My walls hold stories
not found on shelf pages
Whispers down sacred halls
At times I am quiet
yet scream with the history
of a thousand cultures
My and a million thoughts
I grab at your heart
and invite your rage
Stolen kisses with wisps
haunt my shelves
I am laughter
rocked in grandparents’ arms
I am wise in my ways
and wonderfully foolish with my love
I am ancient and new
Discovered and forgotten
Malleable and unrelenting
A cornucopia of
worn pages and electronics
I was here before you knew
that you needed me
and I look forward to making your acquaintance
I AM THE LIBRARY — by TINA MCFARLANE
read the poem @ Tina’s Website: https://tmcfarlanewriter.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/i-am-the-library/
If you’re new to this series ❕❗️❕❗️ Don’t forget to read ‘The Order’ part 1: http://storiesbydude.com/2020/09/05/the-order/ ⏸⏮▶️
The poem spread, shook and bounced around Kam’s imagination as he absent-mindedly bounded the long hallway towards the library, also known as HQ. He had been in what Marvin insisted was training for the past nine weeks; Kam didn’t quite agree with Marvin’s ‘training’ methods to say the least. Over the past month and a quarter, he’d somehow managed to survive several encounters with giants, both kind and aggressive; been a diplomatic advisor to a countless number of talking animals and other fairy tale creatures; and above all, the most extraordinary event was being a part in a dinosaur wrangling mission. Marvin had refused to help do anything physical during the latter expedition on grounds of training purposes. Apparently, these had all been previously completed missions that the Order maintained solely for training. In addition to the practical training, Kam had been required to pile the additional duties of learning the history, purpose and structure of The Order onto his already overwhelming class load. Fortunately, over the past week he’d been able to pass the written exams and limit how much of a fool he made Marvin appear to be to his peers. After exiting the blue beard story when they first met, Marvin had gone on raving and boasting to the other senior members of the secret faction how he’d lucked into a prodigy — How Kam would shoot up the ranks, allow them all to retire with peace of mind and lead the Order into a new era. Days later Kam would fail the pre-requisite entry-exam. It took him another attempt to solve an average amount of the brain teasers and riddles used to screen candidates and four tries to finally pass the physical fitness portion of the test. His trials and tribulations while I.S. (In Story) was a whole other nightmare for Marvin to be ashamed of. But through it all Kam had remained persistent in effort and so the head librarian had not given up on him either, they were both better than they were nine weeks ago. Now Kam walked towards the final test, neither of them knew the story that would be chosen; but Marvin knew all too well that it would be real and that it would be dangerous.
With the poetic words of McFarlane floating his mind into the clouds of motivation and inspiration Kam didn’t notice the trip wire set specifically for him. As graceful as a whale tap dancing on a pinhead, the Order recruit crashed into the freshly pine-sol-polished wood floor. His surroundings went from a myriad of conversations and faces that could careless of his presence to a fully Kam directed out roar of laughter and walls of pointed fingers.
The scornful eyes of Amelia “Jazz” Traceon found him as he picked himself up. The embarrassment was not something he was built to register as important, but the hurt in her eyes wasn’t ignorable.
Unbeknownst to either of them until Marvin revealed the news, Kam had taken her spot as the chosen candidate for the Order. Their cute, butterfly-inducing, growing crushes of one another came to a screeching halt in that moment.
Now the only student in the entire school, other than his sister, who had recognized his presence, hated his guts. Perfect.
Amelia collected the thin tripping rope around her fist, never breaking eye contact. She made a point to step on each of Kam’s books and loose papers that had been strewn across the floor as she walked away. No one moved to assist, from the outside looking in, Kam was sure the entire scene looked like the episode of an ex-couple. If only the viewers knew how untrue that really was.
He’d have to reprint his essay about the climate crisis’ effect on the audio sensory abilities of polar bears before he left the library. It now featured a prominent size-nine shoe print on the thesis page.
With his flappy, single-shoulder strapped bag back fully loaded he continued on his journey. Within the span of twenty feet, a left turn, followed by thirteen and a half paces, he leaned his forearm into the large library double doors and made his way to the head librarians office. If anyone asked, he had been instructed to tell them he was a librarian apprentice; which by all accounts was a great line: Not only as it wouldn’t be far from the truth, but also because no one ever noticed him enough to force him to use it. The ultimate pre-rehearsed line for an anti-social introvert of Kam’s level. He loved it. A librarian’s apprentice. Although sometimes Marvin actually made him do work for the library, it was a great cover up for his apprenticeship into the Order.
