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Plate VI: "The Tomb of Lost Voices".



ACT VI: The Library (The Hierophant)



- In which the boy happens upon a universe made of ink and paper


The hall in which the boy traveled issued into a broad cathedraled vault that extended as far as the eye could see seen things. The floor was crowded with row upon row upon row upon more of towering shelves. Each shelf was itself crowded with books and tomes, volumes and folios, manuals and pamphlets, diaries and texts, biographies and dictionaries, novels and tracts, parchment rolls and stone tablets, boxed sets and recorded voices.


Odder media peered from older stacks. Gurgling tubes filled with bilious liquid recorded alien thoughts, trained animals recited accounts of long dead travelers, colored stones placed in wooden boxes symbolized fantastic tales, if one only knew their long forgotten code. Sealed canisters held samples of foods preserved from legendary feasts, the bones of saints ran with symbolic blood if caressed at the point of holy wounds, cracks on shells taken from strange sea creatures told the future of the earth. Water held in glass bowls produced articulate ice crystals when frozen, flowered plants grew into sacred formations telling the liturgy of lost religions, ant colonies built reproductions of historic cities and played out the loves, wars, and deaths of the city's long obliterated inhabitants. Machined butterflies flew and reproduced, their colored wings recording the path of intelligent comets across forgotten skies.


The pages, films, sands, liquids, and creatures held stories of travel and glory, of doom and lost loves. Mythic quests of deep import traveled their way from book to book. Heroes and warlocks fell upon one another again and again in reoccurring cosmic battles. Each text was a mirror onto the happenings of ancient kingdoms on far off worlds. Unspeakably horrible truths, tales of creatures of insane power hid in the darker corners of texts written in scribbles invented by monks living only in nightmares. The spinning of stars were recorded in broad, hermetic illustrations. All manner of beast and foul ran and rutted in paper bestiaries. All the workings of the body and the revolving of nature's forces were written in signs and symbols, captured in instants of ink. This book, too, sits in that broad hall from time to time, waiting for hands to again open its binding.


The dusty volumes sat and glowered. Staring at the boy. At the edge of hearing, if one would only listen, could be heard the voices of authors of infinity, muttering their truths, lies, and tales to the empty air. Each book: a silent jewel, its facets glittering voices of far off visions. Each book: a mirror unto forever, recording the thoughts, happenings, and mistakes of authors into eternity. A thousand thousand thousand and more stories, words on words, the inked souls of broad generations. Each text but a reflection of the truth; each word but a mutter in the wind. These mirrors made of ink and paper ask not for readers. They are their own world, trapped in leather bindings. Forever untold, each only a single author's reflection on the pain of solitude, and the ultimate power of that daemon: time.


The boy regarded this written city, this universe of code and symbol. He looked upon the efforts of reeling generations, the knowledge of civilizations. Somewhere he knew his tale was written, and in a thousand different ways. However, every book left untold that greatest tale, that most sublime truth. Each of these mirrors onto life, tales, and descriptions missed forever the sovereignty and uniqueness of self. As the mirror creates a soulless double, so the library was a vast tomb of empty paper. It was only with the living eye that they could come to life for a sacred moment. And the boy realized that sacred moments of life are too precious to devote all to endlessly creating these ghosts. While this room provided diversion, the true adventure was still afoot. Read on, read on, our book destroys itself as it creates: run on, run on, deeper into the house.