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Christian Speculative Fiction

The Library Of Everything

    Ellie found herself in the Library in a dream. Or maybe it wasn’t a dream. Either way—she knew that the experience was something more than imaginary, but less than real. Ellie was a short, brown-eyed young woman with a blue-green knitted beanie that she wore most every day since childhood. Ellie did what she would normally do in a dream (or in a not dream)—she walked around, looking left and right, with her arms crossed.

    The Library was a liminal sort of place. It was at once a place known from childhood and also a place very foreign. It didn’t feel like it was somewhere; it wasn’t its own place. It seemed…in between. It was a building to be sure…but it felt more like an elevator or a road or a hallway. But the library was none of these things—it was a library; not unlike one’s you’ve seen before. With dark blue carpet, warm lamps on the walls, wooden desks and chairs, and of course, bookshelves. Tall and endless and full of books.

    This was a strange experience, Ellie knew, but whatever impulse might normally bring panic was gone from her in this moment. She was in the library now, so she walked to the front desk to talk to the librarian.

    “Hello”

    “Welcome to the Library! Do you know what you’re looking for?”

    “I must have gotten lost.”

    The librarian smiled.

    “I think perchance you’ve been found. This is the Library. It has literally everything.”

    “Everything?”

    “Not like Hamlet or Moby Dick or Twilight. Those stories aren’t real.”

    “So you just have, like, non-fiction then?”

    “Well, not like that either. The library doesn’t have any books written by human authors. See, it’s—“

    “What is it then? Why am I here?”

    “Listen. This library is unlike the ones you know, this library contains the whole of everything. Everything. Look at that section over there. That section which stretches to near-infinity is for drops of water. Every water-drop has a book, containing the whole of its story—the ocean it came from, the clouds it travelled in, the flowers it has watered, the cheeks it has rolled down in tears, the dinosaurs it was drank up by and peed out of… And that other section is for trees, from seed to timber to dining room chair. When and where and why it was planted, the animals that lived in it, its offspring, the man that cut it down, and ultimately how it will be burned and sent to the sky in smoke. And those sub-sections are for leaves of those trees, and the sub-sections under those are for the cells those leaves are made of, and under that is the carbon atoms making up those cells… One of my favourite sections is that one, it’s for stars. I promise, look and you will find a couple hundred billion trillion books, one for every star. And each of those books will have a near infinite number of pages—somewhere under “s” is Sirius, who’s book tells the whole story of how that star was born, the planet’s it has fostered, the astroids it has consumed, the wonders it has witnessed, and how after a long and full life it will go out in a blaze of glory. Every rock has a book about the volcano it came from and the shoes it’s been stuck in. Every flower, every dog, every dust mite, every galaxy… and every person has a book containing the whole truth of their past, present, and future. Whatever is in those books is truth. This is the story of everything. You were brought here to be shown something.”

    Ellie perked up at the thought of a book containing supernatural knowledge of her future.

    “I have a book about me? Can I change it?”

    “You all have a book. And, yes, guests of the library are permitted to edit and re-write while they are here.”

    “Oh dang. That makes sense why I’m here. I have so much I need to change. How long do I have?”

    “But, you’re in the Library, are you sure you wouldn’t rather, I don’t know, read?”

    “I have things I need to fix. That’s why I’m here.”

    After this discourse, the librarian agreed to lead Ellie through the vast halls of the library, to the “people” section, and eventually, to Ellie’s book.

Special Relativity

    Ellie sat down cross-legged with her book in her lap. She ran her hand across the cover, it was hard-bound in a dark cyan-dyed flax canvas. Quite a pretty sort of oceanic deep blue-green, like the colour of her beanie. She carefully lifted the thickly woven, textured cover to reveal stocky, off-white pages, and beautifully typewritten courier font lettering. She gently turned the pages, reading about her childhood, some things she remembered, some she didn’t, some that she remembered differently.

    “I don’t know who would write something like this.”

    Ellie took her pencil in her hand, a classic yellow #2. She would give changing things a test run. But on what? Then Ellie found the perfect mistake to undo. When a child, Ellie was given a lovely sea-foam green dress with swirly brown designs, reminiscent of tree branches, or maybe roots. It had belonged in her mother’s childhood before her, held on for decades to be passed down one spring Sunday when Ellie was seven. She loved the green, but she wasn’t so fond of the brown designs. So one day, her silly little self decided to try to fix the dress. She had learned in school that blue and yellow make green, and so she carefully mixed the paint—and began to cover the brown designs. But almost as soon as the brush touched the dress she knew she had made a mistake. So she remixed the paint to a better blend. She only got halfway through covering the brown before she knew she was in trouble. She tried washing it in the sink, which just bled the paint everywhere, she tried scrubbing it, which seemed only to set the stains worse. At a loss and in a panic, she turned to bleach, knowing only about it that its job was to unstain fabric. Before she had given up on saving the dress, it was a sopping, blotchy, foul-smelling mess. And so she did the only thing left to do—she hid the dress under her bed. (which bleached the carpet, mind you). And when her mom found it, how Ellie cried.

