|"Library" by Peyop on DeviantArt|
By: Eve Estelle
As I applied gentle pressure to the surface of the wood, a pair of average-sized doors made of aged mahogany creaked open, allowing me to step into a vast room. The room was empty only in the sense that no living being other than myself was present; the walls were lined with shelves of various sizes, many of which towered high and brimmed with books that had either fallen victim to age and weathering or that merely sat forgotten, dust gathering and giving them second covers. Here and there a shelf sat bare, its contents now in a messy pile on the floor below or somewhere else in the room. Every few feet there would be a lone title scattered about, giving the lonely library an even more forsaken touch.
This was just one level of the massive structure that I had entered - a former dwelling now abandoned and left in disarray, made susceptible to time, but that still emanated a feeling of power in every crack and crevice. The several lightly-decorated hallways that led me here had been preceded by six flights of stairs, but it isn't exactly known how far up the place goes. Officially, there are eighteen stories, but since its creation there has existed on the exterior a thick veil of clouds that hides anything past that from sight. And those who wish to pass beyond the eighteenth floor always find themselves obstructed in some way; be it by gentle persuasion of the mind, or a locked door without a key.
I, like everyone, had heard stories of this place and of why it was in such a state. However, despite being left unoccupied for the last two decades, it never lost its ability to captivate those who explored its halls. In fact, the cobwebs and dusty surfaces only served to further pique one's curiosity. And that was certainly true in my case.
I looked around the quiet library. The ornate designs and embellishments etched in the stone flooring helped to guide my eyes around the room, and I took in the enormous shelves. My gaze eventually landed on a spiral staircase that sat fixed in the far-off center and I headed towards it. It was likewise made of stone, cold and enduring. I couldn't help but soundlessly marvel at the railings, which were delicately carved into fluid scrollwork patterns. When I ascended the stairs, I stepped onto a circular floor.
The room resembled the one below - large, dusty shelves, with fallen books spotting the ground. But here, the volumes that didn't sit idly on the shelves or in piles beneath them either hovered quietly in the open air, their pages lying flat and the words upon them waiting to be read, or they flew - their leather-bound covers flapping gently to keep them aloft. A single broom, with no hand to guide it, went around slowly and swept the floor. Listening closely, I also heard the occasional faint whisper of music brush past my ears, a barely audible sound. Off to the side was a hallway that I could see led to another part of the library, this one with aisles separated by a dozen stone columns. I left the circular room, and went down the hallway, noting with interest a couple of small wall candelabra, several of their candles curiously still lit.
The light of day was dim in this part of the structure, and the columns and bookshelves cast dark, intimidating shadows over much of the area. The floor curved and sloped down behind some of the shelves on the far wall, obviously leading yet somewhere else. But another staircase stood directly to the right of the hall, and, knowing how easy it would have been to spend a lifetime exploring every nook and cranny in such an immense place, I took that instead.
Now I came to what appeared to be an old study of some kind. There were several wooden desks, a couple of which sat side by side. A few miscellaneous items could be found atop their surfaces, though most everything had been cleared away over time. Tabletop candles were included in the list of objects still present, and I started as a few of the wicks ignited upon my entry.
I would pass through many more intriguing rooms like those mentioned above; including, but most definitely not limited to, an observatory on the eleventh floor - an impressive space utilizing a large window, now covered with thick drapery, with worktables and shelves containing various sky maps and star charts. A brass globe sat on one of the worktables, the Earth encased in a grid map of the celestial sphere and depicting its eighty-eight regions. The telescope that would have once been used to study the night sky now stood facing downward, the metal rusted, its lenses shattered. On the fourteenth floor, I would discover a room reminiscent of a prison - or perhaps some sort of strange gallery - with deep recesses carved out of the walls, and a thick pane of clouded glass on each front.
I would continue on, through these and more, as well as another four flights of stairs, until finally I reached the eighteenth floor. Despite its fame, this floor seemed no different than any of those below, but there was a significant change in the atmosphere. The walls were engraved with small sigils, and I suddenly felt like I shouldn't have been there. That I had come far enough.
It was all becoming a bit repetitive. Eighteen stories of mystery - I had seen them all. I felt no need to see any more of it. There were no windows to confirm my suspicions, but my internal clock told me that the day was nearing its end. I decided that I had no urge to move forward.
I frowned in confusion as I realized that none of that was true. I shook my head, disregarding any further ideas of leaving. Instead, I walked the length of the room, searching for any kind of door, or another stairway - anything that would take me to the next level, if there truly was one. I turned a corner and, to my surprise (and my delight), there was the door I had been looking for. I put my hand on the handle, and I was suddenly struck with a paralyzing wave of fear - what if...
I grit my teeth, fought through the thoughts that weren't entirely mine, and turned the handle.
Author's note: This is a companion story for the original poem, "Incanter's Library." I felt like there should have been just a bit more in the poem, and so this is here to give you some background and extra information! What do you think is behind the door?