Nel looked through the book of books, flipping page after page. Each item written in a clean and steady script. They made her eyes water. The words looked like they wanted to leap off the page ready to be of service. They flowed up and to the side stopping only when she thought she saw something interesting. Thousands of titles a second flowed before her. Each page turn taking her to a new idea.
“There seems to be more lore than history. Do any of them repeat?" she asked.
The man shaped thing she'd come to call Ink looked over. Several voices from several directions spoke. "No"
She looked at him for a moment. The dark eyes in ink black skin on a mouthless but strong face looked back at her. "Oh." She said suddenly and turned back to the book flipping another page. "It would explain the massive number of titles."
“Mysterious works mix with mundane," Ink spoke the cacophony of voices drove toward her and around her, "Some were written, some spoken, some were never even noticed but believed in. Each title tells the tail of the person who lived it." With so many words the voices became a tad discordant one voice trailing several words behind by the end.
"It's all autobiographical?" she asked.
"Not all. Water ship down has eight hundred thirty two versions. Created by those who believe it but read it differently or heard a different story."
"They believe a rabbit can talk?"
"They believe in the heart of the story, they took it in so deep that they began to write it while they read it. They let it write a bit of themselves."
"Oh" She didn't really understand but getting Ink excited about a topic made it hard to understand. Sometimes voices would be trailing him for hours. Enough to give her a headache.
"You think the way out of this building is in this book then?" She asked.
"Then why did you give it to me?”
"You stated plainly that you quit. This will help you pass time."
She looked at him, he at her. "Fine."
She began to look for names. Her Mother's, Father's, and the dog's. Each yielded hundreds of entries. Finally one name. A slight misspelling of the name her grandmother called her. It seemed a little more important than the others. The book was old. Very old. according to the record number it would be far in the back. She wrote down the name and number and handed it to Ink. With a nod he walked off to get the book.
To pass the time to Ink’s return she went to the map room. A book there was like the one in the other room, this one led to scrolls and folded maps. She assumed every map ever drawn or created was in this sister room. Like all of them they seemed to intertwine, rooms much bigger than logical space would allow. Many filled what should have been the same space.
She sat at the table littered with papers and scrolls, and opened the book. It listed places and times and phases of moons and so many different places she could be, but here she was stuck. As always the map it led her to showed her her school, her house the mall. It showed all the places she wanted to go to not the way out. A map to the mall would start in an arbitrary spot, and then twist and turn going around construction or sometimes cutting through someplace like her school, or the Miller’s house.
She even did her best to clear her mind and think of only the door that would let her out. Nothing. Finally she decided it was time to get ready for sleep. But first she needed a snack. She didn’t know how but reading kept her from getting hungry. It actually nourished her. She went back to the book of stories and started to think of the sappy romance dramas her Aunt was so fond of but instead it gave names and locations of of things that sounded like children’s stories. She read a few then the words wouldn’t stop. The flow and somehow the script seemed to be angry. She turned the page to to dark names and then Grimm cleared itself. Several more then a page full of Grimm. so she went to the earliest. That one didn’t seem right She then reached the 22nd Brothers Grimm. this one not rotten or copied by the brother’s. As luck would have it She could reach this one in about an hour. Last time she sent Ink to the flor where the book he was getting for her it took him nearly two days to get back.
She headed down the hall that would take her to the primary hall. The one that lead to all other halls. At the entrance of the hall she wanted stood another black figure. This one she called India. It was a female form. Some how she knew what Nel was looking for, and if ink wasn’t there India would lead Nel to the correct room.
A whisper started a different voice saying the same thing started and another until several were gathering to the point of maximum understanding. “Hello Nel, looking for some valuable sustenance?”
“Yes This odd version of The Brothers Grimm.” She held out the paper to India who didn’t look at it but turned and walked up the wrong hall. She led Nel to a different Grimm. One that didn’t fit the inscription but had the right number. She thanked the woman and walked hurriedly back to the hall she thought she was supposed to go down. It was quite a long walk. Her way was blocked twice by other ink black beings. She politely excused herself and walked around them.
