* * *
Sir Algernon’s cellars seemed to run on under the house for miles. Smythe and Fortesque were sure they must be beyond the foundation line by now, but the serpentine tunnels and slow decent had fuddled their sense of direction.
The flickering candles in their lanterns picked out a door in the gloom ahead. A tall, dark, oaken door, heavy with black iron nails and a latch. They heaved against its weight; it opened as if it had been waiting for them.
Inside, the room opened to a high gallery. They couldn’t see the roof as the candle light couldn’t make it that far. There were row upon row of wooden shelves stretching as far as the glow would allow them to see. The tops of the shelves disappeared into the blackness above.
The stale, still air was filled with the quiet hiss of whispered words.
“Listen, Sam. Communication!”
“But they are only books.”
They edged along the aisles. The shelves towered above them, leather bound volumes filled every inch-space. So much knowledge radiating into the world, so much information hanging in the air, waiting to be inhaled.
The farther they went, the older and mustier the books. The tone of the voices changed, now they seemed like they were Latin, then Greek. There were scrolls on wooden spindles, wrapped in flaking velum, or may be papyrus, all too fragile to touch. The voices were deeper here. A darker tone, of knowledge serious with age, originating before Man could write. An original knowledge, a knowing without teaching; of natural laws. A knowledge of things only the gods should know.
At the far end of The Library, the only light was from the tomes themselves; a grey-green, primordial emanation from between the covers.
“Look, Joshua!” Sam’s whisper barely louder than that of the enveloping shelving. “Could it be the meaning of Life itself?”
A volume, embossed ‘Number 42’, glowed brightest, high up, just beyond his reach … as always.
* * *
(c) 2015, K Patrick Moody