Kam stepped into the office without knocking and found it empty for the first time in nine weeks. He plopped down into the first available seat facing the large oak desk and unlatched his satchel, allowing it and its contents to spill without a single care given. Kam sat slouched, relaxed, unaware he was being observed; he glanced around the large office, tilting his head at the canted Townes’ piece that hung above the bookcase. Usually the frame was completely straight, ninety degrees perpendicular to the bookshelf; he remembered seeing Marvin ogling at the silhouetted woman in the painting before. An odd coincidence, he figured, after studying the tilt for some time.
A few moments of twiddling thumbs turned into flopping his feet lazily around the rug, abstracting Marvin’s office in tandem with the unbalanced pattern. With boredom grabbing hold of his attention fast, Kam unsheathed his phone and started to send a checking-in text to Amira. It was odd for him not to have heard from her before her 1030 AM class started. She knew he had a very serious task scheduled for the day and must’ve not wanted to distract. As Kam’s thumbs began to peg away at the glass mobile screen it was snatched out of his grasp.
“Hey!”, he called out in protest.
“Are you kidding me Kam?!” Marvin chastised striking a rigged hand out towards the tilted oil painting. “You can’t have been so unaware you missed the biggest clue in the room!”
“No I saw it…” Kam declared.
Exasperating in response, Marvin tried to console his rising frustration, “You…s–saw…you saw it?!?!?!” He rubbed his face with the palm of his hand and looked away and up at nothing but the ceiling. “You saw it….and then what?”
“What do you mean?”
At that, Marvin rubbed his face with both hands.
“So…this is your protege, Marv’?”, a calm female voice questioned from behind Kam. “Pas ce que j’attendais.”
“Hey I know you…”, Kam interjected. “Madame Alice Laurent, ‘Le livreur’…I’m Ka–”
“Mr. Okoro.”, She accepted the handshake from Kam, “I’ve heard much about you. And I must say you have not instilled in me the confidence my colleague has for you…”. She left his jaw and hand hanging as she snatched away to face Marvin. “A pity.”
Marvin shot Kam a reprimanding look; daggering eyes accompanied by a half snarl and insistent gesturing towards the painting, as the woman of France brushed past his shoulder and paced around the office. Marvin snapped back to attention when she turned back around to face him.
“Tu es sur de lui?”, she asked Marvin.
“I assure you Alice…” Marvin spoke in English, pulling Kam into the conversation and trying to ignite a fire of confidence in his young pupil. “…place him in a story and you’ll see what I see. He’s got it. Trust me. Fais-moi confiance.”
Alice drew closer to Marvin, almost eye to eye if she’d been a few inches taller. She exhaled and blinked slowly before pulling away, “Ne me fais pas ridicule…..again.”. She reached into her purse and paused, again finding Marvin’s eyes. “You will not like what they have chosen. Perhaps you would like to leave the room…”
“I will not be leaving my own office Alice, go on…he can handle it…”, Marvin smirked.
“It’s not him I’m worried about…” she said pulling the worn leather bound book from her bag.
Marvin turned away, hiding his face as she placed the novela onto the desk before them.
Kam stepped forward, trying to get a better look at it as she unlatched the buckle that held its pages together. Behind the front cover Alice revealed a quill, she placed it beside the old, open book and stepped back. Kam couldn’t help but notice the slight grimace on her face when she looked up towards his teacher.
Alice cleared her throat, “When you are ready, you will sign the book…”
“Okay…”, Kam leaned towards the desk.
“NO!!!”, her hand was much stronger than he’d anticipated as Alice slammed a back hand into his chest, stalling his movement with lightning reflexes.
“What are ya doin’?”, Marvin spoke up, still creasing at the bridge of his nose. “How many times did I tell you….can’t do it in front of me…”
“Yeah…yeah…that’s right…”, Kam confessed, looking down with a lack of confidence. Nervousness habitually made him rash and impulsive, a product of trying to overcome them.
