Revisited: “‘Since I am just a piece of code, I would be on very thin ice to speculate,’ the Librarian says.” (Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson)
Ch 24 ~ The Librarian
“You should have a seat,” the Other said softly. She managed a smile. It seemed nearly genuine. Dryst didn’t trust it.
“Please,” she insisted. “Truly, there’s no need to do away with all sense of manners. What good would that serve.”
His surpressed chuckle had the effect of slightly rocking his shoulders. He managed a half-smile, and it was completely genuine.
“Funny you should talk about ‘good,'” he said through the corner of his mouth since the vast majority of his teeth were clenched on top of each other.
She tilted her head. Her eyes danced.
“This surprises you.”
The butterfly on his ear had folded its wings tightly together and slid them underneathe a layer of Dryst’s hair. He was nearly invisible, but Dryst knew the beautiful creature was still there. Watching eyes…listening silently, the butterfly said in a voice so low that only Dryst could hear it. And Dryst did the same thing — have watching eyes…listen to things said and unsaid — just as he knew his many captors were doing right now with him and Spence.
Dryst nodded slowly to the person in front of him. He locked his stare onto her without missing a beat of anything happening around him. A large, open room, with five-story high walls, ornate moldings, stained glass windows, and slithering treeroots mangled together to serve as the ceiling. There were rows of leather-bound books and plush seating and reading areas scattered about. Finely carved mahogany tables and tastefully elaborate yet polite light fixtures rounded out the appointments and harkoned back to another time and another place, creating an atmosphere that lulled one to believe in its gentleness, refinement…that threw one’s memories back to the idea of a gentlemen’s den, or a smoking lounge.
Except for the witches, Dryst thought and studied them carefully. Somehow they didn’t fit in with this picture. Several perched themselves from under flowing robes that whipped in the wind inside the balcony in the tower. They peered over the ledge in watch and in wait, Dryst knew, with their heads buffetted by long, gnarly twisting and lofting strands. Others stood or hovered with a smugness, as if bored, on either side of the great expanse of room, the center in which the two men found themselves standing.
The Other’s movement, quiet though it was, nudged into his assessment of the place. She walked casually, cutting a path from behind the writing table around to the front of it. She leaned her nicely formed shape onto its edge and straddled her hands on either side of the desk.
“Surprise me…yeah,” he replied slowly, still surveying the room. “It must have been when you shifted out of the form of the man and –” He stopped abruptly. How he hated what these creatures had done. Spence shifted in his feet at this moment, as if awakening from a deep slumber. He had been unusually quiet, Dryst noticed.
“And?” she said with amused inquisitiveness, knowing full well what he would say, but poking more at the embers of hatred that were erupting within him. Anger is good, Ophania spoke silently to the Other. How ironic, the Other replied and smirked with some amount of cruelty that was glazed over with the pretense of decorum.
His eyes snarled as much as any pair of eyes could snarl. They bore into this woman, standing overly confident, punishing the desktop with her tight ass. Her clothing — pencil skirt, jacket, vest, blouse with a high buttoned collar that wound itself around her neck more like a tourniquet — severely wrapped around her form…a form that in any other circumstance any man other than Dryst might have found pleasing but in this circumstance with her grating and oppressive personality no man would find the least bit attractive. He looked down the length of her stockings to her black patent leather shoes that looked as if they had just been pulled out off of the store shelf and out of the shop box. He was grateful her skirt was too tight to allow the shoes to reflect up. He didn’t want to see it because he couldn’t believe, even in this short amount of time, that this was a woman.
“Nice shoes,” he snarled as much as his eyes had snarled earlier.
She leaned further back onto the desk and sighed a smile, then patiently coaxed an answer to her previously stated question by repeating it again with an even more pleasant tone, as if in an attempt to placate him but that was hardly what she was up to. And they both knew it.
“And…” she repeated with slow and sugared deliberateness.
“And the woman,” he said at last, looking directly into her eyes but protecting Mya’s name within his heart and refusing to toss it out into the open in this place. He wouldn’t tarnish it so in this vile mountain with these unnatural and evil beings who played at civility but intended only destruction. At least the witches were transparent, he thought, but this one…his mind scowled at the Other.
“Kid…don’t get into a conversation here. It’s of no use.” Spence hadn’t moved, except for shifting his weight slightly, as if readying his center of gravity for something yet to come. But even in his speaking, he hadn’t moved, instead keeping his focus straight ahead on the tightly wound person at the front of the room.
