1 comment

Fantasy Fiction Christian

The Library Card

Barry Wilder watched as the Librarian scanned his Reader’s Card to gain access to Duke Humphries Library. Years of genealogical research into the Wilder family culminated in this trip to visit the Domesday book and collection and its list of property owners after William the Conqueror became king. All of his research pointed to his family being substantial landowners under King Edward’s reign. 

Genealogy was his addiction. Barry’s only saving grace was his wife, who supported him even when he lost his job due to the amount of time he took off to do research. Inez exhibited the patience of a saint and was his anchor and now his only source of sanity.

Barry shook his head as he realized the emotional bunny trail of worry had stopped him from reading the section he already had read three times. He looked up from the page, rubbed his blue eyes, leaned back in the straight-backed wooden chair, and scratched his long, dirty blond hair with the vigor of his frustration. He rolled his head around to loosen his neck muscles and started to return to reading, but noticed a movement in his peripheral vision that was lit by a shaft of light coming through the tall arched windows. 

He turned and quickly stood up. So far today, he was the only person in this part of the library. And, the silence was part of the problem concentrating. Barry was used to noise at work and in his home. He walked over to where the movement had been and looked around the end of a bookshelf.

Standing in front of a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf was a short monk. Dressed like a medieval monk from the Dark Ages. He was humming to himself as he kept removing books to read their spines as if he were looking for one particular book. Meticulously he would replace each book making sure that it fit perfectly in line with the other books on the shelf. After a minute or two the monk was squatting to reach the bottom shelf, and a quiet, “Aha! Found you my friend!”

But, then the monk put the book on the floor and reached into the bookshelf itself, and fiddled with something behind the shelf. Then he replaced the book on the shelf. He stood up and began rocking back and forth on his feet still humming as if he were waiting for something. The shelf slowly and quietly began to slide back into the wall, revealing an oval door. It shined as if it had just been polished and was worked with all manner of symbols. Barry realized he had seen that style of decoration on the ancient steles in Scotland that the Picts carved. The door looked new but also old. The top portion of the door was covered in decorative symbols which were connected and morphed from one symbol to the next. In the middle was a band of Pictish soldiers in procession carrying the top half of the door on their shoulders. Below that on the bottom half of the door were line after line of Runes. 

The Monk unexpectedly turned his head to make sure no one was watching, causing Barry to duck back behind the shelf. He cautiously peeked back around the shelf in time to see the Monk take an iron key out from under his brown robe inserted it into the very center of the door and turned. Barry heard a distinct clunk, followed by the door opening. The Monk left the key in the door and walked through the door. Barry caught a quick glimpse of a staircase behind the door with modern lighting leading downstairs. 

After the door shut, Barry walked over to the oval door and pushed it back open. 

The stairwell stood out from the Library as it was completely made of rough-hewn rock, from the steps to the arched ceiling. He questioned his sanity as he descended the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs was a well-lit room about twenty feet long by ten feet wide. A table sat directly to his left upon taking the last step down into the room with a tall narrow and flat-faced wooden panel. The panel had lots of slots, many filled with individual library cards. At the top of the panel was a sign that said, “No Library Cards Past this Point”. The majority of the slots were blank, and there were only a few cards in those slots. There was no one in the room, but there was a camera aimed directly at the opening of the staircase. It was positioned over another opening which had no door. A red light was on the top of the camera and Barry saw the camera swivel towards him as he walked towards the opening.

A gravely squeaky voice dropped out of the camera and asked, “Who are you? And, how did you get in here?”

Barry stopped and looked up at the camera and said the only thing he could think of, “I have a Library Card. I saw the door up there and thought there might be more books down here. To be honest, I don’t even know where here is.”

“Hmmm, a Library Card.” Barry heard what he thought were two people quietly laughing. “Very well, you can proceed. Someone will escort you when you reach the bottom. Welcome to The Library!”

Barry stood for a moment frozen in confusion. “Do I really want to find out what’s down there? Or, should I politely walk away?”

His feet made the decision for him and he continued down on the next flight of stairs until he noticed a brighter light coming up from below. And, the smell of a Museum filled with very old things.

Barry stepped out from the stairs and for a moment his mind blinked as if it were trying to rub its own inside the brain kind of eyes. Stretched out before him was the Library to beat all Libraries. It was a multi-layered Disneyland of a Library. The ceiling stood at least three stories high, and the walls were; well, he realized he couldn’t actually see the walls for the rows of ceiling-high bookshelves. Each row with its own circular staircase leading up to catwalks lining every floor of books. The middle of the Library descended through three distinct levels like a gargantuan sunken living room. Each level was ringed with reading alcoves and more books. This extended for the length of the Library floor, which led to a far distant wall with three giant arches with what looked like more Library branches. 

