The Librarian

Every shelf in the Library’s cavernous aisles is stacked with worlds and universes, full of life, and also of death. Nobody ever checks out any books from there, though. Nor are there any avid readers wandering around inside, casually flicking through pages while speaking to each other in hushed tones. The Library has existed for as long as anyone can remember, growing in size over untold years (or is it millennia?), a beast that subsists on knowledge and can never be satisfied. And deep in its silently beating heart sits the Librarian. He is the keeper of stories, a guardian of fiction and fact. He was there once upon a time and he will be there happily ever after, though he cannot say if it will be happy or not.

The Librarian has seen the Library’s foundation being laid. He will see its last stone crumble to dust. He has seen babies cradled in their mothers’ arms and old men laying on their deathbeds. He has seen lovers light up the dance floor and enemies scorch the battlefield. Heroes fighting villains; teenagers navigating their lives through friendship and love; regular folks grappling with careers and relationships, hoping to find happiness. The Librarian has seen them all, page after page, chapter after chapter.

He finishes reading the life of a famous radio personality with a dysfunctional family; the poor man dies alone and his family feuds over his assets before the body’s even gone cold. The Librarian sighs and closes the book. The family’s stories will have to wait for another day; perhaps he’ll read some lighter fare next. He returns the book to its shelf where it will be put away for good, never to be read again.

Endings are usually the problem. Some stories take their time building toward an inevitable conclusion, others are cut short abruptly; so many of them are tragedies. He had quite enjoyed the one about the dinosaurs, but was disappointed with how it ended. Asteroid impacts seemed like a cheap storytelling device. His chair creaks a welcome as he settles back into it, exhausted from today’s reading. He glances at the giant tome sitting on one side of his desk: The Saga of Humanity. That one’s been an ongoing project; he reads a handful of chapters every few years, but is no closer to the end. Sometimes, he finds himself tempted to peek at the ending, but that would spoil the surprise. He’ll pick it up again in a year or two and see how the story’s progressed.

The Librarian removes his glasses and rubs his temples, leaning back. Tomorrow he will once again explore new worlds, new lives. He hopes that at least some endings will be happy as he closes his eyes and drifts off into a sleep without dreams.

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