I followed the Librarian through the shelves. I didn’t watch him when we arrived at the space between two of the tallest bookshelves. I had seen it many times before. I looked at the bookshelves as the opening appeared. I felt relaxed as he gently shoved me through the opening, which disappeared behind me with the rest of the library.
I walked down the stairs, trusting in my familiarity with the space between the steps more than anything else. There were sixty seven steps, all in complete darkness. I had done this often enough I could feel the hum surrounding me.
Warning those below someone was coming.
When vision returned, I was in the chamber. The entrance was behind me, a hole within the walls of bookshelves. It looked like an extension of the library. Once, it had been.
Follow her as you wish.
Of course she wants you to, she gave you permission.
Let yourself focus on that first part, not what she’s said since.
Let yourself focus on her, not what she is saying.
Of course she wants you to, she’s not responding.
Wishing she wasn’t so weak as to stop you.
The Librarian was a mountain. I had never known a larger person in my life. With wide shoulders and arms like mountain roots, none of the books were beyond his grasp. Occasionally he stood on a small step stool to reach the very top of the shelves for dusting. The stool always creaked and everyone always stepped away from it. I didn’t worry about him falling. If the stool broke, the Librarian wouldn’t fall. He just couldn’t reach the top of the shelves.
“Did you want to see my new pocket pet?” I asked him.
He shifted and looked down at me, silent as ever. I pulled the one I had in my pocket out to show him. It rested in his palm, completely engulfed.
“I bought four of them,” I continued.
This told him everything. Things I couldn’t say out loud, that I wouldn’t say out loud. He nodded and returned it to me.
I was ready. “What do you recommend today?”
She gripped tightly to the edge of the rink.
“Come on,” he said, drifting backwards away from her.
He slid across the ice without hesitation. She felt unstable, walking on two blades.
“Don’t worry about taking your feet from the ground. You don’t. Think about sliding across the kitchen in your socks.”
It was hard while it was so cold. She slid her right foot in front of her left. She had to let go of the edge.
“You can do this.”
She used to do this all the time. She couldn’t remember. She let go.
I did the same thing I always did: return the books I had checked out. I trundled over to the main desk, only really approaching when it was the Librarian. None of his assistants meant anything to me. I didn’t know them well enough. They had to know who I was, I came to the library almost every day. One of the women there smiled at me. Occasionally I smiled back, unable to help myself. Still, I never approached until the Librarian stepped behind the counter.
I pushed my books forward, as well as my library card. One by one, the Librarian swiftly entered each one into the system, filing them somewhere under the counter where I couldn’t see the rest of the process. He returned my card. I felt the thrum of the plastic as I only ever did when he returned it to me. Shifting the strap of my bag on my shoulder, I began to peruse the shelves again.
An hour later found me in the small section of foreign language books that still remained. There had been many more, once. Books in other languages, rather than books about them. I read these books anyway. I didn’t know another language, though I knew a lot about them. Now the section was encroached upon by history books and the culture of our state. The latter had become a much larger section than it needed to be. I wondered how many different ways one could read about a single subject without reiterating the same facts. I still occasionally checked one out. Just in case. It would look good on my record, alongside my variety.
While I stood there, pulling out random books, the Librarian eventually moved beside me.
I thought I saw something from the corner of my eye
Lit upon the windowsill
Laughter like a trill
Understanding that when I turned, nothing would be there but the lie
Seeing is believing and I have yet to stop believing all I see
Ending imaginations where the magic doesn’t stay in me
Much like the other common folk, I made sure not to bring any undue attention to myself when I went to enter the Vault. Just another reader, another student, another well-behaved member of society. No one for the Official to notice.
This is part of the reason I stopped writing in my diary. Why I burned everything I had written before. No one could know what I did on my own days off. No one would ever find out what actually happened here. I would not be the one to betray what little we could keep. Even if it means I can’t write about the Keeper anymore, or their father, the Librarian.
Our names are unimportant.