Friday, June 1, 2018

The Librarian

The Librarian
By Michael Cannata

          Once upon a time in a land that never aged, where legends and lore ruled the minds and beliefs of the people, there lived a man that didn't want to "Believe"… he wanted to know.

His real name is unknown but the town's people called him, "Cat," because of his insatiable curiosity. He was a simple man whose only passion was seeking out and writing the truth whenever and wherever he discovered it.

Cat knew the only way to find the truth was to ask questions. However, questions were considered dangerous and a threat to the way of life in his country. Asking questions was against the Old King's law.

People couldn't explain why they never saw a dragon or a wizard in all the years they lived, yet they lived in fear of them. While they absolutely believed that every demon and specter of doom known in the legends truly existed, they were always at a loss for proof or evidence to explain where they could be found. And although he spoke to them constantly, his stately voice filling the air around them, no one had ever seen the Old King in real life.

The truth was no one could answer a simple question, simply because they had no answers.

No matter what he was told growing up, Cat never believed in wizards, celebrity idols or the magic powers they embodied. He doubted most of the legends that people told their children religiously. He didn't believe the Old King had been the mightiest warrior or the wisest king in his country's history. He didn't believe there even was an "Old King.” He didn't believe there was any such thing as a question that didn’t have an answer. And most of all, he didn't believe there were no such things as books.

Long ago, when he was too young to even know what a book was, the Old King had outlawed books. Legend had it that he preferred to make up his own stories about his kingdoms history and his place in it. Every story, every legend, every tale told about his country was told by elders in oral sermons. The fables his people knew as history were taught faithfully without deviation, or so the elders claimed.

Gradually, the traditional stories changed after generations of retellings. It came to the point where no one was sure what was true. The elders simply kept repeating the version they had been taught. When they found themselves unable to remember a detail, they would make it up. Ancient interpretations and revised opinions made each story different depending on who told it.  "The Truth" was what the Old King declared it to be at any given time. Writing anything that questioned the Old King could lead to death for anyone who dared.

There was one legend Cat knew in his heart to be true. The legend about a place known only to those that believed in the Free Thinkers world. It was whispered to be a place where such things as dragons and warlocks really could exist, in a place called a "Library." Desperately, more than anything else, Cat wished to become a "Librarian."

There was a time when people were free to travel and roam the other countries that surrounded his own. However, when people started to return with stories that belied the tales of the elders, especially those about the Old King, laws were passed that forbade people from traveling. If anyone dared leave his land they would be subject to exile forever, never allowed to return.

One day, as he sat in the sun, dreaming of lands he would never see, Cat was shocked to see a stranger coming down the road leading to the village. Strangers were rare in his country. Adventurous people occasionally left his country, but no one ever returned. Those that tried were immediately arrested by the Old King's guard and never seen again.

"Good day sir," Cat called out to the stranger. "You look lost… like a stranger in a strange land!" He said jovially, quoting from one of his favorite legends. At the sound of Cat's words the stranger stopped and glared with such a look of suspicion that Cat suddenly feared for his very life.

"I seek a man known as, Cat. I'm told he is a man of great words and wisdom. I am a Librarian," the stranger declared. "I've come to seek help from this man in building a library."

Cat looked at the man with fear and quickly bade him sit. Deciding the stranger was telling the truth, he quietly told him of the laws in his land and how, just by coming there, he was subject to death.

"Why would a man of such wisdom as you stay in a country that had no want of him!?" the stranger asked incredulously!

Cat took the stranger into his home and showed him his most secret and precious possessions. A hidden room filled with the most dangerous objects a man could possess… books. Books his father and his father before him had collected in secret; Hiding them from the Old King's eyes to prevent both the books and themselves from being burned into oblivion.

"I would come to your land in a heartbeat," Cat explained," I would abandon all my worldly belongings, leave the life I have lived willingly, but I could never leave my books. I am their guardian. They belong to the world, not just me.  If I could take my books I would leave this minute."

"Your people need a library," declared the stranger. "If they will not build one, they need a champion who will come to my land and build one in their name. A devoted librarian that will fill the shelves with books recording the legends they cherish and the truths they discovered during their history.

"I cannot ask you to come back to my world. People are not asked to become librarians. They must ask for the honor… and ask properly!"

Cat looked at the stranger and asked with all the enthusiasm he could express, "Can I be a…" yet, as soon as started the question, Cat knew by the look on the strangers face he it was the wrong question. After some consideration, in a way his mother would have been proud of, the way a gentleman asks for something. Cat looked the stranger in the eye and, with the most earnest countenance possible asked, "May I be a Librarian?"

He never did learn how the stranger did it, in fact he never saw the stranger again. Incredibly, as soon as he asked, Cat, along with his all of his precious books,was instantly transported to a different world. A world where questions were not only allowed, they were encouraged. A land where he could finally learn everything he wanted to know.

            Cat gazed with wonder at the shelves stretching from floor to ceiling in the enormous room filled with books of all sizes and shapes. One wall had a section with shelves that were empty. Those were the shelves that would hold the books Cat would write. The books that would tell the stories Cat had brought to the Free Thinkers world. Above all, they would be filled with books that told "The Truth."

On that sunny day when Cat disappeared from his village, a new legend was born; a legend that told of the “man who asked too many questions.” To this day, whenever children ask a question, they are warned by the elders to remember that curiosity killed the man called Cat.

As he sat down at his librarian's station to begin writing the first book about the history of his country, Cat knew that he’d found the world he belonged to. He spent the rest of his days writing down the legends he had been told by the elders in his land. While there were times he wondered what became of his country and the Old King he never even considered returning. He was where he belonged and, as in any good tale, he lived happily ever after.

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