Twilight in the Library

The only library in Lunar City belongs to the university. It doesn’t get many visitors; there’s little call for printed books when you can download anything to a rewritable book of m-paper over the network, and in fact most of the space in the library is supposed to be the computers serving the city, though I’d never seen any of them. But anyone can see the aisles and aisles over several floors of the library, placed optimistically by the first settlers for books that never came; the shelves are laid out on each floor like spokes on a wheel, stocked sparsely and haphazardly with only two kinds of books: the obscurely magical ones that for various reasons couldn’t be transferred into the computer systems, left for university students to study—and the ones those first settlers bequeathed to the library when they passed on. As a general rule there’s not much here that was written in the past six or seven hundred years.

And over school holidays, it’s absolutely deserted.

I came here one city night in July. The doors opened when I waved my temporary card, a flimsy piece of paper that had already managed to run its ink; now it was mostly an uneven blue from the smudge of my photograph, and the black letters that once said Hyoro Kohath in bold lettering were sporting thin fractal tendrils where the water had pulled the ink along the fiber of the card with it. Luckily the scanners only checked the material; the printing was a formality.

I checked the directory. Occupants of the building: one (1) demihuman. Wonderful—I had the place to myself. I reached into my bag and pulled out my headphones. Old music; things that were played before the city was built. Most of the lights were out, to conserve energy; a single pool of light followed me as I walked through the entry to the staircases.

The books didn’t interest me.

On the fourth floor there’s a balcony you can’t see from the street. It in turn has a lousy view of the city, but I don’t come up here to look down. I lay out on my back and watched the Earth overhead.

I am a barren land
And it’s all I can do to stand
I am thirsty, I am thirsty…

I tried to remember Maro and Nyaiya. The old dream had all but slipped away now, but I remembered becoming a tiger, and losing it. The earthlight caught my chestfur, highlighting the subtle opalescence that always fascinated me, even though I saw it every day. Wolves aren’t supposed to go for shiny things, are they?

I want to run into the deep
And let the deep call out to me
I want to lose myself in your love
So let it rain down over me
As I fall down to my knees
Let the ocean rise to meet me
I need you to bring me to life…

No, it wouldn’t do me any good to sit here. Misery is an indulgence that can be sweet for a bit, but it’s addictive, and if it stays in your system too long…

I got up and went back inside, moving to the hub of the wheel for just a little ritual I did sometimes. I shut my eyes and turned in slow circles till the song ended.

Then I opened my eyes and went down the aisle in front of me, and grabbed the first book I passed as the next song began playing. I opened it to a random page:

… I know these things quite well,
Yet nonetheless some force keeps driving me
In this vague, unreasonable, and ancient quest,
And I go on pursuing through the hours
Another tiger, the beast not found in verse.

I shut the book and put it back on the shelf.

I went home and slept. That night, again, there were no dreams.

Return to library?