Axiom 9: Don’t lose hope.
The first difference that hit me, after I stepped through the door at the top of the stairs, was the silence.
Of course, this might have been the first thing that I noticed because, despite all my survival instincts screaming at me to keep my eyes open, those lids were firmly shut as I passed through. I’m not sure why – maybe I thought that, if I didn’t look at any of the eldritch horrors on the other side, they wouldn’t be able to hurt me.
But after a couple seconds of listening to silence, I finally opened my eyes.
Books. My first impression came as a single word. Books, millions upon millions of books.
Another word came to me a second later, as I looked around. Library. I stood in a massive library, many levels rising up towards the ceiling and into infinity, catwalks criss-crossing back and forth, many of them made of glass. Shelves everywhere carried books from the floor to the ceiling, and everywhere I looked, angels moved back and forth, carrying stacks of more books back and forth.
And all of them moved in near-absolute silence, I saw with amazement. Unlike down at the airport-like area, the place where they all teleported in and out, this place seemed to be filled with angels who focused only on the books in front of them.
Although I’d first thought that there was no sound, after a minute I heard a soft rustling noise, gently filling the huge expanse. It was the sound of turning pages, I realized, as angels at hundreds of tables throughout the library turned page after page of the books, reading them. I wondered what the books contained, why they needed the angels to read them.
There was a problem, however. I didn’t know where to go next, and I feared that, if I stopped one of these reading angels to ask for directions, they’d all start attacking me, just like the ones on the other side of the door.
The door! I turned and looked back at it, suddenly fearing that the angels would come bursting through. It didn’t seem inclined to open again, however, so I decided to just quickly sidle away from it.
There did seem to be a general rise to the library, I realized, as I walked through the soundless location, hearing only the rustle of innumerable pages. As I moved deeper, stepping to the side whenever an angel, oblivious with his or her nose buried in a book, walked past me, I saw that a series of steps rose up to a central dais. Something – I couldn’t tell what – stood on that dais. I couldn’t see the object on top of the dais, but all of the angels, wandering around with their noses buried in books, seemed at some point to pass by it.
That, I figured, seemed like as good of a place to start as any.
Still doing my best to dodge the oblivious angels, I made my way up the dais. To any observer watching from above, it probably looked like a strange game of Frogger, as I moved back and forth attempting to get around the readers.
As I drew closer, I realized that the object on top of the dais was a desk, a massive wooden one. Made from seasoned wood, it looked like the headmaster’s desk from a boarding school, the head teacher who commanded absolute power among his students. I half expected to see a couple of old spitballs sticking to its bottom.
Behind the desk sat… well, it was an angel, I knew, given the white wings. But the pinched, drawn expression, the half-moon glasses, the steel gray hair pulled back into a tight bun – it all screamed out librarian, in a manner that would surely earn me a stern shushing.
And as I approached, those stern eyes behind the half-moon glasses rose up to lock onto me. The pinched frown deepened, but the angel didn’t say anything, didn’t do anything except watch and wait.
I stopped in front of the desk, feeling a bit like a student summoned to the principal’s office. “I, er,” I started, and then ran out of words.
The angel looked sternly at me. “Spit it out, young man,” it commanded.
I tried to think past the ancestral panic that hit all young men when they faced down a bitter old librarian. “I’m looking for the principal – er, archangel,” I stammered out. “Whoever’s in charge.”
“And why do you want to see him, then?”
I thought frantically. What sort of reason would convince this dominating, scary librarian to help me? “Because there’s something wrong with the apocalypse,” I said.
“And what is that?”
“It shouldn’t be happening.” I tried to think of how in the world I could justify this, searching for the right words. “I mean, it might be supposed to happen at some time, but it’s not right now! It shouldn’t be going on now, and we need to stop it!”
I ran out of steam and stopped, looking up at the librarian angel and wondering just how far I’d sail when I was kicked out of this library.
After a long minute of regarding me over the rims of her glasses, however, the angel finally gave me a single nod. Her narrowed eyes didn’t change, but I felt like her opinion of me had just shifted over the razor’s edge into approval.
“That way,” she said, giving a very slight little nod towards a door over her shoulder.
I started in that direction, but the librarian coughed, making me pause. She reached into the stacks of books on top of her desk, withdrew a leather-bound volume, and held it out to me.
“What’s this?” I asked, taking it.
“Something that might help. Open it when you have no other options.” And with that, the librarian turned away from me, dropping her eyes back to examining the dozens of volumes that the other angels continuously placed on her desk, sorting them into new piles that other angels carried away. I couldn’t work out what sort of system was going on, but I decided not to stick around and figure out what was going on.
I moved to the door that the librarian angel indicated, opening it through the ordinary seeming bronze knob, and stepped through.