that are interactive."
The girls sat at the table once again, and Daria pulled a new pencil out of her book bag. "Well, that answers that question."
"Urban legends do serve an important purpose, after all. They make life a hell of a lot easier."
Thanks to Ranger Thorne, RLobinske, and Mr Orange for beta reading.