The Library is one of my first short stories. It was originally to be the first in a series of modern fairy tales (The majority of which can be found here) as the “catalyst piece”; the how this all began piece. I have the first draft posted here and if you search you’ll find it. Well, after a workshop and some tinkering, this is what I’m presenting to you today. I’ve added to it, attempted to fix my grammatical errors, and may have set it up to be the first chapter of a novel. I guess I am now at a fork in the road myself.
In legend, there is a library somewhere in the galaxy that houses every piece of knowledge in existence. This is not true, as Young Goodman found upon receiving his employment invitation; the library was in a different galaxy completely. Being a bookish Philosophy and Literature major from Boston, you’d have thought receiving a letter from a one “Master Curio of The Library, Black Hole in Galaxy Eyo” would have been thought preposterous by Goodman, but he was quite rational about it. As he lay in his dorm room the evening of receiving the letter, he opened it and read with the utmost curiosity:
Dear Mr. Goodman,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been chosen among the billions of human beings, both on Earth and throughout the Universe to become my apprentice. I am Master Curio, Librarian and Keeper of the Documentation of Human lives. You will be met on your home planet by a caller and will be brought to the Library in three days’ time. Here you shall remain in training for a duration of time ranging from 6 months to two decades as an apprentice. Naturally, I must be sure of your skill before I can take leave. When I do feel that you are ready, you will resume my work – all of which will be described to you in great detail soon enough. Training will begin promptly upon your arrival. You are to tell no one, bring nothing, except your most prized possession and meet your caller at the empty lot exactly 2.1 miles from your dormitory. The self-same lot that sits across from the pub you often sit at during lunch.
With high hopes,
Goodman placed the letter on his nightstand, lay his head back and closed his eyes. In his minds eye he could see himself as a very little boy. He was sitting with his Grandfather on a camping trip. They were alone, by a fire and his Grandfather was telling him a story as a meteor shower took place above them. Packing nothing, as the letter requested, he set off to an empty lot blocks from his dormitory and stood in the middle awaiting “the call” that was to come for him. He’d read and re-read the letter in the days between his receiving it and his call date. If he had felt silly standing there in an empty lot, grasping a letter from an elliptical galaxy he had only studied during his brief fascination with physics, it did not last because the moment he planted his feet and looked into the night sky, there was a man standing just behind him.
“Hello Goodman. We’re so glad you came” and without so much as allowing the boy to turn and see who was speaking to him there was a hand on his shoulder, a haze of light and the world around him began to fade. Dizzy and slightly blinded by the foggy atmosphere Goodman could see the patchy grass below his feet give way to marble and brick walls on either side faded into a cloudless sky and he was standing before what appeared to be a massive mahogany doorway.
The hand was no longer on his shoulder and standing before him was a man of small stature, and a friendly face.
“Welcome,” said the caller as he pulled the door open for Goodman, “to The Library.”
As they entered, Goodman could see many things he could not quite believe. It was a indeed a library. Though much larger and more extravagant than he would have imagined. There were many men, and creatures that looked nothing like he’d seen before. But from their manner, their countenance, Goodman could tell they were of races of similar position in the social hierarchy as humans.
The caller led Goodman to a small table with two chairs, all elaborately carved and bearing script Goodman had never seen before.
“You don’t seem too surprised to be here” the caller spoke sitting on one seat gesturing for Goodman to join him.
“My grandpa told me stories about this place.” Goodman surveyed his surroundings, his eyes hungry for understanding. “But he never said it was anything like this.”
“What did he tell you?” a sort of raspy whisper came from nearby. An old man, ancient nearly, stood cloaked and solemn faced had approached them.
“Well,” Goodman answered as he assessed this man, “not nearly as much as I’ve learned just sitting here. He’d told me that here housed all of the World’s knowledge. That the librarians were keepers of stories, knowledge, any fact anything that is true can be found here. This is the house of knowledge.”
“Ah,” the old man smiled. “The house of knowledge. Well, my dear boy, this is true and not so true. You see, you will be working under me, and I am Curio, Master of Documenting and Recording Human Lives, keeper of profit, business venture, war, lust, love, kind acts, and all that beauty human lives are comprised of; and you, you are my apprentice. Come now, let me explain,” and with that he beckoned Goodman, waved Goodbye to the man who’d brought Goodman and set off to a section that looked very much like a library one would find on earth. It wasn’t as bright as some of the other sections appeared to be, there was less technology and far fewer librarians pacing, re-shelving, and reading.