She smiled a bit more, and it seemed a bit more pleasured. Tight ass, she read the expression on Dryst’s face but this was no unnatural act. Anyone could plainly see what he thought of her. She laughed inside before sliding her vision back to the younger man.
“She, the woman of whom you speak, was…oh, how shall I put this,” — she paused with some amount of dramatic flare — “delicious to plunge into.” Dryst clenched his forehead with his eyebrows.
“Do you know what a priviledge it must have been for her? To be consumed by the likes of me?”
“She is not consumed by you,” he growled menacingly. “Whoever the hell you think you are.”
“Oh? Oh, right. Perhaps true.” The Other said casually, then with her mind pushed a reading chair into the back of his legs and again with her mind, shoved him down into it. She liked standing over him. She didn’t much like his defiant attitude. Ophania and her sisters turned their heads lazily to gaze upon him as he sat in the center of the Library.
“And it’s not who I think I am…it’s quite a matter of who I, in fact, am,” the Other sneered ever so slightly, briefly cracking through the veneer of politeness that had coated each of her words.
“She is the Other, the Keeper of Knowledge,” Ophania hissed. “And you should regard her as such.”
“Yeah?” he managed to sound casual, not knowing why he had been forced into a seated position and Spence had not. “Looks like a librarian to me,” he continued.
Ophania glared but the Other laughed quietly. “Oh yes,” she said through her chuckles, “I suppose that is one way of thinking of me. Another way to think of me is the way that Mya now knows of me.” And with the mention of her name, Dryst’s muscles contracted, his body flinched from an overwhelming urge to lunge at the laughing Other and strangle her.
Oooooooo…good, good, the Other said with a great deal of self satisfaction. He believes her to be defiled…or possibly worse, Ophania said. You can read this to be so, the Other asked. No no, Ophania, relunctantly admitted, but his reaction is telling. The Other dismissed the witch’s commentary, displeased that Ophania could not hear Dryst’s mind, but equally displeased and loathe to admit that she herself as the Keeper of Knowledge could not hear Dryst’s mind either. He was unusually obstinate and proving to be difficult to penetrate, the Other thought to herself with a high degree of annoyance that she refused to convey. It was a blessing, the Other thought with some distaste, that Ophania could not hear her mind, as well. The witch would have been at her throat eons ago if she had heard weakness in any second of any moment. And in this moment, within this second, as she studied Dryst, the Other realized he was anything but weak…which enraged her silently inside and threatened her, both.
“Perhaps,” the Other said as she slid her backside forward and lifted her weight off of the edge of the writing table, “Perhaps…Mya…” (she paused to study Dryst’s reaction, which he cleverly concealed even deeper, she noted) “perhaps she is not yet consumed by me. Not totally yet. But you must know, young man, that each time I possess her being, I am taking parts of her will. And eventually,” the Other continued in a methodical fashion, “eventually, I will consume all of her.”
“The girl is weakening,” Ophania lied, slurring the words as if her tongue was that of a snake.
“You see?” It is already begun.”
And with that, Dryst thrust his body upright, bullying the chair back from under his arms and sending it flying across the hall to careen into a reading table. He lunged forward toward the Other, who smiled with a quizzical pleasure as she sat back down on the edge of the table, waiting for him to throw his anger upon her. Ophania and her sisters hissed in excited anticipation, their eyes and skin coiling and bleeding over itself with rapid color changes. Then, all at once when he was in the full heat of his fury and his anger had nearly descended upon the Other, Dryst stopped completely in his tracks, panting angrily and wide eyed a mere inches in front of the Other who snarled at him.
“Do it! You can’t stand that I have taken her from you…do it!”
Listen silently, the butterfly suddenly purred into his ear, listen deeply.
And Dryst had heard. His mind had opened in a fleeting instant and Mya’s voice had rushed forth, filling his lungs with the sweet sounds of her calling his name. She was here. She was whole and complete, inside the mountain, making her way in a throng of people, he thought, through what looked to be a passage way of some strange shape. He squinted as if trying to see her location more clearly and when he did, he held her face within his eyes and gently touched into every part of her soul and knew, so completely knew the trueness of her, the trueness of them…and that this power hungry Other or Librarian or ultra bodysnatcher who stood before him was lying through her teeth completely.
Dryst pulled back. He bared his immense distrust and dislike of the Other with his eyes, with his breath, with his stance. But he held himself back.
“You can save her. You can save, Mya.”
It was Spence’s voice, now, coming in low and for the first time in what seemed ages, coming in calm and relaxed.
“Strike the Other down,” Spence urged the younger man. “And save the girl.”
