by Tom Hendricks
1. Background: Setting the Scene
I'm a solitary man, somewhere over 200 - who counts with 3 or 4 hundred left.
I'm a gaunt looking young man. I'm tall, 6'6", some grey hair in a thick black mane of hair, grey green eyes, long narrow nose, some pounds added over the years to pad out my lanky bones - distinguished some say (though they court favor), boy-ish looks - a bit still - with social skills (inherited traits from my father) and when necessary iron hard when opposed, (learned from life lessons)
I'm a wealthy man - so much so that I control my life and every moment in it, and most of the lives of those around me (when I allow them to be around me). I live where I choose and do what I want.
I love to read. Reading is my pleasure, and my expenses, and my life. Bibliophile? Perhaps to the power of one thousand!
As you, another reader, know I took over this library - this large library - when the others abandoned it. Now it's mine and mine alone. Mine to wallow in. I'm a solitary man.
* * *
This library - pull back your eyes - shift them to far sighted - this library began as a museum for these planets - the ones pictured on that wall - all 70+ of them (depending on how many moons and planetoids you count with them). That was when this planet was the Capital of the confederacy. During those decades the library part grew to be the depository of the best of each planet's publications.
Then it grew larger to become the kingdom's library, center of study and research, as well as its political law center. Then larger still when the Capitalwas moved to a separate planet.
Now left by itself, the library grew to cover this quadrant - this hemisphere - this entire moon.
Yes a library planet, a building complex so vast that now it circumvents the globe like an equator, or a ring of a gas giant; and has expanded north and south to the frosty arctic circles of each pole.
Over a million rooms (though no one has ever counted) with a million more halls, walkways, bridges, tunnels, balconies, staircases...
How it did bustle in its heyday. How it did buzz with the clicks and shuffling of billions of shoes, boots, sandals, clacking down the highly polished aisles and echoing off the stacks. Men, women, and children from all over, shuffling papers, sorting through records, manuscripts, novels, journals, deeds, diaries, poems, pamphlets, manifestos, decrees, laws, law books, science research files, historical documents, and much much more. Thousands of ships of every sort from space cruisers to private rockets, landed daily, in this the confederacy's most busy port city. And once inside - millions of languages, dialects, noises, and scents, all mixing together in an orderly cacophony - a hive of sentient beings humming away!
Now the port is quiet and the dorm rooms that housed the staff and researchers, visitors and tourists, are empty. Echoes have ceased. I took what remained, gutted the walls, rebuttressed them, metamorphed most of them into holding tanks, into warehouses, into massive room sized closets, basements, and attics now filled with my new stock, new shipments; new copies of classics, used books, and old anything-else-that-is-left-on-paper outside these walls. All waiting for me to display and stack and arrange as I wont.... Oh wait. I'll stop writing here. New shipment landing now. I leave you dear reader, to attend to it.
* * *
This is the story of how I bought the library.
The 70 planet confederation became two at-loggerheads leagues. And neither the Grey-Greens or the Rust-Reds wanted this 'ruin' with its past intact.
Everything was so old here, that both sides demanded new there - a new library for the Grey-Greens was built in 608 so-so-so and a bigger one for the Rust-Reds in 609 so-so-so.
Neither wanted this 'tainted old relic'.* Ah but there was the rub. Before building there, they had loose ends to tie here - knotted up. I and my ears, and my cup of coffee, perked up.
On my left hand I had inheritances. On my right the wealth of my own businesses, investments, and parleys. They had neither.
To put it more simply, both sides needed to sell their halves for the money, and they both needed to rid themselves of the liability.
To put it most simply, they sold - I bought. They wanted furniture: chairs, tables, dressers. I was generous. "Take it all". They left the books. I was satisfied with keeping the treasure they no longer appreciated.
They wanted new miniaturized 'info-retrieving' equipment. I wanted old full-sized musty books. They wanted reading rooms. I wanted book warehouses.
I felt them fools. They felt relief and thought little of me when they closed the last door, hatch, gate, and flew away. "Good riddance", said I as I tossed the keys to the planet, up and down in my palm.
*(Footnote: Yes one of their lawyers actually said those very words!)
* * *
This, here, now, today -
After the sellers gutted and sacked and carted away what they owned - my contractors and their legions of workmen, my ants, came and rebuilt. Walls came down, posts went up; stairs moved, buildings were demolished, and dust raised up.
Ten years later the work was done. Then a year of dusting!
Oh what a year! Because just to dust meant to cat (catalogue) and inventory and pick up and hold and touch and have pages ripple through the fingers humming their tunes and rhythms - every book here. Ah. Sweet Nirvana.
That done and most all the dorms and reading rooms now redesigned into miles and miles of display rooms, then I ... I was left to survey, peruse, and plot my will. In front of me (and in every direction I turned) thousands of niches ready and open-armed for me to fill and categorize and organize and set off into personal museums of my favorites: early science, late arts, children's fiction, poetry and plays; adult politics, animal behavior, sex, whatever I wanted ... Years to do that. And I did, and never tired of tending to it - my garden to weed and nurture, and cultivate!
And of course the reading - ever the reading - it-goes-without-saying the reading, hours and hours of daily exercise.! I look up from the page and hours have gone by. Where does the time go?
This here, now, today.
I, of sound body - so sound I need no one - live alone - one planet, one man, one schedule: to read.
* * *
Oh yes the supply ships will bring in books and a caboose of food. Oh yes there's spring cleaning and I will order maids and butlers and robots about for 3 months of strenuous this, this, and that-ness.
But other than that-ness, no one. I am alone but not lonely. Loneliness is outside the door, unable to breathe, in this thin atmosphere. So be it. Haunt others with a different make up.
On to Part Two or back to the Main Page