The head librarian placed a hand on his pupil’s shoulder. “S’alright kid…”, Marvin’s somber, consoling tone took Kam by surprise. “Can you give us a sec, Alice?”
“Indeed. My time is done here anyways…I’ll see myself out…”
“No, no, no. Nonsense….I’ll walk you out…”, Marvin shuffled to catch up to the fast moving Alice, “Sit tight Kam, I’ll be right back…”
Kam slammed his back into the armchair, intensely focused on the blank book and quill that remained on the desk. Anxiety began to run rampant throughout his imagination. He sat unmoving and had to remind himself to blink. It was like watching water boil. The book taunted him with its stillness. Called to him with it’s mystery. Through it’s being it began to convince him that the waiting was part of the test, that to prove his mettle he had to sign it. Now or never. Alice didn’t have confidence in his operative skills, he could show her, right there and now that he meant business. That he was the real deal. He stepped out of the seat in haste and reached for the quill. It shook in his hands. Kam couldn’t quite hold it’s tip steady over the blank page as a bead of sweat plopped down and rolled into the middle crevice of the open book.
“What the hell are ya doin’?!” Called Marvin as he re-entered the office.
Kam dropped the quill and stepped away from the leather tome. “I…I-uh…I don’t know….”
“Sit down.”, Marvin commanded while pushing Kam’s shoulder down until the young man plopped back down into the armchair.
“Did I fail the test…”, Kam thought out loud to Marvin.
“You haven’t taken the test…what are you talking about?”, Marvin avoided contact with the book as he cornered his desk and took up his own seat. He pressed his hands against the side of his face, running each finger up to his temples and back down together and across his mouth, before continuing with them in a prayer like position, inches away. “Listen…just sit down. Shut up and listen. Okay…?”
Kam sat back, “Okay.”
“Okay…”, Marvin exhaled loudly, “This book…..it…uh….my….agh…my uh…”. A tear began to trail from his left eye, but the speedy librarian was able to swipe it away quickly.
Kam refused the urge to ask if Marvin was okay, he knew when the pain a man felt was much better left undisturbed.
Marvin pushed up from his desk, paced the room and just remained standing, staring out at the parking lot from the long, narrow, floor to ceiling window that dominated one corner of his office.
Kam waited patiently. There were no kind enough words to say in this situation to allow a lane for Marvin’s pain to flow freely. The serious mood began marinating in his mind; sombering the anxiety and fear he felt and morphing them into the motivation he would need to make Marvin proud.
Finally it came pouring out of him, “This book Kam…this book…it has broken everything I ever was. They sent this on purpose….to test me…”, he slammed a palm into the thick glass. “To test me…”, he gritted the words. “My daughter…..she’s in there….”, he pointed at the book without looking at it.
The pause was too long for Kam to remain silent, “I…I–I’m so–”
“Don’t say that….”, Marvin cut him off. “…just…uh….just come back….go…..GO!!!!!”
Kam snatched the book and quill off the oak desk and darted out of the office.
She had been hiding in the closet for him to return from the library for over an hour; but when Amira saw the determination and fear in his demeanor she thought better of revealing herself so soon. She watched as he slammed and shoved his desk clean, making room for the strange book. Amira knew what was coming next and she patiently waited, watching his every move. Studying even.
Not even a scribble or scratch from the quill appeared as he tried to sign his name onto the page. Amira realized he was missing something as well…ink. It appeared to have donned on him the very instant she thought of it herself: Kam poked his palm with the quill and signed. Amira was in shock as the bright light emitted from the pages of the book and engulfed her older brother. He vanished milliseconds later and only the book remained.
Amira stepped out of the closet slowly, she didn’t quite know why she paced so sneakily towards the book in an empty dorm room, but it felt appropriate. She looked all over the floor, under the chair and across the desk top for the quill but it was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t until she lifted the book that another fell from it’s inner flap. “That’s odd….” she said to herself before pricking her finger with it’s tip.
Excerpt adapted from the Original Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tale: Hansel and Gretel
…Kam lay awake in bed, hearing the hideous conversation between the step-mother and father:
The woman spewed, ”Everything is eaten again, we have one half loaf left, and that is the end. The children must go, we will take them farther into the wood, so that they will not find their way out again. There is no other means of saving ourselves.”
