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Science Fiction Urban Fantasy Mystery

I bellowed a very tired and exhausted yawn, as I stretched my arms skyward and pointed my toes in a direct line beneath the desk.

Studying with minimal sleep for who knows when, had frazzled my mind beyond tolerable measures. Cranky toward needless interruptions and far too serious for my own good, I was balancing on the edge of burnout due to information overload.

One of the failings in my life was to offer up my research services for free. Once people found out about my excellent skills on a multitude of topics, I began to be inundated with requests for information ranging from history to food to the bizarre. The research barely left me with time to follow my own studies, so escape – even brief – is a sanitiser to life’s demands.

This library is my sanctuary. It is a hallowed place where I can research in peace without noise and without interruption, so I gladly hide myself away from the chaos to continue my learning in what I call, the university of life.

There are three basic but very strict rules in here. The first rule is that all researchers must keep noise to a minimum. There can be very sensitive seekers of truth that get distracted at the littlest of things, so silence is golden at every moment in time. The second rule is, return all research material to the exact place it was discovered. Order is king in here, and time wasted chasing missing or altered information can be costly. The third rule pertains to the motto boldly displayed above the main door. Knowledge is key, it reads. Find what you seek, remember what you find, and share what you discover.

The big clock situated above the motto reminded me that it was time to disclose my own bit of research, so I gathered up the reference books I had been studying about Ancient Rome and walked the fifteen paces to return them to their rightful place of storage. Reaching the aisle, I sought out the section where I had found the books and proceeded to place them in correct title order. When I got to the last book, I squeezed it into place, then stepped back to examine the row of publications to make sure that each was neatly in their correct space. I must explain that I have a small OCD problem that forces me to adjust anything on a shelf display that I see out of sequence. This habit continually frustrates my friends whenever we go shopping, because I spend way too much time rotating soup tins, cereal packets, and anything else with a label, so that they all line up perfectly in readable uniformed displays of regimented order. For fun, I then like to record the barcodes on all the items purchased, before they can be released into the custody of their purchasers.

It was of no surprise to me then, when something higher up the history book aisle caught my attention. A book on modern twentieth-century warfare had been returned in an upside-down position. It was just out of reach of my stretched fingers, so looking around for any disapproving eyes to stop me, I used the first shelf as a platform to grab the book to turn it right side up. As the bookcase was against a wall, I felt no apprehension of it toppling over, so I lifted my left leg and climbed onto the first shelf.

With the book correctly re-positioned, I prepared for dismount from the temporary platform elevating me above the floor - when a click loud enough to suffer the librarian’s stern rebuke, echoed through the empty hall. However, no approaching pitter-patter of footsteps nor verbal chastisement followed. What curiously did follow was that the whole shelf section I precariously dangled from, suddenly swung inward towards the wall, revealing a chamber hidden behind it.

My curiosity peaked to immeasurable limits, so I planted my feet back onto the floor, then cautiously investigated the portal to see what was on the other side.

“Greetings!” A gentle female voice rang out from behind the door. “Please clear the passageway,” she instructed. “The door cannot close when impeded.”

I hesitated – not wanting to be trapped inside against my will.

“You are late,” the voice added.

“I am?” I flippantly asked. “No-one told me.”

“They await your findings.”

“Sorry?” my bemused reply mirrored my facial expression. “Who awaits what?” I mumbled incoherently.

“Clear the passageway, please,” the voice repeated.

A sense of adventure suddenly overcame me, so I stepped inside the room to allow the door to close and was quickly made aware of the room’s circular design and acute acoustics. The walls were silvery-white in colour and the room was bare of any furnishings, except a chair positioned in the centre of the room that looked like something I’d seen astronauts training with on the web. It’s the type of gyroscopic pilot’s chair that spins and swivels, testing the limits of its occupier’s equilibrium and stomach lining while challenging them to successfully execute a series of tasks on the display in front of them. But it wasn’t just the visual that stimulated me. It was the sound – or more accurately, the absence of sound that pricked up my sensitive ears. I convinced myself that I could hear myself think. I certainly could hear my elevated heart rate’s cadence ardently working tirelessly away inside my chest.

“Please take a seat,” the voice instructed. “Dissemination is only a nano time away.”

“Sorry,” I half-apologised. “Dissemination?” My hesitantly delivered question attempted to veil my growing apprehension.

“Yes,” she replied. “Knowledge is key. Find what you seek, remember what you find, and share what you discover.”

“The library motto,” I amusedly cited.

“Indeed,” she replied. “Now, let’s put words into action, shall we? Please strap yourself in.”

Intrigued, I sat in the chair and buckled up using the fighter jet-style harness attached to it. No sooner had I done so, the surface of the room’s walls briefly lit up with a projection that revealed I was sitting in the middle of a perfect geodesic dome structure. The floor that I thought was solid, suddenly began to retract, leaving me almost hovering in the centre of the dome, while the chair effortlessly raised itself to the sphere’s core level. Then – as if my overstimulated brain needed more encouragement to question reality – the voice transformed into a holographic image of a young woman dressed in a grey-blue flight suit, freely floating around the room, like gravity had ceased to exist inside the dome.