    Rolling her eyes at her silly seven-year-old self, Ellie began to re-write that part of her life. No more paint, no more mess. And to her delight, it worked. She wore that dress until she grew out of it, and it stays in her parent’s house to this day, waiting to be gifted to a grandkid. Ellie was happy, and ready to begin to make serious corrections to her life.

    She cringed at some of the things she had done and said. She was mean to people she liked and nice to people she hated. So painfully insecure. She came to the first day of her 8th grade—when she had cut her hair short! She shuddered reading it, it was painful to relive. The day before school started, she took clippers to herself in her bathroom and it was bad. Short short, like a boy. There was nothing classy or fashionable about it. It was her attempt at opting out of the whole thing. She didn’t want to carry the weight of wondering if her hair was as pretty as the other girls. She was so afraid of being laughed at… that she made sure she got laughed at.

    Gripping her pencil—she had at herself. No more haircut. She would be a normal girl. It was a rather small and simple change, but it made her very happy to see that her mom didn’t yell and her little sister didn’t cry at breakfast that morning, Ellie didn’t receive any weird looks or comments at school… it was good. Until Ellie remembered her dad sitting down to talk to her about it. Or, now not.

    She flipped around looking for a conversation she knew wasn’t there, but she wanted it to be there. If her hair had been cut, her dad would have come into her room that evening, despite her insisting that she didn’t want to talk. And he would have brought hot chocolate. And he would have told her how beautiful she was, and given her a hug, and told her that she had nothing to prove to the people that loved her. He wouldn’t have had to ask why she cut it, because he knew, he was a teenager once too. He would have held her as she cried. At the end of it, he would have run his hand through her short, hack job of a haircut and offered to try to clean up the uneven spots. And they both would have laughed, and then they spent an hour trying on every hat in the house, until her dad dug up an old blue-green beanie that she would have loved.

    Ellie reached up to the top of her head to touch her hair. Her beanie wasn’t there, it never had been there. She never cut her hair, and never had that moment with her dad. This saddened her, but she was sure that it would be fine. Things would be different, she would be different, but she would be better.

    Ellie continued on and changed things further. Re-wording things she said to be more clever, erasing clumsy, embarrassing moments and mistakes, until she was at the end of the 8th grade and she had many more friends. But she also had many more worries, she found herself with new problems to solve. She got asked to prom by Andrew Davis and she said yes, so she blew off her rebellious friends which had all together made a pact to not go to prom together. They would have driven around that night, being silly, drinking gas station hot chocolate, and talking about how prom is stupid and they don’t need it. They would have sat at the reservoir and looked at the stars. Instead, she had a fight with them. They accused her of abandoning them for the cool kids. And she accused them of just being jealous, and that they would have gone too if anyone had asked them. Ellie had to make a choice—she couldn’t both go to prom and not go to prom.

    Ellie missed all these things. She wanted them to happen. She was afraid of who she was becoming. But still sure that she could fix it, she went on. She undid kisses she regretted, avoided fights she wished never happened, did things she was too afraid to do, said things she was too shy to say… But with every change she made came a cascade of consequences. She had never stopped to consider that butterfly effect thing she had heard explained in some internet video. But this wasn’t that… Uncutting her hair didn’t somehow lead to Soviets ruling America—instead, the effects were direct, connected. Not cutting her hair led to her dad not giving her a hat, going to prom meant blowing off her friends, not spilling mustard on her shirt that one time led to her missing out on that tiny shred of humility.

    Ellie began to panic, she was making a mess of her life. She couldn’t even remember what she had been so eager to change—why she felt the need to mess. She tried to to change certain things back, she tried to add things to regain what had been lost. She even went back and tried to make sure that the green dress was ruined again. Reality blended with her lies until the two seemed homogenous to her. Her whole past was changed, and her whole future would now never happen. She lost track of time, and became incredibly frustrated as she worked in a panic until all of a sudden she caught a glimpse of her own blonde hair and stood up, she was tall now, and dressed differently, but what horrified Ellie most is that she was arrogant, she wasn’t close with her family or friends, she had become a thing she didn’t recognize. And, she thought, a decidedly worse thing. Ellie was dead and gone, the thing standing here was, it was, a sopping mess. She felt like her seven-year-old self playing with paint and bleach. Sobbing, now, she ran to go find somewhere to hide herself.