The man’s heart was heavy, and he thought, “It would be better for you to share the last mouthful with your children.”
The woman, however, would listen to nothing that he had to say, but scolded and reproached him. He who says ‘A’ must say ‘B’, likewise, and as he had yielded the first time, he had to do so a second time also…
When the parents were finally asleep, Kam snuck out of bed and tried the front door. Unfortunately it was locked, and his now tiny child-like hands were no match for the heavy door jam keeping it blocked. He had no way of escaping.
“You can’t get the pebbles again, it’s locked…”
“What pebbles?”, Kam questioned the young girl.
“Wait….you’re real?”, she asked.
“I am. I’ve been trapped her–”
“It is you!!”, Kam exclaimed then quickly covered his mouth, reverting back to whispering. “You’re Marvin’s daughter.”
They both heard the stirring coming from the parent’s room. “You know my Father?”, the young girl grabbed his elbow and shuffled them back to the cramped room where they were supposed to be sleeping.
“He’s my…uh…I’m a librarian’s apprentice..”
“Is that what they’re calling it now?”, she laughed. “Look I can help you get out of here, but you’ve gotta follow my lead…”
“We are getting out of here….”, Kam reiterated.
“That’s cute…”, Marvin’s daughter replied nonchalantly, “…it really is, but no, kid. I’m forever going to be this.”, she held her arms out to her side. “Gretel…nice to meet you…”
“That was before I showed up. I’ll get you out of here, I killed bluebeard…in my first I.S.!”
“Oooouuuuu…..”, she replied with sarcasm, “the mighty bluebeard slayer himself?! Here to save me! Oh!! How lucky arth I?!”
“Listen,”she started in, “and you better listen good, if you want to get out of here and not end up as my brother, forever reliving this nightmare together then you need to listen to everything I say! The quill….do you still have it?”
“Yes.”, Kam went along with her leadership, not revealing his resolved intent to be her hero, even if she didn’t think he could.
“Good. That’s the key. When the witch is dead, you can write your way out in her book…”
“The witch?” Kam questioned. “I thought we would follow breadcrumbs home?”
Marvin’s daughter laughed once more at his innocence, “You must’ve heard the nice version of this tale. Get some rest, you’ll be in for a real treat tomorrow hon’!”
Early in the morning came the woman, and took the children out of their beds. Their piece of bread was given to them, but it was still smaller than the time before. On the way into the forest Kam crumbled his in his pocket, and often stood still and threw a morsel on the ground.
“Hansel, why do you stop and look round?” Said the father. “Go on.”
Kam hesitated and stammered.
“He is just looking back at my little pigeon, Papa. There sitting on the roof…can we say good-bye? Look, he waves to us…”
“Fool.” Said the woman, “That is not your little pigeon, that is the morning sun that is shining on the chimney.”
They were forced to keep walking behind the woman with a shove.
The head librarian’s daughter elbowed Kam as he walked past her, “You need to learn your lines, Bluebeard…”. She smirked.
Kam ignored the jab and continued to pepper the forest floor with bread crumbs as the woman led them still deeper into the forest. The denseness of the woods seemingly grew to infinite levels, Kam had never seen anything like it. There was no way of knowing where they were as they continued to travel.
A great fire was finally made as the woman chose their stopping point. “Just sit there, you children, and when you are tired you may sleep a little. We are going into the forest to cut wood, and in the evening when we are done, we will come and fetch you away.”
While keeping a watchful eye on the sundial she’d crafted, Marvin’s daughter tossed the remaining portion of her bread to the tirelessly working Kam. During his I.S. training he’d been fortunate enough to learn some bow making techniques from none other than the Robin Hood of Nottingham. This fact was not enough to swoo Marvin’s daughter in the slightest. Her sarcastic air of confidence remained through the day and into the night.
When the moon came they set out. “Dammit!!”, Kam exclaimed.
“The crumbs are gone….”, he blared.
She laughed, “Of course they are!!! We’re in a forest dimwit! All you did was feed the birds…”
“So how do you know where the house is?”
“I don’t…”, she admitted, “I’m taking us to the stream to get water…”
“I guess…uh…that’s a good idea…”
“Say what’s your name anyways…”
“No, your real name…”, Kam protested.