“Ahem!” A voice gently caught Barry’s attention, “I’m your guide. If you would please follow me? The powers that be have graciously granted you the privilege of the dime tour.”

Barry was looking down at the Monk he had followed down into this “other” Library. 

The Monk held out his hand and said, “Give it to me.”

Barry, still in a state of shock, just stared at the Monk and said, “What? Give you what?”

“The Key! I would appreciate you giving it back as I will get in trouble for leaving it in the door upstairs.”

“I didn’t take the key. It was still in the door when I went through. I didn’t take it, honest!” Barry held his arms out as if to prove nothing was in his hands.

The Monk’s face drained of blood, and he looked as if he would faint. “Oh no, this is not good.” He looked up at Barry and asked, as he began to pace back and forth, wringing his hands nervously, “Did you see anyone else up there in the Library? Anyone that looked Scholarly? Or anyone skulking about in the shadows? This could be a disaster of historical proportions if this key has been stolen.”

The Monk looked at Barry and motioned him away as if he were shooing a cat from the couch. “Please, go away. Over there is the tram that will take you wherever you need to go in this library. I need to spread the alarm!”

The Monk began to run towards a small room next to the door to the Library. Barry saw another monk behind a glassed-in door. “Why would losing a key be so traumatic?” Barry thought.

However, unable to answer his own question, Barry walked in the direction the Monk had indicated. The sense of amazement washed over his senses as his eyes, ears, nose, and feet took in the sensations of the Grandness of the building and the thousands upon thousands of books and manuscripts. The floor was carpeted with plush carpeting that looked as if it came from an ancient Islamic temple. All of the wood was dark and immaculately polished. The windows of the arched ceiling were all stained glass, intricately crafted with scenes from obscure but tantalizingly familiar scenes. His mouth hung open, and he was so distracted he almost collided with a man standing next to a Victorian-style open-top carriage at the head of a line of identical carriages settled on a very narrow gauge rail track. 

Barry’s attention abruptly returned to the moment. He was standing before a man dressed in a well-tailored suit and top hat. He was Barry’s size and looked like he should be walking the streets of London in 1874. His handlebar mustache curled in several spirals, and his curly sideburns stood out from the side of his head like weights holding his top hat to the top of his head. Wire frame glasses outlined his deep hazel eyes. He was leaning on an Ivory-topped cane and was smiling at Barry.

“Impressive, isn’t it? You will have to forgive our interns as they can be a bit absent-minded at times.” He reached into his vest pocket and pulled out the Key from upstairs. “Sometimes, we have to use our imaginations to discipline those who will someday guard this sacred place. I imagine you have a plethora of questions, Barry. Yes, we know your name and why you are here. You aren’t supposed to be here. But now that you are. It was decided to allow you to stay and reveal to you what you are looking for.”

“What I am looking for? I was looking for the land holdings of my Wilder ancestors at the time of William the Conqueror. Is there something else I need to be looking for?” Barry looked into the face of the man standing there and asked, “Who are you? What is this place? This library must be many times larger than the one upstairs.”

“My name? My name is Robert de Guilford. I am one of the Librarians in The Final Library, and I have been given the pleasure of escorting you through our collection.”

Barry looked at Robert as if he were waiting for something more, “Collection? Collection of what? It’s pretty obvious you have a massive collection of books. But, are you collecting something else?”

Robert stepped aside and motioned to the carriage, and said, “Have a seat, and I will explain exactly what and where you have stumbled upon.” 

They both entered the carriage, the seats of which were red velvet and gold satin trim and would have held four small people or two larger people, which they were. Robert reached over and pushed a lever down on a console next to the tracks, and the light on top turned green. The carriage began to move with a small jerk, and then a smooth, silent speed propelled the carriage forward. 

Robert de Guilford used his cane to point out things and said, “First off, to answer your question about collections. We collect many things. But, foremost, our charter’s primary purpose has been to collect Libraries. And before you ask me what that means. The Library comprises every Library that was lost to mankind over the centuries. The Creator is quite covetous of his words, and His revelations to men. Satan, however, has no qualms about destroying as much of man’s endeavors and the revelations shared with those men and women who gained God’s favor and friendship. Every culture on this planet has had its share of general revelation about who He is and His creation, and every culture, tribe, and tongue has attempted to collect His words and His wisdom in the form of cave paintings, clay tablets, stone steles, and books. It has been a long battle to preserve the memories and wisdom since the beginning. But, for us, for me, it has been a life of collecting and collating everything that the angels bring us. Satan may believe that every time those under his deception burn a previous civilization’s wisdom, he erases the revelations of God. But he has been wasting his time. That’s not to say that if he found this place, he wouldn’t try to destroy it. It’s why we have protected this since the time when Britain was part of the continent.