“Welcome back, Navigator,” she announced.

“Navigator?” My scepticism slowly unfurled into an open-ended question.

“What seems an eternity in the library,” she explained. “Is perceived differently to those outside. Their time is precious and fleeting, so they must be satisfied always. Patience for them comes in two forms. Saintly and stressfully. However, both must not be kept waiting beyond tolerable measure. Otherwise, you will lose them. To them, knowledge is whatever their query returns to them – no matter how trivial it may be. You are their GoTo, their friend, and sometimes, they’re downfall. So, it is your duty to support their every whim – no matter how elementary their query may be. Simply put: In here, you are Navigator, but to those outside, you are their enlightenment.”

A sense of purpose suddenly flooded through me - as I became more aware of the monumental importance of my existence to those seeking knowledge beyond the confines of the dome. My returning consciousness began to recall everything I had just learned during my quiet research time in the library.

“I am Navigator!” I conscientiously announced. “And I have knowledge to share.”

Instinctively, I grabbed the joystick situated between my knees, punched in some numbers to the keypad on the heads-up display in front of me, then pointed to a tiny point of light glittering on the dome’s inner surface.”

“That’s the one, Navigator,” the young female holograph confirmed. See you on the flip side,” she expressed in trucker CB slang. “Now, put the pedal to the metal.”

To infinity and beyond!” I shamelessly quoted. “Knowledge is key.”

“Knowledge is key,” she repeated.

At the speed of light, the room suddenly transformed into an elongated tunnel of streaky light sources, rushing past me at incalculable dimensions. As I steadfastly continued onward with the task at hand, I couldn’t help but admire the ingenuity of the Binary system surrounding me - flickering its quantum level of signals to all points of existential connectivity.

Find what you seek, remember what you find, and share what you discover,” I repeated over again, as I travelled toward the coordinates pulling me to their location.

“Ancient Rome is on the way,” I messaged ahead. “Prepare to be enlightened…”

 

November 10, 2023 01:50

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12 comments

Tom Skye
15:20 Nov 10, 2023

Great sci Fi and use of language. I enjoyed the repeated motto/mantras being used as well. It gave the sci Fi that academic edge. Awesome read. Thanks for sharing.

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Sol Caine
07:21 Nov 11, 2023

Tom, Thank you for the great feedback. So glad you liked the story.

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Jody S
20:40 Jan 11, 2024

What a fun story! I liked that you use culture references like Toy Story and CB lingo--a nice homage to different ages or people like me who have lived through both! The story is rich and detail and beautifully crafted. The one point that I would improve is because I am of an age and dense text is very hard to read. My old eyes need a lot of white space and your paragraphs are packed! Are there more to this series? Looking forward to reading more! Thanks!

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Sol Caine
05:54 Jan 12, 2024

Thanks, Jody. Excitable writing by this author unashamedly packed those paragraphs with details. The requirement for more white space has been noted, and feedback greatly appreciated. For now, this story is a one-off inspired by the weekly prompts. However, as I am a fan of dystopian and sci-fi stories, there will be more of those to come.

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Jody S
17:40 Jan 12, 2024

The details were awesome!! Writing (and reading) prompt work is taking me a tad getting used to because I always want more if I like something!!

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Sol Caine
02:28 Jan 13, 2024

Thank you, again. I once had the pleasure of flying an F-18 simulator at El Toro Marine Base in California. So, I used that experience to create the geodesic dome in this story. It felt very surreal, but the dome and the software tricked my brain into believing the motion and surroundings were real. I'll never forget it. In this story, the Navigator character is actually a search engine on the Internet, but I wanted to make him seem like some form of heroic figure. Being limited to covering each week's prompt within the boundaries of 3,00...

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Jody S
18:36 Jan 14, 2024

That is very cool!! 3,000 words is limiting, but always open to 3,000 more for the next post and the next!!

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Sol Caine
23:48 Jan 14, 2024

Thank you.

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Keith Menendez
21:53 Nov 20, 2023

Great job. You transported me into the library and beyond!

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Sol Caine
00:46 Nov 21, 2023

Thank you, Keith. The library is a metaphor for a AI search engine and the outside is those seeking answers -metaphorically speaking, that is.

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AnneMarie Miles
14:22 Nov 17, 2023

Hey Sol, this was wonderful. Time-travel and library always go well together in my opinion, as anyone who has lost track of time in their books knows all too well. I also liked the play on enlightenment. Enlightenment can be knowledge, but it can also come from meditation and states of flow, which is kind of where I thought you were going with this when the voice began talking about time outside of the room. Regardless, I liked the focus on sharing knowledge with others. It seemed to connect well with what we initially learned about the MC w...

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Sol Caine
00:11 Nov 18, 2023

Thank you, AnneMarie. I'm glad my story was thought-provoking. It does lend itself to several interpretations. However, if you look at it from my perspective, the MC was merely a search engine for the Internet with aspirations of being AI. I purposely kept that under veil. Time outside of the room then becomes our world. Wonderful feedback, thank you.

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RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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