Happy Friday internet! I was thinking about an unruly mob when I wrote this story. Hope you enjoy it!
The Librarian by Adam Wright
When the young man came in to check out a series of medical volumes I thought little of it. He had a tenacity beyond any I had seen before. Most days he came in at the sound of the church bell ringing in the noon hour. He stayed until the bells rang once more at midnight. The days he did not arrive must have been spent at his lectures or in study with his compatriots. I never saw him without a book in his hands.
Late at night when all the lamps were low I would see him at the tables. Books were strewn about and he would scribble furiously upon his pads, the ink pots running low, broken quills at the floor. I often walked to him quietly and tapped upon his shoulders. Every time he would start out of his seat as if he had been waiting for some unseen horror to come at him. It was only I, the humble librarian, come to send him on to wherever he could sleep. Presumably at his dormitories near the school. Later, I heard there was some site far off from the village he frequented. I never knew if this was true or not.
I saw him with a young woman on several occasions. Some said it was his sister, others his bride to be. It did not matter to me, I only loaned him the use of my tables and the books upon my shelves. His matters were not my matters. Still, when I saw them walking together in the street he looked happier than when he was at his books. The woman positively gleamed radiance in those days whenever she was spotted with him.
As time went by the young man became more frantic. Dark circles appeared under his eyes and he seemed to enter in a mad passion. He was searching for something but unable to grasp it. I spent hours with him walking through shelves finding volumes of knowledge for him to consume.
His requests became more esoteric. He demanded volumes I did not own and had not considered obtaining. He was a likable fellow and so driven with knowledge I found myself purchasing from dealers in antiquities and even occasionally those known to be associated with the criminal elements in the village to procure some volume or other. Most frequently they dealt with human anatomy and the study of the deceased.
The only other subject he found interesting had to do with weather. He was maddeningly curious about lightning and how it might be harnessed. I told him it may be a better idea to leave God’s will and the force of nature alone. He mocked me for a fool but I did not take it personally. Good men are still good men even when they disagree.
These long days of study were interrupted by months of absence. I found myself wondering where my young friend had gone off to. I wished him well but kept about my business.
When there were rumors of children gone missing or possibly taken from the village the worry for my young friend grew in my mind. I was not concerned with any violence being done to him. For all his academic rigor he seemed a hale and hearty fellow who could fend off attack if necessary. That sweet woman he was associated with, however, she was an altogether different story. She was slight enough a strong wind might have blown her away. If thugs or bandits were craven enough to abscond with children who knew what lows these miscreants might get up to when confronted with a beautiful young woman?
I was quite relieved when days later he came in once again. He had a much more focused list of books he was interested in. Had I known he would tear pages out I never would have let him peruse these copies but he did this in secret when I was not looking. I don’t know what he expected to find there nor why he would keep the pages for himself when he could simply copy down a passage if he wished.
Once I discovered his actions I confronted the fellow. I told him in no uncertain terms if he was to damage the property of the library he would not be welcomed back. This set his anger to boil and we nearly came to blows. In fact, he pushed past me, grabbed a book I had recently procured for him and he ran out of the building shouting to me that it was the last piece of the puzzle. What this puzzle was I had no knowledge of.
I considered following him but did not think recovering one volume, no matter how rare, was worth leaving all the books in the library unattended.
It was not long after when tragedy struck the village. There were wild rumors of a hulking creature with the strength of ten men roaming around the countryside. I never believed the wilder rumors but were there a man, perhaps a deranged one, in the countryside, it would explain the disappearance of the village children.
The events on the night of the fire are somewhat difficult to ascertain in their entirety. It seems the townsfolk were driven to anger over the loss of their children and the terror spreading from these rumors of a creature. They began to assemble in ones and twos and eventually became a large group.
I was walking home after hours when I saw it. They say it was a creature but I can tell you it was not. It was a man. A large one, hideously scarred, and uglier than any visage I had seen before. He was running past me toward the old mill. For a moment I thought about stopping this man but in the moment I saw his face, I felt pity in my heart. There was something everlastingly tragic in him. Perhaps things may have been different had I stopped this man. Perhaps there would have been less death amongst those I knew and cared for as patrons of my little library. There is no way to know for certain.
Soon the townsfolk became a mob. They carried their farming implements and held torches aloft to light their way. It was this group that passed me next. They asked where “the creature” had gone. Rather than try to reason with an unruly mob roused to anger I simply pointed. I hoped the man was not harmed but had he been the one tormenting the village I suppose his end would have been justified.
By night’s end much of the village had been burnt. Many people died. I saw the flames at the mill and decided the best course of action was to return to the library to defend it from any threatening inferno. Luckily for me, my little building remained safe through the night.
Tragically, I learned later, the beautiful young woman who so often accompanied my friend died that same evening. It was unclear if she were a victim of the fire, the man on the loose, or perhaps came to some other end. In my mind I keep seeing the anger and madness in my friend’s eyes as he told me my book was the last piece of his puzzle. This, to me, was more frightening than this “creature.”
The woman remains dead and my friend has not been seen for some time. There are rumors he took to sailing in an attempt to reach the North Pole. Ridiculous rumors are rampant in small towns and villages such as mine but this one seems more far fetched than any I have heard.
There have been months before when he has been absent and I still hope to see him again. If anything I think his grief may overwhelm him. It was clear he was everything to her. I was able to tell she was everything to him but I’m not certain he knew the same.
We’ve nearly returned to normal at the library and in the village. The reconstruction of the mill continues and I heard there was some extensive damage to one of our largest estates but the structure itself remains standing. Strangely, there were several graves disturbed from the cemetery but I believe this was simply school children attempting some ill conceived prank.
I think soon I shall see my friend once more. I hope he will be less frantic this time and perhaps take some time to see life around him rather than so obsessively pursuing his studies. Until that time, I have set several of his favorite volumes aside as no one else has been remotely interested in them. I’m sure they will get use someday, however, for, as they say, knowledge is power.
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2 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Friday – The Librarian”
Hmmm, I don’t know if I could remain as disinterested as your librarian!
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Yeah he is definitely all about the library and nothing else.