A vast and ancient library stands on the shore of an uncharted sea. Within are the books which have never been written, the books we have seen only in our dreams. There are murder mysteries without victims, romances without lovers, westerns which take place entirely indoors, works of philosophy consisting of only a single word and refutations in which that word is simply repeated over and over. There is a book composed only of a series of numbers, and another written wholly in musical notes. In yet another, a dark mathematician contends that all numbers are factors of infinity, and are therefore one and the same number. As to how many volumes the library holds in its collection, this is beyond my power to estimate, though I have studied here for years.
I am only able to make a cursory catalogue of the wonders within: The missing plays of Shakespere, an original manuscript by Homer, a copy of the Necronomicron annotated by Lovecraft, a box of leaves and pebbles which is the original Koran, a sealed room said to contain the tablets of Moses - or rather, the echo of the thunder on Mount Sinai which announced those tablets.
The building is astounding in its own right. One has only to enter its foyer -indeed, to look upon it from afar- without ever opening a single volume therein, to become forever changed. It is a dizzying convolution of galleries, spreading out from the central hall in all directions, with stacked mezzanines rising into the shadows overhead, and forbidding portals opening upon stairwells which wind deep into the earth. And every wall, every vertical surface is lined with shelves crowded with musty tomes. Books overflow onto the floor, or are stacked on great tables, thick with the dust of uncounted ages.
There are cavernous catacombs devoted to books written in arcane and indecipherable codes, a tower housing the biographies of people who never existed, an entire wing containing an immense encyclopedia of alphabets - each volume devoted to the history of a single letter.
I have no idea how many scholars like me wander within this daedalian bibliothecary. In truth, I have never encountered another living soul here, though I have often come across evidence that I am not alone - A half-eaten sandwich left on a ledge, a page of illegible notes, fresh footsteps in the dust of a forgotten corridor, a furtive motion glimpsed in the shadows from the corner of my eye. Once, in a tower room, I found the complete skeleton of a man, half-buried beneath a collapsed stack of books.
There are books whose pages dissolve into dust upon opening. There are books written by birds, by insects, by machines of sublime and terrible grace. There is a book which is a circle that can be begun or ended on any page, and another that can only be read backward. There are books of grunts and whistles, and others describing in exquisite detail the infinite variations of a summer's breeze. There are scrolls, clay tablets, knotted strings, and laserdiscs. There is one book which replicates the very book you are presently reading, in every detail save for a single word. There are books which describe other books, dreams within dreams, and tracts taking the premise that no books have ever been written, that all our literature is merely the solipsistic hallucination of a soul driven mad by solitude.
I have wandered the corridors of this library for over two decades, browsing its shelves, drinking in its printed marvels, intoxicated by its musty aromas. I have kept a running anthology of notes, gleaning a phrase here, a paragraph there, an occasional epic. Here, beyond reach of the sun, I have become a man of dust and shadow, living on mildew, my fingertips stained dark by antediluvian inks, and when I sleep, my dreams are of the pages of these unwritten books waiting to be born.
At times, in this repository of imaginary tomes, I begin to doubt myself. For in all the time I've spent here, in all that I have read, I have never encountered the object of my quest, the book that will describe you - your hair, your mouth, your sorrows and joys, your eyes, your dreams, and the work of your hands. Who am I, then, a scholar in the library of dreams? Might I be but a dream also, with you the dreamer? This I cannot answer. I have yet to discover the book of your secret name, the name I have whispered upon awakening every morning of my life, and which I can never afterward recall.
© 2010 W. Luther Jett. All rights reserved.