The Secrets of the Great Library

The ground hit hard. Sadie lifted her body off the stony floor. Checked for broken ribs. No. Just painful. Ouch.

She looked around. A small room, tall like a well, lined with shelves. Books.

Good.

Books on… ornithology. Not bad. Level 48 would be… up and east from here, she was pretty sure. There was no door, but she knew what to look for – “Stork Mating Habits” looked too well thumbed for its own good. Sadie pulled the book gently. Sure enough. An irregular section of the wall swung back.

The corridor outside was broad, well lit. A main thoroughfare. Reddish of all sizes scuttled this way and that, carting piles of books and looking very important, very busy. Without a thought, Sadie scooped up “Avian Adventures”, “The Poetry of Great Owls – Early Sonnets II” and a slim volume on reading the future from migratory flight patterns. Thus equipped and purposeful, she joined the traffic, muttering “Excuse me” and “Beg your pardon” in just the right hurried tones. With her red hair and hand-knitted overalls, no Reddish gave her a second glance.

Sadie loved the library. She could have been a Reddish: She could climb well, she spoke seventeen languages, and she was a competent knitter. But she preferred to sneak in. That was just who she was.

Here was Level 48. Easy peasy! Her fingers ran along the long shelves, reading carved instructions. Up there! She scampered up, one two three. 48-BTW-318-d, just as her client instructed. Sadie frowned as she read the title: “The Secrets of the Great Library – Passages, Shortcuts and Genuine Reddish Knitting Patterns”.

Gently, she pushed the tome back into its place. The client would be disappointed. But some secrets were worth keeping.

8 thoughts on “The Secrets of the Great Library”

  1. Really enjoyed this (very unlondon overtones). Love the ideas with the knitting and the red hair – somehow a race of climbing red-headed librarians is a very attractive idea (perhaps that just me).

    I liked the way the story was more about the character than the setting; and liked the way she was explained: wanting to be outside the system but sufficiently respectful of it not to want to expose its secrets.

    I enjoyed the fantasy and loved the ideas

    1. I agree about the UnLunDun overtones – I wrote this without any plan at all. I was completely, utterly stuck for an idea, really and absolutely, and I ended up just typing in the first sentence without knowing what the second one would be. And so forth. So what came out was reminiscent of other things, but it read good and I liked the idea, so I was pleased – could have turned out worse.

      Dr Who is another possible inspiration, with the great library and the general “random weird culture of the week” plus “innocent criminal at work” overtones.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this. It is a lovely bit of fantasy, with strong connections to UnLunDun as elementalsystems says, and the borrowers. It could fit in that world beautifully.

    I loved the main character and how you used her to describe the library and the reddish. I also loved her sense of morality, which comes across very clearly through her choices in the story.

    I very much wanted to be immersed in the world a lot more, with its hidden doors, towering books and strange characters. And I really wanted to know more, like how she got in and what the security of the place was like and what the world in which the library existed was like. Thanks.

  3. This is so cute.

    I agree with elementalsystems on “wanting to be outside the system but sufficiently respectful of it not to want to expose its secrets”. I also liked how knitting was important [even though I don’t like to knit at all].

  4. I love the off-beat whimsy of this – the unlikely elements, red hair and knitting and stork mating habits, don’t stop the whole thing from hanging together as a very compelling glimpse of a highly distinctive world. I rather took to your heroine, and, like everyone else, I want more!

    Stylistically, there’s a bit of a disconnect between the rapid-fire sentence fragment style of your first and last few paragraphs, and the more formal phrasing of the rest – I’m not entirely sure what you’re doing there?

    1. Thank you, glad you liked the world.

      I see what you mean by the different styles. I don’t think it was conscious, but in hindsight I see it as a measure of her excitement – very hectic at first (“infiltrating”!) then calmer mood as she’s in the library, her element, and she feels quite safe and belonging, then again the excitement of getting to her target.

      But, maybe it didn’t work!

  5. Very groovy indeed, some great ideas and images. Really enjoyed it.
    And: what they said re UnLunDun vibe and general coolness.

    Loved the Reddish and their hair and knitting and politeness.
    Also loved the book titles and the very economical sketching of the world. The corridor being “A main thoroughfare” (and the name at the end!) works well to let you know that you’re only seeing a small part of something big. Beeg, even.

    Award for best sentence has to go to “– “Stork Mating Habits” looked too well thumbed for its own good.”
    Tee hee!

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