“There are, of course, two types of books for the humans yet to be born. Look here,” the Curio said, handing Young Goodman a hefty volume with Emelie Belle Martin written on it. Inside, other than her birth date, July 1, 3000, was completely blank. “She,” the old Master continued, ” is one of those free spirited ones. Someone who will write their destiny. We know what choices may befall her, but naturally each choice she makes will lead to another choice, another life, and ultimately, another universe. Where there will be another you, learning from another me. But let’s not complicate things so, not this early, anyway.”
He strode over to another section and took a slightly thinner volume from the shelves. “Ivana Bazin,” he handed the volume to Goodman, who could see the entire book was filled.” Born in February of 2069. She marries once, becomes a lesbian for some spell, but eventually dies alone. She has three children, Michael, Angela and Monique. Her favorite sport is tennis and her favorite song is by an artist named Sherri Fils-Aime, ‘Beauty like the Night.’ You see, I know all of this about our still unborn Ivana because she is one who will accept her fate as it happens. She believes in destiny, and destiny alone and this belief is so strong it will not allow her to fight for what she loves. She will have no fight whatsoever, no fire.” He chuckled, sadly. “But it does make our lives easier, I daresay sometimes I wish more were like her. I’d have less to do. Now, you will join Francisco,” the man who’d brought Young Goodman reappeared, “and be fed, and kept in a manner that is usual to you. Tonight, you will talk to me, I want to know all about Earth, from your eyes. It has been many, many years since I was home. Though, I tell you, with the knowledge you gain here I cannot say I miss it. See you, then.” And he walked off, over to a non-human librarian and began to engage in a discussion in a language Goodman had never heard.
Staring after his new Master, Goodman had man burning questions, but he’d wait. It seemed, he’d be here for quite a while.
His room was rather larger and much more luxurious than he’d expected. It reminded him of the rooms in towers princesses were confined to until their prince charmings came along. The bed was immense, and Goodman remembered his twin bed back in his dorm room. The expanse of spring and foam and cotton before him could have housed four, no five, of his old bed. The walls were sparsely gilded with gold, and when Goodman ran his fingers over it tiny gold dust particles glittered on his hand like Midas. But what was most inviting, most unfathomable was the archway that led to a balcony. Before him the clouds, if there were in fact clouds, towered and cascaded like a metropolis. Above him was a sight he couldn’t have fathomed in his wildest dreams. There were three suns, but so far off he could feel no warmth from the beams that fell. Each was a darker shade of orange, the color of a setting sun on Earth, not the bright yellow of a sun halfway through it’s daily journey. The sky behind and around them a deep plum but so freckled with stars the golds and reds and blues that shone from them nearly blocked the plum entirely.
In the closet were shirts, trousers and loafers that had to be from American somewhere in the 1930’s. Goodman carefully changed from his SpaceBalls shirt – yes he wore it for effect- and jeans and dressed as he expected his great grandfather had dressed at his age. It was as he was buttoning his tweed vest that there came a hasty knock on his door.
“Come in,” he called out.
The door opened and Francisco hastened into the room followed by Curio, clad in his robe and relying heavily on his walking stick as he strode in.
“Thank you, Francisco, that will be all.” Curio gave a curt nod as Francisco bowed deeply and left the room.
The two men stared at one another. The ancient, tired face of Curio’s bore into Goodman’s youthful anxious one. Slowly, purposefully, Curio pulled a book from inside his robes.
“This,” he wheezed, “is yours. Naturally, you would be curious as to what’s in it, what the future holds. But, like me, your pages are empty past this moment. Or past any moment when you peer into it.”
Goodman cautiously approached Curio and took the book from him. “Have a seat,” he gestured at the armchair nearest his Master.
“No, m’boy I really must be off. I have come here to give you information I feel you may find useful before your official apprenticeship begins. You see, we are record keepers. The entire library is full of records,” he seemed to spit this out with the utmost distaste, “save for one book. It can be found easily enough, but none dare read from it. It does,” he hesitated, “strange things to one’s home planet. Set a complete restart for Glavisks planet, he disappeared on the spot.” To this Curio chuckled for quite sometime. “But,” he continued more seriously, “for Earth what it would do is release something that hasn’t been on the planet for a millennia, or more. It would make our presence here quite unnecessary. The affect would be so great that even those lives already set in stone on our shelves would be wiped clean. Unpredictable futures, a manifold of possibilities for the lot of them. So. My official advice is to steer clear of the book.”
