The Sum of Human Knowledge department.

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A surreal exploration of an endless library, a hidden threat and a journey of self-discovery. Despite its fantastical nature, this story could be said to be based on true events, it all depends on your definition of reality.

Mystery / Other
Age Rating:

Chapter 1: The library.

I was standing outside the library, a cool breeze blowing away the summer’s heat. Clouds billowed on the horizon, lending a spectacular back-drop to the towns skyline, it would probably rain soon. The library itself was a modern building, when it was built. 20 years have passed by its doors since then and the library’s style has followed after them. Its big glass façade yawns over a slightly overgrown little town square. The fine old sign held proud above the door is flecked with age and streaked with rust. However, through those windows I could see the books, standing steady in their proud ranks and an open and bright interior.

My life those last few weeks had been a high speed roller coaster of events, I realised one stressful afternoon as I drove home, stuck behind a digger crawling along the main road, that almost never noticed the clouds anymore, it struck me as they calmly, slowly, slid by above my windscreen that perhaps its they that have the right way of life. That’s the thought that crossed my mind and lead me on the path to these doors, minus any electronics, where I hoped to relax in a world where paper and ink carry the answers, and it takes time to find them. If one can find them at all.

I open the door, they are big double doors, but I open only one, it is heavy, with its double glazed panes and old hinges. The silence of the library seems to rush out into the square, covering the world with a heavy blanket.

The carpet muffled my footsteps as I walked slowly down the rows of bookshelves, my nose filled with the musty scent of old paper, colourful spines with names promising hours of escape from the mundane silently calling for my attention from all sides. Cool air from the ac filling my lungs.

Voices echoed distantly from somewhere else in the library, it was not a busy library but it had its visitors, there were students murmuring to each other from the direction of the computer room, their neat white shirts and grey trousers contrasting with the middle aged man who sat on a computer as far from the students as possible. His jeans were ragged and frayed, showing the dirt on his feet where they disappeared into worn hiking boots with peeling souls. His arms were bare, and coloured the deep red of a person who has spent a life outdoors. His torn t-shirt had once been white, but now was a tie-die pattern of brown and yellow stains. His hair stuck out from his head, matted in tufts around his ears.

The next sound I recognized was a child’s laughter, a bright and innocent sound, but dulled by the atmosphere of the library. In a room by the entrance the children from a local school were having a day out, the author of children’s books reading his newest creation to a rapt audience of his greatest fans. I forgot for a moment what it was I was thinking about before, as my mind is taken back to obscure, half remembered school days out. More impressions of feelings than true memories. My eyes casually scanned the book shelves in front of me, searching for a purpose that had been abruptly lost.

As I came around the corner at the end of the geography department, I noticed an aisle I’d never seen before. The aisle ran down into a distant darkness, that seemed at odds with the rest of the library, the towering shelves were parallel lines lost to the distance. The only light fell from a ceiling unseen, heavy with dust, a dull glimmer as if the shadows were too heavy to be lifted. Pools of this weak light lingered evenly spaced down the aisle, a soft burnished gold indicating junctions perhaps, or merely the unseen librarians attempt to stave off total darkness. The silence of the library seemed to emanate from this aisle. It felt as though I beheld the very source of silence, it was a piercing, powerful silence. A repressive and ominous silence that one fears to break, though without knowing why, or what the consequences may be. Above the door, so incongruously small besides the mountainous shelves, hung a worn, faded, sign. Upon it in small, neat letters were the words “the sum of human knowledge.”

As I looked up at the sign, I felt I could see through time to a librarian whom I never knew, the librarian, sitting wearily at her old, clunky typewriter taking up too much space on a desk never designed to take its bulk. Her withered fingers poking awkwardly and the keys, clattering slowly as she squinted through her glasses, her mouth silently forming the words she was typing as they wrote out new signs for an old library; “history,” “geography,” and eventually, “the sum of human knowledge,” as I stood there, lost in my reverie, I heard a grinding burr from the faltering library ventilation, quickly the air became thick, and warm, and that turgid air seemed to carry the sour smell, like urine and dust, of that ancient librarian, pecking at her typewriter.

The image faded from my mind, I realized I could no longer hear the others in the library, nor could I hear the rattling of the vents or any other noise, It seemed as though I was deep under the ocean, or as though time had simply stopped flowing. I decided to go into the “Sum of human knowledge” department, and as I took a step across the threshold, I felt a momentary jarring sensation. A sort of, sharp stabbing pain in my side, a muscle spasm perhaps, a tendon stretched out of place. With a wince, I found myself with two feet in the shadows between the cavernous bookshelves. The books were jammed onto the shelves in a careless fashion, each tome as thick and heavy as a curbstone, their leather-bound spines cracked and split from use – and yet on the uppermost books of each pile, and upon the tops of the thousands that stood upright, was a layer of dust as deep as my finger.

Many of the books were so damaged or aged that if there had ever been writing on their spines or covers identifying them, it had long since been worn off. Those few that bore traces of legibility were on closer inspection, entirely illegible, as though the letters forming them were undefined. I stalked quietly down the aisle, towards the nearest pool of ancient light, my footsteps almost silent. It was then that I thought I heard another sound, a clanking, rattling sound, coming from far, far away. I froze, feeling the hairs on the back of my neck rise. I felt a rising sense of panic. I turned on the spot. Thinking to rush back the way I had come. The oppressive air seemed to suddenly become denser, cloying, grabbing hold of me, filling my lungs with fire, I started to hurry, kicking up my heels into a run. And then! Froze. In front of me stretched the endless aisle into a distant, undefined darkness. I looked over my shoulder, my heart was pounding right up into my throat, I felt the prickling itch of a sweat break out on my forehead. Behind me continued the aisle, silently looking back at me.

My heart beat once and stopped. The very dust in the air hung still around me. Every hair on my body rose, prickling like static across me. All was silent. All was still.

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