“Does it matter?”, she rolled her eyes and pressed on through the forest.
They marched the rest of the way to the stream in silence.
“The house will appear in two more days…”, she instructed, taking up a strong napping position on the bank of the stream.
“Yea….don’t worry! It’s the same time back on Earth…”
“That’s not my concern…”, Kam assured.
“Sure it isn’t…”, Marvin’s daughter stretched her small stubby limbs. Kam thought how much her adult actions and mannerisms contradicted her present age and child body. She sat with her legs crossed, out in front and tried to catch a nap. “Listen….”
Kam waited, “What?”. He snapped breaking the silence.
“Shhhh…..”, she shushed, “Just listen…isn’t it beautiful.”
The song-bird’s note was cut short soon after she spoke of its melodic tweet. Her eyes snapped open and fury ensued when she spotted Kam with his bow still raised. “What the fu—“
Amira yawned awake, vastly unaware of her surroundings, but trying to piece together any elements she could to determine what story she could be a part of. She swung her legs off the bed, staring ahead trying to look out the window but either the window was obscenely dirty, her eyes were weaker than frail or both. Nothing but a blur presented itself. At least from what she could tell it was daylight.
The room she found herself smelled of peppermint, honey and old wood. It was scented like an antique candy store would be. Hunger called through the wafting smells of sugar and Amira’s stomach began to growl.
Wherever she was, they had to have food…even Bluebeard had fed her. She pushed off the bed and onto an unstable pair of frail, non supportive legs. Amira buckled and collapsed under the weight of her own body.
She smelled and heard the cat before she saw it cowering away underneath the rugged bed she’d just fallen from.
“Hey kitty kitty…”, Amira reached to give its head a scratch — the feline screeched and swiped down at her hand, drawing blood, “Aaaaahhhh”. As fast as it had struck the cat was sprinting away.
Amira tried her best to stand, using the bedpost as a counter weight; something about her newfound legs was unnerving. Then she spotted them. Two crookedly tall, pole-like crutches were leaned against the backside of the bed. Rigidly, Amira crawled across the floor towards the walking tools.
She pulled herself up using the bent crutches to position her betraying legs beneath her. It took some accustoming time, but after a moment she was mobile. Placing one crutch ahead of the other, she made her way through the log cabin like a four-legged creature.
Still with no clue who, when, what or why she might be, Amira concluded from investigating the house that she must be inhabiting the life of some otherworldly being. Throughout the cabin were candles of various widths, scents and time spent burning. Some were lit others were just waxy carcasses of past flames. Crystals, herbs and beads hung from the ceiling in, of all places, the kitchen. Amira thought that a bit off, but decided against disturbing anything unnecessarily. She ran a finger across the top of the large cauldron that dominated the central room of the house. It was cool to the touch—it’s rough, scratchy, metal surface reminded Amira of the bed liner in her Dad’s pickup truck. She peered inside and luckily found it to be empty.
She heard the voices, only milliseconds after the new scent carried through her open windows. Amira turned too quick for the crutches and slipped once again. Scrambling up using the one crutch she was able to hold onto she hopped to the door.
The light tapping sounded from the other side of the door right before Amira swung it open. “Hello…”
“Uh….hello…where’s your other crutch?”, Gretel asked rubbing her chin, “Nevermind. Hey look we’re like eating your house or whatever y’know…”
“Eating…my hou—“, Amira peaked her head further out the cabin to a decent look at what the young girl was alluding to.
“Shi—“, Gretel reacted quickly.
Had it not been for the small child’s quick reaction in shoving her back into the sweet smelling log cabin then Amira’s face would’ve been skewered into the door frame. The arrow thudded and penetrated deeply into her new home. “What was that?!”
“I hate saying this…but…long story…”, Gretel replied. The girl tossed the wobbly legged witch her crutch and leaned out of the cabin, waving towards the woods. She motioned in the reverse direction of the Arrows vector for someone to join them.
“You’re not apart of the story are you?”, Amira asked. “Where’s my brother?!”
Gretel sucked her teeth instead of answering.
Amira was just getting to her feet when the boy ran up into the doorway.
“I missed…”, he started to say before he saw the witch regaining herself. “AH!” Kam began to draw back once more.