“How would I know it?” Goodman questioned. “I mean, I could just pick it up without knowing what it is and ruin everyone’s lives.”
The old man smiled. “What a harsh word, ruin.” He looked at Goodman as if he were assessing him. “You would be able to identify the book easy enough. It’s from Earth and it’s precious. So, naturally, it’s covered in gold. We humans do love our gold.”
Goodman plopped into the seat he’d offered Curio and turn the leather bond book with his name inscribed on the cover. He caressed it absentmindedly as he took in all that his Master was saying.
“But,” Curio continued, “there are other things I must warn you about. We are allowed a viewing of our homes as often as we wish. Your parents are dead, I know. But should you wish to view anyone you love, I’d do it quickly. Time here doesn’t pass the same as it does on Earth and before you blink an eye, all those you cared for would be dead and buried. Their children and their children’s children would be a memory.”
“There’s no one I want to see,” the boy responded flatly.
“I had thought as much,” Curio turned to leave. “But those Zombie movies you love so much won’t be as fashionable after a while and would cease to exist. Perhaps…perhaps…” And he was out the door.
Goodman fell asleep with the weight of the world on his scrawny shoulders. The dreams came to him quickly, and in such succession he could not distinguish one from the other. They begane with his mother. She was singing a lullaby to him, as she did when she was alive. This lullaby was one he had never heard in school, and he was certain it was passed on only within his family. As she sang the world, no, the dream, began to change. The sky was no longer a brilliant blue but rather a kaleidoscope of colors. The streets were no longer gravel, but cobblestone. He walked along them, alone, and watched as people lay about the streets in what was unmistakably misery. The further he walked through this village the clearer his mother’s lullaby came torang out to him. He was following her voice. Siren-like melody rang out from the outskirts of the village and Goodman followed the sound to the edge of a wood. His mother stood before a fork in the road, as beautiful and effervescent as she was in life. The path on his left was the hallway of his dormitory, a place that seemed so very far away now. He could see himself at the end, with his messenger bag struggling to open a door that, in life, his roommate had jammed shut so that he could have the pleasure of watching Goodman suffer. The path to his right was formless and at the end he could see a glint of gold. His mother started down the right, and as she continued to sing he couldn’t refuse following her. She was his piper.
As they neared the gold it was quite evident to Goodman that this was Curio’s book. His mother reached for the book and passed it to her son.
“This was always your book. Your very own. Read it, you’ll love the ending.” And with that he awoke to find himself standing in a circular room with a domed ceiling that showed him the stars. There, in his hands, were two books, one was his from the shelves that it would now be his job to tend, the other book he was sure was the one Curio spoke of.
Without pause he flipped through the pages of his life to the last sentence. It was filling in as he read it:
And so Young Goodman has a dream about his mother that leads him to the book that could bring magic back into his world. Magic he had only known in Faerie stories as a child. He stood in a room he had never before seen and was faced with a decision that would change everything. Including his new position, his Master and all Universes. Magic has the ability to do that, you know.
Young Goodman felt a complete sense of lackluster for his position now. Who would settle for record keeper when one could count himself among the four horsemen? Goodman pictured himself among those biblical beings, the fifth horseman, lavender perhaps.
He felt Curio watching him from his sleep, whispering for him to “go on, read it”. There had been no mistake, Goodman thought. Master Curio wanted me to seek this out, else he’d never had mentioned the book. He’d never had chosen me as his apprentice. He had to have known what I would do, even if my pages are blank.
Feeling the weight of the ancient pages in his hands, Goodman paced the room a few times over wondering what the consequence or rather the effects would be. Magic? Really? He wondered. What would become of law and order? He thought of the criminals he’d seen on the news in his time. A nanny who took the lives of two of her charges. A multi-millionaire who bamboozled hard working middle class families out of their savings. And then there were your run of the mill axe murderers, sexual predators and socio-paths. How infinite their power to do evil, once magic returned, seemed to him.
But, he turned and paced the room counter-clockwise this time…What if the good magic…is white magic politically correct? What if magic was given to the right people, too? He’d never had experience with money troubles, but he knew personal tragedy. He thought of all who had ever or would ever lose their families.
What if he just helped them out a little? Hell, he thought, even Pandora was able to hold off the worst of it.
And without a second thought, he opened the book to page one.