by Tom Hendricks
Part 2. The Encounter
My journal, diary, newspaper, schedule this day :
'This, here, now, today:
Continue arranging wing/zone 4a2CC-OCC ... after biscuits and whey',
I sort, read, read, sort, sort, read, shelve, re-shelve, sort, read, read, peruse, sort, re-shelve, re-read, re-find, re-read, shelve, walk, re-read, walk, read, read, unpack, read, etc.
Pull back, look with far sighted eyes, let your reading eyes rest. You see book mountains rising like step pyramids, or catacombs lined with ramps, or ladders and caves; and in these caves, if your eyes share binoculars, nooks and crannies.
And everywhere there's quiet-sitting bookshelves, books hanging from display wires from the ceilings, books and ladders, books on ladders, books lining the walls like wallpaper, displays, cabinets, file cabinets, drawers, and drawers inside drawers like Russian dolls and Chinese boxes, filled with smaller editions...
* * *
I awoke, lifted my head from the book, slanted it like the angle of a jaunty hat.
"Did you hear that?" I whispered to myself, twitching like a squirrel
on the ground, far from the tree.
"That was not a sound that should be there. I am alone and all sounds - not of the soundless vents and mechanics - are to be made by me. I own the sounds. None is separate. And like the princess and the pea, I heard a pea like sound, a 'nok'. I can't sleep now".
* * *
"No 'nok', no sound now; but that doesn't erase the first sound. I will
look and search out. I have turned on the investigate switch."
I silently and slowly eased my book onto a nearby - waist high - stack. Cover against cover - it slid on top of it and rested there - no sound on my end.
* * *
My shoes were soundless. I twisted on the balls of my feet and leg followed leg in the direction of the 'nok' - then no 'nok', sound.
Everything staid shelved as I, sotto voce, stalked the footprints of that sound, that echo, that nerve wracking 'nok'.
One hundred aisles later, zig zagging to ladders, then climbing to see over stacks, sweat falling from my brows into my eyes, I turned a corner. I turned a corner and saw her back.
I saw a black haired woman in a flowing tan garment/tunic gazing forward(?) ; but her left hand was trilling across the spines of a shelf of books.
I saw through her. She was a ghost, an apparition, a shade!
She was a hungry shade - short and thin - her upper arms and legs thin. She seemed young and pretty - very pretty shape. I stood behind her and waited.
She heard nothing, was startled, turned around. Our eyes met and she vanished. A puff of light, like a reflection off a mirror lingered, tarried, then it too was gone.
"Well", I said for once out loud, out in the open where echoes bounced about. "I have a ghost in my library!"
I looked to the rows of books her hand was caressing. All - all 187 there - all versions of the Princess and the Pea" fairy tale. I laughed at fates handiwork...
'I will lay a trap, and catch my ghost' - plotted I.
* * *
The next day I woke 10 minutes earlier. I ate quicker and left the last mouthfuls, and didn't wash up after. Crumbs hunkered down.
What catches ghosts - finger tapped my chin to help.
'To catch a ghost guide'.... 3 laws:
Seeing ghosts is easiest
Conjuring them - harder still
But capturing even a single one, is nigh on impossible.
- from the Sudder - Ra
Even I, after all these years here, needed a guide book to find this section of the library, the library for Masai Ra. I went to the map room.
The walls were a grey fog with no discernible substance. They focused the visitor on the middle of the room. (Though more than one child had 'bumped in the night' in the map room, and found out that the foggy walls were both stiff and substantial).
In the center was a matt finished, steel table 10 yards square (with walking paths or 'channels' all through it). It was a 3D map of the entire planet (both inside and outside the library walls). Above it, hanging in mid air, twirled a smaller replica - a giant 3 foot across slowly rotating globe. This was the key to the flat map. And under the table in narrow dark and deep wood shelves, slots, and cubbyholes built into all sides of the map table were scrolls listing all the planet's libraries in alphabetical order - their districts, and their longitude and latitude.