“No!!”, Amira pleaded.
Again she was saved from an arrow by the young girl who pushed Hansel’s arm aside, causing the arrow to shoot off into the cabin towards the kitchen. It bounced off the cauldron with a loud, metallic ping.
“What are you doing?!”, Kam roared.
“Does she look like an evil witch to you?!”, Marvin’s daughter glared at the trigger happy archer.
“Yes! She’s hideous.”, Kam retorted before pulling another arrow from his makeshift quiver.
The witch gasped with an open mouth. “I know you’re not talkin with that crusty curl!! You need to give your sister back those shorts too!!”, Amira snatched the limp arrow off of the boy’s bow and tossed it aside. “What kinda moccasins are those anyways? Talking bout I’m hideous with those breadcrumb fours on!!”
“Amira?!?!” Kam interjected.
“Good y’all know each other.”, Marvin’s daughter clapped between their stargazing faces. “Now…where’s your quills?”
They both pulled out the feathers.
“Witch….uh…sorry. What was your name again?”
“Amira…”, she answered, positioning on the one crutch to extend a hand.
“Sophia…” Marvin’s daughter accepted the gesture, “But you can just call me Gretel. Nice to meet you, Amira.”
“Wait…how come she gets to know your name?”
The two women just blankly stared at Kam for a pause.
“Whatever…”, he conceded.
“Now, Amira where is the book?”
“Agh…”, Sophia rubbed her face frustratingly in similar fashion to how her father does. “Well, I guess we’ll have to go down there after all. Remember, we can’t help them there’s only two quills….”
“The Lost…”, Sophia breathed, “…like me…”
Sobering chills filled their bodies with goosebumps as they entered the basement. Lined on either side was a row of children, all previous versions of Hansel and Gretel. All trapped.
“Help us!!!”, “Heeeeeelllllpppp”, “Please!!!”, “We’re starving!!!”, “Pleeeeeaaaasssseee!!!!”
“I was here for ages…”, Sophia said matching them past the cages, “right there…”. She pointed at an empty cage to her left. “We’re allowed one-hundred cycles of freedom before our turn is up and we return to the row…”
“How can we save them?” Amira pleaded.
“We can’t…”, Sophi turned on her heels, eyeing them both fiercely. “You can’t. This is our fate for failing, I lost my quill. I pushed you…I mean I pushed the witch into the oven and my quill right along with her. When the story ended I stayed. I couldn’t leave. I woke up in that cage…I’ve been helping anyone stupid enough to sign their name ever since.”
“That’s horrible….”, Kam muttered under his breath.
Amira was too shaken to speak.
“C’mon,” Sophia tugged for them to follow, “we’re close.”
They trotted ahead to the podium enamored in a green light at the end of the attic. Sitting atop, like a forbidden artifact was a book identical to the leather bound book they had signed in the real world.
“Okay this is it guys…Farewell, and tell my Fath—“
“No. Wait here!”, Kam snatched the book and sprinted away.
“HEY!!!!!”, Sophia ran after him, cursing obscenities and throwing any loose gravel or stones she could pick up.
Amira remained still. Ever since he had saved her from Bluebeard, she trusted her brother’s instinctive action.
The song bird was still there just as Kam had hoped. He slid on next to the carcass and hugged it tightly; although she screamed and beat at him with a closed fist, Kam thanked Sophia for not allowing him to eat the bird.
They sprinted back to the basement, trying their damndest to beat the sunset, story end.
Marvin had happily paid the fire code fine for Kam; they had to lie about the unimaginable number of personnel that he had piling out of his dorm room that day. But the rumor around campus began circulating that he threw the most legendary parties of all time.
It helped that he was also now associated with one of the cutest T.A.’s in the school, Mrs. Sophia.
It turns out she had been trapped in the fairy tale for over twelve years. Marvin had a lot catching up to do with his now thirty-two year old daughter. With his hands now free of training Kam, the fifty-seven year old librarian now had all the time in the world to enjoy with her.
Kam the recruit was now Kam of The Order.
Copyright © 2020 Kacy Gilbert (Writing as Remontz)
All rights reserved.
No part of this book/ebook/story may be reproduced or used in any manner without the prior written consent of the copyright owner; except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
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