“What?” Dryst’s voice skipped out from his throat carried on the winds of confusion. He stared at the old man, who stood with his face in between theirs. He spoke in hurried tones but was far too relaxed in this setting, Dryst realized. And the Other merely gazed at Spence, in amusement not with any degree of threatening or commanding…almost with a knowing.
“I should have finished you off completely,” he said looking past the glasses of the Other and into her eyes. She laughed a taunting but gentle laugh. Too gentle, Dryst knew. Too familiar.
“You could have saved your father,” the Other rolled her words out like a poisoned honey, “But you didn’t have it in you, did you, dear Spence…”
“What…” Dryst’s mouth moved slowly, jarred by the closeness, almost tenderness shared between Spence and this Witch. “You know this witch,” he finally said, feeling suddenly like the floor had completely fallen out from underneathe him.
Spence rolled his gaze away from the Other and looked into Dryst’s face.
“She’s not a Witch, Kid,” he said, “You’re right…she’s a Librarian. She knows everything. And, yeah, I know her.”
“He came here to kill me,” the Other said. “Can you imagine. What a courtship.”
“For my father,” Spence said with some amount of remorse. “To save him.”
“Yes, yes,” the Other patted the old man’s arm tenderly. “A terrible disease. The cigar smoking couldn’t have helped any with avoiding the finality of it all. But,” she smiled grimly and returned her gaze upon Dryst, “your friend, here…my lover…” Dryst’s eyes jumped out of their sockets momentairly before he could retrieve them. Ophania cackled; the Other continued, “You see, now, yes? My lover…who brought you here so easily, so readily to me. He couldn’t quite do it, when he was here not too very long ago. You see, young man, the portal claims its owner. And for reasons I will never understand –“
“It is of the twisted sickness in the Eternal Light,” Ophania spat.
“Hush, Ophania, hush,” the Other reprimanded mildly, then continued, “The portal rejected Spence when he came here to kill me…but of course, silly thing, he wouldn’t truly kill me. He would have been killed in the act, and I…I would have gained all of his energy, including the key. And he thought it worked the other way…that if he had killed me, he would have had all of the power of the universes and somehow would have saved his father. A noble thought,” she said, mockingly, then squared her intention directly onto Dryst.
“The portal seems to have claimed you and your Mya as its owners. The fool of a being seems to have entrusted two mere mortals with all of the magnitude of all of life’s knowledge and all of life’s creation.” She nearly choked on her words, finding them so replusive to say.
Listen, the butterfly urged him, calling deeply to his core. Dryst found his hand by his side, tingling with an energy from his pocket where the portal was kept secure and safe, but suddenly alert and readied for something, but what exactly Dryst wasn’t sure. And while he listened to the Other drone on in her self-indulgent explanation, he shuttled his anger and surprise away and felt such a huge disappointment and near sadness for the man that Spence had been to the man that Spence had allowed himself to become.
“Well,” Spence said with no small amount of sarcasm, “since you let the cat completely out of the bag, the kid’s not going to kill you, now.”
“No,” the Other considered, “I expect not. Not that impulsive and reckless, eh?”
“Not nearly,” Dryst growled in a low tone.
Spence chuckled mildly but with a tinge of sadness. “No…no. Can’t say that he is…even if he did punch through dimensions to save the love of his life. Not at all unsimilar to what brought me here myself.”
“Oh so true,” the Other slurred through her response, “except the love of your life wasn’t capable of punching through dimensions to save you. But that hasn’t stopped Mya from punching through our dimension to slip into the center of the Stream itself to save the love of her life.”
“Touching really,” Ophania snarled, “very quaint, I’m sure.” And her sisters cackled and chortled with mocking laughter.
“But fear not, loyal Spence,” the Other said calmly, as she straightened herself up and adjusted her overly buttoned, tightly wound self, all the while eyeing Dryst as if sizing him up. And all the while Spence nodded his head in small movements, his eyebrow lifted, his eyes heavy as if to say Kid, I’m sorry…it can’t be helped.
Dryst heard Spence’s thoughts and smiled with some pain. “Yeah…”
“If,” the Other interrupted, “if he won’t willingly allow me to consume him – because that would be what you would be doing, blindly giving up your will and the portal, then we will remove it from him by force.”
“This is all a little bit too over the top, isn’t this?” Dryst asked and he wasn’t kidding, before adding “Sorry old man, witch, Librarian…it can’t be helped.”
National Novel Writing Month: Chapter 24 total wordcount: 2700 (not including this notation). Total total count: 47,070.