I don’t know what I’m doing here. I don’t even know why I came. Other than because it seemed like a good idea at the time. But now it seems like a bad idea. Not just at this time, but at any time.
The silence, it engulfs me. Deafening. Broken only by the occasional clack of keys or the turn of a page. No one visits the library anymore. Especially not in the early evening on a Tuesday.
As for if they visit any other time, I do not know. But based on the general knowledge and cultural aptitude I see displayed by my fellow humans on those occasions where I dare venture out into “society,” I find it very unlikely.
Though now that I’m here, I can see why. Perhaps it’s really no different here than anywhere else where people congregate. Perhaps it’s that dead quiet that permeates the room so deeply that even acts of silence echo in my ears.
I can hear them. Tearing at my skin. Peeling it away with their eyes. The people in the room. The bespectacled librarian behind the counter. The guy who was shopping on eBay on one of the ancient desktops in the computer lab. Their stares pierce the flesh and cut like tiny lasers, just deep enough to break through the epidermis. Then slowly scrape it away.
Like the layers of an onion.
They search for what’s inside of me. What brought me here. What nefarious purpose lends me to visit this forgotten charnel house of history and forgotten tales.
Why I came.
I thought I knew the answer. Thought I had a reason for my action.
But while a phone call and a feeling do little more than set a previously static reality into motion.
The cause is clear. The effect remains unknown.
Why am I here?
Do I ask the librarian if she called? Do I dare scrape up the courage to just blindly walk up to a stranger and interrupt her in the midst of whatever it is she’s doing? By doing so, do I acknowledge that she’s acknowledged me? Even if the only extent of her acknowledgement was that flesh-stripping glance she made in my direction as I opened the door to this new place?
When I look at her, she’s looking away. Down at a book. But I know that once I look away, her gaze returns to me. Questioning my purpose. My reason for being here.
If I stay long enough, she’ll ask me to leave.
I pretend to look busy myself. Flip through the photos on my phone like I’m looking something up. Something so important I can’t be bothered to look at or interact with anyone else. Not even be distracted by the shelves of books with labels shouting at me things like “OUR PICKS” or “READ OF THE MONTH” or “NEW ADDITIONS.”
Try as they might, those words cannot get my attention. They cannot grab it and rip it away to distract me and pull me into their world. All those words on pages. Mostly lies. Some fantasies.
All relics of the past. Thoughts and feelings and spectacles and voyages long-since past, whether in the history of the world or the history of the author’s mind.
The numbers on the blue screen that sent me here. Photographed and captured. Now history as well.
But perhaps a path to the future.
The history defines our future and the future repeats our past.
The Fourth Mary.
Looks just like new. Even though it was published in 1982.
I’m not going to check it out. I don’t even have a library card. And I will not shall not cannot dare not speak to the librarian.
For she’s watching me again.
But I know she won’t stop me. The little mouse of a woman won’t dare confront me, even as I walk out the door with the book in my hand.
Perhaps I’ll read it.
History may define the future.