Probably, the most famous library that disappeared and could have passed copious amounts of wisdom on to later generations is the Library of Alexandria. But the list of libraries lost to mankind is a lengthy one. They span from China to Africa and Europe, from the very first library of Ashurbanipal to the libraries destroyed by the Nazis and the Communists and the Islamists.”

Barry watched as section after section and room after room scrolled by. There were sections filled with scrolls, papyrus, and lamb skin. The sections with clay tablets and stone monuments took a long time to move past. It took quite a while to get past the ancient libraries and into the sections with the books. All the time, Robert was narrating which section came from which library and which country. 

Barry’s mind began to go numb after the first hour of narration, and was rubbing his eyes when Robert stopped the carriage and said, “Let’s stretch our legs and have a cuppa.” He stepped out on the opposite side, and as Barry followed, a group of monks dressed in the same brown robes stepped up with a stainless steel tea set and a plate of scones.

  “I don’t know about you, Barry, but I need this. It’s time for afternoon tea. And this is my favorite section of The Library. These books here are the ones stolen or destroyed by the various invasions on this island. The illustrated books of the monks of Iona, Lindisfarne, and Jarrow. There were many more over the centuries of the Viking Age. Plus, there are many monasteries plundered over the years since Jesus came. But, this is my favorite. Perhaps I am biased since I was one of the Monks Columba tasked with decorating his writings.”

Barry looked at Robert and shook his hand out from holding the small teacup, and asked, “Did you say you were at Iona with Columba? How is that possible? I mean, I was kind of just allowing your talk about the angels saving all these libraries as fanciful illustrations. But, now, that is a bit beyond what I can believe.”

“Yes, I can see how that would be a stretch for someone who walked in off the street. Just remember that you weren’t supposed to find this place. And, your disbelief in no way changes the truth of The Library.”

Robert sighed and pushed the last bit of his pineapple apricot scone in his mouth and said, “Perhaps it’s time for the last part of the tour. The part where I answer your question about your ancestors.

They settled back into the carriage and another fifteen minutes later they rounded a corner and were faced with a smaller opening for the carriage, and over the top of the door was a brass sign that read, “Genealogy Section.” 

Once the carriage entered the section Barry was overwhelmed by the activity. He had barely seen any other people the entire trip on the carriage and now there were monks everywhere at desks and computer terminals. 

The Carriage stopped and Robert said, “End of the line, Barry. Come with me. I believe this will help you understand the truth of our existence.”

Robert followed a tall woman dressed in an immaculate Nun’s habit to a tall cabinet made to hold large maps and documents. She moved to the side of the cabinet and pulled a lever and the drawers began to roll past her until she stopped the scrolling at one particular drawer. She then opened it and pulled it out on the rollers in the cabinet. 

Robert placed his hand on Barry’s shoulder and ushered him close to the document. It was labeled as de Guilford Pedigree. The document was a scroll on lamb skin and filled with line after line of families and ancestral connections. He stopped at the very beginning of the scroll pointed to his name close to the top of the pedigree and said, “This is my genealogy, Barry.” He paused a second, which caused Barry to look at Robert, who continued, “And it’s yours as well.”

Robert wound up the scroll until it showed the tenth and eleventh centuries. There was Barry’s ancestor. There was a notation next to his name that seemed to be a reference number to a page in the Domesday book. “We did the research while we were on the tour. And, well,” Robert rolled the scroll farther in time until he came to the end, and there was Barry’s name with his wife and children. “Basically, Barry, I’m your Grandfather from ages past.”

“I hope you believe my explanation of where you are. Because, now that you know our secret, we need to know one thing.” Robert said.

Barry was still staring at the pedigree with amazement, then asked, “What do you want to know, Robert?”

“Have you ever wanted to be a Librarian?”

November 08, 2023 23:54

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Andrew Gibbons
19:39 Nov 12, 2023

Thank you for writing and sharing. I really enjoyed reading your story. It's clear you have a strong mastery of your style and structure. Your writing flows quite effortlessly and retains strong clear meaning. Your descriptions of place are your strongest suit in my opinion. Some of my favorite writers make the setting an additional character that has as much influence on the story as any "living" character. Your characters are really enjoyable as well, filled in and full. I really enjoy the meshing of ancient and bits of pre-contemporary ...


Show 0 replies
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.