    Tears splattered onto the book in Ellie’s arms. Her mucky destiny swam in her head. She tried crawling under a desk and shrinking into nothing. She wished she was just completely buried. The librarian walked over to her and bent down underneath the desk sympathetically.

    Ellie cried out—

    “Librarian, please help! I want to undo it all. Take it back. I can’t write my own story, I don’t want to. I’ve killed myself…”

Authorial Intent

    The librarian found Ellie, and responded with sympathy, 

    “I can’t help you, Ellie. I’m the librarian, not the author. I didn’t write your story, I don’t know how it’s supposed to go.”

    Ellie got smaller and her head sunk to the floor in defeat.

    “I don’t know how it’s supposed to go either. I don’t know what kind of author would do this.”

    And as Ellie spoke in her darkness, the Author came and answered; the librarian backed away in awe, and Ellie froze in fear. He knelt down under the desk with Ellie and spoke in a normal, human-sounding voice, gently.

    “Ellie. What was wrong with the book I wrote? What fault did you find with it? What would you, a mortal, change to make it better?”

    “I just wanted the story to have a better main character. You made other people so, so, so so much better than me…”

    “Better how? According to your scale? From where I sit, they’re all just… my characters. I want the story to have a better main character too. But don’t you think it’s better if that character is earned? A wise character requires a wise writer. It takes a good author to make a good story.”

    The Author winked.

    “Even your shortcomings and failures serve a purpose, if you let them. I have a plan, Ellie. A reason. I didn’t just write my books with monkeys on a typewriter. Can Luke Skywalker curse George Lucas for the existence of the Death Star? Here, let me show you something.”

    The Author touched Ellie on the forehead, and her eyes went open. She had been blind, but now she saw. The entire library, the whole thing. An immeasurable web of intricacies, pages overlapping from books, sections, and series. In the scope of the library, the explosive power of a supernova was dwarfed in comparison to the explosive power of a Hydrogen and Oxygen combusting to form a singular water molecule. A leaf falling from a tree was every bit as epic as the fall of Rome. Ellie saw it all, for a brief moment, somehow, the Author had found a way to fit it all into her finite brain, or found a way to briefly make her brain less finite. She saw why shrimp existed. And she saw how the whole system of reality hinged on a handful of mathematical principles. She saw the angles and the ratios. She saw the artwork in it. Like reading a book about the Amazon one moment, and standing barefoot in the jungle the next. Her mind was stretched down to the black depths of the oceans, and up to the expanse of the heavens. She saw herself, and she was so small. She laughed, out loud, and tears filled her eyes. In the library of everything, her personal drama was not near so dramatic as the epic multi-generational war between her immune system and the invading army of Staphylococcus bacterium that she ingested in a ham sandwich. It was all an absolute carnival. The sky didn’t have to be blue, but it was, it was assigned blueness and we loved it for that. The flowers weren’t raised in the spring by automatic necessity, they, each and every one of them, chose to come up every year to do their job that they loved, and they were good at it, perfect for it, actually. It was all one big poem, and also one big clock, and also a whole colony of miniature infinities. So much bigger, and also so much smaller, than we could ever comprehend.

    “I am insignificant. I have spoken of things I don’t understand, things too wonderful for me. I was a character in your story.”

    “What do you mean “was”?”

    Ellie was shocked at the Author’s response. “I’m… not dead?”

    The Author laughed heartily. “No friend, only asleep.”

    And then Ellie awoke to find her same old self returned as she had been, all except for her eyes.

November 02, 2022 23:18

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3 comments

Allen Learst
19:12 Nov 07, 2022

A great story. Reminds a bit of Anthony Doerr. I thought the ending was a bit of cliche and wanted something more sophisticated since that's what the story is--sophisticated in thought and deed.

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Hunter Terrell
20:25 Nov 15, 2022

Thank you for reading my story! It was SO hard to get this beloved project of mine down to 3,000 words. If you’d care for the full version, with more characters (some of whom get the ending they want, and some of whom get a happy ending), other themes addressed, and some 12,000 words: https://www.icloud.com/pages/028htncyjMWSFxRooEwQNbEkQ#Turn_Thine_Eyes_Outward

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Allen Learst
18:28 Nov 21, 2022

Thank you!

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