I began to circle the table until I found the slot for the legend 'M' scroll. I raised a puff of dust on pulling it out - the first of 5 'M' scrolls - and laid it flat on one of the well lit map imaging tables. Under a smudge, under a thumb print, under a wax seal, I unrolled a list of the planet's 'M' libraries.
I found what I was looking for with my descending pointer finger and
read the following:
"Blue Island Sphere - small blue/green planet, an orb isolated off the track - unbeaten ; crowned Masia Ra, in so-so-so. Capital, '3-Towns'. A world with little spin and almost all darkness day and night. Known for its eerie twirling spin that causes the Moon to shine 99% of the time and its sun to be king of dream hours. Major religious text is the Sudder -Ra..."
Ah yes. I remembered shuddering about this planet's library , where papers ( marsh reeds made into paper) had to drip with dew and reflected shine or they disintegrated - so stood the rules for the archives of Masia Ra ! and its cultural capital '3-Town' (a village of barges and islands in a swamp).
Here the dark harbored, and those species that evolved past the 'gates', latched on to a 2nd site, a site or sense or ability that saw beyond the dark; and slightly - ever so slightly - saw on the far side of the tomb, the death line itself. They, the natives, were '1st steppers (trekkers) into that 2nd kingdom.
Here all light was reflected off their moon named Pamala, meaning - 'lady of the perpetual soft echo'. The natives spoke in moans and wails and wrote in textures not words - in solutions not sentences - in drips and splotches. Their records (mostly liturgies) were kept in sealed vaults, black greenhouses, that none could enter - ever.
Their main Religious text was Sudder - Ra.
The translations of the title - there are numerous translators turning this and every text into all the other languages - varied. The word 'voodoo' was often used; but natives that know, said it was too harsh a word, too spilt with wrong conveyance and meanings and baggage. The truth was slower, softer, more wave like. Strangely enough (and everything on this planet struck most outsiders as being weird) even the translations, the very words themselves, no matter the type of paper they were written on, the words in books outside the forbidden library, the translated words, tended to inexplicably yellow and or fade to a cream green over time. And these were the readable dry texts - those not even near the swamp rooms! Only when they were taken off the library planet did they slowly return to their original shades!
* * *
I found a translation of the Sudder-Ra in the "Main Introduction" library - a vast empty room with no discernible ceiling or floor. Instead murals of empty dark space covered everything around, above, and below, with a row of less than a hundred books in the center - an island in a void - a handfull of seeds floating in a pitch dark grain elevator.
As I opened the Sudder -Ra translation, a whooshing noise came from the spine. Thunder seemed to threaten outside. Lightning - slow lightning seemed to hover overhead, beyond the roof; like a stiff wave that oozes across the dark, or like an iron ball sinks in thick mud.
These pages talked of spooks and shades, of things only seen after tomb rituals while dog like animals howled continuously. There was much round-about talk , much mood in the words; but, what reality was stuck to the translated pages, said such things as:
"The other side is like the underside of a wave - like looking up from
deep water, like seeing a wave from the other side..."
"to speak you must listen"
"... mirroring surfaces must not face the sun or light"
"What is here is not there, but what is there is not there."
"Night over long stretches, breaks to quick day. Seize the light by letting light go. Seize the shade by ending the light and letting it mingle with its kind."
"Words are the shield, meanings are the warrior.... A Knight fighting gallantly looses with honor - final wounding healed."
"They too make love, want to make love, have agendas, have yearnings, crave sweets, but their cravings are past yours and cannot remain."
"Time is a circle but still it goes forward only."
And more specific (but from a less reputable translated passage) :
"Flick over the mirror, mark with care your passionate non-attachment. Bind with no restriction. Then talk and express your heart and listen and hear hearts expressed as an echo from a different chasm.."
I slept with all these words and phrases, caressed them in dreams, woke to them walking in front of my eyes. Then, completely awake, went through my toilet, breakfast, exercise vigil, and began what is called the 'seed that grows toward the hidden moon' ritual.
On to Part Three or back to the Main Page