The book she was looking for was missing.
She walked back to her table. And began to look through the book that India had given her. Jet, stood by the door something Ink used to do. The book was not what she wanted. He looked back in the book and held the number in her hand. The book didn’t show. She flipped the pages. until she was almost to the back of the book. She’d never been to the back of the book. Turning the pages never advanced toward the front of back. Even if she opened toward the back it just seemed to stay there or some how balance out with equal pages to each side. The book wanted her to see something. Where she ended up was a nearly black sheet. names and titles so crammed together they fought for visual space.
How am I supposed to read this? she thought to herself. Then she noticed a pattern. A solid unmoving set of black on black shapes. The title so much bigger than the description she could barely make that out, but nothing else was legible. She realized that this was the lost book section. Lost to the universe. letters, maps, and any other written record that has been lost to the world ended up in this section.
Another day passed she read the book and called on Jet to get her the whole library of Judy Blume YA books. Then Again Maybe I Won’t was one of her favorites. It made her feel a little dirty. She continued to study and read. Ink still hadn’t returned.
Finally she began to look for individual stories. She sent each librarian to get names like the one she’d sent Ink to find. India returned too quick. So she sent her on a longer errand. and then with four stories on four papers she went to find them. On the third story India appeared.
“You might get lost.” She said and the world felt like it was spinning. “We need to be with you so that doesn’t happen.”
Feeling like she was going to pass out she asked India to take her back to the reading room. As they walked Nel asked if there were any books that Judy Bloom wrote without writing them. The answer was yes.
“Take me there first. I want to read something no one else ever has.”
A slight change in India’s demeanor and the room settled and they headed to the hall with the secret books. Soul Books.
With secret book in hand Nel sat at the table and opened a small packet of paper and read the Grimm story. It was a retelling of the Minotaur and how he was trying to help by changing the path of the string laid by Theseus . The Minotaur was leading him to a land of everlasting joy.
This was not written by the Grimm Bothers, but had the same style. The second was much the same about a man following a trail of faith. Why was it so important for them to hide these from her. Even sin by destroying a book. This was the refuge of all knowledge. How could they ever think to destroy a book.
Nel went back to the maps and noticed a similarity to the paths. no matter the destination they were very close, not exact but close to the way each other one was drawn. She took one and looked at it. The Mall. She had three maps, all three were different but they lead to a different door each. So she looked and according to the map the first landmark was The Dairy, a milk store not far from the mall. Out of the room was the agricultural hall. She took it and then to Midas and main. She followed it and finally became lost at the car wash. There wasn’t a car wash there that she remembered. From one point to the next following the map and doing her best to match real world places with comparable items in the library.
If she missed it or couldn’t find it the map would fail and disintegrate. Once she’d almost made it to the destination but then she became lost. She wasn’t too worried one of the librarians would find her. A day passed and no one showed. Not too worried since she never needed food but there was a weird taste in her mouth and she started to look dirty, dark. She realized her skin was turning black. The food was the ink in the books. She was becoming a Librarian.
In the middle of the second day of being lost Ink found her and pulled her back. He gave her the book. She didn’t want to read it. She needed to get out before she changed to a point she couldn’t come back. She was down to three maps.
Ink tried to get her to stop telling him what she was doing but it was too late. What he knew they all knew and india decided to not leave her side. They never physically stopped her so she continued with her quest. Two maps left she started down the path recognizing several of the markers from before and began to understand how the library thought.
According to this map she was almost there so she turned and said good bye to Ink, stuck her tongue out at India and turned a corner. A glow beckoned her forward. The light began to look like doors. She found doors. They looked like the were Dillards doors. She opened them and heard canned music and smelled a stale crash of perfume. The maps were maps to the exact places she asked for