The Littlest Historian

lilhis

Breathe deep, he told himself. Just breathe deep. Someone will find you. Someone will fix this.

He’d been in charge of the Library… well, all his life, even as a small boy. He didnt remember any time outside the dark cavernous room that was his universe; for all he knew, he was born there. He didnt even know for certain how old he was: the face in the mirror looked perpetually young, but he knew it was a lie. Or a trick of the light. Or… something. And he knew this because it was his job to know otherwise.

Every day he dutifully turned one page on the Book. That was it. The Book might change as he took them off the shelves to replace other Books whose time had passed, but his job never did. Just one page. That page, he had been told (by whom?), chronicled all the events to unfold that day… every single one throughout all Creation. He didnt know for certain if this was so, but he believed. And because he believed, he dutifully turned one page. As he did, words magically appeared on the page: dense, tiny, written in an elegant yet strong script. This, he was told, is What Will Happen that day. If there is a problem, they said, we will fix it. Not you. This is your job, no more. He nodded, understanding and yet not.

He’d been doing this for… millenia. He knew this was so because he could see the evidence right before him: thousands upon thousands of books he’d taken off the shelves, one at a time, thousands upon thousands of books he’d put back on the shelves when their time was done. And he could likewise see all the thousands of books to come, books he was strictly forbidden ever to open — and because he believed, they never were.

At least, not until yesterday… or maybe last week. He wasnt sure.

He couldnt explain what possessed him. A sudden feeling of his own mortality, perhaps. The knowledge, the certain knowledge that when he got to the last book, time would end… and so would he. In younger times, he’d never even considered the possibility. The library was so vast that certainly it had to contain an infinite number of books. But as the eons passed, he saw that that was not so. To be sure, there were thousands, perhaps millions left… but he was also on a journey that led irrevocably to that Final Page in that Final Book.

And wondering what it might be had begun increasingly to haunt him. Did things just… stop?, he wondered. Would the Library just blink out of existence? Or would it remain here, its books depleted of their knowledge? And what would happen to him? Did he move on to another library somewhere? Or did he too just stop existing? Or did he simply stay in this room, waiting for…

He tried not to think about it. He tried. But every day, turning the one page, moving ever closer to that Final Statement, obsessed him. Finally, one day, unable to stop himself, he decided to know. He walked to the farthest end of the Library, deeper and deeper into the increasing blackness… until he found it.

The Final Book.

Hesitantly, he leaned down and lightly touched it, as though it might spark out at him or shoot fire at his eyes to blind him of its knowledge. It didnt. He gently extracted it from the shelf and carefully looked at it. It had no binding marks. No titling. It was neither heavier nor lighter than the countless others he’d carried. It was just… another book.

Still fearful of what he was about to do, he sat on the floor, the book in his lap. You can always put it back, he told himself. Just leave it unopened and put it back on the shelf. No one will ever know. But he knew he couldnt do that. He flipped it over and grasped the fabric wrapped cover, then gently lifted it…

He didnt even notice the first tremors, but the second wave threw him against the wall as the enormous shelves began to sway, some already sending their contents into cascading piles in the spaces between. The third wave hit like the whole room had been cut from its moorings and sent spinning into… whatever was outside. The mighty wooden shelves now collapsed about him, the thousands upon thousands of books flying through the air, hurtling to the floor, some closed, more open, their pages suddenly replete with suddenly appearing script, its elegance lost, as though the words could not slam together fast enough to elbow their way on the page.

There was a sudden crash as an entire section of the ceiling came loose and smashed onto the piles of broken wood shelving. He looked up into the jagged hole and saw… nothing. Just blackness. The very thought that there was something beyond the Library gave him hope, even as a massive oak shelf careened behind him and knocked him —

He awoke… hours later? Days, perhaps? He didnt know. At some point, the Final Book had been jerked away from him. He had no idea where it landed. It was now just one of millions upon millions of books in piles across the great space.

Breathe deep, he told himself. Just breathe deep. Someone will find you. Someone will fix this.

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